Getaway with Soleil: The Gold Coast

            I have reached the point in this holiday where it always seems as if I’m unpacking and simultaneously packing a suitcase. The benefit of traveling with multiple destinations, especially a new country, is the chance to see more places. The downside is how rushed everything can feel and a certain kind of sameness that begins to cover certain aspects. When writing these posts in hindsight, this uniformity of memory often blends events together and my narrative loses some of its shape. The point, however, is for me to live the adventure in the moment—not to start and stop to jot something pithy.

            Last time, Soleil and I left Brisbane for the Gold Coast. Then, I took my first long distance train. Traveling between different parts of a city definitely counts as a form of public transportation, but it doesn’t capture the marvel of the innovation as I learned it in history class. I won’t say traveling from Brisbane to Surfers Paradise was magical, but it was a new experience and I saw more of Australia as it passed by.

            We arrived at the coastal tourist town in the late afternoon and checked into our serviced apartment. Since Soleil is a more frequent traveler than I, he knows many of the tips and tricks to find decent accommodations for affordable prices. The Meriton Suites building is located right on the esplanade, steps away from the ocean, and our room had a lovely view of the blue stretching beyond the horizon. Although this room wasn’t quite up to Cordis standard (which is how we seem to now be measuring every luxury on this trip), it had almost everything we needed for our stay and I loved the rain shower.

            On Sunday, we had dinner at Sushi Train. While I am no stranger to nigiri and rolls, ordering it via a conveyer belt rather than in an all-you-can-eat fashion was new to me. Eating seafood when I was this close to the source made perfect sense. The salmon was succulent. The flavorful gyoza burst on the tongue. They had options with duck, and maybe too many with chicken. Overall, we ate about eleven plates and spent around the same money as I would on sushi in Reno. The key difference was the quality and the quantity. Unlike many AYCE sessions prior, I didn’t leave feeling like I was one wrong elbow from popping.

            We grabbed some groceries from Coles and had a late-night walk on the beach. One of the supposed advantages of staying in a place with a kitchen is the ability to save money by cooking rather than always eating out. As we would discover, however, making that happen would come with more difficulties than planned for. Instead, full of sushi and good spirits, we ventured to the pools, spas, and sauna to keep the night going. The indoor pool was overwhelmed by children, so we immediately went outside. A quick wind sent us into the spa with a prayer, but it was lukewarm at best? Not long after, I took a few laps in the rooftop pool, awed by the night sky and city lights around me, before we gave up close to pool closing. Unfortunately, this would be the only time we’d get this chance because school holidays, pools of children, and our own schedule would keep us out.

            Soleil woke with the gorgeous sunrise, whereas I took a bleary-eyed glance at the golden hue and stumbled back to bed for a few more hours. Later, we tried to make breakfast using only a cheap pot and a fiery stovetop. This resulted in one partially burned pot, much frustration, confusion about why we only had a pot and no pans, and a meal that was still edible (although they gave us pepper, but no salt).

            After breakfast, we wandered through Surfers Paradise and its various shops. I finally bought some sandals for watery adventures. We made a list of restaurants and bars we might like to try. I tried my first Boost Juice; normally I’m not much of a juice person, but it was just what was needed on the warm day and my Mango Passion perfectly fit the vibes. Finally (finally), we went for a walk in the water, and I felt the ocean on my feet for the first time in years. Although we were close to and visited beaches in Auckland, I didn’t have a chance to feel the water’s cold kiss.

            For perspective: I love the ocean. Unfortunately, my last trip to the Oregon Coast was in 2013. The last time I walked on a beach or went swimming in these wild waters had to have been on my 2014 New Zealand trip. So, it’s been like ten years since I was able to be in one of my favorite environments. Not that the Gold Coast is remotely similar to the Oregon Coast. This has to be one of my first trips to a few beaches with pristine sand, swim zones and lifeguards, artisanal and kitschy shops, and all of that natural beauty too.

            I needed it.

            After our walk, we stopped at a bottle shop for a few beers and some hard seltzers for me to sample. We drank on our balcony overlooking the gorgeous ocean view, listened to music and asked questions, and—eventually—began a pseudo Happy Hour crawl through Surfers Paradise. We started nearby at Coast where oysters were half price and the house wine and beer were more affordable. The oysters were refreshing and perfectly briny and I loved that they were paired with a lemon and lime wedge and vinaigrette for different tastes. Next, we had more beer and chips at Sandbar, and although the food was a little standard the location was great for conversation and people-watching.

            We ended our impromptu crawl at House of Brews. Soleil and I ordered a flight of beers (and one seltzer), a sweet cocktail inspired by a popular franchise, and a few Happy Hour pints. Obviously—at this point—I was a bit tipsy. We decided to forego ordering food and make ‘drunk pasta’ back at the hotel, but we did stop at a convenience store on the way back and I ended up buying the world’s most expensive bag of Hot Cheetos in my state of inebriation. (They were totally worth it, though).

            We made our ‘drunk pasta’, which was basically a fancy pesto type, and it turned out surprisingly well for using our little pot, microwaving the bacon, and using a kitchen-sink type method (and not being sober). As one does when on vacation, we watched Disney’s Bolt because Soleil had never seen it before, and I was in the mood for something fun and mindless. Overall, I would say our first tipsy time together went well: no fights, no fires, and no fines.

            On Tuesday, we took another bus to Burleigh Head for Soleil’s tattoo appointment. We had a quick meal at Tarte Bakery & Café. I had a savory salmon bagel and he had a righteous nourish bowl. We counted the different dogs passing us by and eventually made it to twenty-four. Compared to Surfers or Brisbane, the dress code for Burleigh seemed to be bikinis, board shorts, or bare feet. Athleisure was optional. While Soleil was trapped in a chair for a few hours, I explored the town and its shops.

            My first stop was Big B Books. Tucked in an arcade, this store is both cozy and cramped in the best way. Every section was organized with care and I liked looking through the worker’s recommendations, the sci-fi/fantasy, and the classics. I finally picked up a new copy of Frankenstein, and found an edition of A Visit from the Goon Squad for Soleil where a previous owner had left helpful annotations. I peeped into home stores and boutiques, including one full of Australian brand candles, and circled the block a few times.

            Mid-tattoo, I took a break and read in the studio. It was lovely to get lost in Mary Shelley’s words and rediscover the romantic prose from Captain Walton’s perspective about exploration and the wild. At this time, it’s become more relevant to me. I once again felt the itch for my own ink, but that will come in its own time.

            I grabbed a matcha latte and went for a walk on Burleigh Beach. With a bag full of books and my shoes tucked in arm, I walked through the surf and—somehow—felt like a Main Character. Like, here I am, in my pretty sundress, wind blowing through my hair, on holiday in a foreign land with my boyfriend, on the horizon of a life full of possibility. I took lots of pictures, and walked from one lifeguard stand to the other. I would have gone further, but wanted to make sure I got back to Soleil at our pre-arranged time.

            Legs aching and a bit sweaty, I arrived precisely when I needed to. We caught the bus back to Surfers, and eventually went to our dinner reservation at Steampunk that night. Once again thanks to a voucher, we were able to save money on what would be an overly expensive meal. I tried a Bloody Mary Oyster Shooter which was pretty good and wasn’t impressed by my under-seasoned chicken. Overall, it was an okay, standard place and I liked the niche décor but wouldn’t pay full price for it.

            That night, thanks to TikTok’s algorithm, we watched Ride the Cyclone. I do enjoy being with someone who loves musicals and theater as much (if not more) than I do. We had fun throughout the different numbers and watched an episode of Abbott Elementary after because I had some anxiety from the heavy nature of the show and the surprise cleaning we’d received while we were out. Overall, the issues I had with Meriton in Surfers were small compared to the nice things (the shower, the view, the pillows, the cool elevators, the excellent front desk service).

            One of the last experiences I had on the Gold Coast was sighting two whales from our balcony on Wednesday morning. I can’t remember if I’ve seen whales before, but it was truly a marvelous wonder. Something that would inspire the Romantic poets and writers and explorers. Something wild and mad. I watched the ocean for long minutes hoping for another glance, but they were gone. Soon, too, was I.

            Our next adventure takes us back to Brisbane for more family bonding, new milestones, and some good old-fashioned exploration. We don’t have long left in the Getaway, but we’re packing in the good times while we can. Every day is a new memory, blurry or not.

            If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Reading Malone’s Ko-fi.

            If you would like to stay updated on my adventures, please follow me on Instagram: @karleypardue (for literary discoveries, bookstores, and more) or @karleycooks (for foodie fun).