Thursday, December 6, 2012

"The 10 Most Important Things to Know About Australia" as told by a True Texan

Although no one guessed my surprise, I already promised an eager reader to have their shot at the blogging world for a day.  I couldn't disappoint him.  Lucky for you, there is no disappointment in his guest post either.  

My only request was that he not "outshine" my writing (which wouldn't take that much to do), knowing he was going to anyways. Such an overachiever.  I might as well retire and give this thing up to him now.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Mr. Ross Toungate.  
Back in the day when Ross and Teddy were best buds.  Jealousy eventually broke the two apart.  Its not Teddy's fault that he is too darn cute!  

Guest Blog: The 10 Most Important Things to Know About Australia
(or 9 reasons to visit Australia and 1 great reason to just stay home)

I recently visited my good friends in Australia and had an absolute blast. I decided to break up my experience into list form because that is kind of articles that I like best, it makes it easy to organize, and hopefully it makes it easier to read.

If you are thinking about going or you just want to hear about how my trip went then here is the truth about Australia.

#10: Sydney Harbour
Simply put, the Sydney Harbour is wonderful. Even if the Aussieʼs canʼt seem to spell harbor correctly, it is still a must see for any visitor and you definitely wonʼt miss it.

The harbor is basically the center of the city and is actually the worldʼs largest natural harbor (according to Australians, at least).

Any time spent around the harbor is time well spent. Whether you are cruising in a ferry, enjoying the view from a hillside, or walking across the Harbour Bridge- the harbor just makes everything better.
The views all around the harbor are incredible and it is fun to watch all the different types of boats go by. Cruise ships, ferries, party barges, sail boats, luxury yachts. Not to mention there is just something peaceful and relaxing about gentle waves rolling around in a large body of water.

And basking in the reflection of the Sydney Harbour is one of the worlds most iconic sites

#9: The Sydney Opera House
No trip to Sydney would be complete without a visit to and a few (thousand) photos of the Sydney Opera House.

According to our tour guide, the Sydney Opera House is the “most recognizable building in the world.” And even though I am not sure how they decided that and no one seems to agree with him for some reason, I would have to say that I was extremely impressed.
“Thatʼs funny, I always thought this was the ʻmost recognizable building in the worldʼ
The Opera House actually has a few different theaters inside, but the main Concert Hall is absolutely incredible. It is home to the largest mechanical pipe organ in the world-- you should definitely try to sneak a picture of it even if the tour guide tells you not to.

The architecture of every square inch of the building, inside and out, is worth marveling at.
#8: Stereotypes
Everyone carries around their own set of stereotypes, and Australians are no exceptions. The purpose of this section is to dispel the incorrect stereotypes and confirm the accurate stereotypes. There is a lot to go through so weʼll try this one rapid fire:
  • Australian accents are not always cool. They are cool on cool people and annoying on annoying people. 
  • No one was riding any kangaroos. Anywhere. Ever. 
  • I donʼt care what this guy says, Australian fashion is a little ridiculous sometimes. 
    Unless you think popped collars and weird half-mullets are the next big thing.
    Australian fashion icon.
  • Although we did see some boomerangs, no one ever seemed to throw one. 
  • Not all toilets flush the opposite way. Such a disappointment. 
  • No one threw any shrimps on any barbies- in fact they usually call shrimps “prawns.” 
  • No one ever said “Crikey!” even once, but people said “Cheers” and “Mate” all the time.
  • No one wrestled any crocs, but there were a few people wearing crocs. 
  • No one drinks Fosters. 
  • I was never offered any food with Vegemite. 
  • For a giant colony of criminals there didnʼt seem to be much crime (or police for that matter- in 10 days we literally saw zero police officers).
  • The only deadly creatures I saw were in the zoo- although in fairness the deadliest creatures are the ones that you donʼt see.
No one told me “Thatʼs not a knife, THIS is a knife” (no matter how many times I tried to set them up at dinner, I mean, come on!).
“Thatʼs not a stereotype. THIS is a stereotype.” 

#7: Taronga Zoo and Featherdale Wildlife Park
These two are in close contention for my favorite parts of the entire trip. If you love animals or at least find their silly antics mildly interesting, then you will love Taronga Zoo and Featherdale Wildlife Park.
Not only is Taronga Zoo a great place to see a ton of neat animals, but the whole zoo overlooks the glorious Sydney Harbour. In addition, the whole walk through the zoo is downhill (you take a tram ride up to the entrance and work your way back down- brilliant!).

Featherdale is like a zoo mixed with some sort of hippie commune. Featherdale is much smaller than Taronga, and doesnʼt have as many of the “big exhibits” but it definitely offers a lot more interaction with the animals. Whoever set up Featherdale obviously didnʼt believe in pesky things like “cages so the animals canʼt walk around everywhere” or “making sure no one hops in to the wallaby pen for a quick photo.”
Where else can you tongue kiss a snake, eat eucalyptus leaves with a koala, slap a wombat, and feed ice cream cones to a kangaroo? Nowhere. Heaven, maybe.

#6 No Tipping and Taxes Are Included
Ok, first the bad news: Sydney is expensiveLike, crazy expensiveIn fact, it is one ofthe most expensive places in the world. The prices for some things are so shocking I began to wonder how anyone could afford to live in Sydney.

Pictured: Typical Australian
“Itʼs a good thing weʼre all rich!”
However, there is some good news. Taxes are included in most prices, and tipping is pretty rare. Which means if you walk in to a store to buy a USB drive and the price says $20, you can hand the clerk a shiny plastic $20 bill and walk out (yes, their money is actually plastic). If you take a $60 cab ride to the airport and pay with a $100 bill (if you are in Sydney get used to carrying, and using, 100ʼs) he will hand you $40 in change and be on his way.

According to our hosts, tipping is even rare at restaurants. Apparently the waiters in Sydney make $20-$30/hour so there is just no need. I never bothered to confirm either one of these facts- I just kept my head down as I scurried out the door.

The city may be expensive but it is for good reason- it is an awesome city. And not having to tip or pay any taxes takes some of the sting out of paying $25 for a cheeseburger.

#5 The Beaches
I feel like I just scratched the surface on this one. There are so many incredible beaches in Australia and in Sydney. I only saw a handful, but the ones I did see are worth mentioning.
The sand is wonderful, the water is clear and clean, and there are just so many great beaches to choose from it is hard to imagine any one of them becoming over-crowded.

We did the Bondi to Coogee cliffside beach walk and saw some amazing sites along the way. Travelers Tip: If you feel like doing the beach walk, stop at Bronte Beach and do NOT go all the way to Coogee- the walk from Bronte to Coogee can get a bit strenuous.

I should also mention that some of the beaches are “top optional.” Even if some people are seriously “too married to even notice” it can be a bit surprising if your hosts forget to mention it before you visit.

#4: Teddy
Ugh. Gross.
Need I really say more? Teddy is there the whole time. I can not emphasize that enough: Teddy is out of quarantine and basically roaming free in Sydney.

No matter how much you insult him to his face he just wags his dumb tail and licks you. It is so annoying.

Even though I already regret giving this creature 1/10 of my guest blog post, it is important for you to know the true facts about Australia. Plus, someone told me if I didnʼt at least mention Teddy they wouldnʼt publish my post.

#3 Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens
Nestled in downtown Sydney is Hyde Park, and immediately adjacent to Hyde Park surrounding a small cove in Sydney Harbour is the Royal Botanic Gardens. Both of the sites provide a peaceful atmosphere for a relaxing walk through some incredible natural environments.
Hyde Park is home to some amazingly large trees as well as some cool statues. The Royal Botanic Gardens are full of all kinds of neat plants, not to mention the fantastic views of the harbor from Mrs. Macquaries Chair.

Just donʼt make the mistake of calling them the botanical gardens. They are the ROYAL Botanic Gardens. Get it right, or itʼs off with your head.

In addition to all the wonderful trees and other plants, there are also plenty of creatures roaming around

#2 The Wildlife
Animals are everywhere in Australia- not just at the zoo. And let me tell you, some of the animals are pretty darn neat.

Of course there were some lame animals like pigeons, and rats, and overly aggressive seagulls. But some of the wildlife was really cool.

The best animals are all the normal Australian animals that you wouldnʼt normally see in the US. We saw some huge lizards, some funky scoop-billed birds, some giant bats (that surprised the crap out of R), some super-tiny birds, some flashy fish, and even a pair of parrots.
If you decide to visit, please stop and point out all of the cool and awesome birds to R every time you see one. He loves it and it doesnʼt annoy him at all.

Of course, some of the coolest wildlife that we saw was in one of the most amazing natural habitats on the planet

#1: The Great Barrier Reef
I am tempted to make this section pictures only just because the sites were so incredible, but I am sure K will include plenty of pictures of the reef I wouldnʼt dare deprive the audience of my wonderful commentary.
Not only did we see tons of incredible fish, but the structures of the reef itself were amazing. I didnʼt expect the reef to be so massive (huh, so thatʼs why they call it Great), but some of the coral structures were like buildings.

In addition to all different types of coral, we saw too many fish to even name them all including a white-tipped reef shark, clownfish, and parrotfish. We also saw plenty of other interesting sea life including sea slugs, giant clams, and sea cucumbers.
Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef was such a great experience. Not only was it incredible to see one of the Natural Wonders of the World, but I consider myself especially lucky to have shared the experience with such great friends.
Bonus Ending:
I know that some of you readers really look forward to Kʼs recipes every blog post, so I thought, as a guest blogger, I should share some of my own

This week I enjoyed several delectable peanut butter and jelly sandwiches- a great recipe can be found here.

I also had a few cans of Campbellʼs Chunky soup from a great recipe I found on the back of every can. The soup is absolutely delicious, especially since the weather is getting a little colder. The best part: the whole recipe is only one ingredient!
“Wait. Do microwaves count as an ingredient? Because I totally added those myself.”                
And there you have it, folks. Thanks to Ross for that true Texan insight into Aussie life.  Here are some more pictures from our trip to the GBR.   We flew into Cairns, which is at the North Eastern tip of Australia, and spent two nights there for our all day diving excursion.  
Of course we had to do a little exploring in between
Didgeridoos, skate parks, hippies in the park, giant sea shells, public pool (questionable), random exercise equipment, casino…
And then it was boat time!  I was seriously a nervous wreck before our first dive (as I always am before jumping in), but it was nice to have the boys around to distract me!  It was so exhilarating to fulfill a life dream of all of ours together! It started as a "grand idea" only a few short months ago by the guys…and now a few hundred hours of scuba certification and many thousands of miles later, we can say we did it! 
All geared up! 
Solo shots! 
We rented an underwater camera to capture our excursion, which turned out to be so much fun!  The boys switched off taking pics.
I feel so blessed to have these three people in my life…husband, friend, brother.  (Im pretty sure we confused the strangers around us when we were taking these pics).  Ready for the next adventure!


1 comment:

  1. I think I speak for all of us when I say I feel cheated by the lack of food pictures to show off these new recipes provided by the guest blogger.