Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Australia Chronicles, Part 5: Wrap Up

Now that the major recaps of each leg of our trip are done, there are a few random tidbits I want to share with you before moving along to other blog-worthy topics (like Christmas!).

First, one of the questions we were most asked about our trip was “how was the food?” I’ll be honest here –- it wasn’t really much to write home about. Sure, we indulged and had some great meals –- we were on vacation after all, so happy hour, appetizers, wine with lunch AND dinner and ice cream stops were the norm.

But have you ever gone anywhere that served “Australian food”? (And no, Outback does not count.) That’s because, a lot like us, Australian food is just a hodgepodge of other cuisines. They have Asian food, Italian food, Mexican food (albeit very BAD Mexican food), and your regular steakhouses and bar and grill-type places. And they’re still heavily influenced by their English roots, so things like fish and chips are standard fare.

Even though you can find pretty much any type of food we eat in America in Australia, it just wasn’t the same. Know what I mean? Even their McDonalds’ do things slightly differently. By the time we got home, we were seriously craving some sweet tea and Chick-fil-A.

One thing that was the EXACT same in Australia as it is here (well, except for the higher price)? Krispy Kreme donuts. I was super stoked to see these puppies in the airport.

They also have lots of Nutella in Australia. Much more respect for it there than here (as it should be!). Check out the grocery store real estate:

And when we went to Cold Rock ice cream shop (an obvious Cold Stone knockoff), they had Nutella as a mix-in. GENIUS! Why have we not thought of that here?! I got my normal birthday cake remix, except with Nutella in place of the chocolate syrup and it was abso-freaking-delicious.

We decided to branch out one night and eat at the Balinese restaurant in our hotel in Cairns. We ordered rijsttafel, which is a four course shared meal where you sample lots of different dishes.

Appetizer (those are hot coals in that mini-grill that the skewers are on -- very cool):


Main course:


Some things were yummy, some were not so yummy, but it was a pretty cool experience and we were glad we tried it.

And one more comment about the food: Australians love their outdoor dining. I don’t think there was one single dinner (except the night we ate at McDonald’s) that we didn’t eat outside – on a patio, deck, or under an awning, overlooking an ocean, river, boardwalk or billabong. Now that I could get used to.

One of the downsides of our trip was how expensive everything was once we got to Australia. In the weeks leading up to the trip, we watched the exchange rate take a nose dive as the American dollar plummeted. While we were there, the Australian dollar hit a 27-year high compared to the US dollar.

Seriously, that WOULD happen to us.

So everything was more expensive than we expected. A meal at McDonald’s might cost $8. That’s normal for Australians (in relation to their salaries) and would have been fine if the exchange rate had been “normal” because everything would have been about 15-20% cheaper. But the exchange rate was pretty much even by the time you accounted for currency conversion fees.

This was a bit of a shock and a little disheartening, but we kept telling ourselves “at least the exchange rate was in our favor when we booked and paid for the majority of the trip.” And we decided within the first few days to throw caution to the wind and forget about how expensive everything was. No one wants to penny pinch on vacation and pass up that glass of wine or dessert. And we had paid A LOT of money to get there, so we were determined to enjoy it. And in the end, we actually spent a little less than what we had budgeted for, so it all worked out.

And now, for some lists (I bought a little notebook and kept adding things to my lists as we went along –- type A, even on vacation).

Things I Like About Australians:

  1. No tipping. Seriously. They pay their service people fair wages and you aren’t expected to tip. However, I have to say the service is noticeably slower. But once we got adjusted to the slower pace of meals, it was fine.
  2. No pennies! If your grocery bill comes out to $10.32 they round down (or up) to the nearest 5 cents.
  3. Tax is already included in all posted prices. This just makes sense.
  4. Their pepperoni is thick, spicy and delicious.
  5. They eat hot ham & cheese sandwiches for breakfast, which I think is cool. (But don’t expect to see any biscuits. In fact, biscuits in Australia are what we know as cookies.)
  6. Their cheddar cheese is white and sharp and umm umm good!
  7. They make alcohol convenient. They sell Smirnoff vodka already mixed with Ocean Spray cranberry juice in a box-wine box. I need that in my life! And Jim Beam and Coke live happily together in the same can:

Things I Do Not Like About Australians:

  1. They don’t use ice (and when they do, they use very little).
  2. Their bacon sucks. (It’s more like Canadian bacon or ham. Not the fatty, crispy stuff we love.)

Things We Learned in Australia That Have Nothing To Do With Australia:

  1. People from around the world don’t wear deodorant. (I guess because we were in tourist spots most of the time, there were a TON of foreigners everywhere. Lee said he felt like he had gone to Asia instead of Australia. There were lots of Canadians and Europeans too. However, we didn’t see a single other couple or family from America. Maybe because it’s too expensive?)
  2. Lee will eat ANYTHING.
  1. They feed you well on flights. In the U.S., you can fly 5 hours and they only give you a drink. One of our flights was 50 minutes long and we got a cupcake(!), bottled water and soda. Any flight that's in the morning, no matter how long, you get breakfast (cold breakfast for shorter flights and hot breakfast for longer flights). The service on all of our Qantas flights was excellent as well.
  2. Glee is big, even in Australia.
  3. It felt like their pop culture is our pop culture. Their gossip magazines have different names, but still have Katy Perry and Brangelina on the cover. A lot of their TV shows are the same as or knockoffs of our shows. All the music was American -- Lady Gaga, Beyonce, I even heard some Gary Allen in the grocery store.
  4. Sports are BIG in Australia = rugby, cricket, Australian rules football, the Melbourne Cup (and other horse races). There was always one confusing sport or another on TV all day long.
  5. On one of our tours, we were with an Australian guy, a couple from Canada and a couple from Wales. The group started making jokes about Bill Clinton. I told Lee later that I thought it was interesting how they obviously had a lot of knowledge about Bill Clinton and American politics, yet we couldn't name a single president/prime minister/whatever they have from Canada, Wales OR Australia.
  6. It was Halloween there, yet it was hot and it was also prom season (since their school year ends in December). It was bit confusing to see people walking around in Halloween costumes and prom dresses at the same time. And it will be summer during Christmas. They go to the beach and have barbecues for Christmas. Weird.
And even though they speak English, I sure had a hard time understanding them sometimes (and I'm sure the reverse was true as well). Here are some of the differences in dialect:
  1. Suncream = sunscreen
  2. Surname = last name
  3. Biscuits = cookies
  4. Coach = bus
  5. Chemist = pharmacy
  6. Capsicum = bell pepper
  7. "How you going?" = "How are you doing?"
  8. Entree = appetizer
  9. Main = entree/main course
All in all, it was a great trip.

I've talked to so many people who've said "oh I would love to go there" and "I've always wanted to go to Australia" and "if I could go anywhere that's where I would go" -- yet so few people actually make it there. So I'm really proud of us for doing it.

On our way home, Lee nixed all other international travel for the foreseeable future. He says there's too many places in the U.S. that we haven't seen yet, and he's right. So Paris and Italy and Greece will have to wait -- for now at least.

But even after 50+ total hours of flying and 16 nights away from our bed, we booked a cruise for the spring within two weeks of getting back home. We're gluttons for punishment like that ;-)

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading about your trip! The pictures were awesome! What an experience!!


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