Sydney Opera House

Try not to fall in love with Australia (if you can!)

Written by David/Photos by Michelle & David

Right now we are just back from our last winter Australian trip to visit Michelle’s family and see a bit around along the west coast. For me it has been the first time I set foot in the big continent and I can already say with confidence that I’m officially in love with this country.

“Why?” Let me tell you why and maybe at the end of this post you’ll be ready to book your next trip to Downunder.

The people

This one is of course one of the main reasons.

Maybe it’s because I was already a bit biased before this trip by what Michelle told me of her life back in Australia, or maybe that’s just how people are in this fine country. In any case, I’ve to say I haven’t met a single rude or at least minimally unfriendly person there so far.

And I would say even more, I feel I’ve come back from this experience with more friends than I had before. Den and Jen, Axel and Melissa, Danielle and Ken, Marty and Renee, Nicole and David and Matt just to name a few, all of them awesome people!.

Another thing I love is that wherever you go you’re pumped up like a VIP. The customer service in Australia is outstanding, even sometimes a bit too over the top but even like this after some years in Germany this feels like new and fresh air, believe me. Germans are great people but, let’s face it guys, in general the customer service is not among their specialties. How good does it feel to walk into a shop of any kind and be greeted with a casual “How ya doin’ guys?”, and that the attendant starts friendly chatter with you about anything really. I tell you, that feels damn good.

Yes I know, I might be hitting some clichés here but I like so much what I have seen so far that I would not mind to move to Australia in the future.

The language

Ok, this is a funny one. In Sydney international airports they have those banners and posters reading “G’day Sydney”. Well, curious as I am, I immediately asked Michelle once I read one of these signs: what does “Gee-day” mean?. And she is still laughing at me :-D.

G'day Sydney

G’day Sydney sign at Sydney International Airport – by Flick user Neerav Bhatt

So, for those as ignorant as myself, “G’day” is the short for “Good day”, and it turns out Aussies (Australians) like to shorten words a lot. And I mean… A LOT!.

Want some more examples?

  • Arvo: afternoon
  • Cya: See you
  • Maccas: McDonalds
  • Sanger: sandwich
  • Sickie: sick day
  • Lappy: laptop
  • Servo: service station
  • Breakkie: breakfast
  • Cuppa: cup of tea
  • Barbie: barbecue
  • Sunnies: sunglasses
  • Footy: football
  • Biccy: biscuit

And obviously that’s not all. Australian English, due to multiple influences and the country’s history, is extremely rich not only in vocabulary but also in informal or slang expressions.

Then, when in Oz (Australia), if you hear about a bonzer banana bender during a barbecue stopper (a controversial conversation topic)  you’ll know that they are talking about an outstanding (bonzer) resident of Queensland (banana bender).

daggy bogan from Woop woop would be a badly dressed (daggy) person of low social level (bogan) living in an isolated place (generically named Woop woop, an invented name for any small town in the countryside), a dunny is a toilet, a durry is a cigarette and if you want some french fries with ketchup you should order chips with tomato sauce.

If a fair dinkum (real) Aussie needs a new pair of spiffy thongs, he or she is talking about great looking (spiffy) flip-flops (thongs) and not about any skimpy sexy piece of underwear as in North America, and a pussy is always a cat or a wimp in this part of the world, so watch out and don’t embarrass yourself! *wink*.

And let’s not forget the ubiquitous mate! (dude, buddy). In my short experience, this might be the one Aussie slang word used the most in the everyday life.

To say hello (G’day mate), as a response to an introduction (How ya doin’ mate?), to express approval (That’s tops mate!) or to dismiss a worry (No worries mate!).

And I’m just beginning to scratch the surface here!. In two words: love it!.

The “driving on the left” thing

I know half of you guys will laugh at this one (well, that’s what this blog is here for, to make you all happy ?). But I’ll go ahead, I’ll risk it and sound a bit of a rookie traveler here.

And it’s not even a reason why I love Australia. But I feel I need to share this one with you because it still amazes me!.

Everything from cars to boats, trains and pedestrians travel on the left. Even toilets flush in the opposite direction!

Since I’m used to driving on the right, I often experience one of those “Oh shit!” moments when Michelle drives and takes a roundabout clockwise!

I guess one day I’ll be ready to drive on the left, but not quite yet 😀

The wildlife

Let’s break a few stereotypes here: no, in Australia kangaroos and koalas are not everywhere. The only kangaroo you can find everywhere is black over yellow and appears only on the road signs.

Wildlife warning sign by the route

Wildlife warning sign by the road

And no, kangaroos, koalas and crocodiles are not the only animal species in this huge continent. Emus, tree kangaroos, wombats, platypuses, echidnas, cockatoos, kookaburras and the infamous Tasmanian devil are just the beginning of a long list of other lesser known animals on Australian territory.

cockatooAndMe

Feeding a cockatoo at Hamilton Island zoo. By the way, the cockatoo is the one on the right 🙂

sleepyKoalaInHamiltonIsland

A sleepy koala at Hamilton Island. I dare you to sleep like this!

Kookaburra at Hamilton Island

Kookaburra at Hamilton Island Kookaburra at Hamilton Island

The light

Loving photography, that’s one thing you immediately notice when landing somewhere. In this visit to Australia we landed in Sydney International Airport on a cool but sunny July morning. I still remember how impressed I was with the faint light and the deep blue skies.

At that time I thought it probably was either a matter of good luck or my exhausted brain playing havoc with my eyes. But after three weeks in a row of mainly gorgeous blue skies with brief rain events, I’ve to say it’s just the way it is in Australia.

Imagine if you could capture uniformly well exposed pictures like this one without the use of a polarizer or graduated neutral density filter all day long. In Australia that’s possible!

Tamarama beach, ocean walk from Bondi beach to Coogee beach

Tamarama beach, ocean walk from Bondi beach to Coogee beach

Is it raining?. Well don’t despair. Even when raining you might be lucky enough to capture nice pictures under this light. Remember, always carry a camera in this wonderland!

Double rainbow over Sydney

Double rainbow over Sydney

Not to forget the sunsets and sunrises. You can never go wrong with a those here!.

Sunrise in Cronulla

Sunrise in Cronulla

The landscape

From dream paradise islands in the north to mountains covered with lush gum tree forests in the east and vast reddish desert extensions in the west, and everything else imaginable in between. From the beach with the perfect wave to that city worth getting lost in. Australia is a land of scenery contrasts that will not leave you indifferent whatever you’re wishing to point your photo camera at.

I’m a sea person and I enjoy being close to or in water and the Sydney area seems to smoothly blend with the ocean. If you’re like me you’ll definitely love Sydney and all the little bays and hundred beaches around the Harbour area, ideal to stalk the myriad of surfers negotiating the waves since the early morning. The Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the Rocks,… All of them just perfect for architecture photography. Head to the last of Michelle’s post on her own home for expert advice ;-).

Surfers in Cronulla

Surfers in Cronulla

The Blue Mountains are the perfect location for some waterfall hunting and stunning pictures from the heights. And a dive around the Great Barrier Reef will make you wish you didn’t forget your underwater camera at home.

One of many hidden waterfalls in the Blue Mountains

One of many hidden waterfalls in the Blue Mountains

Oh!, and don’t get too surprised if while on route you spot an immense pineapple, a huge merino sheep, an enormous prawn or a megalithic orange. You’re not going crazy, at least just yet. These big things have been used as advertisements for so long that they are already part of the landscape.

All in all, Australia is like Disneyland for photographers!

And the foooood!

There is something you need to know about me. I’m a foodie, and as such I don’t miss a single opportunity to try new stuff everywhere I go. And, oh man! Australia is a paradise for us adventurous foodies out there. From sweet to savory, all of us can easily get our fix.

Since Michelle first introduced TimTams to me they have been my long time favourite among the thousand Aussie sweet snacks, especially the peanut butter version. Caramello Koalas and Cherry Ripes complete my top-3 list of snacks, and the Lamingtons and apple pie are now my top desserts.

Several Tim Tam specialties

Several Tim Tam specialties

To apple pie lovers out there (or of any other sort of pie anyway), if you happen to be in the Blue Mountains area (New South Wales, 1-2h drive to the west of Sydney) you don’t want to miss any of the roadside houses in Bilpin to stock up on fruit or meat pies or indulge yourself with these stuffed puff pastry delicacies on site.

Roadside advertisement of the Bilpin apple pies

Roadside advertisement of the Bilpin apple pies

This brings me to my new official favourite savory dish: meat pies!. Chunky beef, steak with mushrooms, curry beef,… you name it. All of them are equally delicious and this iconic Australian staple tastes even better with its topping of tomato sauce (ketchup). Bon appétit!

Meat pie and Lamingtons

Meat pie and Lamingtons

Since we cannot live on meat pies only, that’s why Aussies once invented the almighty burger with the lot! which comes in a very close second place of my favourites list. A freshly made beef patty in a bun, topped with bacon, grilled pineapple, a fried egg, beetroot, lettuce, onion, tomato, cheese or not and your sauce of choice (tomato or barbecue), with a side of chips with chicken salt (fries) if you want. All in all, a mouth-watering take-away option that will not disappoint you!

Burger with the lot in Cronulla

Burger with the lot in Cronulla (too good to be true!)

Of course, I just gave you a couple of examples here but the Australian cuisine is much more complex and richer than that!. Australians know how to eat very well, they like their seafood but enjoy a good steak too. Angus beef, pork and even kangaroo are among the most popular meats, Australia might be one of the only nations in the world eating its national emblem *wink*. I have to say I tried kangaroo but it didn’t impress me, as it was a bit too hard to chew for my taste.

Grilled kangaroo steak

Grilled kangaroo steak. Sorry vegetarians…

What about a coffee for breakfast or after lunch? Anyone? Coffee drinkers in Oz love a good flat white, which is similar to the cappuccino, with the same amount of coffee but smaller in volume and therefore with higher proportion of coffee to milk. Obviously enough, the name of this specialty comes after the thin and flat steamed milk foam layer that tops the cup, thinner than in the cappuccino.

Flat white

A genuine flat white

Due to the multicultural background of the population (Italian, Lebanese, Greek, and from all neighbouring Asian countries), the dinning options are almost endless! As a diary and gluten-sensitive person, I always found it very easy to get DF (dairy-free) and/or GF (gluten-free) options in every supermarket and restaurant I have gone to. “But”, you will say, “didn’t all foods mentioned above contain gluten or dairy?!” Yes they did, and I could tell the next couple of days, but that’s another story you don’t want to hear, believe me :-D.

I will not end without mentioning the Aussie beer and wine!

If the first beer that comes to your mind when thinking of Australia is Foster’s Lager, it’s time to think twice!. Just to name only a few, XXXX GoldVBCarlton Draught and Coopers are very popular beers Downunder right now. But that’s not all, craft beer breweries are very strong nowadays too, to the delight of beer connoisseurs. 4 Pines Brewing CompanyWhite Rabbit Brewery and Mudgee Brewing Company all of them in NSW are just a few examples worth checking out!

Craft beers for two at the Opera Bar, Sydney

Craft beers for two at the Opera Bar, Sydney

I’ve to admit I’ve never been impressed by Australian wines when bought overseas but Aussie wine is much better than what we are brought to believe by the exported brands (always depending on the taste of everyone, of course). A plethora of local and regional wine producers in south-west and east Australia and Tasmania give plenty of options to satisfy the taste buds of Shiraz, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Semillon lovers. Sometimes, the offer is even a bit too overwhelming!. But fear not, if you have already found your favourite wine producer in Australia you can always bring your own bottle of wine to the restaurant (that’s known as Bring your own or BYO) and they’ll be happy to open it for you at a minimal cost.

So if you ever come to Australia (you definitely should!!!), try it. Try not to fall in love with Australia and you’ll see yourself failing big time! 😉

Do yourself a big favor and go planning your next trip to Australia right away. You won’t be disappointed, guaranteed!.

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