Our Australian Adventure

Sorry it’s taken me so long to put some pictures up from our recent trip to Australia. It’s been a bit busy since returning, you know, because I’m replying to all of the wonderfully creative articles about the PS3 that have been appearing on the Net. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Just kidding!
MB and I had a wonderful time in Australia… ten days of sightseeing in and around Sydney and Adelaide, interspersed with wonderful food and plenty of delicious Australian wine. No single post could do the trip justice, but I will make my best effort. Instead of going through it chronologically I’ll give you some highlights of our amazing trip. I’m planning to put more pics up on my smugmug account soon.
Our flight to Sydney was much easier than expected – we boarded the plane in San Francisco late in the evening, ate some take-out Patxi’s pizza and some wine, then fell asleep… some hours later we woke up, and after a few games of Scrabble, several in-flight movies and breakfast, we arrived in Sydney. 14, 15 hours? Yes… but it was relatively painless and jetlag didn’t rear its ugly head much at all during our trip or even upon our return.
We had set up our flights and the initial leg’s hotel room a mere 24 hours before take-off, taking advantage of Qantas’ unbelieveably low rates for their direct flights to Sydney. Highly recommended… for a very low price we got several internal Australian flights plus the round trip to Sydney. Quite a deal, especially considering our late booking.
Unfortunately, upon arrival we discovered that our Sydney hotel was on the opposite side of a half marathon from us…!
This was an amusing tone to set for our trip, that’s for sure! The cab driver dropped us off as close to our hotel as possible (in a hilly neighborhood called “The Rocks”), and we walked our luggage the final mile, happy that at least we weren’t running 13.1 miles at 7:30 in the morning like all these folks were!
The most familiar feature of Sydney is of course the Sydney Opera House. Up close it’s a bit smaller than expected, but still quite fantastic. The tile work on the roof is intricate and hypnotizing. I took so many pictures of that roof. After awhile of staring at the building it really does start to look like it was built in the 1960’s, but hey, it’s still more modern than most of the ugly gray boxes that pass for architecture here in San Francisco.
Sydney reminds me of Vancouver, or Seattle. It’s based around the harbor, and ferry service is an integral part of the city’s transit system. We took the ferry out to Manly Beach one day (we had a “long black” coffee on the “Manly Ferry” and laughed about it for days), and to the Taronga Zoo another day. The city felt more sparsely populated than I expected, so it must be rather spread out for a 4.5 million person city. Although it was autumn in Australia, there were still quite a few sidewalk cafes open. The city was clean like a Canadian city – not an American one. In the area where we spent most of our time we never saw much traffic, either.
One of the things I was most excited to see on our trip was the local wildlife. Now I’m not usually that excited about animals, but hey, they have kangaroos and koalas in Australia! MB and I literally spent the entire trip looking up into eucalyptus trees for koalas, and scanning the sides of the road for kangaroos. This was not smart for me, since I was usually driving the car – on the left side of the road – which posed additional challenges! We didn’t see any wild koalas, but we did see some wild kangaroos – as roadkill. Was THAT a disappointment. ๐Ÿ™‚
So the zoo did turn out to be a fun visit. We saw lions, and tigers, and monkeys, oh my! And also koalas (we kept waiting to see them drunkenly fall out of the trees – thunk! – but no luck), and kangaroos. And giraffes, and lizards, and one BIG bored rhino.
However, the big animal highlight of the trip for me turned out to be the birds. I am totally taken with the kookaburra, a bird that is about three times the size you’d expect it to be, that has a crazy call like a person laughing. We also saw wild bats hanging from trees in the park, wild cocakatoos chomping on the grass, colorful parrots begging for scraps, and other weirdo birds that I cannot identify with long, hooked beaks, just strolling around in downtown Sydney. Australian birds are amazing.
For the middle portion of our trip we flew to Adelaide, to be near Barossa and McLaren Vale, well-known wine producing regions of Australia. These areas are known for their big shiraz, and we enjoyed seeking out the smaller regional wineries and talking with them about their passion for wine-making. Of course, we also visited the giant industrial winery Penfolds, but it was a real treat talking to the owners of the smaller wineries and tasting the fruits of their labors. MB and I met some wonderful, friendly people, and experienced some amazing wines. (Many of which could not be found in the Wine Spectator magazines we had brought along…)
I was at first a bit concerned about tasting wine all day and driving on the left side of the road, but it all worked out fine. ๐Ÿ™‚ I learned a lot about terroir, and opened up my palate with the flavors of grapes I hadn’t heard of before. We ended up purchasing about 20 bottles of wine, most of which were very unique bottles not sold in the U.S. Trucking these back through customs was a bit laborious, but having that wine is making me very happy now!
For the last part of our trip we skipped town and drove out to the Blue Mountains near Sydney. I’m not sure why they call them mountains – the “Blue Canyons” would be more like it! Consider the Blue Mountains the Grand Canyon of Australia. In the mornings there is a blue haze in the air from the evaporated oil of the eucalyptus trees. It is quite a gorgeous place.
MB and I tripped out to the Jenolan Caves one day (picture above), and we had a wonderful time exploring caves. But the highlight of the trip for me was our last evening in Australia. We snuck down to the lip of the Blue Mountains, jumped a fence, and sat right on the very edge of the canyon with a bottle of champagne, some chocolates, and some strawberries, and watched the sunset. It was a magical moment that I’ll just never forget. What a wonderful way to end our trip.
There are so many other memories that I could share here – amusing things, peculiar things – from the unexpectedly different names for coffee drinks, to the friendly goose at our B&B in Barossa, to our ghetto motel (“highly recommended”) in McLaren Vale… it’s always the unexpected things which make travel an adventure, and so much fun. So if you haven’t travelled recently, what’s stopping you? Go book a flight somewhere you’ve never been! You’ll be glad you did.
That reminds me… I never did find out if the water really does spin the other direction in the toilet. Darn it!!