I'm an experienced corporate communicator and editor with an eye for interesting events and an attachment to my trusty Oxford dictionary.
Published October 29th 2013
Who knew Brisbane had so much to offer?
Long considered the 'big country town' of Australia's capital cities, in recent years Brisbane has come into its own as an engaging 21st century city offering something for both tourists and corporate travellers. And there's a lot more to Brisbane than it might appear on the surface, even for long time residents like Comedy Relief and myself. We spent last weekend discovering the Brisbane that all too often flies under the radar; excellent hotel accommodation, along with a smattering of Brisbane's local history, fashion, design, and funky urban edge, through Traders Hotel Hidden Gems package.
Traders Hotel. Image courtesy of Traders Hotel.
The Hotel I knew of the demise of Traders Hotel 's predecessor, Holiday Inn, but I had failed to notice the emergence of Traders first Australian hotel, perched as it is above Brisbane Transit Centre. After acquiring the site in 2011, Traders undertook an extensive refurbishment of the building and opened to its first customers in August 2012. It has since been filling the niche for stylish, contemporary rooms and quality customer service at the southern end of the city. You can read my full review of our delightful Traders experience here.
Hidden Gems Offer
Traders is clearly differentiating itself from other Brisbane hotels through its unique range of special offers. Not for them are the usual range of 'romance' or 'corporate' packages. They're bucking this trend with packages such as Bonus Choice, Traders Smart Stay, where you create a package with the flexible inclusions that suit you best, and the subject of this article - the fun and informative Traders Hidden Gems.
For their Hidden Gems offer Traders have partnered with Shop in Style Escape to help you get to know a Brisbane that's largely undiscovered and perhaps unexpectedly cool, with 3 hour guided walking tours of either historic and fashionable Paddington or funky Fortitude Valley.
The Tardis and toilet. Quirky talking point on your Paddington tour.
The Traders Hidden Gems package includes two nights accommodation for two, your choice of one Hidden Gems tour for 2 people, plus late check-out, a bottle of Sparkling Wine, and free parking - all for $396.
To make sure our Weekend Notes readers could make the right choices we opted to experience the best of both tours - I promise it had nothing to do with the chocolate tasting, or the perfume masterclass, ...... oh! and did I mention the brownie tasting? This meant we missed some of the stop-offs in the usual tours or had short and sharp visits, where longer ones would be the norm.
We were guided on our voyage of discovery by the engaging and informative Amanda Kruse, a savvy Brisbane local with her ear to the ground and a nose for the city's great hidden treasures.
Paddington The Paddington experience began at Hampton's Home Living, a cafe almost as famous for its spectacular view over Brisbane as for its menu.
The view from Hamptons.
It also hides a secret underneath - 180a Latrobe the studios of two local creatives. Textile and clothing designer, Katelyn Aslett, sells a range of clothing and lingerie featuring gorgeous hand-dyed or printed fabrics. Jewellery designer and sculptor, Kathy Mclay creates her unique and beautiful pieces onsite.
Colourful clothes and sculpture in the studio.
Our next stop was the totally ostentatious Happiness Place - so named because you can't help but smile at this crowded, colourful and quirky homewares shop. Mother and daughter team, Lorelie and Stephanie source their amazing creations on regular jaunts overseas. Eggcups with legs and teapot chandeliers, anyone?
Find the quirky eggcups with legs amongst the riot of colour.
But the highlight of this part of our tour was undoubtedly our chocolate tasting at Monty's Chocolates. Helped by Sarah, the Chocolate Lady, we enjoyed some of the world's best chocolate and learned about the fine arts of cocoa production, chocolate making.... and chocolate eating. Who knew there were so many similarities with wine tasting? This experience was informative, entertaining and above all, delicious. My tip? Go for the liquid salted caramel chocolates rolled in cocoa, originally created for Gordon Ramsay, and the fragrant lavender and wild berry chocolates. We're definitely coming back for more of these.
The lovely Sarah, 'the Chocolate Lady', behind the counter at Monty's.
Our chocolate tasting plate.
I'm not quite sure how it happened (??), but we spent a little too much time at our chocolate tasting, so our Fortitude Valley tour was a little truncated.
Out first stop was the very hidden Winn Lane, home to Flamingo Cafe and Bar, Sunday Social, and Atavist Books, among others. Without Amanda we would have walked straight by this embodiment of all that is The Valley - urban, street smart chic
A mini Fragrance Masterclass was next with the lovely and knowledgeable Natalie from Libertine Parfumerie, complete with glass of sparkling wine. We learned about the history of perfume, Michael Edwards' Fragrance Wheel and thoroughly but pleasantly worked our olfactory senses overtime. Once again we were reminded of a wine tasting.
Since Libertine is the Australian distributor for Creed perfumes, we were able to sample the fragrant delights of Fleurissimo, created for Grace Kelly for her marriage to Prince Rainier, and the scent made for Audrey Hepburn, Spring Flower.
I discovered that my tastes (or should that be scents?) run more towards the oriental and woody than fresh or floral, and couldn't resist purchasing a bottle of 1270 by P Frapin & Cie, so named because it's the year the company began making cognac in France. Yes, that's right, 1270.
We topped off our afternoon with a brownie tasting and coffee at Dello Mano. But these aren't just any brownies, these are Bien and Deb Peralta's famous, handmade, handwrapped brownies extraordinaire, produced right here in Brisbane and shipped to customers around the world. Deb and Bien met in a chocolate factory and hatched their plans for a chocolate future while in Italy.
We tasted their classic, caramelised honey macadamia, expresso walnut, and my personal favourite, rosewater pistachio, while we chatted with Bien and got a sense of his passion and the family-centred business this is. Bien's 83 year old father still comes to help in the cafe. We'll be back to taste more of their lovingly homemade goodies.
Everything about the Traders Hidden Gems package from accommodation and service at Traders to our friendly guide, Amanda, and the interesting tour inclusions, was a winner. You really should find out about the hidden Brisbane.