Australia gets under your skin. It romances you; it stays with you. The weather is warm and the people are kind. Flip flops are as common during the workday commute as they are on the plentiful beaches. There is a constant breeze that smells like eucalyptus, plumeria and gardenia. Beautiful blue-green water crashes dramatically against warm yellow sand and stunning red cliffs. Sounds of lorikeets, kookaburras and ibis fill your ears. Forests of peeling eucalyptus trees roll across neverending hills. Influences from Europe, America, Aborigines and the Far East seem to coexist without any effort at all. It is old and it is new. It is rugged and it is elegant. It is arid and it is lush. It is city and it is bush. It is Australia, and it is proud of that fact.
London is still at the top of my list, but Sydney has powered its way to number two. Not really that surprising, as Australia is obviously a Commonwealth country. Reminders of Mother England are everywhere; any Anglophile will feel quite comfortable there. The fifteen-hour flight was actually no less miserable than the ten-hour flight I'm accustomed to, and I commend Qantas for their frequent snacks and much-appreciated hot towels.
Our two-bedroom Meriton Kent Street apartment was perfect for us, and the location near Town Hall offered a vast array of dining, grocery and transportation options. There was even a Starbucks the next building over; I was thrilled! Our view of Darling Harbour and the city skyline was stellar, especially during the two spectacular thunderstorms that rolled through during our stay.
Some aspects of Australia are so stereotypical, it actually brings a tear to your eye. Kangaroo fur is soft, emus are a little bit creepy. Forests of eucalyptus look just like in the films and photos. The bird songs are beautiful, a constant reminder of how far from home you are. The sun is brutal; we sported sunburns the entire time. The insects are incessant; bring insect repellent! I've never seen as many flies as I did while we were horseback riding in the bush.
On the other hand, some elements of Oz surprised us. Food and drugstore items are ridiculously expensive; worse than Hawaii. I never thought I'd find a more consumeristic country than America, but the sheer number of malls and food courts in Sydney left us totally gobsmacked. And just as soon as you think you've got it all down, something else different presents itself. For example, we London-lovers are totally accustomed to the law of standing on the right. In Australia, you stand on the left. You walk on the left. Everything is on the left.
The horseback riding was a dream come true. The Blue Mountains are stunning. The beaches take your breath away. Oh...and the BridgeClimb. Wow. I highly recommend it, even to people with an issue with heights. Their safety procedures are so secure, it's no wonder no climber has ever fallen. Sydney Harbour cruises should also be compulsory. It is stunning; nothing more, just simply stunning. My first jet lagged, right-off-the-plane view gave me goosebumps.
My plan has once again failed; I'd hoped to cross Australia off my list and finally settle down. That simply won't be happening. I will return someday; I must. Sydney was fabulous, but it is only a small percentage of the immense country. In the meantime, I'll buy lottery tickets so I can live in London for the Northern Hemisphere's spring and summer and live in Sydney the other half of the year. Just the thought makes me smile.
Thank you, Australia, for an amazing holiday. I tip my hat at your beautiful country and amazing people. You are a land to be respected and appreciated, and our trip was absolutely wonderful!