Sunday, May 11, 2003

Goodbye Australia! We are back now for 4 days and are finally getting over the jet lag. We saw beautiful cities and stark terrain. We saw beach, desert and jungle. Wherever we went people were nice and accomodating. We will never forget our time there and will be forever grateful to our hosts Rachael & Henry. I will post a few photos over the next 2 days then take the site down in 2 weeks. If, for some reason, you want a cd of the photos, please email me at rgordon@poochess.com.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

We left Brisbane on Monday morning. We drove north on the Bruce Highway, a modern expressway. We exited the highway and made our way to the Glass House Mountains, and the town of Maleny. This is known as the Sunshine Coast Hinterlands. The formations are striking and the views awesome. After leaving Maleny, we made our way down a steep mountain road, without guardrails in some critical places. The sights were breathtaking but a bit nerve-wracking.

We meandered to the coast and drive north to Noosa Heads. Noosa Heads is about 130KM north of Brisbane, but we added about 50KM on our "scenic route". We drove up and down Hastings Street, and finally located the Sheraton. We went to the entrance on the next street and checked in. The poolside suite was dark and mildewy, so Linda talked us into a newly renovated room on the top floor. The views of the Noosa River and the sunset were breathtaking.

Hastings Street is the main street in Noosa. On the north side of Hastings Street, behind the shops, lays the beach. Due to the shape of the headlands a natural cove is formed with a north-facing beach to the Pacific. The sand is some of the softest and whitest we have ever seen, exceeded only by Fraser Island. Also, due to the relative serenity of the waters, the fish and their predators seem to ignore this particular piece of ocean, so the swimming is good.

The week we were in Noosa was the week after the school holiday, so it was not crowded there. The weather was perfect except for Friday, which was rainy. The highs were in the upper 70’s and the lows in the upper 50’s. Noosa is rather different from the honky tonk of Cairns and Surfers Paradise. The shops are elegant and the whole place has the air of high class.

When we checked in, we discovered that we were sharing the Hotel with a group of older bridge players on an organized holiday. We joined them for a session of duplicate on Wednesday night. On Thursday, we arose early for a one-day Land Cruiser tour of Fraser Island. We shared the Land Cruiser with 2 other couples and the driver/guide. The trip was made mostly up the sand beach from Noosa to Rainbow Beach, then by ferry to Fraser Island. We drove up the beach a bit, then inland to a beautiful rainforest which we hiked through.

We got back in the Land Cruiser for a short ride to Lake Mackenzie, which was the most beautiful, pristine beach we have ever seen. Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, and a world heritage site. I encourage you to check it out on the web.

I will write more of Noosa and Fraser in a couple of days when we are back in the US and I will add photos at that time.

Robb
We left Brisbane on Monday morning. We drove north on the Bruce Highway, a modern expressway. We exited the highway and made our way to the Glass House Mountains, and the town of Maleny. This is known as the Sunshine Coast Hinterlands. The formations are striking and the views awesome. After leaving Maleny, we made our way down a steep mountain road, without guardrails in some critical places. The sights were breathtaking but a bit nerve-wracking.

We meandered to the coast and drive north to Noosa Heads. Noosa Heads is about 130KM north of Brisbane, but we added about 50KM on our "scenic route". We drove up and down Hastings Street, and finally located the Sheraton. We went to the entrance on the next street and checked in. The poolside suite was dark and mildewy, so Linda talked us into a newly renovated room on the top floor. The views of the Noosa River and the sunset were breathtaking.

Hastings Street is the main street in Noosa. On the north side of Hastings Street, behind the shops, lays the beach. Due to the shape of the headlands a natural cove is formed with a north-facing beach to the Pacific. The sand is some of the softest and whitest we have ever seen, exceeded only by Fraser Island. Also, due to the relative serenity of the waters, the fish and their predators seem to ignore this particular piece of ocean, so the swimming is good.

The week we were in Noosa was the week after the school holiday, so it was not crowded there. The weather was perfect except for Friday, which was rainy. The highs were in the upper 70’s and the lows in the upper 50’s. Noosa is rather different from the honky tonk of Cairns and Surfers Paradise. The shops are elegant and the whole place has the air of high class.

When we checked in, we discovered that we were sharing the Hotel with a group of older bridge players on an organized holiday. We joined them for a session of duplicate on Wednesday night. On Thursday, we arose early for a one-day Land Cruiser tour of Fraser Island. We shared the Land Cruiser with 2 other couples and the driver/guide. The trip was made mostly up the sand beach from Noosa to Rainbow Beach, then by ferry to Fraser Island. We drove up the beach a bit, then inland to a beautiful rainforest which we hiked through.

We got back in the Land Cruiser for a short ride to Lake Mackenzie, which was the most beautiful, pristine beach we have ever seen. Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, and a world heritage site. I encourage you to check it out on the web.

I will write more of Noosa and Fraser in a couple of days when we are back in the US and I will add photos at that time.

Robb

Sunday, April 27, 2003



Crew Members of the Great South Pacific Express
We are in Brisbane after a 3 night journey on the Great South Pacific Express. The journey started when we left our baggage at the base station at Caravonica Lakes. We then rode on a skytram through the Kuranda Rainforest. The sights and smells were dazzling. We spent an hour or so in the village of Kuranda, an Aborigine town that is pretty touristy. Then we met at the little train station there for Champagne and boarding.

The first thing I noticed is that the train is bigger than I expected. There were 11 passenger cars with 42 suites. There were 2 dining cars, 1 lounge car, 1 kitchen car, 2 staff cars, and one observation car. Also, of course, the engine, and the power car. We had 62 passengers. I would estimate that there were 8 Americans, 7 Australians, 2 English, 2 Scottish, 9 French, and 33 Japanese.

Most of the Japanese were friends from Osaka. Few of them spoke English, and they mostly stayed together, but they were very nice and friendly. There was a Japanese couple from Tokyo on their honeymoon. There was a couple from Boston, a couple from Connecticut, and a couple from the Bay area.

We were particularly friendly with the Sheas of Boston and the Swans from Sydney. The Swans were encouraging us to move to Sydney, and I am sorely tempted.

As for the train itself, this was the most luxurious experience Linda & I have ever had. Our cabin steward attended to our every need, and the staff as a whole were superb. The train was appointed in rich wood, brocades, and brass. There was a pianist/vocalist and saxaphone player in the evenings. The meals were gourmet. The wine list was excellent. It is hard to describe through facts such as these the whole experience.

The train stopped in a little town on Thursday for a pub barbecue lunch. We were supposed to stop and fly out to the Reef on Friday but weather prevented, so we did an overflight of the Whitsunday Islands and the inner reef, then went to a resort for swimming and sunning.

We have cancelled the 3 days on Fraser Island due to weather, and are heading to Noosa after 2 nights in Brisbane. We hope we can make a day trip to Fraser if the weather improves.

Brisbane is much more than I expected. A booming city of 1 million people, and skyscrapers are sprouting up all over the hilly CBD (Central Business District). There are lots of restaurants and shops, and the area is vibrant.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

From the Rainforest at Cavornica Lakes

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Since there are but 2 weeks left on our adventure, I think it is time to give some impressions.

These are not in any particular order.

Australians are fat. It is near impossible to find a place where there are more fat people than Americans, but this is it. They are, unlike Americans, NOT self-conscious about it.

Australians serve salad differently. Unless you specify that you want your salad first, it is likely to show up on a plate with your main course, which leads to

Australians describe their courses differently. Our appetizer is their entrée. Our entrée is their Main.

Australians pronounce things differently. I am not talking about their accent (actually, we are the ones with accents here). They pronounce the last “t” in fillet, with emphasis on the first syllable. “ fil-lett”.

Australians use words that we use differently. To “shout” something is to buy it for somebody. “I’ll shout you a beer,” means I will buy you a beer. To “punt” means to wager or gamble or take a guess.

Australians are civilized about wine. Their restaurants, on the whole, do not mark up wine like we do, and there is a lot of decent wine on their lists for less than AU$50. They almost universally allow BYO and the corkage is usually less than AU$10. They have a wide range of wines by the glass.

On the other hand, imported wine is uncommon in Australia, except for Champagne. I have yet to see a single bottle of American wine here, and last time I think I only saw a Mondavi Cabernet. French and Italian wine is somewhat more common, but mostly lower end stuff. Now, they have lots of great wine, but I would certainly miss the variety if I lived here.

Service here is SLOW. It is not bad per se, it is just that they seem to be used to eating slower. It can be excruciating for an American, particularly a New Yorker.

Australians seem to think words like “home” have two syllables.

Australians seem to be more conscientious about their streets and sidewalks being clean. On the other hand, graffiti has reared its ugly head here.

Australians have become litigious. It is difficult to get some restaurants to allow you to take your unfinished food with you because they may have been sued by somebody who claimed food poisoning after doing so. BTW, they have “take-away” not “take-out”. For you budget minded, they have ‘lay-by”, not “lay-away”.

Australians use the term “suburb” differently. It is more akin to what we would call a “neighborhood”.

Australians love Americans, but are often concerned that their patriotism is beyond rational and about their occasional arrogance, both as a nation and as tourists. Looking at things from over here, I think they have a point.

Australians are great and loyal fighters, and will be remembering their veterans April 25th, “Anzac Day”.

I have yet to see an Australian be unpleasant to a stranger.

There is some good food here, but if that is the focus of your trip you will be disappointed. The best things here are the produce (fresh fruit and veggies year round of excellent quality), the fish (particularly Barramundi, Coral Trout, and John Dory, and the Lamb. They also have excellent cheeses.

The most disappointing foods are the crustaceans such as “Bugs” and “Yabbis”, which have the general flavor and texture of Lobster but not the sweetness or complexity, and the beef, which is generally less flavorful and slightly chewier than ours, but much better than Europe.

I will write next on Sunday.
We arrived yesterday afternoon in tropical Cairns. Drinks with little umbrellas, laying by the pool, sun...no rain! It has rained 90% of the time since we arrived. We went to the movies today. We pray that the weather is better down the coast. No pictures at the moment for obvious reasons.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

We have spent 4 days in Canberra. The Folk Festival was great and well organized. I realized I didn't like the folk "scene" as much as I used to, although it was a bit nostalgic. On a different part of the exhibition grounds a dog show was being held. Of course, we popped in and made the acquaintance of Mary Anne Silvester and her herd of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Linda is pictured below with Mary Anne's Blenheim Scandal.

On Saturday evening, we were joined for dinner by Margaret and Tim Bourke. The Bourkes are well known players in Australia, and Tim is one of the world's foremost Bridge Scholars. After an enjoyable dinner, the Bourkes were kind enough to chauffer us around the sights of Canberra.

The photo of Linda is in front of our hotel. The Hotel Canberra was built in the early 1920's to house members of Parliament while in Canberra. Remember that there was no city, no hotels. The city of Canberra was created in the 1920's from whole cloth, much as our Washington was created 120 years earlier.

The city is really beautiful, with gardens, parks, and fountains. Australia should rightly be proud of it.

Friday, April 18, 2003

On Tuesday, we headed down to the Mornington Peninsula to visit wineries. Victoria has several viticultural areas. Mornington is one of the less well known areas, but we tasted some nice wines. The area looks much different from Barossa, which could be Napa 30 years ago. Mornington is more old-world, like Tuscany, perhaps. We had lunch at the winery in the photo. It is quite common for Victoria wineries to have their own restaurants, and they are of a high standard.

Wednesday, we went to a Seder for about 30 people, hosted by Rachel's daughter's in-laws, for extended family, and a couple of Yank wanderers. While the Seder was casual, there was more Hebrew and more song than we are used to. It was a warm evening which we thoroughly enjoyed.

On Thursday, we headed for Canberra and the National Folk Festival. I posted a sample picture here, but we will get more festival and Canberra pictures up shortly.

We were most impressed with Canberra. It is about 250 miles southwest of Sydney, but the climate is much cooler. It is a planned city that began life about 1919. It is designed with many circles and spokes, and is quite beautiful. If Washington had been built 100 years later, it might have looked like this.

About Easter Weekend in Australia. Everything is closed Good Friday. Almost everything is closed on Easter Sunday. For good measure, a few things stay closed on Monday!

We are here primarily for the National Folk Festival, at the exhibition grounds. This 4 1/2 day festival features 227 different performers on the schedule plus myriad "blackboard" performers at the smaller venues. It is a small city unto itself. As for the music, the standard is quite high, though, as you would expect, not everything is to our liking.