October 2008 Archives

Down Under

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We got back from Australia a couple of days ago.  I have to say I've had the time of my life in and around Sydney.  Rather than write up the entire holiday like I attempted with New Zealand a couple of years ago, I'll instead list a few highlights and other interesting things that I did or noticed.  So, in no particular order...

  • Sydney harbour is just gorgeous.  We took so many photos of the area - some of which I'll stick online soon, though I doubt they'll do justice to the place.
  • We stayed in an area called Manly, just a half hour ferry ride away from the centre of the city.  It's a lovely laid back beach town and we were renting a nice apartment in a building overlooking the beach.  Bondi beach was just a tourist hole in comparison.  When we arrived, the three day Manly Jazz festival was just starting and on the second day, the local rugby league team won the Premiership by battering Melbourne 40-0, leaving a lot of very happy people around!
  • The temporarily very favourable Australian dollar to British pound exchange rate made the prices of things rather reasonable.
  • The Sydney Harbour Bridge climb is a great experience.  If you do it, make sure you do the longer Discovery Climb.  It was just great clambering around on catwalks under the roadway with just a metal grating and a cable attached to your waist between you and the waters far below.  The views from the top were spectacular - it was a great shame I wasn't allowed to take my camera up there.
  • The Blue Mountains were equally spectacular, though more touristy than I had expected.  The busiest area around Katoomba was utterly rammed with coachloads of people, and the Three Sisters which are meant to be the highlight aren't actually that impressive when you compare it with the views at the lookouts around Blackheath.  Climbing out to Panorama Lookout along a jumble of rocks and gravel with a huge drop on either side is well worth it.
  • We attended a wedding in the bandstand in Balmoral beach which was lovely.
  • We hired a car for the last week of our trip.  It had an automatic gearbox which was really weird to get used to (and seemed to burn fuel at an incredible rate).  My left foot kept lifting for the clutch.  It wasn't helped by the windscreen wiper and indicator controls being swapped around from the usual places.
  • Public transport - Very cheap if you buy a weekly season ticket and you can get more or less anywhere easily.  The ferry is the best way to travel!
  • E-tags - These are a tag you put in your car which you top up with credit and automatically pays tolls on motorways, bridges and tunnels when you pass through a gate that detects the tag.  The problem was that the hire car wasn't fitted with one, and some of the toll roads don't accept cash meaning we had to avoid certain roads (thankfully we were given a list of which roads to avoid).  Surely it would have been easier for the hire company to just fit a tag to the car and charge us at the end of the hire period?
  • Beers - small and expensive.  Where's a proper pint when you need one?
  • Wines - lovely and cheap.
  • Supermarkets - they don't sell any booze at all.  You have to go to a bottle shop to get a bottle of wine to go with your meal and it's always wrapped in a brown paper bag as though the country is ashamed of drinking alcohol.  This is far from what I expected from the typical Australian beer swilling stereotype.
  • Taronga Zoo - Wow, what a location overlooking the harbour.  Easy to get to on the ferry too.  Difficult to find your way around though, as nearly every path seems to lead back round to the central food area and signposts appear to contradict the map you're given with your ticket.
  • The Sydney Opera House is one of those rare buildings that just looks amazing from any angle.
  • Television - Seems to be way ahead of British TV in some aspects.  We had several High Definition channels available to us (though oddly half the channels were duplicated at least twice on the TV we had).  Some of the channels seemed to be showing US dramas the day after they are on in the US.  For example, we saw several episodes of season five of House M.D. in HD which won't be on in the UK for months and will be standard definition when shown (at least on terrestrial TV).
  • The Sam Neill TV adverts saying you should eat lean red meat three to four times a week and that eating red meat is the reason our brains have developed to the size they are.  That would never have been shown in the UK.  The vegetarian society would have had it banned before it even got off the drawing board.  I like the Aussie attitude to this!
  • Flights - I hate long haul flights.  I can't sleep, and we were sat near business class so the look of those comfy chairs made my horrible hard uncomfortable chair feel even worse. On the way back we had to check out of our apartment by 10am, then do stuff all day, get to the airport in the evening, endure a fourteen hour flight to Dubai, hang around there for a few hours, then another flight to Gatwick, followed by waiting around for an hour for a train home.  In total I was awake for 43½ hours.
  • The flight to Australia was even worse, because the airline had booked more babies on the flights than there were bassinets available (basically a cot which attaches to the wall).  Despite checking in online a whole day before the flight, we were forced to share one, meaning there were several screaming babies on the flight that were really tired and unable to sleep properly - and causing the other passengers to lose sleep also.  To deprive an adult of sleep for a whole day is bad enough, but to do this to a baby is basically nothing short of child abuse - the airline shouldn't have done this and will be receiving a strongly worded letter of complaint!!!
  • Hiking - We did plenty of long walks, and carrying our baby in the sling or pushing him in the pram just makes it even more exercise, meaning I managed to lose half a stone in weight in three weeks without even trying.  WIN!
  • Food - The Australians seem to like all of my favourite foods.  Lots of meat, pies, meat pies, burgers, barbecue, etc.  I was also introduced to the lunchtime delight of toasted ham and cheese croissants, which should be sold over here immediately!  Also Kangaroo is nice to eat and they claim it's more environmentally friendly as they do not require loads of grazing land, nor do they produce as much methane as cows do (which I'm sure is carbon neutral anyway given that it comes from grass that only grew in the previous few weeks, and methane breaks down into water and carbon dioxide fairly quickly in our oxygen rich atmosphere, but that's another discussion).
  • Weather - A couple of days of rain, but mostly blue skies and temperatures in the high twenties.  We used a lot of sun screen!
I'm sure I'll think of more things to add to this list in the coming days.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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