But those little quickie updates just aren't enough for me, ofcourse, and I've done a proper travelogue about the trip as well. Or, you can just skip over right now to the photos.
I almost brought the wire I need to download photos from my camera to my computer, so I could download photos and then choose some to upload to Flickr during the trip. But I then decided not to -- I wanted to spend my time taking photos and experiencing the land downunder, not sitting at a computer uploading photos and writing descriptions. There's plenty of time for that *after* the trip, plus, doing it later allows me to re-experience it all from home. Besides, the poor Internet access of Australia would have never allowed me to do anything as ambitious as upload photos to Flickr. Still, I should have, indeed, brought that wire, because my memory on the camera was full by my last day in Perth. Any photos you see after Perth are taken by other people (thanks for sending those!).
I also didn't bring Lonely Planet Australia. I haven't yet bought it yet. I know you are shocked. But I will, ofcourse, when Stefan and I return to tour the country by motorcycle (and we WILL do that). I just didn't see a reason to now, since I wouldn't have much time to see explore outside of workshops and what I could easily explore nearby training sites.
Several of you have asked how this trip came about: I found out I would be going to Australia in September 2008. I was in an Internet cafe in Plovdiv, Bulgaria at the time, underneath the old town and looking out at the ruins of a Roman stadium with a mosque built on top. The invitation was to speak at an intensive retreat for volunteer managers in Australia and New Zealand, and it would include speaking engagements throughout Australia, as many as could be arranged, if I said yes. Lucky me! I've had some colleagues who have been invited to speak, and now it was my turn. The two guys who invited me are people I met on the Internet long, long ago, and though we've been in each other's company just a few times face-to-face, we collaborate frequently, all because of this crazy thing we used to call cyberspace. I consider them not just professional colleagues, but dear friends, and I was thrilled to get some in-the-same-room time with them.
Originally, Stefan was going to come with me to Australia on this trip -- and I certainly wanted that as well. We were living in Germany at the time the trip invitation came, with plans to move to the USA in early 2009. We thought we'd be in the USA a year by the time of the retreat, employed and settled and ready for a trip down under. But then the reality of the dire economic situation in the USA set in. By the time it was time to arrange a flight to Australia, Stefan was newly employed, I remained unemployed, we were still renting and already wondering if it was time to move again. Plus, what would Stefan do while I presented? So, for this trip, Stefan stayed behind. I decided that I'd treat the trip as a reconnaissance mission for our future motorcycle tour of the country... which WILL happen some day...
I'm not a beach-and-sun person, so I wondered if I would be as entranced with Australia as others who have visited have been. Stefan's really keen to tour here by motorcycle, and while it's something I had wanted to do, there's about half a dozen places I thought of as a greater priority. Now, having been here, I'm sold! I already have a possible itinerary in my head...
The biggest shock for me in Australia has been the lack of Internet accessibility -- there is either none, or it's painfully slow. And I'm NOT talking about the outback -- I'm talking about major cities like Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. When I vacation, I don't need or want Internet access (okay, maybe every two weeks), but being here for work, I absolutely needed it. If you come to Australia and need reliable, reasonably-fast Internet access, buy some sort of broad band stick once you get here that will allow you access from just about anywhere. The exception to the poor Internet access experience was the Dog Rock Motel in Albany, south of Perth, which had lightening fast Internet. And Drifter's Cafe in Hobart. And with Drifter's I had the added bonus of the decorations in honor of Tazmania's favorite son, Errol Flynn (and what a pleasure it is to be surrounded by photos of Errol Flynn, whatever the occasion), and no only do they have wireless Internet access, they gave me their mail server name so I could send email from Thunderbird! At one point in the trip, I tried the free access at a McDonald's -- apparently, the only public wireless access point in Melbourne. It was slower than dial up, with birds flying around the restaurant and obnoxious teens testing the boundaries of the no-smoking policy.
To get to Australia, I was on a plane or in an airport for about 24 hours straight. I flew from PDX to LAX (2.x hours -- added bonus, I met a scout for the Green Bay Packers. He had very nice things to say about the Kentucky football program. He scouts on the West Coast for GB. Edward James Olmos was on the plane; I've now flown with Admiral xx), was in LAX for about two hours and then flew from there to Brisbane (14.x hours), and then straight from there to Hobart, Tasmania. But I weathered it surprisingly well. Having a computer and being content to read and write offline, having a good book and having a well-stocked iPod, and having an amazing in-flight entertainment system on the Virgin Flight over kept me more than sane ( (I watched "Precious", which just about killed me, and "The Blind Side" which was schmaltzy and predictable and, yet, I still teared up once). Also, I got on the plane to Australia in LAX just before midnight and got off the plane in Brisbane at just after 6 in the morning, and my body actually really liked that. But no matter how much I tried, for most of the trip, I was dead by 4 in the afternoon and would wake up around 4 in the morning. I used to be able to handle jet lag so well. Now... well, I'm old. By the time my body had really, fully adjusted to Australia, I left to go back to the USA!
As I mentioned on Facebook, I never had a March 13, 2010. That day never existed for me. What if I get called by some official authority and have to account for myself on that day?!?
March is the end of summer/beginning of Fall in Australia; other than Melbourne, it was very hot most of the time during my almost three weeks there.
The trees and grass and other plants of the Australian mainland immediately looked different than anywhere else I've ever been, both from the air and on the ground. I took a bus at the Brisbane airport from one terminal to another -- very far apart -- and got a taste of the Australian mainland landscape before I got on yet another plane. Sometimes it looked like images I've seen of sub Sahara Africa, sometimes it looked much more tropical than that. At every sighting of standing water, I wonder... are there crocs in that water?!?!?!?
Soon I was on a tiny plane onto Hobart, Tasmania, BIRTHPLACE OF ERROL FLYNN. Even in the haze of the longest airplane ride of my life, I kept thinking about Errol. Tasmania made me gasp when I saw it from the air -- green and lush, with mountains and hills. Hobart was immediately charming, a city that goes from the waterfront up into the surrounding hills. I burned through a lot of memory on my camera almost immediately taking photos of the wonderful architecture from the 1800s and the early 1900s. The cafes and bars down on Salamanca Street are fantastic to just look at, let alone visit. The town is very laid back -- everyone casually-dressed and moving slowly. Of all the places I went in Australia, Hobart was my favorite. I most definitely want to tour Tasmania by motorcycle. It's lush, green and lovely. My last day there, I walked through the streets while the cathedral played its tower bells. Magical. But if we are, indeed, going to drive around Tasmania by motorcycle, I have to work on starting from a stop on hills.
When I told locals that I knew Errol Flynn was from Tasmania, they would always say, "Oh, he lived just around the corner!" or "He went to school just up that hill!" The local beer, Moo Brew Hefeweizen, is terrific, but Tasmania is more famous for its wines. Best meal I had there: fresh shrimp, breaded and fried and bought from a boat moored on the Harbor. Beyond yummy. I made several jokes about wanting moving to Tasmania, but I actually could never do that: I couldn't stand to have my dog in quarantine for six months.
The Mercure hotel in Hobart has a great location -- easy walk to old town, and easy walk to some interesting old houses around -- but doesn't have Internet access in the rooms (though they have signs saying they do) and doesn't have wireless in its so-called "business lounge." The staff also doesn't understand why working off a memory stick in their business lounge isn't a workable auction for most professionals trying to do work online, and that was REALLY annoying. Little did I know that it was but a taste of things to come in the rest of Australia... But they do have a really excellent breakfast included in the price of the room and a very friendly restaurant staff.
Only downside of Hobart? The charming downtown pretty much closes up at 6 p.m. in the evening. But that was mostly okay, because I was shutting down around that time myself.
In Hobart -- and the rest of Australia -- I saw a lot of Hondas like what we have -- we call it a Honda Fit, but everywhere else on Earth, its a Honda Jazz. In addition to this and many other four-door hatch backs, I also saw lots of Holden Utes -- cars with a flat bed, like what what people thought was cool in the 1970s in the USA.
While sitting in Drifter's, trying not to get distracted by all the wonderful photos of Errol Flynn all around, I got a response to one of my Facebook updates -- turns out a friend I worked with in Germany was living in Australia! So I would be seeing him near the end of the trip, in Melbourne. I was thrilled. It's another example of why I love the Internet -- we never would have met up had it not been for a casual comment on Facebook!
There was a big upcoming election while I was in Hobart, and I was dying to vote -- ofcourse I made up my mind whom to support within 48 hours of landing. Voting in Australia is mandatory by law -- if you don't vote, you have to pay a fine. I'm not sure how I feel about that. They do make it easy to vote, and you can vote for "none of the above" by turning in a blank ballot.
From Hobart, I flew to Adelaide before sunrise with two colleagues from the organization I had trained for in Hobart. I really enjoyed getting to travel with others by plane -- it's rare that I get to, even with Stefan, and it makes it so much more fun to go with a group. My colleague, Andy, whom I've known for years working together online and whom I met for the first time in England just a few years ago, met us at the airport and drove us out to Hahndorf for the second series of trainings. The land was parched and dry and gave a taste of what the outback must be like. At one point, there was a sign for a Koala crossing, and I was glued to the window, looking up in the trees, hoping I'd see one (I didn't -- not then, anyway). We arrived at the Hahndorf Resort where our three day event was and... you can read my review of the place at TravelAdivsor.
Hahndorf is tiny and cute, but doesn't at all look German. It's worth it for a walk-through on a morning or afternoon. One night during our event, we we went to Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary. We had a great dinner there (NOT any deep friend wild life, however) and took a walk through the sanctuary at night. I got to pet a Western Grey Kangaroo (domesticated kangaroos like to be scratched under the neck, as you can see in the photo). We also got to see glimpses of a platypus (the sanctuary has about 15), and many wallabies, bettongs, bandicoots and potoroos wandering about. And other than the platypus, all those animals hop, just like the kangaroos! Nothing crawled. I also got to see a koala bear high up in a tree. He stretched a bit under the spotlight of the flashlight, but was otherwise unmoved. The kangaroos and other grounded animals have all been rescued from various situations; the kangaroos have all been fixed (to avoid an over-population problem in the sanctuary).
One night at the resort, I walked from the main house to my room, and I looked up at a beautiful starry sky. It's so weird to look up at the starry sky and not be able to find ANYTHING I recognize...
Two highlights of Hahndorf: finding out one of my new colleagues is a huge Buffy: The Vampire Slayer fan, and likes to watch it with her older teen daughter, which I think is an excellent thing to do (Buffy as metaphor for all she'll face in high school, at university, in life...). And Farmers Union Iced Coffee, which is actually coffee-flavored milk. It's HUGELY popular in Southern Australia. It outsells Coca-Cola in the area, making it the only place in the world where a milk drink outsells a cola product. Here's one of its famous commercials. Oh yeah, I loved it.
After Hahndorf, I stayed two nights in downtown Adelaide, which I really liked. While not charming, there is a lot to see. Rundle Street is packed with interesting restaurants: I had takeaway Pud Thai rice noodles and chicken and shrimp in a peanut sauce one night (actually, two nights, since I had leftovers) and an amazing breakfast (scrambled eggs that had been mixed in a tomato sauce, with spinach) at Eros Ouzeri, a Greek restaurant. All around Adelaide are remnants of the iron lacework that once dominated the city, and some lovely old buildings. I bought some chocolate from Haigh's Chocolates for Stefan (and sampled a bit for myself onsite).
I noticed this in Hobart, I noticed it especially in Adelaide, and I noticed it a few other places to: more than a few people walk around barefoot - on the streets, into convenience stores and shops, inside the airport, etc. Just like in Kentucky! Yet, unlike Kentucky, most people seem to have clean feet that walk around barefoot.
I got to walk around a bit with Martin, one of the two fellas that brought me out, and I stopped a woman who turned out to be from Fiji to tell her her hat was fabulous (straw, with pink flowers) - she and her family were on their way to a Rugby match. I said goodbye to Martin (sniff) and I took the light rail out to Glenelg, a suburb by the beach. I'm sure on the weekends its overrun with people and not pleasant, but during the day it was fine. I dropped by the Bay Discovery Centre and saw an exhibition of re-imagined arcade machines, most with movable parts -- and the next day found out that the artwork was created by the step brother of Andy, one of the two people who brought me to Australia in the first place! Small world... I went into a wine shop and found a wine tasting going on. I tried a bit, and then bought the Mother of Pearl Limestone 2004 Cabernet Merlot by Patrick T Wines of Coonawarra. That's really fun to say. Coonawarra. The wine was excellent! Yes, it's long gone now...
I've had so many great conversations with the locals while in Australia -- the man at the Bay Discovery Centre minding the art exhibit, the tram ticket check guy, the guy working in the wine shop pitching wine -- Aussies love to talk, find out where I'm from, welcome me here, etc.
The next day, I checked into a hotel near Gawler, closer to where I would be presenting in two days, and headed off with Andy and his two youngest girls to tour a bit of the Barossa Valley. The girls were full of energy, lots to say, but also very sweet and well-behaved. I enjoyed their company very much. I taught them their first Arabic word: "La" which means "No." We'd sing "la la la la la" and laugh. After visiting a few tasting rooms, we sat in a park at Seppeltsfield, drinking wine and watching the girls play hide and seek -- very entertaining. I really enjoyed talking with Andy about his philosophy of making time for EACH child, one-on-one, how he uses Facebook with them, etc. He could tell me something special about each one of his kids -- I know a lot of parents who can't do that. We also visited the "Whispering Wall" - which I was skeptical about, but which turned out to be true - and that made it incredibly freaky (seeing two people standing at the wall, mouths not moving, but clearly hearing a quietly-speaking voice, which was their friend on the other side of the dam).
I was pleased to discover that the Adelaide Airport provides limited-bandwidth free internet access, which allowed me to download and upload email. I'm old fashioned when it comes to email; I like to download my mail to my computer, and have copies of my sent mail on my computer as well. Having my mail offline means I don't need Internet access to refer to any mail sent or received. It also means that, once I download mail, I can take my time writing responses, which then get sent all at once when I have access again. That means I'm not fond of web mail. I can use it with my email, but I don't like it, since it means I don't have copies of my sent mail on my computer.
I had my first Quantas flight ever, from Adelaide to Perth. The flight was fine - got to see the latest Sherlock Holmes movie, which I enjoyed WAY more than I thought I would. The landing was rough, through an extremely bad storm. Once we landed, the storm was pretty much over. But we ended up being stuck on the plane at the airport for TWO HOURS, jerked around by constant misinformation. They never did tell us the truth; we found out only because people in the back of the plane started accessing the Internet (which the flight crew went ballistic about). The truth? Part of the roof had collapsed at the airport, no one could leave the airport because so many planes were stranded and there was no way to get luggage to and from where it needed to go amid the floods inside the building, and there was, literally, no room for us inside. The horrendous weather had created chaos in the streets, with no way for people to leave the airport by taxi either. Had they told us all this, and that we were better off on the plane, the attitude on the plane would have been totally different. But the ever-changing story (there isn't enough ground crew, we don't have the right equipment for exiting the plane without a gate, etc.) and avoidance by the flight crew raised everyone's ire. What a shame Quantas hasn't trained its staff on how to handle these kinds of situations. And if someone from another plane that had been stranded even longer hadn't called the press, we'd still be out there.
The taxi-driver-from-hell (I'm not even going to repeat THAT horrendous story) finally got me to the Riverview, a hotel made up of former bachelor apartments. The guy at the front desk, from Kenya, was an absolute sweetheart -- he worked really hard to get me a cab on the morning of my presentation when it was quite a problem -- the city was still recovering from that awful storm, and when he got a reminder call for me to tell me I would be picked up at 6 a.m. one morning, he told me about it later, he said, "I really wanted to see if there was a way I could negotiate that later for you." What service!
I was driven down to Bunbury and back for a presentation by a Canadian woman who was absolutely hilarious and gave me terrific insight about Australia - if you want the inside scoop for any country, ask the people who aren't from there but living there. She said it's impossible to say just my first name, that she felt compelled to always say my last name as well, and for some reason, that has struck me as absolutely hilarious. We had to leave Perth early in order for me to record a short interview at the local ABC radio station in Bunbury; while we were waiting for the session, one of the guys called out from his desk, "Okay, everyone: I need songs that refer to the weather, other than 'Stormy Weather.'" We came up with a LOT. Bunbury turned out to be a cute little town, and there is a brand new state-of-the-art, well-protected bike lane all the way there and back from Perth.
Midway through my Bunbury presentation -- my third all-day presentation in three days -- I couldn't stand anymore. My feet were killing me. I had to sit for the last hour. But the group was, once again, really into what I was saying. They kept saying, "we love hearing something NEW"!! Being able to keep THEM energized was my priority. The next day, I changed into my fabulous Vasque trail-running shoes and took myself on a walking tour down to the Perth waterfront and back. After watching all these people in exercise clothes walking, running and biking up and down Mount Street (which should be called Mountain Street), I was feeling fat and feeling the need to be active. It wasn't just Perth: all of Australia made me feel fat. And while I am fat, I was REALLY feeling it. Most everyone exudes health. These are an incredibly fit, active people.
I kept thinking while in Perth that I was hearing Afrikaan accents, but thought, no, it can't be. Turns out I really was; a lot of whites from South Africa and Zimbabwe have relocated to Perth, primarily because of the booming mining industry.
Perth is lovely, but it didn't really grab me at first. I'm not a person who thinks a city is automatically pretty because it's on the water; I have to like the architecture and the general vibe of a city. Downtown Perth is just like any downtown -- big tall buildings and people in a hurry to get from point A to point B. The waterfront is nice, but once you've stared at the water for a while, then what? I took a ride on the water front ferris wheel and took a few photos. Of the things I liked at the waterfront was a sculpture commemorating the first Europeans -- the Dutch -- to sight the land that is now Perth. It's a sun dial with several symbolic references to this historic event: The floor of the dial is a map of Western Australia. Per the markings on the solar clock, the shadow of the dial marks the time in both Perth and Amsterdam simultaneously.
Then it was back to the hotel to await the head of the organization I was training for, who took me on an amazing drive-through of the city. My first night, she had taken me to the Perth neighborhood of Subiaco, which was FANTASTIC for its architecture and restaurants. We ate at an Indian restaurant and, as I was wearing my favorite shalwar kameez and have the hefty build Indian men love, was told by the waiter I was beautiful. I really need to move to India... My last day in Perth, my host too me through some of the most beautiful neighborhoods I've ever seen. She also took me to Kings Park and Botanic Garden. We passed the memorial to the victims of the Bali bombing and stopped to walk through the botanical garden, which turned out to be one of the highlights of my entire trip to Australia. They use Australian native plants to create this extraordinary space for walking and hiking. They also have incredibly beautiful and thoughtful tributes to Australian aboriginal tribes and to the role women have played in the building of the country. There's a beautiful little stream running through part of the park, and we watched a group of aboriginal children delighting in the life in the water. All this is adjacent to a traditional manicured space that creates a natural amphitheater for concerts. Any city looking to create a city park should visit this one in Perth, to see how it's possible to blend history and tradition and create a park that anyone could enjoy. Bravo!
I really love Aboriginal artwork, and Aboriginal-inspired artwork. Australia, it seems to me, celebrates it without commercializing it. One of the things I learned about the tribal believes is The Waugal, the "dreaming serpent." In the Aboriginal creation myth, the Wougal meanered through the landscape, creating rivers, waterways and lakes on its journey from the hills to the ocean. The Waugal comes to people in dreams to guide them through dreamscapes as well.
We had a lovely late lunch right by the shore. The meal included a salad that didn't sound that great, but which was absolutely delicious: bits of peeled and seeded pumpkin, baby spinach leaves, pistachios, some kind of dark vinegar dressing... might have been some other things in there as well. I drank a glass of white wine (rare, I know, but it was hot) and I stared out at the sea and thought, wow, Africa is way, way over there some where...
In Perth airport, while checking in for my flight to Melbourne, I saw the most misbehaved children EVER. Despite my jokes about how much I don't like kids, I actually cut parents a lot of slack in airports most of the time, especially if the kids are toddlers or younger. But this was one of those worst-nightmare scenarios, with the overweight children, about 9 and 12 years old, telling their parents "no" to absolutely every request, at one point taking off running rather than giving the mum their hand-held tech toy, yanking on her purse and yelling "gimme!" once she had gotten hold of the toys and put it away, and making this high-pitched whining sound, calling her "Stupid", on and on. The parents looked completely defeated. Sad.
Had a great chat both to and from Albany with the guy in the seat next to me. On the way down, it was a guy from Australia's version of Home Depot (or Obie, for you Germans out there). On the way back to Perth, it was a guy that works in gold mining and had been to Mongolia. I so love to chat with strangers! Food on Skyways (nicknamed "Pieways" because they usually serve meat pies) was really bad, but, I can't really complain about the flight, since it was so short and the company was great.
Albany has a cute little old town at its coast, and some really fascinating rock formations all over town -- hence the name of my motel, the Dog Rock Motel, with the best Internet access in Australia! After my presentation, I walked across the street and had the best fish and chips I have ever had in my life.
At last, it was on to my final destination in Australia: Melbourne. It didn't grab me that first night, per another awful cab experience and being tired from the long flight. But once I started walking around the city the next day -- WOW!! I met up with Charles the morning after I arrived and we crossed a bridge over the Yarra River that commemorates immigrants, with a giant clear plague for each country of origin. The riverfront is really nice in the day, and absolutely gorgeous at night. We met up with his girlfriend, Wona, the next day at the Flower and Garden Show, where Wona was both working and had three works exhibiting. The exhibits were amazing. I also had the most amazing spring rolls there of my life (chicken and avocado and who knows what else). Then we walked around the neighborhood of Fitzroy, which I absolutely fell in love with. Then it was on to the Rose Street Artists market which is filled with local handmade and reclaimed items by various artists -- things to wear, to use, to decorate. I fell in love with the houses of Fitzroy that were originally built for workers and now sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The laced ironworks are gorgeous on the houses and older buildings. We went back to their place nearby, and I asked Charles to look up the score of the Kentucky v. West Virginia game on his iPhone. It took a while, but he found it. And I was sad... We watched an Airbus A380 fly over the city for the F1 race that day, and then decided to have dinner on the back patio of the North Fitzroy Star, a really great pub a stone's throw from their flat. Heavenly.
On the cab ride home, I saw the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant, a vintage street car that is also a restaurant -- it drives around town while you eat. I'm sure it's stupidly expensive, but what an experience!
One day, I walked over to the South Melbourne neighborhood for coffee at St. Ali, a trendy coffee shop off of Coventry Street. Hard to find, but really great eggs! I took the tram to and from the City of Melbourne Bowls Club, where my training was held, and got a further tour of the city. The Bowls Club was outstanding; at lunch, the lawn swarmed with people -- including young business men and women -- there to bowl a bit, many of them barefoot, on the beautiful day. I was really impressed with the diversity among the bowlers -- definitely not the same makeup as when it was founded in 1886, I'm sure.
Another day, I met Charles near the main train station downtown on the Yarra River, and we had Pho at Mekong, where the walls are covered in photos of famous people who have eaten at the restaurant, including Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. On the window outside, they have a sign proclaiming that Bill Clinton had TWO bowls. I had only one small bowl (and a small bowl of Pho is relative).
On one of our Facebook exchanges, Charles said "Stefan would LOVE Melbourne. We have motorcycles everywhere!" And he's right: there are motorcycles everywhere. I even saw a blue version of my motorcycle. There was a BMW motorcycle show room just around the corner from my host's flat, so I dropped by for a closer look. It's my dream to buy a BMW. I'm not sure that will ever happen - I doubt I'll ever be a good enough rider, and I doubt I'll ever have the money. But, you know, you never know... so I went into the showroom, and the SIX BMW employees stayed behind their desks and completely ignored me. There were no other customers in the store. I know I wasn't going to buy a motorcycle right then and there, but they didn't necessarily know that. I emailed BMW Melbourne to find out if, indeed, they considered women as potential motorcycle customers, and got an appropriate response back within 48 hours. Hope they learned a lesson.
Melbourne... the architecture, the river front, the nice tram drivers, how magical the city feels at night... the more I saw of of Melbourne, the more I fell in love with it. No question: it's the most livable, cleanest big city I've ever been it. It's all the things Portland wishes it were and so isn't. My final night, Charles, Won and I went to Murmur Bar, a cocktail bar in the attic over a restaurant off an alley way, one of many bars and restaurants in alleys off of Little Bourke Street. We did not have the Zombie Jesus cocktail, due to the price, but I'm sure it's delicious. We had a great conversation about Sharon Capeling Alakija, and while we were talking about her, a Bob Dylan song came on -- her favorite singer. We also talked about our favorite versions of "Hallelujah" (I have so many...). We said goodbye, and I walked home and cross the Yarra River to the tunes of a street sax player; I had to stop and just soak in the gorgeous full moon, the beautiful skyline, even the couple on a bench down by the water, chatting away in sign language. It was a great way to end my final full day in Australia.
My last day, my host took me to the former docklands, where we ate at Mecca Bah (the view was incredible, the mussels were delightful, but we just didn't feel very welcomed there). Then my host took me on the City Circle tram service, a free vintage tram that runs a continuous circular route around the heart of the city. It was a perfect way to squeeze in just a bit more of Melbourne.
I got to the airport no problem, and way too early. So I used up one of my VISA gift cards on wireless access to send some final updates and thank yous before I took off, looking up now and again to watch a beautiful sunset over the runway and the empty Australian plains beyond.
I can't wait to revisit Australia by motorcycle with Stefan!
It was more than 14 hours to LAX. The mandolin player across the aisle from me was hilarious, and we made jokes about traveling back in time - we arrived in LAX more than three hours BEFORE we left, so couldn't we just keep flying and go back in time, enough at least for me to lose some weight? Another two hours on another flight back to Portland, where Stefan was waiting. We walked into our front door just after midnight, and then walked back out the door at 4:30 a.m. to PDX for Stefan's flight to New York City (for work). We cherished our four and a half hours together after three weeks apart. Except for the paycheck, I hate his job.
What did I bring Stefan? a bottle of wine from Seppeltsfield, a bar of chocolate from Haigh's, a boomerang, and a pile of literature and swag from Australia's State Emergency Service (SES).
Why, yes, I did take photos, and uploaded about 70 here.
I will MISS these Aussies accents! How can you not smile hearing "G'day"? Plus, kids are cuter with Aussie accents.
I now understand why there are so many female fans of Australian Rules Football. Niiiiiiice uniforms... the colors aren't always great, but the cut sure is. I hope they never go the way of basketball and adopt baggy shorts.
I'm not going to say where this was, but there was an airport where there was no pre-boarding security: no metal detector, no bag review, not even a check of my i.d. And I know that's potentially really unsafe, but I have to say, it also felt incredibly more civilized. I miss the way it used to be to travel by plane. But I guess we'll never have it back.
Listening to magpies making oh-so-strange sounds this early a.m. was really magical.
There was never CNN International at any hotels. And that was sad. I miss it so much here in the USA, and was hoping Australia had it. And don't write and say, "You can watch it online!" It's not the same.
I got congratulated by Aussies again and again over health care reform! Most common comment: "What the heck took you so long?!?" Other countries that have universal health care (which comes in a VARIETY of forms, FYI) are so confused by the right-wing lies in the USA regarding such.
What is up with the "all your food is crap" comments from Australians about food in the USA? Where are you people eating? I've traveled and eaten all over the world, and while there are lots of things we don't have in the USA, we *do* have really fantastic regional cuisine. I think you folks aren't choosing the right places to eat, or are being lead astray by some people with very bad taste in food.
And what is up with "all your coffee is crap" comments from Australians about coffee in the USA? Again, I've traveled all over the world, and I love our coffee as much as anywhere. I've noticed that names of coffee drinks in the USA don't at all mean the same in Australia, so perhaps you've ordered something that turned out differently than what you were expecting?
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