Brisbane was our first large city since Sydney and we arrived by Greyhound under pouring rain. Bad weather is less frustrating in the city than at the beach, we thought, and at least in Brisbane we could shelter in one of the numerous malls if we needed to.
Yearly Archives: 2010
“Are these jellyfishes?” I asked one of the lifeguards. “Yay mate”, he replied, bending down to pick one up on the sand. ”See the tentacles?” he added, squeezing the long blue thread I hadn’t noticed. “Are they…er… deadly?” I asked, wary of jellyfishes after seeing so many warning about Irukandji in Northern Queensland.
We were in Agnes Water/ Town of 1770 for Christmas, where Captain Cook made his first landing in Queensland (hence the “1770”). We hadn’t really planned anything and I don’t care much about Christmas. To be honest, I don’t even know which day we are most of the time so I could have forgotten it was Christmas but for the palm trees sporting decorations.
We may still be close to the coast, but it feels like outback Queensland. Back to reality, after Airlie Beach and the hordes of backpackers. This is Australia, a bit rough around the edges, remote and wild with a pioneer spirit.
After a couple of days in Airlie Beach, we took a trip to the Whitsunday, a group of islands sitting on the Great Barrier Reef. After an hour boat trip, we reached Whitsunday Island, home of the famous Whiteheaven Beach, a seven-kilometer long beach of pure-white silicon sand. The sand was so thin it looked like flour or clear dust and the light was blinding us.
I had the most interesting shower today. As I was bending to rinse off the salty water (late swim at the beach) in a shower made for Lilliputians, two spiders were fighting over the same ant right above my head. Eventually, a huge butterfly flew in and distracted them long enough for the ant to escape.
Once you step out of the airport or any air-conditioned place you were lucky to be in, the heat hits you. It’s moist, humid, the sun hit any inch of bare skin and you can’t escape. Welcome to Queensland.
Hostels are chaotic places. Shared bathrooms, communal kitchen, dorms… living with perfect strangers is both surprisingly easy and quite weird. You can tell the kids who have never lived outside home (hint: they leave dishes everywhere and walk around in filthy clothes because they are quite not sure how the washing-machine works) from those who have some experience being on their own.
It’ no secret that I love markets: they are often the best place to sample cheap fresh food and local delicacies. That’s why I was so happy when I heard about the Sydney Fish Market.
Sydney hasn’t changed that much in seven years. The landmarks, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, are still there. The city looks busier but it may be because it’s summer—it was fall last time we were here and the weather was getting cold. There are more tall buildings and King’s Cross, Sydney’s sketchier district, was cleaned up much like Carnaby Street in London.
I had never taken the boat to a concert but since Sydney offered us the opportunity, we jumped on the ferry to the Olympic Park to go see U2.
In Australia, not going to the beach on Sunday is almost a sin. So we follow pretty much half of Sydney to Bondi Beach, the city’s iconic patch of sand.
Let’s be fair: Bondi is a lovely beach and certainly more than a “patch of sand”. Sure, it’s packed because it is summer Down Under and the kids are out of school but it’s still a great place to soak up the sun and relax.
The highlight of our two days in Newcastle was the Blackbutt Reserve (funny name, I know!), located outside the city. Getting there by bus wasn’t easy but it was well worth it: we met the Australian fauna!
Australia has changed. We can tell by the Coke bottles.
The first thing we did after clearing customs at Sydney airport was to buy a Coke, since we were both thirsty. It costs AU$3.50 and we found that expensive, considering the Canadian and the Australian dollars are roughly at par and that a bottle of Coke is less than CA$2.00. But we figured it must be because we bought it at the airport, where everything is more expensive.
On Monday night, we packed our bags again and returned to LAX to catch our flight to Sydney. The entire security process took about 5 minutes:no immigration control, no passport stamp, the bags were simply x-rayed and we didn’t have to go through the body-scanner non-sense. Morale of the story: getting into the U.S.A is hard but getting out is piece of cake.
I was curious to see the other side of L.A, the glamorous one. So far, I wasn’t too impressed: houses looked nice but nothing out of the ordinary. I certainly couldn’t picture all these movie stars and socialites living here, in Korea Town or in Little Armenia.
We headed to Venice Beach and had breakfast in a small sidewalk restaurant, from which we could observe people coming and going. This is one of the best spot I have ever seen for candid portraits and street photography—locals seemed oblivious to what was going on around them and simply kept on rollerblading, running, singing or whatever activity they were into.
After Hollywood Hill, we headed back to Hollywood Boulevard for a much-needed dose of tacky souvenirs and postcards.
Being in L.A was very fun for me, the same way it is for an American going to Paris, I guess. I read so many mystery and thriller books taking place in that city, including Jonathan Kellerman’s books, that I felt I knew it. Yet it surprised me.
We didn’t sleep much on Saturday night and getting up at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday was brutal. I can barely remember what we did at the Ottawa airport, but we must have got it right because we landed in Toronto at 8 a.m., transferred to another flight and landed in Los Angeles six hours later.
Many years ago, as I was heading to Australia, a friend of a friend tried to psychoanalyze me. “But, don’t you think you are running away?” she said, wisely, at the ripe old age of 20. “Traveling so much… what are you escaping from?”
I quickly brushed her comment away, both because her superior air of wisdom annoyed me and because I quite didn’t know what to say.
Citizenship & Immigration Canada is currently consulting the public on marriages of convenience and ask those interested to fill out an anonymous questionnaire. As a former immigrant who was sponsored, I sat down and starting sharing my thoughts.
On Saturday, as I was walking out of the mall, I noticed the sky was turning a nice shade of yellow. I hurried to Parliament Hill, the closest vantage point, and stood in the cold for almost 45 minutes to capture the sunset. Nothing dramatic but a nice clear sky and a beautiful gradient. A classical winter sunset, basically.
Just browse a few immigration forums and you will notice how angry, frustrated or confused some applicants are. Indeed, applying for a visa or the permanent residence is stressful and the whole process can seem obscure. The idea that an immigration officer, in a Canadian embassy somewhere in the world is dissecting your professional and personal life can be quite unsettling.
The first list I made was by no means the last one. The more we travel, the more we learn. Times change too: up until our Latin America trip two years ago, I carried… a Walkman and a few homemade tapes. I finally bought an iPod nano and it literally saved my sanity during these long bus rides!