When I got into Immigration in Sydney Airport, the guy behind the counter said "G'day" and I said "Hello" in what sounded like an incredibly English accent. There is some perverse pleasure in being as English as possible whilst amongst foreigners, in fact it makes you want to exaggerate things. Ruth (my Aunt) and I went for a walk around Sydney today (Dec 14). We walked right across the Harbour Bridge and back. The bridge is far more impressive in real life, and the opera house less so, though still good. (In Eight weeks I didn't tire of looking at the bridge, and I've seen it from most angles now, including from the plane). A lot of the rest of the city is like American cities, but it's all clean and attractive, a very comfortable place to be in. There's loads of cheap restuarants and things to see and do, lots of shops and a very attractive harbour. The food is excellent. If you're looking for tourist tat, such as plastic models of the Opera House, (with clock/barometer of course!) then you can go to Darling Harbour, and find many many shops of the stuff.
On the 27th Jan ('95), I went to an open air "noodle factory" in North Sydney. There is a big patch of grass, with about 12 or so stalls selling food, and a stage at the bottom of the slight slope with some dancers and musicians from different countries. There was Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Malaysian, Himalayan, Tibetan, Thai and a few that didn't say. In the spirit of trying something new, I didn't have Chinese. Besides, I've eaten so much Chinese food in the last few weeks that one day I chose McDonalds in preference. Anyway, I got to try from 3 stalls, and on each of the 3 meals I got a bit of each dish that the stalls had, So in effect I tried the best part of the contents from 3 stalls. The ones I had were Himilayan, Filipino, and Tibetan. The Himalayan was a bit like a cross between Indian and Chinese (seems logical). It wasn't as spicy as the Indian that I had in India, which was good, as you could actually taste this. The food I had in India, in particular the Chicken Tikka, just about burnt my mouth off. The Filipino had rice, noodles, (they all did) with 3 meat types. The beef was best. The pork was quite spicy, but nice. The Chicken was in some yellow/brown sauce which tasted a lot like peanut butter. It was OK, but I found it a bit strange. The Tibetan had bright yellow rice. It also had a meat dumpling, which Ruth cut into 3 with her swiss army knife. (Always prepared, they only supplied plastic cutlery) That was quite good. there were two (I think) meat types in curry like sauces. I think I preferred the Himalayan out of the 3. Because of the large number of immigrants from Asia into Australia, this food is not only common but cheap also, and it's just a fantastic thing about Sydney that this exists.
Excluding most food and petrol, most things are more expensive here than at home. Books are about 2 pounds more, and it cost 50p to send a postcard (12p from Singapore). and 50p for a drifter bar, and its only 23 at home. Cans of coke are more expensive too. I noticed that the expensive things were also those that had to be kept cold, perhaps that has something to do with it.
Rachel (My relative) took us too the Blue Mountains on the 17th (Dec '94). The blueness is caused by the haze from the eucalyptus trees, and there were some magnificent views of cliffs and valleys, we also saw the "3 Sisters" rocks too which are quite well known, and took some photos, which will probably do it no justice whatsoever. It was exceptionally hot that day, about 38 Degrees (centigrade). On the way back we stopped at the swimming pool complex which will be used in the Olympic games in the year 2000. Today (Sun 18) we went into Sydney to Circular Quay, where the ferries leave and took a cruise with Rachel and Robert to see the replica of Captain Cook's "Endeavour" ship come in. There were tons of boats all around, and it was really hot when the clouds broke. There were masses of people all along the shoreline too. I think the entire population of Sydney was out that day.We went into Sydney on New years Eve to watch the huge Fireworks display at 9:00 pm, and it was the best I have ever seen. There were probably more people there that night than there were to watch the endeavour come in There were many extremely pretty and expensive fireworks, along with a load that were fired from the bridge in a cascading waterfall effect. They certainly know how to put on a show here. (This was demonstrated again on Australia day, with yet more incredible fireworks let off from Darling Harbour and Centrepoint Tower).
We went away for a week, going round Canberra and the coast. Rachel hired a car, a 3 week old Mitsubishi Magna, with air conditioning, so when its 40 degrees outside you can drive round with the windows up, and be comfortable. Canberra was really modern, clean and well laid out. We went to capitol hill and the house of senate and that, and it was pretty flash. I noticed that unlike other places in Australia, the high tension power cables were underground in Canberra. In Sydney etc, they were above ground right next to the houses. Given the link with cancer they have, this seems pretty dangerous, and the fact that they are underground in the city where the politicians and bureaucrats live is pretty suspicious. I've tried a genuine Turkish Kebab now, in Canberra, very different from those at home in the UK. It was really good too maybe the best Kebab I've had, though the "mild" chilli sauce was a bit hot. I've had some genuine Turkish delight too, which is very different from the Fry's stuff at home, There is no chocolate for a start, and it's not pink.
One of the beaches we went to, Jervis bay, had some wild fluffy kangaroos (or wallabies) next to it, scrounging food from the tourists. We went right up to them and stroked them. The fur is a lot softer than you would expect from a wild animal. They are quite cute except when they hop, when the are comical. The koalas we saw in the wildlife reserve ware sleeping all the time. I thought the sign on the cage should have been "Warning - We Sleep" instead of "Warning - We Bite". They were probably sitting there cursing the freak of nature that made them appear cute to humans. While in the nature reserve, we walked along this path that had about 20 kangaroos on either side. They all looked round at once, and I expected one to say "We don't get many strangers round here"
On the way to the east coast from Canberra, we went through this town of "Historic" Braidwood. Historic probably because ancient history is when new blood was last introduced into the town. Stuck out in the middle of nowhere, you definitely get the impression there are many family trees out there which don't fork. The main part of town consisted of two long rows of shops either side of a road so wide you could park two cars lengthways across it and still have room for four lanes. We went into this shop, I suppose was a "General store", and it had allsorts of things, shoes, clothes, games, souvenirs, junk, etc, just piled around on shelves. Weird. The sign outside the church said "Pray for road safety this Christmas", and the church door creaked behind us when we went in for a nosey. A weird place.
Sat 7 Jan ('95) Rachel was taking some of her friends children to the aquarium, and Ruth and I went along too. The aquarium had tons of fish (surprise) - loads of colours, some were really ugly, some were seriously big (and ugly) about 2-3 ft long. There was a big pool with some seals in it, and a walkway with glass walls and a glass floor which went down into the pool, so you could see the seals swimming around. Stepping onto the glass floor was pretty weird. Right at the end of the aquarium was a huge pool which you could walk around under which was full of fish, manta rays up to 3 feet across and about 5 sharks, which were pretty mean looking.
Went to the famous Bondi Beach on the 8th Jan. There were an awful lot of neanderthal types around, carrying surfboards, most of whom looked as though they only learned to walk upright that morning. Most of the women and men were complete posers. This one guy came up the beach with a surfboard, both covered with sand, and he washed it first!
We went into Sydney's Chinese gardens (Converted from an old Car park). It was full of droopy trees, Live bamboo, which I'd never seen before, Chinese style buildings, ponds and those cute little arch bridges they do so well. Very Relaxing. While we were in town last Sunday, there was this free concert in the Park, (Classical music), and we caught a bit of, in particular the 1812 Overture, complete with (yet more) fireworks, and cannons. The weather here is just as unpredictable as at home, boiling hot one day, cold and raining the next. And you know that "Whinging Pom" stuff? Well, more than two days of rain and people are moaning. And they moan about noise from the Airport's new runway. There is a blockade every week or so. And the residents near Luna park (Fun Fair) moan about the noise. People protest about the logging, and those in the logging industry complain about the loss of jobs..it goes on.
Went to Taronga Zoo on the 29th Jan. The best things for me were the meercats, snow leopards and this huge tiger sitting with it's head on it's paw, just like Siddy (our cat) does when sitting on the microwave. There was also this seal performing which was very clever. It wasn't just catching a ball for laughs, the show was designed to be informative too, which it was. We saw loads of other things too, including art galleries, museums, other beaches, (No shortage of those) and Sydney observatory, which was good.
From the air, Melbourne looks like Sydney, but from the ground, the town centre looks like Sheffield, with the architecture and the trams. When we got down to the seafront though, the palm trees and the beach made things much better. In the town they had this what looked like huge railway station building, which was yellow. The building was very thin though, just a facade for a smaller flat boxy building. Swiz. To be honest I preferred Sydney to Melbourne, but I know some people think otherwise.
Australia is a great place for a holiday, though I wouldn't want to live there. However, since it rains continuously in Britain, maybe it's not such a bad idea after all. The hottest it got during my stay was 45 degrees centigrade, which is like sticking you head in an oven. Lucky there is no humidity,otherwise I think it would be virtually uninhabitable.
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Copyright © M.F.Hughes 1995