Touching down in a place 16,000 plus kilometres from home and feeling like you are home is foreign in its own way. It shouldn’t make sense. Japan, the stop over on this trip Down Under was half the distance (in time at least) and much more unfamiliar with its extremely different language and toilets with a thousand buttons. Australia though, almost as far away as I could get from home, was instantly (mostly) familiar.
But only mostly. Because it soon became apparent how little I knew about where I was, how much I took for granted (and was wrong about) and how much there was to learn.
Therefore, half way through this trip (trip is perhaps overstating it; it is a holiday, really.) there have been some things that I’ve noted as I’ve gone along. And I really mean noted (in journals, the memos section of my phone and on my computer). I’ve been keeping track of things, remaining a curious traveller. I’ve been noting the things I’ve noticed to put together as my little peak into East Coast Australia. And, in the lazy manner that this hot afternoon is inviting, I am going to present my first Australia – Noted in a list. Apologies if they are not news to you; they are definitely not newsworthy. They are just a list of things that have made me stop, think, exclaim or simply smile:
- The weather is not like it is on the TV
Even though it was hot, hot, hot when I stepped off the plane, it wasn’t long before grey skies became the backdrop and my umbrella was being haphazardly left under tables, much the same as it would in rainy Leicester or foggy Heidelberg. I had, foolishly, arrogantly, presumed it would be sunny the entire time. Like, the entire time. I wanted to stamp my feet like a small child when we were forced to spend a day rain-dodging in Sydney, then again in Canberra. That wasn’t in the guide book. (Fortunately, both places have several good galleries and museums to soak up the time so you can avoid soaking in the rain.)
2. It’s the same but different
Everywhere I go there are things that are oddly familiar, but that I just can’t quite get my head around. For example, I had lunch in Canberra at Parliament House on the Queen’s Terrace. I ate a scone with jam and cream with the eyes of a very young Queen Elizabeth II watching over me in bright sunshine in December. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is a good reason for all these similarities. I know we share a royal family and a complex and torrid history, but, to be entirely honest, an ignorant part of me just wasn’t really expecting so much to be quite so shared. Kings and Queens are everywhere, it seems.
It’s not just royalty either. It’s the buildings, the signs, the turns of phrase that are so familiar. The Queen Victoria Building in Sydney reminded me so much of the Victorian Quarter in Leeds that I kept looking for the Cornish Pasty shop.
(Thinking about it, the fact that these similarities surprised me is stupid, but, as you will see if you decide to keep reading, doing stupid things has become a bit of a theme this holiday.)
3. Australians like their coffee
Coffee is something they seem to take v e r y seriously here. And they do it well and with great attention to detail. There are so many choices that it should be easy to get a hot, caffeinated beverage provided anywhere just by stringing together any combination of black, white, long, short or flat. Turns out it isn’t – a long white is not a thing, as I found out when I asked for one. Me with an embarrassed red face. That is a thing.
They’re also good at coming up with coffee shop signs:
4. It’s sort of like being in Yorkshire
Everyone greets you by asking you how you are. And they always sound like they genuinely want to know. I like that.
5. There are different time zones in Australia. I didn’t know that. Now I do. Also, there are half hour time differences between zones. I really didn’t know that.
6. There is more to beer than Fosters. And I mean a lot more.
I’ve not seen so much as a beer beginning with F since I got here. I have, however, tried some delicious beers, including one called the Lazy Yak (which I initially thought was called the Yakkity Yak) and a cricket themed beer. Let’s save the delicious wine for another post. It might get its own post, actually.
7. There are lots of things that will kill you, yes, but there are also lots of beautiful things that won’t.
Dolphins, parrots, possums, wombats, kangaroos – all beautiful and exciting to peek at in the wild, rather than in a zoo.
(A short confession: until about four days ago, I thought a wombat was a species of bat. I made a reference to them being able to fly and was, quite rightly, laughed at. It’s been a week and a half of learning, that I can tell you.)
So, there we have it. My first list on a week and half spent travelling through Sydney, Canberra, Jervis beach and Lakes Entrance. These are my confessions of ignorance, tales of embarrassment and smiling reflections on the tiny morsel of time that I’ve spent on a small piece of this enormous and wonderful country.
Next stop: Melbourne…