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Australia #3

AUSTRALIA | Tuesday, 25 December 2012 | Views [155]

Christmas Greetings From Down Under:
    It is Christmas evening and we’ve just wrapped up a busy Christmas Day, while you all have just completed Christmas Eve.  We hope your Christmas Day is as rewarding as our Christmas Day was here in Melbourne.
    To back track a few days, we really enjoyed Sydney.   With five million people it’s busy.  Sydney is built in and around a bay/harbor off the ocean, with a number of inlets off the bay/harbor.  Thus, lots of housing on or near the water.  Out the hotel window we could see a 1,000 ft long cruise ship docked, along with ferry boats at a wharf that featured a street/stores, train tracks on a second level, and a freeway on the third level.  Great beaches, including Manley and Bondi, which were really something.  We took the ferry boat (they have a mass transit ferry system) to the beach from downtown.  Lots of neighborhoods with shopping, though not all that impressive.  Great parks.  Shopping is big downtown and in the neighborhoods along the main roads.  And, they build shopping centers integrated right into space (alleys) between existing retail.  No such thing as a shopping mall with lots of parking around it.  Housing is dominated by row houses/townhouses that date back to the early 1900s, at least.  They are very basic, and seem to have a New Orleans kind of flare.  All housing is expensive, as is everything else.  Not much land is used for housing, though they use more land and have bigger houses than we saw in Tokyo.  Sydney is where we got into eating pies --- various meats, etc.  The steak pie is great, but I must say I became enamored with the bacon, egg and cheese pie yesterday at the Sydney Airport.
    We’re struck by the lack of blatant poverty, and have the same impression we had in Tokyo:  a small group of rich at the top, a small group of poor at the bottom, and a huge middle class.  There must be something to it?!?
    Flew to Melbourne yesterday (Christmas Eve).  Melbourne is supposed to be more European, though we haven’t quite grasped it yet.  Nice and cool for Christmas, with the temp down to about 70.  Marz loves it.  With almost everything closed today, we traveled to the Great Ocean Road, which is west of Melbourne along the south shore of Australia.  The trip covered a couple of hours out and a couple back.  We saw terrain that had barren rolling hills like Eastern Washington.  We thought we were in the Tri-Cities.  Then we got to some beach towns that looked like classy California surf towns.  On the way, we stopped in a city about 25 minutes outside of Melbourne off the main freeway.  Stopped in a Hungry Jacks (Burger King) and the teenaged girl behind the counter was amazed with our accent.  She had to call over the other gals to have them hear the Americans talk.  Most fast food gals don’t know where they are, so it was not too surprising that they had never heard of Oregon.  I was just impressed they knew of the existence of America.  Our journey culminated in Lorne, Australia, which is 2 hours from Melbourne, and absolutely sensational.  We saw another zillion great beaches today, which highlighted Lorne (the sign entering town simply says “Lorne – A Beautiful CIty”.  Well said.  Not many people, but it had a little of Sausalito, a little Laguna Beach, and a touch of Oahu’s north shore.  Had Christmas dinner in Lorne at Chopsticks Noodle Grill.  Went in and they were playing a Four Tops song.  Tomorrow we cover the city of Melbourne, on foot, bike and by the rails.  They have everything on rails, from very old streetcars, somewhat old street cars, street cars that look like Max cars, and full trains.  Hardly see any buses.
    Many things different here, including:  like Tokyo, most commercial buildings, down to the McDonalds, have doors that slide open, rather than push or pull;  bathrooms in hotel rooms. and an apartment we were in, have floor drains, which I guess is a reflection of their lack of confidence in their toilets;  there is way too much signage, with commercial buildings featuring overhangs over the sidewalks, which serve to bring cover, but just another place to put more signage;  things are much cleaner than the United States, but still a big bit short of Japan;  and here most folks say Happy Christmas instead of Merry Christmas, so have a very Happy Christmas.
Ken, Marlene, Sophia & Keaka

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