October 03, 2002

Notes from Down Under, part the first

Sydney, New South Wales

So it's just as pleasant a city as everyone had said; green, gorgeous, relaxed, stunning waterfront views absolutely everywhere, populated by people who are almost pathologically friendly. When you walk into a store in Sydney, people ask you "How you going then?" and not in the robotic drone of a Wal-Mart greeter. I'm not even sure all of these grinning greetings came from store employees and not fellow-shoppers. Whoever they are, they genuinely want to know how you're going and how they can help. Naturally with my New York/London/Toronto reflexes I blanch and back away quickly, muttering something about "just looking," but I hope to soon overcome this reflex and establish communication with the natives.

Flew in with Singapore Airlines, and I'd like to give them a shout-out for being The Greatest Airline On (or, more to the point, above) The Planet. Your own little screen with video, audio, and Nintendo on demand, and snacks given out like it was a candy convention, and seats big enough that even poor ol' economy-class me could extend, if not actually stretch, my legs. I had expected to spend the first few days clobbered by jet lag, but miraculously I managed to dodge it entirely. I think my unorthodox routing with a 24-hour stopover in London helped; I think by the time I got to Sydney my internal clock had completely expired, its hour hand spinning like a broken compass, and it was just so terribly grateful that it was still on the same planet that it desperately latched onto whatever local time was available.

I am pleased to report that I have spent my first few days being obscenely lazy, although I have probably walked a good marathon or two just drifting aimlessly around, and managed to get in a run around the Opera House and Botanical Gardens. People told me that Sydney is a lot like San Francisco, which is half-true; the climate and culture are similar, but geographically they're quite different, SF being compressed onto a peninsula and Sydney sprawling a long ways on either side of the harbour which divides it. (Said harbour actually being a fjord, if you ask me, but no one here calls it that, presumably due to some trademark dispute with Norway).

The Paul Hogan commercials were true; they do barbecue a lot here and, amazingly, they really do say "barbie", without a hint of irony. The beaches are theoretically swimmable but we're just coming out of winter and at 16C (that's 60F for you imperialists) still a wee bit below my comfort level. But fear not, it gets warmer as we go north, and I'm going north today. First to go diving at South West Rocks, cunningly located on the southeast coast, and then to chill out at Byron Bay, which is a peninsula. I am learning not to take the place names too seriously.

Research continues regarding: the difference between rugby league and rugby union, the relative superiority of Victoria Bitter and Toohey's, and the relative sizes of the wombat and the wallaby, not to mention whether I will every be able to say either "wombat" or "wallaby" with a straight face.

Bring Back The Biff!

1 Comments:

Blogger allthings said...

Point of order on SF and Syd - nothing alike I say - people in Syd are NORMAL

2:02 AM  

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