Pete and I packed our bags, checked out, and headed for our next hotel at Palm Cove, which is really just a northern suburb of Cairns. Pete had stayed at the Grand Chancellor when he was still one of the gainfully employed, to attend a conference. Back then the hotel was surrounded by golf courses, and the esplanade at Palm Cove, with its buildings fitting around the magnificent paper barks, was a short walk away.
The walk and the paper barks were still there, but the golf courses were now housing estates and the Grand Chancellor’s grandest days had been and gone. Pete parked the car and we checked in, casting a jaundiced eye over grounds that were in need of water, but also a bit of basic maintenance. The ‘room’ was actually a small apartment, with a kitchen/dining/lounge area and a separate bedroom and bathroom. It had been recently painted and it was clean. We unpacked as much as one does for a three-night stay and Pete turned on the TV. It didn’t work. We tried a few obvious things, power points, wires etc then rang the desk. The maintenance guy soon agreed with us that the TV needed to be replaced and set about doing that.
He had an accent so we asked him where he was from. He was French, from France, so Pete asked him what caused him to emigrate. Essentially, he told us that Europe was fucked. The culture was fast disappearing under the tide of immigrants and he didn’t like Mr Macron at all, at all. He’d been here for at least five years, so he came pre-Macron. It’s not easy to gain entry to Australia. I expect this man had some serious skills to be allowed to stay. But he was willing to work as a maintenance man in a Cairns hotel – good luck to him.
We went off for a drive around the neighbourhood, looking for somewhere to have dinner since the Grand Chancellor’s restaurant was open for breakfast (included in the price) but not for lunch or dinner. That easterly wind continued to make the beach an unpleasant place but at least there was a prospect of much-needed rain. In common with all the other places that relied on tourism, Palm Cove was doing it tough. Cafes had either closed or reduced their opening hours. We grabbed a coffee, heeding the covid restrictions such as entry through one door only, exit through another, and signed in for contact tracing.
This far north it was all a bit ridiculous. The Queensland borders were closed, the Australian border was closed except for essential travel and anyone entering from overseas had to endure two weeks’ supervised quarantine in a hotel. As is too often the case in Australia the rules are dreamed up by bureaucrats in the state capitals. They might be fine for large cities, but life is different out in the bush where nobody has had covid 19.
Part of the accommodation package we’d bought included a bottle of wine and an antipasto platter. They arrived while we were out. That was all well and good, but the apartment’s kitchen had nothing but the standard tea-and-coffee-making bits and pieces. No plates, no knives and forks, no microwave. We’d received a similar plate in the Shangri-la hotel in Cairns, but it arrived with disposable knives and forks. We weren’t impressed with the Grand Chancellor’s effort but shrugged and used our fingers and the provided biscuits.
That evening we had dinner in the Underground, a restaurant on the Palm Cove esplanade with a London pub theme, offering hearty pub grub. Pete had Guinness pie with mushy peas and I had one of their burgers. Solid, filling food.
That night we learned that curlews inhabit the area around the hotel. In fact, we had a pair that lived right next to our building. We know this because they woke us. Their call is… unsettling. But that’s okay. Can’t do much about the wildlife.
Next morning, we fronted up for breakfast in the restaurant, walking past the swimming pool on the way. Somebody needed to clear the weeds from the stone mulch and the kiddy-proof gates weren’t kiddy proof.
The restaurant’s enormous island buffet was mainly empty but guests could take individual dishes of fruit, yoghurt, and milk, and/or those little individual packets of cereal. For the rest, we could choose from half a dozen menu items – omelette, bacon and eggs and the like – which would be brought to our table. The poached eggs were suitably runny, which is always a good thing and stood us in good stead for a day of out and about further up the coast.