YVR – SYD

Greetings from Australialand!

Friends, the only way to fly to Australia is from the west coast. Seriously, we are talking about a fifteen-hour-long direct flight from Vancouver and guess what? A child wailing for dear life in front in the seat in front of me. Any longer and the air marshals would have had to book me for infanticide. Thankfully, there were many movies on board and some delightful ‘meals’ available to distract me. Wet, microwaved omelette anyone? (Reminded me of this hilarious complaint letter written to the CEO of Virgin airlines a while ago: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/4344890/Virgin-the-worlds-best-passenger-complaint-letter.html)

Landing was glorious. The lovely Courtney Howell picked me up from the airport at 8 a.m. on Friday the 16th (despite taking off on Wednesday — where did Thursday go?) and, assessing the bags under my eyes, took me straight for coffee by the beach. It was a lovely way to start the trip! Caffeine and sunshine do wonders for the jetlagged.

When we got to Courtney’s home, she and her family set about finding me something to wear for the charity dinner we would be attending hosted by her sister’s university. It was being held at the Ivy hotel and was lovely.

lovely set-up at the Ivy

I managed to stay awake through dinner mostly by sipping on energy drinks instead of wine, to the great amusement of the Howells. Dinner was followed by a Michael Jackson impersonator (eerily accurate portrayal) who dragged Court onto the dance floor with him in front of all the dinner guests! Then the band came on and pulled me onstage to play the tambourine for them (?!) — very poorly, I might add. Less than 24 hours in the country and already making a spectacle of myself!

Anyway, Sydney was a whirlwind of activity. Visited the lovely farmers’ markets with the Howells, then went to Balmoral beach for everyone to recover from the previous night. Sunshine! Sand! Cockatoos everywhere! Sorry, Canadian weather, can’t say I’m missing you all that much right now.

at the farmers' market

Howells negotiating for some delicious Macadamia nuts

recovering at Balmoral beach

Court’s sister, Alex, was kind enough to take me on a tour of Circular Quay and downtown Sydney, where we ate enough sushi to kill a small elephant, and then followed it up with some delicious chocolate dessert from Max Brenner’s. Have I mentioned that all the food here is amazing? Amazing. Seriously, I’m already struggling to fit into my bathing suit, which is not a desirable struggle in a country where one’s midriff is on coastal display on a regular basis. Anyway, we visited town hall, the Queen Victoria Building in the centre of downtown, and (of course) the Opera House before heading home.

the requisite Opera House tourist shot -- good grief

Alex getting tired of my constant fascination with sandstone

in Chinatown with an amazing Totoro doll that I totally would have taken if there were room in the backpack

Sydney Town Hall

exterior of the Queen Victoria Building

interior of the QVB

most amazing tea store ever

But perhaps the most fun so far was my visit with Courtney to the Toronga Zoo!

why hello there!

she's going to kill me when she sees this posted

Totally overrun by adorable children in multicoloured uniforms, with clipboards and questionnaires in every hand. My particular favourite was the kid whose form had the question “How do kangaroos mate with one another?” on it, and had to ask our guide for the answer. Amazing. Blushed so hard he looked like a lobster with a sunburn.

roos lounging in the sun

Anyway, Court and I hired a guide for the Australian animals section, which turned out to be a great choice! His name was John and he was a Canadian, of all things. He told us that he had been happily married back home for forty years and then his wife had passed away. He then casually dated an Australian lady he met through a mutual friend, they fell in love, and he moved down under to be with her! They both volunteer at the zoo together — adorable. I mean, if even I thought the story was cute, then it was cute.

Anyway, lots of awesome animals, as you can imagine. Herps galore and every deadly snake and spider on the planet, but also some adorable giraffes and kangaroos. Uh, can we talk for a second about the fact that when a kangaroo baby is the size of a jelly bean it has to crawl up into its mother’s pouch and latch on to a nipple for dear life since it won’t be sufficiently developed to face the world for another

Also, dear bird lovers, COME TO AUSTRALIA. To Courtney’s wry amusement, the best animal I saw that day was a Regent Bowerbird, a gorgeous black and yellow bird who mixes a blue-green saliva in his mouth to paint his bower to attract a mate, even using little leave bunches as paintbrushes to colour their home. Amazing. On an unrelated note, did you know that koalas have an extra layer of butt cushioning to help them stay comfortable while they nap away for ninety percent of the day? How do I sign up for that life?

From Sydney with love,

A

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