A Travellerspoint blog

Classical to Clapton in Sydney

plus, the value of a home away from home

sunny 85 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

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Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge (photo 2) from land and by sea.

I had my first real breathtaking “moment” of the trip as I walked up to the Sydney Opera House. The Opera House is one of the places I have seen for years in books, on TV and on postcards. To be on its steps and then inside to learn about its architecture was pretty incredible. I had to just stop, stare and revel in what I was viewing.

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A few different views of architect Jorn Utzon's masterpiece. He actually did not finish the project, but much of the design is attributed to him. Google for details on him and the building or ask me in 2010.

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A look at the inside of the unique Sydney Opera House roof and walls.

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View from inside the Opera House to Sydney Harbour. During intermission of shows people gather here for drinks.

The Opera House is made up of several theaters, but on my visit the actual opera theater was closed for a dress rehearsal. Just my luck. Dave and I did attend a concert in the main concert hall. Sydney Symphony Orchestra conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy led Shostakovich Symphony #10, a rather dark symphony about the life of Stalin. Never the less, this symphony really showed off the amazing acoustics of the hall. Everything about it, from its mouth-like shape to beech wood seats and walls, played a role in creating a great sound!

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Quick illegal photo of Concert Hall before I got yelled at to put the camera away. Pardon the light reflections.

From inside the Opera House you get a beautiful waterfront view of the the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which has become just as much of a symbol of Sydney as the Opera House itself. Many tourists climb to the top for a spectacular view, but due to the cost we opted for the cheaper route, a simple walk across.
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From classical to rock and roll, we moved to a different beat at an Eric Clapton concert at the Sydney Entertainment Center. My cousin Larry was coincidentally in town working with the Eric Clapton tour. He treated us to the show, plus some freebie beers behind stage, and of course, good catch up time. A real treat for his cheapo cousin.
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Elizabeth and Larry backstage at Clapton concert.

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Clapton and band in action, Sydney.

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Dave, Elizabeth, Alisha and Jody at Clapton concert.

Jody and Alisha (shown above) are our new friends and lovely hosts in Sydney. We were introduced to them via email through my friend Stacy, who unfortunately left a long work stint in Australia for Fiji just months before we arrived.

After sleeping in cars, on bunk beds, and in hostels with walls, but no ceilings, it is a treat to do a home stay. Thus far, we've been welcomed into the homes of Valeria and Fernando in Santiago, Chile, and with Jody and Alisha in Sydney. The value of a home stay is off the charts for us. It is a clean, quiet place to stay, a meal or two, laundry and good, local conversation, which are all immeasurable.

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Dave trying his first taste of kangaroo with chef Alisha. We learned that Australia is one of the only nations to eat both of its national symbols, the kangaroo and emu!

I urge everyone to take a risk on a stranger, and open your door to a friend of a friend who may be popping through your city. What may seem like an inconvenience at first, will hopefully turn out to be a pleasurable experience, and I can assure you the visitor will be forever grateful!

Jody and Alisha live in Stanmore, which is a convenient 40 minute walk to downtown Sydney or a 20 minute bus ride. They also live in “The Castle” (1980 Australian movie reference – go rent it if you haven't seen it.)

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The cozy flat was great, but came fully equipped with an alarm clock as it was directly under the flight path of planes landing at the airport. By 6:30 a.m. we had our first wake up flight to get us going, and going we did, mostly on foot.

Here are some photos of our stops.
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The University of Sydney is on a beautiful campus that reminds me of Wellesley College.

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Glebe Market is one of several craft, clothing and food markets throughout Sydney. It is in a charming, European feeling neighborhood.

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The Orbit Lounge is at the top of one of the tallest buildings in Sydney. The cost of the drink paid for the view!

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An aboriginal man dressed in traditional garb plays a didgeridoo for street entertainment.

Bondi Beach . . .
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Bondi Beach has been rated by the Travel Network and several publications as one of the sexiest beaches in the world. Right now there is an Australian reality TV show centered around the lifeguards at Bondi, so this beach is flooded with curious onlookers. The beach and its boardwalk were crowded, but the surrounding homes were fantastic. After seeing helicopters flying overhead for sharks, we opted to stay out of the water. Yikes!

Manly Beach . . .
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Ferry boats are a common mode of transportation for people in Sydney. We took a ride to Manly, a well known beach area north of the city center.

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Another day on the job! Life is tough for people here.

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All guards are cloned!

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Beach bum, or plumber in training...your call!

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Dave left his speedo at home.

We skipped the area with the Sydney Olympic venues as we were told there wasn't much going on there any more. Plus, Dave and I aren't prepared to publicly display our synchronized platform diving skills just yet. And we skimped on museums as we were museumed out from the last few cities.

Having just been in Melbourne it was easy to compare the two cities. Locals say you are either a Sydney person or a Melbourne person. Although we enjoyed both and would urge you to visit both, we are Melbourne people. Sydney is a multicultural mecca with more than one third of its residents born in another country, which is quite visible. Melbourne has the same international flare, but the city seems much more manageable with quaint neighborhoods and unique arcades and alleys. Sydney seems to have better year round weather, but the feel is much older and a little rundown. It seems overly crowded, and workers seem rushed and stressed, a feeling we haven't experienced since leaving the States. With that said, our hosts who both lived and worked in the States feel people in Australia, in general, and in Sydney, are much less stressed out than in the US.

After Sydney, we flew to the northern city of Darwin where we visited some crocodiles, among other things. Soon we're off to the Great Barrier Reef around Cairns. Details soon.

A quick plea... if you haven't done so already, please send us your tips for Asia. We are heading to Thailand in two weeks, followed by Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Japan and China. If you have any friends who live in the area, let us know! I promise you it will be a treat for everyone!

And send us an email about your life. We are curious about your whereabouts too!

Until then,
- Elizabeth

Posted by daveliz 21:11 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Exploring Victoria

Our journey from the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne

sunny 90 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

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Arch along the Great Ocean Road

For one week Elizabeth and I explored Victoria, which is in the southeast of Australia. The main city is Melbourne, which is where all of the bush fires have been occurring, so we were a little nervous about heading there given the rumors of temperatures in the 100s and extreme dryness. Low and behold, when we walked off the plane it was chilly and rainy, which was welcome weather for us and the area!

We started our tour by driving the well known Great Ocean Road, which follows a beautiful limestone coast between the towns of Torquay and Warnambool. Torquay is the surf capital of Australia and is home to an entire mall dedicated to surfing. We're not really shoppers, but given my new surfing "skillz" we had to stop in!

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Along with several other tourists, we stopped at several sites along the Great Ocean Road, including the 12 Apostles, of which only 6 are still standing, the London Bridge, which fell down in 1990 (is that where that childhood song came from?), and the Loch Ard Gorge, named after a ship wreck in the area due to treacherous rocky waters. The coast has a lot of pretty scenery with all of the limestone cliffs, but apparently this national park is having trouble hanging onto their fragile attractions ; - )

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On the road again, but with new, hot wheels! And a nice road reminder for us Americans.

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The 12 Apostles of which 6 still stand.

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London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down . . .

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Loch Ard Gorge

Leaving the coastline we headed north to Grampians National Park to do some hiking. When we arrived the extremely hot and dry weather returned. Locals were so traumatized by the bush fires they closed schools, closed some roads, prohibited buses from visiting the park, and recommended no one do long hikes in case another fire broke out. Even the Great Ocean Road that we just finished traveling was closed entirely for a day. But this didn't stop us from visiting a few park waterfalls and look outs. The heat and the flies were definitely getting to us though! Elizabeth, who is having a little trouble understanding temperature in Celsius asked me what 40 degrees really meant in "our" terms. I told her it was 110 F outside. With sweat dripping down her face and out of breath from a walk she responded with my favorite quote of the week, "No wonder I'm so f-ing hot!" You had to be there, but it was damn funny! Good thing she doesn't know the conversion trick yet or we would have been stuck in the air conditioned car all day!

In the Grampians, we definitely noticed the dryness of all the underbrush and trees. It reminded me of the conditions in Colorado during the wild fires a few years ago. Also, it should be noted that much of Grampians were burned from fires in 2006. Never-the-less, we managed a hike to the Pinnacles in the cool early morning the next day which was spectacular.

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Walking up the "Grand Canyon" trail to the Pinnacles.

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View from the Pinnacle.

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Another view from the Pinnacle.

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Trees half burned by the fire two years ago. The outsides were visibly charred, but oddly new life was sprouting out of the top.

A note about budget travel... living in a car, crowded hostel, or tent over the last several months has been a lot of fun. We meet a lot of people and are closer with nature (especially bugs) as a result. It does, however, pose some obstacles for privacy. So, we take advantage of what our accommodations afford us. For example, one of our rented tents along the Great Ocean Road had a pole in the middle, allowing me to provide Elizabeth some entertainment.

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Pole dancer Dave. (I'll be keeping my day job!)

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This was one of our more luxurious accommodations... the cabin at a trailer park included our own kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and AC (or AirCon as they call it here)!

Next up - Melbourne! We immediately fell in love with this city which is beaming with character. The city has several large sports complexes (rugby, cricket, and Australian Open home), has a large arts center, several unique neighborhoods and several theaters around town, but what sets Melbourne aside from other cities is its wealth of narrow alleyways that have been transformed into social meeting places with heaps of cafes, restaurants and shopping. The city gets much of it's character from these alleys and arcades.

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Alley cafe

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Another cool alley cafe

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The alleyways turn into graffiti art centers at night.

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Arcade gargoyle that has been watching over shoppers for many years

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Free trolley that takes you around the central business disrict.

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Old historic bathroom entrance. Elizabeth knows every bathroom in every city.

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Big Purse sculpture on the road, with a peaceful protest behind it.

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Fun street sculpture of working people crossing the road as people cross the road.

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St. Kilda is a hip neighborhood surrounding Melbourne city center. It has lots of great restaurants and a carnival with an old rollercoaster. Notice the guy standing in the middle of the coaster car operating the break! St. Kilda also has a city beach.

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Bohemian Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, is another section of Melbourne where we had the best iced mochas ever .... came with ice cream. Yum!

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Mmm... mocha.

Melbourne also has a remarkably safe and friendly feel to it. Not only because the alleyways, rather than being dark and scary, are filled with artsy cafes. One day, we noticed school kids (12-14 years old) wandering around the city on a fact finding hunt. They were unsupervised and using public transportation, walking through city streets, and asking strangers for information. We couldn't believe it! Melbourne is a city that is much bigger than Boston and has roughly the population of Detroit!

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Kids roaming freely around the city.

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They even advertise the laid back attitude!

And a note to our biker friends... road bikers were everywhere around the city. Just about every street has a bike lane. There are apparently more than 500 km of bike paths in Melbourne. This made us Bostonians quite a bit jealous!

For domestic flights Elizabeth and I were never asked for identification at the airports, not at check-in, security, or boarding our flight. Get this... We didn't even have to remove our shampoo or toothpaste from our bags, nor our shoes from our feet. The Aussie security agent chuckled at us silly Americans for even asking about these measures we have become accustomed to at home.

Are Australians overly trusting or are we just scared and paranoid? Probably a bit of both.

Our sense is that the Australian government takes better care of its citizens and Aussies have a better work to life balance. There is a lot less poverty, health care is a given, and five weeks of vacation is the norm for someone starting a job. People here appear less stressed and there are less reasons for crime, although it does exist in some areas. Of course the country has fewer people to take care of compared to the States, taxes are higher, the health care system has some flaws, and Australia has dealt with their own issues with racism. Even so, when the economy takes a down turn as it is doing right now, it certainly relieves a lot of stress to know that you'll have health care at the end of the day if you lose your job and that your kids higher education is taken care of or significantly reduced in fees. This makes me wonder how we can improve our lifestyle in the US. Perhaps our leaders should live in Australia for a little bit to get a fresh perspective! We suggest Melbourne, with a weekend getaway to Noosa!

We just flew from Sydney to Darwin after a whirlwind tour of Sydney. More on that soon!

- Dave

Posted by daveliz 00:05 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Australia - Coffs Harbour to Noosa

A few weeks of giving . . .


View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

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Watch out! Take hold of your children in the water! Dave is now catching waves!

The middle of February is holiday time for Dave and me. In the span of a week we have Valentine's Day and several birthdays, including that of Abe Lincoln, George Washington and me! These may not be your top holidays, but we like to celebrate in style and this year's gifts were creative, thoughtful and fun (and relatively cheap)!

For V Day, I gave Dave surf lessons. In Byron Bay, he joined 20-somethings Geraldo and Giseppe from Italy for a beginner lesson, but Dave's 30-something body outshined them. He caught good waves first and in my humble opinion he looked pretty good!
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Dave was extremely creative for my birthday. He scheduled painting lessons for both of us throughout Australia, starting in Noosa. Our first lesson was with artist Bill MacKay. Teaching us quick techniques on how to use the brushes and paints, he had us working with oils within minutes. Our assignment was to copy a Cezzane painting and have it finished by the end of class in three hours. Neither Dave nor I had painted since elementary school. With that said, I don't think we did too bad. The MFA (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) isn't calling yet, but soon enough .....
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Elizabeth's masterpiece

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Dave's masterpiece (unfinished)

There was also some much appreciated pampering to celebrate my 34th courtesy of my parents ... a hair cut, color, massage and a few other treats. Thank you! I'm glad most of you missed my two inches of grey hair ; - ) Let's save that for a showing in my fifties.
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Ok ... back to our whereabouts for the past few weeks.

Coffs Harbour: For some reason this coastal town is known for two major things: surfing (understandable) and a big banana, which is on display on the side of the road. We're not sure why the big banana is so popular, but since I like bananas, we decided to stop and take a photo.
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While in Coffs Harbour we also caught a junior surfing competition. In heats of four people, the surfers have 15 minutes to catch as many waves as possible and showcase their best moves.
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From Coffs, we drove up to Lennox Head, a quiet town just south of the bustling Byron Bay. Unfortunately, when it rains in Australia, it pours, so we spent multiple days hanging in the crib and looking out the window. When the sun did flicker, we got a quick glimpse of the beautiful beach, a long stretch of white sand, primarily filled with kite surfers. (Not shown here!)
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Dave also took a swim in Lake Ainsworth, which is surrounded by tea trees. The trees make the water a murky brown, but it is supposedly full of natural conditioners that are good for the skin.
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Lennox Head had lots of holiday homes. I love this mailbox!
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We also are amused by the road signs.
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We were warned that our next stop in Byron Bay would be "touristy." However, we loved it! There was a fantastic downtown full of life and energy! It was full of fun surf shops, restaurants and bars. The town has about five beaches all along the same strip. This is where Dave took his surf lessons. We also hiked in the bush and along the coastline to see the town lighthouse with beautiful, rocky scenery.
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My friend Cheryl recommended Noosa to us, which was our next stop, and we couldn't be more thankful. It was the first community Dave and I felt like we could relocate and live comfortably. Don't worry, realistically that won't happen! Noosa is broken up into several smaller towns: Noosaville, Noosa Junction, Noosa Heads and a few more. This is where we took painting lessons. We particularly loved all of the bike and hiking trails along the coastline.
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Dave also spent time at the Eumundi Market with more than 500 stalls of crafts, food and music, while I was at the spa.
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In Noosa Woods, we caught a beautiful sunset, before heading out to dinner, a treat in itself. Dave found a place that had a special two for one dinner, keeping in line with our budget, and he enjoyed telling me he bought the cheapest bottle of wine that came with bonus cadbury chocolates. I'm so proud ; - )
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Back to reality (traveler's reality), one of my favorite things to do is go shopping for food. In every city, I just love browsing through supermarkets. I should work for Wegmans : - ) Plus, I found it funny that the big market here is Woolworths (for those of you who remember the five and dime store in New England, it is where all of my parakeets and gold fish were bought).
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Too many granola bars to choose from.
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Noosa was also our last overnight location with our Jucy Crib. It was sad to depart with our home, but in all honesty, the heat was killing us and we desperately looked forward to a good nights rest in an air conditioned hostel in Brisbane. I will miss living in a car, which we surprisingly did for two months, and would seriously consider making a campa van at home for local travel!
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The last supper!

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The last sleep in the heat!

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But look at all of the storage space!

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We'll miss our home on wheels for sure!

Relatively speaking we had a very conservative campa van. Check out the competition. Wicked vans are everywhere, each with a unique 'pc' quote. Fragile readers ... close your eyes!
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Brisbane: Brissie, as the locals call it, is the third largest city in Australia, and our last stop on this leg of the trip.
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It is a medium sized city, with a large arts community. The city architecture is a dichotomy between old and new.
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The City Council building is industrial, yet modern.

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Where as the casino in the former treasury building has a much older style.

Here are a few highlights from our walking tour of the city:
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Bell tower at City Hall, with a view of a church from above ... looks like a doll house church.

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Pagoda given at World Exhibition.

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Sculpture and city view from arts center.

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An interesting walking bridge.

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An Australian White Ibis, a bird we see everywhere.

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It was move in day at Queensland University of Technology. With our backpacks we looked like students, so got all sorts of freebies as we walked through. There were also some odd meet your classmate activities going on around town ... check out the elephant walk.

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School kids on a field trip. Every school has a different uniform, which is mandatory. Some teens asked us about 'free dress' in the US. They seemed a little jealous. We also learned that Aussie and Kiwi students are in school longer than most Americans. They only get a six week summer break, with one to two week breaks every ten weeks.

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This is a great family pool and beach area in downtown. Makes the Boston Frog Pond look extremely weak!

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Every place you go there is a BBQ for free use ... shirt and shoes optional!

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We also visited a retro club area called Fortitude Valley and wrapped up our tour at a popular street mall on Queens Street for a drink and some cricket, which we still can't figure out.

In closing, we are still amazed by how friendly everyone is in Australia. Unlike my experience in Boston, it is common for us to strike up conversations with people walking on the streets, at a beach or at a bar. Everywhere we go, people inquire about us and tell us more than enough information about what we should do, see and experience in their country. They are very proud of Australia, and we certainly understand why!

Even the immigrants have taken on this philosophy of kindness. When we visited the Contemporary Arts Museum, which exhibited the theme of optimism, we lucked out by parking poorly on a side street. A nice man named Herman, originally from Germany, came out of his house and started chatting with us. Herman, now in his 60's used to travel like we are doing and ended up staying in Aussie after meeting a woman. He took a liking to us and had us park in his driveway. He invited us inside his house to look at his art gallery as well. He was about to host a show to raise funds for the Melbourne Bush Fire victims.

....
A few sayings in case you plan to visit the land of Oz...
- I love Dave heaps. Heaps and/or heaps and mounds is used in almost every sentence here.
- How you going? This phrase for "how are you" is a common greeting.
- Easy. This is used at the end of sentence in place of the word ok.
- Reckon. I reckon that if you are reading this, you are one of the few people who reads our entire blog. This word is extremely popular. I think it has just been dismissed from the more casual American English language.
- Ta. This is short for thank you.
- Where is the toilet? This is the polite way to ask "where is the bathroom?" I find it sort of crass, but using the words restroom and bathroom don't get you very far.

Interestingly enough most Asians and Europeans we've talked with say it is much easier to understand people with American English accents than Australian, New Zealand, English, Scottish, Irish and South African accents. They say we enunciate each letter a lot better making each word more clear.

We're in Melbourne now. More on that soon!
We miss everyone!
Until then,
- Elizabeth

Posted by daveliz 16:06 Archived in Australia Comments (4)

Australian Hospitality

An ocean apart, but a world of difference ...

sunny
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

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Kangaroo at Blackbutt Reserve, Newcastle, AU.

.........
We must first address the news you have surely been reading about Australia. The Melbourne bush fires have taken close to 300 lives, and in Cairnes, the community is dealing with horrific flooding. We are currently north of Melbourne and south of Cairnes in a very safe, although hot, climatic area. We plan to travel to both areas, but will do so only if the natural disasters have run their course and are safe for visitors. The outcrying of support from locals for the victims of both tragedies has been amazing.
.........

Wow! What a difference an ocean makes. In Australia the grocery store clerk wants to chat, find out where we are going and then give advice, the rental car guy goes the extra mile to print us out google directions to our exact destination, and the people who work at the information centers want to give us ample information and then some (what a novel idea!). We wanted to give each of them a big hug after our New Zealand experience where people were often shy, abrupt and typically not forthcoming with information, especially without a direct inquiry. Australia has been a breath of fresh air.

Traveling has really given us an appreciation for the few cultures that speak our language; not just english, but a similar communication style. We've met a plethora of nice people from many different countries, but when we sit down with Australians and people from England to have a few drinks and a few laughs, we almost always feel like we've been drinking buddies for years. Our theory is that these cultures incorporate the key ingredient to fun conversation - SARCASM, and as they say, "taking the piss out of each other" (a.k.a. making fun of each other.) Making this point very clear for us was our experience at Melaleuca Backpackers in Anna Bay, which we'll tell you about in a minute.

Since we got used to living in a car in New Zealand, we decided to stick with it. So for three weeks we are home owners of a new crib...this one with a brand new fridge, dvd player and radio. Are you jealous? At night we roast, but that is the price you pay for being a street person in a bug zone. The windows (give or take an inch) need to stay closed. We've heard one too many stories of travellers getting dengue and other fun illnesses.
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Our first few days are a blur. After landing in Sydney, we got our crib and drove out to the Blue Mountains, which are west of Sydney. They are named for the blue haze created by the mass of eucalyptus trees in the area. To view the famous Three Sisters rock formation, we did a nice hike down a million steep stairs to only find out most people take the tram up, but with our wallets in the car, and my 'save a dollar' philosophy, we hiked all the way back up. May we have buns of steel after this trip!
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Then we were off to the Hunter Valley, Australia's largest wine region. There are hundreds of wineries here, but we narrowed it down to about six to do some tasting. All and all, we are not overly impressed with the taste ... the local specialty of sharaz (very oaky, spicy, and heavy) may not be our thing. The area, however, is beautiful.
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We raced through Newcastle, a city that is quite industrial and in need of a makeover, but the Blackbutt Reserve was a good stop there, introducing us to kangaroos, emus, koalas and other local habitat.
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Next stop was Port Stephens, including Anna Bay and Nelson Bay. We planned to spend a day, but ended up staying for five. This area is known for its white sand beaches and impressive sand dunes, which we borded down with avengence. As a bonus, we got to check out the Nude Olympics, which were happening on the beach next to One Mile Beach, the one we frequented. No photos here, but invision lots of 40-70 somethings bending over for an egg toss. Yummy! Not appropriate were the few kids (old enough to know) watching on as mom and dad did a naked hurdle : - )
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We enjoyed a hike at Tomaree Head, the highest point in Port Stephens. Dave has a new found love for spiders and their webs, as they are the biggest and most poisoness in the world. The other wildlife speaks for itself....they just grow bigger in Australia! The last photo here shows the kookaburra, which sounds like a group of monkeys. The birdlife here is incredible. Pictures don't do it justice. You need a cd! Think about the sounds of Pac Man all around you at all times!
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The best part of Port Stephens was by far the hospitality. By fluke we parked our crib at Melaleuca Backpackers camping site on our first night in the area. The owners, Mick, Mish, Pete and Janeatte were friendly from the onset. Dave struck a deal to help them with some computer issues in exchange for a few nights stay, so our visit lasted close to a week. It was perfect! We needed to slow down; to stop and enjoy the scenery, to talk to locals, to breath and treasure the experience we are having. The owners also treated us to a dinner out on the town, which was more than welcome by Dave who is being fed "Budget"and "Home Brand" rice, pasta, soup, tuna, and pb&j daily. The poor man is wasting away.... ok, not really. We enjoy sampling every cookie and granola bar the supermarkets have to offer! And we do splurge on meat when we can cook at a camp site (not in our car) and fresh veggies and fruits!
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Mick & Mish kindly take us to dinner, along with Pete (not in photo). Janeatte was taking care of the ship!!

Melaleuca was not only our home base for a bit, but also our school on local animals. Michelle works with the local humane society (of sorts) to treat injured wildlife. She was like 'Ace Ventura Pet Detective' specializing in birds, who took quite a liking to Dave. They also have a fews dogs and a kangaroo that was orphaned. Josie is probably the most photographed kangaroo in Aus. Coincidentally (or maybe not if you believe in that sort of thing), she also has a temperment just like Josie, Pat and Ellen's dog, who passed away last year. She was friendly, laid back, and just enjoyed hanging with the travellers.
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Josie, the friendly kangaroo.
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Sqeaky, a noisy miner, took a special liking to Dave. He confused Dave's curls for his nest, frequently landing on his head for a rest.

We can't thank our hosts enough for welcoming us and treating us with such hospitality! It was hard to leave, but we pulled ourselves up after Mick's specialty egg and bacon breakfast sandwichs to head north to Seal Rocks at Myall National Park. There is a beautiful lighthouse there that was erected in 1875 (100 years before my birth). The rocks surrounding the lighthouse are known for wreaking havoc on several boats.
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The next day, we took our two booties to Booti Booti National Park for a hike bordering Wallis Lake and the Tasman Sea.
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Driving north we stopped in several other small beach communities, not significant enough to write about.

Dorrigo National Park was a fantastic stop. On a rainy day we took a walk through the rainforest. It was ripe with enormous trees, beautiful waterfalls and flora.
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On the road again,
- Elizabeth and Dave

Posted by daveliz 19:06 Archived in Australia Comments (5)

New Zealand wrap ... SWEET AS

43 days in a car in New Zealand...

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View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

For three months we have spent 24 hours a day together and we are both still alive. This is especially amazing since we have been living, sleeping and driving around New Zealand in a very small minivan for the last 43 days. In general, we really enjoyed our time in New Zealand. We suspect that after a week in bustling Hanoi or Bangkok we'll be craving the peace and quiet of Kiwi land, but for now, we are ready to move on to Australia for some new scenery. Six weeks was a good amount of time to hit almost every corner of this small country.

A few observations about New Zealand and then some photos to show you the highlights.
- The people are called Kiwis, not for the popular fruit, but for a flightless, nocturnal bird that has a lot going against it, but is known for being a true survivor.

- There are more sheep than people in New Zealand. In fact we've heard a statistic that on average 500 Kiwis a day are leaving to move to Australia. Thus there is a huge need for migrant workers. Even we could apply for a work visa to pick wine grapes, kiwifruit or apples.
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- NZ seems to be built around its wildlife, nature and agriculture, with adventure sports as a bonus. Tourism seems to be the booming business. Other industries seem to be hurting and dealing with recession.

- New Zealanders, in general, are kind, but seem to be abrupt and brief in conversation. Even the trained information specialists are inclined to conceal information, rather than reveal it. Perhaps they are trying to keep the country's hidden gems a secret from tourists.

- No matter where you go in the country, the weather reports always indicate it is FINE with a slight chance of SHOWERS.

- Sandflies are by far the worst creature in the country. They have a mean bite with an itch that lasts a week. The sandflies took at least a pint of blood from Elizabeth. A theory on the street is that Dave was not attacked, because the critters couldn't get through his hairy arms and legs.

- New Zealand is an extraordinarily easy country to drive around in terms of distance. However, the drivers are maniacs. They love to tailgate and to speed on narrow, curvy mountain roads. They make Boston drivers look lame. A British guy we met (who was quite cool and we suspect a pretty suave driver) told us he was pulled over for going too slow, which would be a distraction to the crazy Kiwis on the road. That made us laugh!! Note to Pat, Ellen and Doug.....DO NOT BIKE ON THESE ROADS - we love you too much!

- Campervans are everywhere. We think more people live in cars in NZ than in homes, and there are enough public toilets and showers to prove this point.
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- NZ is an ultimate playground. They thrive on adventure sports, even for the youngest Kiwis around.
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- We were very surprised that all of the small towns we drove through looked the same - a model from 1970 with one or two strips of shops with all basic stores. There wasn't one that blew us away with some New England charm or character. Dave was expecting a country full of charming villages and was very disappointed with their absence.

- Kiwis have some great sayings:
"SWEET AS" This is used in the following way. "Dave, that hike up Mt. Cook was sweet as .... " In other words, that hike was cool. What's funny is that Dave thought Kiwis kept saying to him SWEET ASS. He said thanks, would smile and quickly move on ; - )
"SAME. SAME" This mean same old, same old.

Queenstown: a view from the botanical gardens and then downtown. Outdoor bowling clubs are huge in popularity with the elderly. Rugby is the game of choice for the youngins.
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Milford Sound: Part of Fjordland National Park, Milford Sound is known for its amazingly high sea cliffs. Mitre Peak has the second highest sea cliff in the world. This area was formed by the meltdown of glaciers and are interestingly fjords, not a sound. We got up close by kayak to see the cliffs and the wildlife.
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More photos from Fjordland National Park. We opted not to do the famous Milford Trek and instead completed several day hikes in the area.
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We did a day hike along the Routeburn Track, one of the Great Walks.
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Getrude's Saddle - a fabulous hike to get a birdseye view of Milford Sound.
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Lake Te Anau at the head of Fjordland National Park.
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How does anyone know how to get somewhere when they speed by signs like this?
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Starting from the busy town of Middlemarch, we did a 68k bike ride along the Otago Rail Trail. Again, more sheep than riders on this route which is known for its tunnels and viaducts.
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The Steepest Street in the World, Dunedin, NZ.
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Moeraki Boulders are a mystery formation in the Pacific Ocean. There are various theories on how they formed and why they formed there. Google it!
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Shag Point, NZ: Trying to see animals in their natural habitat has some hidden dangers. Sea lions, who disguise themselves in the rocks, popped up on our arrival, and we couldn't get that close to the yellow-eyed penguins (the rarest penguin in the world), but look close, you'll see them.
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Oamaru, NZ: more sea lions and signs of penguins in the area. We could have paid to get up close, but we put a ban on penguin prisons!
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Mt. Cook is New Zealand's tallest mountain. We got a magnificent view when we approached and were amazed by the turquoise waters at its base. Unfortunately the clouds rolled in for several days of torrential rain, so our planned hike was nixed.
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Christchurch was definitely the city with the most character in NZ. It had plenty of bars and craft fairs in various neighborhoods, all with different flavor. They have a great art museum. We also discovered a local drink that we love, it's like ginger ale, but better.
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We ventured east of Christchurch to the hilly and winding roads of the Banks Peninsula with it's many picturesque and remote bays. Akaroa is a cute little village out on the peninsula where the French once tried to colonize New Zealand and never left.
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On the day Obama got inaugurated, we celebrated with some wine tours in Blenheim, known for its sauvignon blanc. Along the way we stopped at White's Bay and then passed one of many deer farms we saw in our trip, which we found quite amusing.
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Up in the Marlborough Sounds area we hiked around the Queen Charlotte Track's hilly bays seeing some birds and relaxing in beautiful coves.
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We decided to return to the North Island earlier than planned to hit some areas we missed at the beginning of our trip. So we headed up the west coast pleasantly surprised by the beach side city of Mount Monganui with it's white sandy beaches. We decided to sit still for a few days and soak up the sun like real beach bums! We also noticed a huge increase of people on this beach, plus actual life guards on duty (a first we've seen on a NZ beach). It seems as though vacationers stay close to Auckland, the home city of most Kiwis.
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After a night at Ohope Beach, Dave decided to do the flying fox in the playground. Just as Elizabeth was going to try a mean lady yelled at us about the ride only being for kids. We're still not sure why she yelled at us!
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One of our favorite things about campervaning is waking up in the morning to a view we couldn't afford in Boston. Beachfront spots were best since we could fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean and not sounds of Dave snoring. Also part of the experience is not knowing who you'll meet at night. We particularly liked Kiwi Steve who baton twirls fire. We survived...proof of the photo the next day at the beach.
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We wrapped up our tour of New Zealand in the Coromandel Peninsula where there are beautiful limestone coves and beaches accessible only via hike. New Zealand is a sailor's dream land! Once again, the closer we got to Auckland the more people we found, especially at the hot water beach, where "heaps" (as they say in NZ) of people dig in the sand to expose springs forming their own hot tub.
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- An exhausted Elizabeth & Dave

Posted by daveliz 20:56 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

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