The Wonderful World of Oz

September 3, 2019

Small moments

Filed under: Uncategorized — A @ 3:01 pm

I’m always inclined to remember the BIG stuff on our travels. Brandon and I have both talked about some of those from this trip already: the Great Barrier Reef, the art, the food (and wine and beer), the Opera House… Loads! So, in contrast to our highlight reels — and perhaps as a fun complement to Brandon’s recent highlights list — I thought I’d do a rundown of some of the tinier moments that were just as memorable but that I may end up forgetting years later. (Kind of going in chronological order here, not, like, order of importance.)

- I had to buy new shoes because I left my BEST travel shoes in the downstairs bathroom at our house in Columbus. This was pretty much the… second day in Australia, first thing in the morning. Anyway, the young woman working at the shoe store was REALLY nice and chatted with us and asked us how long we would be in “Brizzy.”

- One evening (was it later that same evening?? I can’t remember!), we ferried over to the other side of the river that intersects Brisbane and walked on this really cool path along some cliffs. The views were great, and I loved seeing the sunset reflected on the stone of the cliffs. I was kind of tired at the end of it, though, and ready to get on the ferry back to our side of the river. But the ride itself was also beautiful, which I wasn’t fully expecting; the icing on the cake was seeing all the lights along the river from the ferry. One of the bridges was lit up like the Indian flag, and my favorite was this cluster of trees whose trunks and branches were COVERED in orangey-gold fairy lights. Those trees were magical.

- The last day of our Bundaberg/Bargara trip had a few nice moments. The first was our morning walk on the beach near our resort. It was a lovely, pink-and-gold morning, and the beach was peaceful and the ocean calm. I left my shoes and jacket by the path, and it felt so comfortable and safe. “Here’s my spot at the beach; I’ll leave my stuff. See you later, stuff!” It felt like being a kid again. After a good walk through both the sand and the water, we made our way to some big black rocks in the tide that I enjoyed walking on. Being positioned in the tide the way they were, they were super smooth and round and easy to stand on, and they felt nice under my feet. Again, something simple, but I don’t want to forget it.

- The second thing on that day was a chance to talk with Bart, our tour guide. The restaurant where we had reservations for lunch somehow managed to set enough places for everyone in our group MINUS ONE, so Bart went and sat at a table by himself. Brandon and I joined him, so he wouldn’t be lonely. We hadn’t really gotten to know much about him, so it was nice to hear a little bit more about him. Turns out, his main gig in the tour guiding world is taking people out on fishing boats. Anyway, it was a nice chat, and I always like to try to remember our guides on adventures like that.

- For our last night in Brisbane, we stayed in a really cool “art hotel,” which I believe I’ve mentioned. Called The Johnson, but it’s written on the side of the building as [The Johnson]. Brandon had told me there was a whole series of these hotels through Australia, and he made a little joke about how he wants to stay at all of them. Spoiler alert: we didn’t. HOWEVER. When we got to Melbourne the next day, we were walking from the train station in our suburb (Box Hill) to get to our hotel for the first time, and I saw something that looked a “]” and said, “Wait. Is that another one of those hotels from the same series?” Brandon turned around and gave me the HUGEST mischievous grin. It was classic.

- The WiFi at the ferry terminal in Manly — outside of Sydney — offers you coupons when you log on for the first time. I got a free gelato. BAM.

I think that’s a good sampling for now.

September 2, 2019

The Sixth Continent

Filed under: Uncategorized — B @ 1:53 pm

So, I’ve now officially visited six of the seven continents (the seventh being the obvious). Getting there involved taking the longest operated commercial flight (Houston to Sydney), and our time in Oz was relatively short compared with many of our trips. We did manage to make the best of the time by focusing entirely on the east coast of Oz, spending several nights at each stop. Perhaps the greatest disappointment was the temporary closure of the train line from Sydney to the Blue Mountains. Because of this, we opted not to take our planned day trip there. We could have made it work - there was bus service operated in lieu - but part of the appeal was the train journey, and this did present me the opportunity to be flexible. And being flexible means having an opportunity to be considerate of my partner, and demonstrate my willingness to not insist on fomo. So, I was flexible, and we spent that day returning to Manly, where our time the day before had been cut short, and viewing a light show projected on the side of the Opera House.

Highlights of the trip:

- Snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef: far and away the #1 highlight of the trip. Honestly it surpassed my already-high expectations. In fact, in a way a misfortune made this fortune possible. When we embarked on our trip from Bundaberg out to the Reef, we were given the opportunity to do an intro scuba dive. I hadn’t planned on doing SCUBA because I thought you had to be certified in advance, but seeing this wasn’t the case I planned to give it a shot. And then I was medically DQ’d from doing it and had to settle for snorkeling after all. Though snorkeling was what I always planned and expected to do anyway, it was disappointing to be told I couldn’t do something. In hindsight, I think it was a blessing. What we saw snorkeling, I don’t think we would have seen with SCUBA. Too much time would have been spent on instruction about how to use the equipment, we would have had to stay close to the instructor, and we wouldn’t have full control over visibility in the way we did while snorkeling. The freedom of snorkeling enabled us to see absolutely amazing things. And apparently, we went at the right time: the Reef is suffering, and its splendor might not shine as bright in the future. In hindsight I am extremely glad to save SCUBA as an experience for some time in the future when I wouldn’t have to sacrifice an even greater opportunity: that of maximizing my time viewing the greatest underwater landscape in the world.

- Food: especially the extremely-great-value tasting menu we had at Supernormal in Melbourne (Asian fusion), and the unbelievably great barramundi we got as take-out from a seafood place at Barangaroo pier in Sydney. I didn’t really view Oz as a food destination, so we didn’t focus much on food over the trip but we did have some good stuff (including surprisingly amazing dumplings/dim sum for how cheap and dumpy the place was, and lamb sausage), and these were the two highlights. Also, the absolute cuteness of buying random bottles of Oz Shiraz at a bottle shop and having it with take-out at our hotels.

- The Opera House: All we did was really walk around and look at it, but I love this kind of architecture. It’s the icon of Oz, and just happens to be in line with my interests.

- The Great Ocean Road: I love contemporary architecture. I also love rugged coasts. Missing the Blue Mountains was tolerable because we saw such impressive rock formations along the coastline in Victoria.

- Wildflower Brewery: a wild ale place in Sydney. Actually what screwed up our schedule and cut our time at Manly short the first day. Shockingly more than worth it. Because this is maybe the second best brewery I have ever been to, after Cantillon in Brussels. Which is seriously bizarre, because has anybody even heard of this place???

- Art: I talked about this in one of my earlier posts. Art wasn’t even on my radar as something to see in Oz, and yet what we did see completely reframed how I will view art as part of future travels.

- The Johnson: One of the coolest hotels I have ever stayed at. And because I am awesome it was only $85/night.

- Petting Kangaroos: We didn’t just see kangaroos. We pet them.

- Also platypus: Because I have literally never seen one before in my life, even at our country’s best zoos. And that guy is crayzay.

- Cricket: I talked about the MCG in the Sportball post. It was a highlight if for no other reason than it made me realize there is a tour of Dodger Stadium I need to go on!! But watching cricket every other night on hotel TVs may have been the real highlight.

- Making Amy happy by going to Manly, and then going back to Manly: Because I love Amy.

September 1, 2019

Connecting

Filed under: Uncategorized — B @ 9:49 pm

Some of the best experiences I have had while traveling were when I connected with local people. Because I am a huge introvert, I don’t generally seek out these experiences, but sometimes they happen organically. We were able to connect with some locals in Sydney while visiting several craft breweries. At one of these, one of the owners started up a conversation with Amy and at another, several local guys out drinking invited us to join them at the bar, and then decided instead to move in on the table we were sitting at. We talked about everything from the cost of living in our respective countries to our travels and even politics.

Two of the absolute highlights of my travels were a “travel ambassador” in Ireland inviting us to go see his girlfriend perform music at a bar in Dublin, and then us all drinking together at the show, and being invited to an Ifthar in Istanbul. (These are both documented in the respective travel logs for those trips). While getting into a conversation with locals at breweries doesn’t come close to those, I was still happy to get a chance to have some casual and organic conversations with locals. It’s too easy - and as an introvert I am too susceptible - to only interact with the service and tourist industries while you travel. While I probably won’t be creating a lot of opportunities myself to escape that bubble, when I do escape regardless it always enriches the trip and my connection to the country.

August 29, 2019

Melbourne

Filed under: Uncategorized — A @ 12:51 pm

We spent several days in Melbourne, and we saw a lot of interesting things there. Brandon has already written a bit about the cricket grounds; I won’t be redundant, but I will say that it was one of my favorite things we did on the trip. Other adventures tacked on to the Melbourne branch of the trip were our tour of Yarra Valley wine country, a day trip along the Great Ocean Road, and a visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol (Jail), not to mention some great foods, mentioned in my previous post.

First of all, I will say that I loved Melbourne as a city in its own right. It’s full of funky modern architecture while still retaining some charm and quirkiness from its older days. We went on a walking tour that led us through several old arcades (walkways between buildings) that featured dramatic storefronts, beautiful décor, and even some interesting mechanical features, like a window display with moving figures drinking tea at a table. There was even a giant clock! “Giant” referring both to size and to the fact that it had two figures of mythical giants – Gog and Agog – who took turns chiming the hour on their own bells. Another colorful feature of Melbourne was the abundance of street. We saw some really cool graffiti, cartoons, and political statements on the walls of the city. One final noteworthy tidbit about Melbourne was that a few intersections (and I really mean just a small handful) had changed the figures of the “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” signals to women, instead of men. I personally found it completely delightful.

The day trips we took were really nice. I’ve talked a bit about the wine adventures, so I don’t think there’s much left to talk about with that. Although, I will note that I enjoyed how different the wineries were. Steele’s Gate was small; super classy on the inside but full of flowers and countryside on the outside. Balgownie was large and spread out; they were a full outfit, complete with fireplaces and a restaurant with multiple dining rooms. The third one was rustic; our guide said something to the effect of it having a “classic Australian farm feel” to it. I’m inclinded to agree, but I’ll also say that its log cabin and barn aesthetic certainly also reminded me of a few Virginia wineries we’ve visited. The last stop was Chandon, which was a lot like the Chandon we’d been into Napa Valley: swanky, sleek, and just as sparkling as its wines. Beautiful views and delicious bubbly, but it’s also the kind of place that makes you wish you’d dressed better.

The second day trip – our journey along the Great Ocean Road – was nice, but I mostly just remember being COLD. See, I walked out of our hotel that morning wearing my leather flats, thinking that they’d be comfortable for the small amount of walking we’d be doing but also cute enough to not look overly chunky or touristy. What I wasn’t prepared for was rain. Typically, shoes like these will do okay in rain, but I found out – when it was too late to go back and change – that both shoes had splits in their soles, so the water on the sidewalks and roads was sloshing up INTO the shoes. Also, it was colder and windier than the forecast suggested it would be, and our driver did not seem terribly inclined to run the heat in the van we were on. My saving grace was that we stopped fairly early on for a restroom and coffee break at a little travel plaza that had a surprisingly big store in it. They sold all kinds of wares, including these fuzzy slipper-type boots that had a white-and-black checked pattern on the outside and cheap fake fleece on the inside. The soles were not necessarily going to take me up any mountains, but everything else about them would keep my feet dry and warm for the coastal pathways we’d be walking on that day. So from that point on, my feet were at least more comfortable.

Aside from that, it was a nice day of seeing some beautiful coastline and impressive rock formations. We also made a stop at a place where we saw about five koalas just, ya know, hanging out. It wasn’t really a park or a zoo, just a little neighborhood where one of the two types of eucalyptus that koalas eat happens to grow. There were also a bunch of cockatoos and parrots that would sit on people’s shoulders and heads; we enjoyed those immensely. Our adventure that day concluded with another Chinatown meal and a trip to a kitschy rum bar with fancy and delicious cocktails.

Other than the Cricket Grounds and the nice meal – both of which have been chronicled in other posts – one of the bigger stops we made I he actual city of Melbourne was the Old Melbourne Gaol. This was fascinating because of how well preserved parts of the building are. Well, and it’s just a really well done museum. They had a lot of death masks from people who’d been hanged there, and many of them were accompanied with stories of the person and their case. There was also quite a bit about Ned Kelly, a famous outlaw in Australia that brought to mind, for me, Jesse James. Brandon and I were especially drawn to a story in the gaol about a man who’d been convicted of murder and rape of a young girl and insisted on his innocence; years later, DNA evidence exonerated him, and people have set out to find who the real killer was. Another feature of the gaol was the adjacent “watch house,” a kind of holding-cell facility for people either awaiting trial or awaiting sentencing. For that, you are actually brought in and treated like a gang of offenders who were being thrown in the clink together, so a little bit of acting and playing along are required; obviously, I enjoyed that.

Our final stop in Melbourne before flying out to Sydney was a brewery that Brandon had scoped out prior to our trip. They had some really nice beers, and we enjoyed some yummy toasties for lunch. Because of the way our day worked out, we were able to hang out there for quite awhile, leisurely enjoying beer and lunch. Our flight out of Melbourne wasn’t until about 8pm, but we got there nice and early. Turns out, that was probably not necessary because it ended up delayed til around 9:30. Our delayed arrival into Sydney really affected us getting to hotel (and therefore to bed) at a reasonable time, which then affected our plans for the first day in Sydney. But that’s a different city for a different post. :)

August 28, 2019

Sportball

Filed under: Uncategorized — B @ 11:53 am

In anticipation of this trip, I learned the rules of cricket. As a huge baseball fan, I figured that familiarizing myself with its closest cousin would be only right. I primarily did this in anticipation of visiting the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the largest cricket ground in the world, which we visited during our time in Melbourne. Visiting the MCG was indeed one of the top experiences of the trip - we got to visit many of the “backstage” areas of the stadium (now I want to tour Dodger Stadium) - but actually I think the most enjoyable outcome of my studies was that we ended up watching a fair bit of cricket on TV over the course of the trip, and I was able to follow the game. It was imperative that I had studied in advance to understand the game, as its similarity in baseball is actually much more surface than I ignorantly presumed it was. In a way, cricket is baseball inverted. Whereas in baseball, outs are plentiful and runs are a precious commodity, in cricket, runs can number in the hundreds (this is a bit inflated because scoring a run is cricket is more like scoring a hit or advancing a base in baseball, but still runs are a plentiful commodity in cricket) and outs are scarce. Whereas in baseball, scoring a run is often extremely pivotal, in cricket one run is essentially meaningless. Achieving an out is pivotal in the way that scoring in baseball is. While I didn’t turn into a cricket fan by any stretch, I was able to immerse myself a bit in a game that is part of the local culture, something I have not often done on my travels. This was definitely a highlight of the trip, and my spending time preparing before departure certainly paid dividends in this case.

August 27, 2019

Food, Glorious Food!

Filed under: Uncategorized — A @ 7:38 pm

So in case you, ya know, have never met me, I love food. And most of you probably know that I also love wine and even a few other beverages. So as you may have guessed, food and beverage are always one of my favorite aspects of travel. Even if the place doesn’t have a unique cuisine that Americans are clamoring to recreate in trendy restaurants back in the States, I always to eat and drink like the locals when I’m in a new place. So here’s a little tribute to some of my “eat and drink like a local” efforts here in Australia.

Meat Pies
This was actually our first real meal in the country. We’d had a loooooong first day, and since we knew we’d be getting to our hotel quite late, I suggested we pop into a 7 Eleven and grab some sandwiches or something, instead of running the risk of nearby restaurants being closed. Well, friends, 7 Eleven ALSO had a variety of meat pies to choose from, so I couldn’t resist. We chose one chicken and one beef, and they were quite decent, thank you very much. My second meat pie adventure was at a cute cafe along the iconic Great Ocean Road; I got a classic pie and chips meal, which, while not winning any Michelin stars, was tasty and very authentic.

Aussie BBQ
Reminder 1: In other English-speaking countries, “barbecue” simply means “cookout” (the kind of meal) or “grill” (the cooking utensils). Reminder 2: The classic Aussie phrase “shrimp on the barbie”? “Barbie” is Oz-speak for “barbecue.” Anywho. Our tour guide up to the Great Barrier Reef area booked a little barbecue area for us at the resort where we stayed and cooked us up a true Australian barbecue the night after our reef trip. It included chicken, steak with onions, and lamb sausage, plus rolls and three or four kinds of salad. I had one of the best steaks I’ve had in a LONG time, but Brandon said his was not a great cut. However, we both heartily agreed that that lamb sausage was the food of the gods. Seriously, y’all… I want some more RIGHT NOW.

Melbourne Chinatown
Australia has a massive population of immigrants from China, Japan, and Korea. Makes sense, since it’s a relatively close destination. Melbourne has an especially prominent Chinatown, and it is chock full of delicious options from these iconic cuisines. Brandon and I dined in Chinatown two of our nights while in Melbourne; the first was at a dumpling place, and the second was a counter service Japanese place. The dumpling restaurant was crowded (always a good sign) and completely old school in its decor. The menu was a booklet of many pages, but we settled on four simple options, a mix of fried, steamed, and breaded dumplings, filled with things like prawns (shrimp), pork, and veggies. They were all delicious and also very affordable. The Japanese outfit offered bowls, mostly. Brandon chose ramen, and I went for a poke style salmon bowl. For only costing about $7-$8US apiece, we were impressed with the food.

A Fancy Meal
I always enjoy having one nice sit-down meal when I’m on a trip, and Melbourne, having a reputation as a foodie city, seemed like a good place to make that happen. Brandon found an Asian fusion tapas-style restaurant that offers two different tasting menus, one at about $50/person, so that won the day. The first part of the meal was a selection of their small plates, all of which were delicious. We enjoyed some sashimi, some pork and chili dumplings, and this savory chicken and noodles salad that was to die for!! We got two mains for the second part of the meal, a fried fish and braised lamb, which came with family style sides of rice, salad, and bread. Dessert was a peanut butter and chocolate mousse creation that evoked for me the taste of the filling for peanut butter pie.

In addition to the amazing food, we enjoyed some really nice wines. Mine w were all Australian: a Chardonnay for the first several courses, a Nero d’Avola for the middle bit, and a unique sherry-esque dessert wine at the end. Truly a special meal and a memorable experience.

Wine
Which brings me to wine. To accompany a takeaway meal at our hotel one night and the BBQ on the GBR trip, Brandon and I blind purchased a couple of bottles of red at a bottle shop. Both proved to be excellent choices, for having so little info on them.

The big wine experience of the trip was our tour into the Yara Valley wine region outside of Melbourne. We visited four wineries, where we tried — among other things — several takes on: Shiraz/Syrah, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, several red blends, hard cider, and sparkling wines. Picking a favorite is really difficult, buy I will definitely say that Australia knows how to make some Shiraz and some Chardonnay.

Snacks
Can’t visit another country and NOT try all the snacks. I’d heard lamingtons were unique to Auz, so when some were offered at a picnic lunch on our GBR trip, I couldn’t resist. They were okay. Maybe better ones are available from real bakeries or home recipes or the like. (They’re these cakey cookies dunked in chocolate or caramel, then rolled in dried coconut. The ones we had were surprisingly dry compared to what I’d expected.)

I’d also read about Anzac biscuits, which were mass produced and popularized during… I think World War I. They’re basically like oatmeal cookies with coconut mixed in and more brown sugar. A LITTLE bit like coconutty digestives. Really good dipped tea or coffee, and a couple of them make a nice brekkie (breakfast).

And my favoritest of snacks… CHOCOLATE. Freddo Frogs are just a standard Cadbury milk chocolate frog, and Carmello Koalas are their delicious, caramel-filled cousins. Both good for a quick fix. Tim Tams are kind of like a more wafer-y KitKat, and I enjoyed one in the form of a Tim Tams donut. (Yep, donuts. Can’t stop myself lol.) I also tried what is apparently the oldest candy bar in Australia, the Cherry Ripe. It’s cherries and coconut covered in chocolate, pure and simple. I love those three things, so it was a nice treat for me.

Future Goodies
We’re hoping to try some barramundi before we leave, and we’re looking forward to trying lots of beer in Sydney. Chicken parmigiana is also apparently a big deal here, and I feel totally okay with making that my dinner on one of our remaining nights.

So there ya have. A mouth-watering retelling of my favorite parts of travel: eating and drinking (the Australian edition).

August 26, 2019

Security Theatre

Filed under: Uncategorized — B @ 8:05 pm

Unsurprisingly, traveling brings the laughable nature of security theatre to my attention. Surprisingly, it is Oz that highlighted this more than any other country I have been to.

How often do you hear about airport-related violence, attacks, or danger coming out of Oz?

And yet, they have the most laid-back security of any country I have yet visited.

It is not that there are no security measures. Before any flight, you still have to go through the standard bag screening and metal detector (or body scanner machine). But, most of the ridiculous add-ons we have seen since 9/11 are non-existent. You can bring any amount of liquids onto flights in Oz. You can keep your shoes on as you go through security. You do not even need to identify yourself. All you need to get onto a flight in Oz is a boarding pass; no ID is necessary. In fact, I only needed to present ID at one of the five hotels I stayed at in Oz. At the other four, I just gave my name and they gave me the key associated with the reservation attached to that name.

And yet at no point did I or anyone around me feel unsafe because of this lack of silly measures. To the contrary, I felt relaxed and un-antagonized. This simple feeling made me dig even deeper into my analysis of these security efforts around the globe. Why the stress on unattended bags in airports? Any unattended bag you see in the terminal has already gone through security screening. Do we not trust the security screenings to detect bags with dangerous items? If we don’t, what is the point of the screenings at all?

Oz is not exactly known as a laissez-faire country in this regard. In fact, it has more of a reputation for big government than the US. And yet it felt downright relaxing to return to the calmer airport experience from halcyon days. With absolutely no increased threat as a result.

August 21, 2019

Aminalsanimalsaminalsanimals

Filed under: Uncategorized — B @ 7:13 am

Again, way back in the past, when we were in Brisbane over a week ago, before even the Reef trip Amy wrote about, we went to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. So, this is basically a fancy zoo that specializes in koalas, but also has other animals. We got to see all the koalas (and later at another zoo type place we got to touch koalas). We also got to pet kangaroos, and we got to see literally the best animal, one I have never seen before or since: the platypus. This little guy was just wildly swimming around, super active, and super adorbs. Oh and at the Reef we got to swim with the green sea turtle like Amy mentioned. And we saw whales. So all the aminals. I think aminals = the highlight of the trip for me.

August 19, 2019

Great Barrier Reef

Filed under: Uncategorized — A @ 8:52 am

So, as Brandon mentioned, we’re about halfway through our trip through Australia, but we each wanted to get a little blogging done. Brandon talked about our first day in the country, so I’m actually going to fast forward a bit to one of our big stops, the Great Barrier Reef.

From Sydney, we flew to Brisbane, and after a couple very relaxing days there, we were picked up by a tour company that took us to the coast. We stopped at a small zoo on the way, where we got to pet a koala, handle a python, and watch a giant croc get fed. Our little resort we stayed at on the coast was a series of cute cabin-like villas. It was a lovely place, and we were wakened in the mornings by none other than kookaburras! Yep, like in the song. Anyway, we were up early the second day (helped by kookaburras) to board a boat and head to the reef.

Let’s go ahead and get the unpleasant stuff out of the way: I have never been SO motion sick in my entire life. Brandon and I both tried the accupressure bands; I’ve had success with them in cars before, but they were pretty much useless on this boat ride. I could make the argument that “Oh, maybe they helped me get less sick than I would have otherwise,” but seeing as how I think I vomited more than literally any other passenger on that boat, I’m not sure that holds up. I won’t bore you with too many details about being super sick on a boat, but suffice it to say: I. Was. MISERABLE.

One brief, shining moment of goodness occurred during my personal hell: I saw some dolphins, followed shortly thereafter by a breaching humpback whale. I was so excited about the whale — even in the midst of my misery — that I turned around to see if anyone else had seen the whale, but the extraneous movement caused me to get sick again.

It was around that time that my misery started to turn a little existential. I was sicker than I’d been in a really long time, and I’d just seen a beautiful creature that no one else had seen and I didn’t have the capabilities to communicate with anyone about it… My mind wandered quite a bit, but I eventually honed in on one train of thought: “Is this worth it?”

I’ll save you the suspense: YES. Without any hesitation, it was worth puking multiple times in multiple bags on a choppy and uncomfortable boat ride for the chance to spend a few magnificent hours in one of the most spectacular places on earth. I knew it the moment the boat slowed down and entered the lagoon where it anchored: I saw water colored a turquoise blue I’ve never seen anywhere before, and it was magical.

Our first stop was a little walking tour of an island made up of dead coral with some really cool trees and birds. Then we were taken on a glass-bottomed boat tour of parts of the reef. The real highlight of the day, though, was snorkeling. Fortunately, the seasickness had worn off pretty quickly (by about the time we got to the island), so I was able to enjoy a delicious lunch on the (not moving) boat before donning a wetsuit, mask, and snorkel and diving in. We saw LOOOOAAADS of cool fish, including some species we recognized from “Finding Nemo.” I think our favorite underwater friend was a sea turtle. It swam right up to me and practically invited me to come along for a swim, so I did! It was really mesmerizing, swimming JUST slowly and smoothly enough to keep up with the turtle and but not disturb it. And, of course, just watching its gentle, laid-back gliding through the water. It was absolutely one of the best quarter-hours of my life. (I mean, we were in the water about an hour and a half, but the turtle was only really with us for about 15 minutes. But still, point made.)

The best capstone of the Reef trip was the fact that the trip back was super smooth. No motion sickness! Everyone else in our little tour group who’d been sick on the way out agreed that the trip back was a breeze compared to the hell we’d all endured the first part of the day. And to make that pleasant journey even better, the boat stopped to watch a couple of humpback whales breaching. They were really cool! They do this kind of roll-on-their-sides maneuver that causes their fins(?)arms(?) to flap around in the air, and it looks like they’re waving at you.

August 18, 2019

Art

Filed under: Uncategorized — B @ 5:41 pm

We’re now about a week into the trip, but I am going to try to backtrack and work from the beginning. One of the first sites we visited, in Sydney, as the Art Gallery of New South Wales. I had been especially keen on visiting this site as it is known for having a particularly robust collection of Aboriginal art. However, I was also blown away by the overall collection they had of Australian art juxtaposed with the European masters. It really occurred to me that it is a shame that The Powers That Be have kingmade certain regions of the world as the sources of High Art. The expressionism, surrealism, abstract art, and contemporary art from Aussies was every bit as good in my view as those of the better known masters. But I never would have discovered them had I not set foot in Oz. I write this from a hotel in Brisbane, The Johnson, named for Michael Johnson, another Aussie artist I had never heard of, and another Aussie artist who is incredibly brilliant. I will now endeavor when I travel to always seek out ways to discover the master artists of the countries I visit, as they are certainly every bit as capable as their better-known European brethren.

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