Drinks with the Brigadier at Palm Cove | Australian Frequent Flyer
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Drinks with the Brigadier at Palm Cove

bigpetebrown

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I'm doing a whole lot of Oz catch up. My partner has seen way more of Oz than I have and he's a Kiwi! Saying that, I've seen more of the north island of NZ (or the pig island as he so fondly calls it) so we're kinda even.

Late last year it was Adelaide. Feb is it was Uluru and Kata Tjuta, October it's Darwin and Kakadu. Last weekend it was Palm Cove. Used my $450 Amex credit during a QF DCS offer last year to book Y fares to Cairns. When the flight was booked last year it was a 1910 departure with 2140 arrival.

I think in March departure changed to 1940 with 2210 arrival.

Spent much time trying to decide between staying in Cairns, or heading north to Port Douglas. Using street view to walk around Pt D did nothing for me but a walk down Palm Cove's beachfront street looked perfect.

Where to stay? Initially Sea Temple looked like the spot but as soon as I opened The Reef House's website we knew it was the one. We could have booked all three nights but I object to paying hundreds for a few hours of a night when I don't get to use the facilities so we booked a night at the cheap Ibis Styles in Florence St. Car was booked with East Coast Car Rentals (back out near the airport) for 9am pick-up. Sky Rail and Kuranda Rail booked.

We were ready to roll.
 

bigpetebrown

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Friday saw the first of many notifications from QF that our flight would be delayed. We didn't even head out to the airport until close to our original departure time. We made ourselves comfy in the J lounge and with a whole lot of other Qlink passengers watched our flights slip further into the evening. I let the Ibis know when our arrival into Cairns moved past midnight. At one point the QF gate notification system had a meltdown. I received 30+ notifications of departure moving between gates 21 and 17 over about 15 minutes.

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We eventually left the ground at 2236 (thanks melbournian1). I asked one of the fas what had happened and she said it was one 'event' that snowballed across the Qlink network. Free drinks in Y were a nice touch.

Harissa baguette wasn't too bad.

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We touched down at CNS, in the rain, at just after 0100.

Hlo for three nights and we were one of the first to get a cab into town.

Ibis Styles was basic but adequate. Welcome pack for Accor gold status included drink vouchers. No bar at close to 1:30!

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bigpetebrown

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I've only been to Cairns once - flew in, boarded cruise to PNG, got off ship, flew home to Brisbane. I didn't see much more this time.

We walked down to the Esplanade and walked along to the yacht harbour past the lagoon. It's all very nice actually. Reminded me a bit of Noumea, or Papeete.

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We had two new photographic devices with us - partner's new Samsung S10+ and our latest camera, a Sony RX10 IV. The S10 came on the walk with us. Partner took a REAL lot of pelican pictures. I'm not convinced they were any better than my iPhone X snaps20190504_075508 (Medium).jpg

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Excellent breakfast at Salt House with a beautiful view down along the boardwalk

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bigpetebrown

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Reviews of East Coast Car Rentals on the whole very positive. They will pick you up and drop you off at the airport. Way better rates than the usual suspects. Cabbed it out there. They actually walked around the car with us to mark the dents and scratched on the check-out paperwork. They even let me know that though it was supposed to be full it was down one bar on the fuel gauge so only needed to be returned the same, and marked it down on the paperwork! What the??? Maybe it's being associated to sixt or maybe it's just the FNQ way?

It all took less time than we thought it would so we were way too early for our skyrail ticket time. We took a detour out to Yorkey's Knob and had a walk along the beach. Very nice, but literally nothing there down at the beach apart from some apartments and houses.

We booked diamond gondola on Skyrail. That meant a clear floor and for this cablecaraphobe it was maybe going to be a problem. We walked straight out into a gondola and had it to ourselves for the ride to the first 'station'. I had no problem with the floor, or the cable car in general.

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At the first station we took the free guided ranger tour. Really very interesting. Palms with furry leaves. Rattan palms. Humungous kauri trees. The tree kangaroos were nowhere to be seen.

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Re-boarding the SkyRail wasn't so simple. The diamond gondolas are few and far between. We were joined by another couple and we waited at least 20 minutes for the next gondola to arrive. We should have just got in a normal one. We weren't in a rush so it really was no big deal. They were on their honeymoon. From West Wyalong. Bet we were the first middle age gays they'd ever spent any time with. Lucky we're so nice :) Lovely young couple. Next stop was Barron Falls station. A month or so ago it was apparently quite spectacular. Last weekend not so much...

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As we got out of the gondola the lady who opened the door told us to come back to the same place so we didn't get lost in the 'normal' queue. Priority boarding that works!

The Kuranda train was stopped on the other side of the gorge.

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Not too much of a wait for the four of us to get a diamond gondola for the last leg to Kuranda.
 

bigpetebrown

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Kuranda can now be ticked off. It's cute, and touristy.

We have a bit of a thing for butterflies so both of us enjoyed the butterfly farm. Took way too many butterfly pictures. Tried the Sony on continuous shooting. Looking through the pictures it's like the stick figure cartoons I once drew in the corner of a pad of paper. Tried the S10+ on super slow mo and my X on slow mo. Lots of cool videos. It's a shame I can't post them here.

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bigpetebrown

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We each had a delicious gelato from the van at the markets - me lemon and basil, partner had hokey pokey. What looks like a plane wreck but is actually a movie set that was brought up to Kuranda as an attraction.

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Then we had some local beers at the pub

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until it was time to head down to the station to catch the train back to Smithfield.

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We love trains. Contrary to the spiel of the announcers it was not one of the great train journeys of the universe. It didn't even get close. To be honest it was as boring as batsh*t. It was cramped. It was pretty hot. Unless you were sat in one of the two window seats in each row of four in the cheap carriages you just had a view past people. Apart from the comfy seats gold class would not have been worth it as I had to drive when we got off train.
We both would have preferred Skyrail there and back.

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bigpetebrown

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It only took about 20 minutes to get to the hotel from the Skyrail station. I knew we'd chosen right with Palm Cove as soon as we turned down onto the road along the beachfront

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and chose the right place to stay as soon as we pulled up in front of The Reef House. It's an MGallery by Sofitel property.

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It's difficult to put into words how comfortable we felt here. We both agree it's the best hotel experience we've ever had. We detest fawning service and staff who although attentive are just doing a job. From the greeting to the goodbye, every staff member looked like they wanted to be there and enjoyed being there and enjoyed looking after the guests.

Cold towel and welcome drink - a juice served with a separate small jar of Bombay Sapphire for those and do't and do drink alcohol. Being walked up to our room. The lush gardens. The carefully considered furniture and artwork. Just beautiful.

The standard rooms are called Brigadier studios and open onto one of the two pools with a swing chair on their terrace. In hindsight we would have been happy with one of those rooms but we booked a king verandah. We had top floor looking down across the pool with the ocean visible through the trees. King four poster bed, living area, small kitchenette out on the verandah with microwave (not that you'd want to, or need to cook). A dressing room. I have no idea how old the building was but it had been very nicely renovated. It was a beautiful hotel room.

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the wide angle option on the S10+ suffers from a little distortion ;)
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dressing area with vanity
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one of the two pools. This is the adults only pool. Nearly three metres deep at the deep end, with a 'waterfall'.
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bigpetebrown

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Every evening between 5 and 6 they have a meet and mingle over a Brigadier's Punch or two. I was genuinely surprised at how willing everyone was to grab a drink and a bite to eat and strike up a conversation with fellow guests. On our first night we sat with a couple from somewhere outside of Melbourne. Howard Freeman was pretty big in the entertainment industry - he'd started by managing Sherbert and then went on to stage major concert tours here and overseas. He staged the Big Day Out. Took Midnight Oil around the states. He's now been instrumental in the set up of a charity called Roady4Roadies. The second night we met an older couple from Mooloolaba. He loved a chat. His father had been a major player in cattle grazing from the early 1900s. He was now into property, and a whole lot of other stuff. No children. One overseas trip in their lives - NZ. She was keen for him to slow down and for them to travel. He just wanted to work. Had to be at least 75. Super interesting. The Reef House was like their second home.

The punch of the day

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the lounge area

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honesty bar!
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the adults only pool

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one of two spas
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our room dead centre on top level to our right of raised roof
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bigpetebrown

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I'd had a couple of upsell emails after booking. First for a fruit platter on arrival, another a spa package and the third wine and antipasti. The last was $50 for a bottle of sparking and a platter. I expected not much but when we got back from the way too many punches session the patter was in the fridge waiting for us. I'd rung and asked when it would be delivered and told go have some punch and it will be there when you get back. It was a cracker of a platter for $50 including the sparkles :)

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bigpetebrown

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Warm enough to leave the doors open during the night. Gee I love the sound of waves on a beach. Early walk along the beach

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then breakfast back at the hotel. Continental included, hot a la carte additional $13 each. We were happy with the huge continental spread. Monthly Palm Cove Markets on right outside the hotel.

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Lazed by the pool, went and had lunch at Vivo with a friend who lives at Clifton Beach, a couple of margaritas at another bar, a bit more pool time then dinner with a friend from high school who I've seen once in 40 years.

We had dinner at El Greco and it was fabulous. Food and service. You can't beat a restaurant run by a family :) That trip to Greece August/Sept 2021 seems so far away...

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bigpetebrown

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Another doors open/shutters closed night. Then an early morning swim in the safety of the stinger enclosure along the beachIMG_4795 (Medium).JPG

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we added hot food to breakfast for our second/last morning. The mushrooms were delicious.

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a French chain should always know how to do a good pastry, or three
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I'd asked about a late check out when we'd arrived and had been given 3pm. Car due back to 3:40 for 1710 flight. Just another tick for this beautiful hotel. I decided to splurge on a 75 minute hot stone massage. Expensive but excellent.

We had lunch at the restaurant. My platter and salad and partner's fish both delicious. Used the drink vouchers that came with welcome pack for a glass of wine each. I forget to mention that as we were checking out of the Ibis I was told to grab a couple of drinks from the fridge near reception as we'd arrived to late to use them in the bar. Two bottles of water gladly accepted.

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seafood tasting platter - bags, coconut prawns, reef fish, calamari
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reef fish
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had another paddle in the pool

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and then it was sadly time to pack up and drive back to the airport
 

bigpetebrown

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There was some kind of eucalypt flowering behind the hotel that was a butterfly magnet. Gave us a chance to try out the RX10

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The car drop off was as easy as the pick up. No wait to be taken to the airport. Eventually found the Q Club and it was actually pretty nice. Flight home left on time with view of the reef quite special and a snack of biscuits and chutney

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Two bonuses when we got home - triple status credits for the flight up. If only it hadn't been discount why ;) and East Coast not charging me as much as original quote. I wonder if it was because I'd filled up higher then when we'd picked it up.

We're not ones for returning to a place we've stayed before. Visited yes, stayed no. We're already planning our return to The Reef House. It was perfect.
 

love_the_life

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Thanks for the TR - have thought about FNQ off and on for a. few days away but haven't got round to it. Maybe you're report will spur me on. :)
 

OZDUCK

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Looks to have been a lovely trip with great weather. The new camera seems to have taken some excellent photos.
 

VPS

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Great photos as always. I love butterflies and those photos are fantastic. Do you mind saying how much you paid for the hotel. Looks like a great place
 

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