Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oz: Land of Sunshine, Hungry Jacks and Dead Kangaroos

We finally made it to Australia - and Oz didn't let us down!  The sunshine, topography, cuisine and people are gorgeous - and so much more than we envisioned.  As was the cost of food!  A can of Coke out of the vending machine cost $3.50.  Breakfast for 2 people from the corner deli (we're talking small coffee, small bottle water and small tasteless pastry) was $35!  If you're planning a trip to Oz, start saving now or find a bank to rob!

It was all worth it though for views of the Opera House, beaches and iconic Harbor Bridge.

Here is a random assortment of observations and stories from our trip:

On the flight there I had another language barrier situation.  Ordered my meal and then couldn't for the life of me figure out what was in my salad (see below).  The printed menu said "surimi" which I'd never heard of it, so I asked the stewardess (YES, stewardess - when did that become a dirty word??)  She didn't know the word in English, so I asked, "Is it a vegetable?"  She replies, "Yes, vegetable."  Except that it's not. Turns out "surimi" means imitation crabmeat in Japanese.  Blech.

Once in Oz, the same commercial for a gardening center kept playing on TV.  I can't tell you how odd it is to hear "Plant your tomatoes now and they'll be ready by Christmas."  The whole southern hemisphere thing is wacky!

Have I mentioned that my husband has turned into a marathon machine?  The real reason we went down to Sydney (other than so that he could be the first Birardi to step foot on the continent) was so that he could run in the Sydney half marathon.  I've lost him to wholewheat pasta and hours of hip flexor stretching, so I enjoyed the pay-off of seeing him finish in record time!

Check out what the Aussies call Burger King and Rice Krispies:

I've officially become a hot-blooded Hong Konger because there was a large clothing differential between me and the locals on Bondi Beach.  Here I am in a leather jacket and jeans (the scarf that I took off for the picture is in my bag) while there were multiple chicks frolicking in the ocean in their bikinis.  Usually I'm the maniac wearing open-toed sandals in snowy December.

If you do happen to find yourself in Bondi, make sure you check out Icebergs - a swimming club whose pool might be the coolest I've ever seen!

I know the term "meat pie" doesn't sound very appetizing, but trust me - this Aussie treat is DEE-LISH.  It's like a full Thanksgiving meal (beef, mashed potatoes, peas and gravy) in a tiny little puff pastry cup!

Now onto the low point of the trip...  We decided to drive from the Blue Mountains to Hunter Valley.  I was nervous and slightly giddy about driving on the "wrong" side of the road.  Can't tell you how many times Vin yelled, "You're veering off into a ditch!" All the internet reports said it was a picturesque journey through the Aussie countryside that's not to be missed.  Our trip was a 5 and a half hour nightmare that included some carnage.

The first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth (you get the picture) kangaroo I saw in real life were all road kill  The first living kangaroo I saw hopped out in front of my car, which was going 50 mph on a 2-lane road.  With a car behind me and one in the oncoming lane, there wasn't much I could do besides lay on the horn and pray for the best.  (My Aussie friends say this is the worst thing you can do as the roo just freezes up.) Vin and I both closed our eyes on impact, so didn't see anything but did feel the ba-bump, ba-bump as our car went over him.  That's right, I killed a kangaroo.

Can I just take the time to point out that I drove in the US for 16 years without hitting anything and manage to take out a kangaroo less than a week in Oz?  Here's me smiling minutes before "the incident":

Kangaroo hit-and-run aside, Sydney was an incredible trip!  I will definitely go back (and promise not to step foot in a car!)

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