Australia is a perfect mixture of old and new. As we began our travel in the city of Sydney, one could not help but notice the contrasting beauty between 17th century architecture and the modern day black glass and chrome high-rises. In fact, the malls held very much the same mystique. You had old English style malls with dark wooden floors and large hewn timbers, then block after block of modern (mostly underground) brass, glass, and chrome shopping complexes.

We visited the renowned 'Sydney Opera House' that sits on the bay and also a beautiful botanical garden that connects to the west side. While in Sydney, we also took advantage of a short tour into an out-lying area where we stopped by a reserve and were able to see several native animals.We were allowed to snuggle a Koala, pet a Wombat, attempt to pet an Emu (they run quite fast), and of course, played with several Kangaroo.

It averaged about 16 degrees celsius (you figure it out) during our stay, and was extremely damp. We needed long sleeves and usually a jacket whenever outside. It was exceptionally green everywhere, much like the eastern parts of the U.S.

I learned (and observed) that Australia has the most multi-national culture of any nation. Europeans, Canadians, Asians, Americans and many Indians from India. The most prevalent nationality however; (other than Australian) seemed to be Japanese, and most looked to be young married couples without children.

McDonald's restaurants are everywhere! And I mean, everywhere! I believe there are more McDonald's per capita in Australia than even here in the U.S. They are on nearly every corner, and if not, there's a sign on the corner saying where to find one. (i.e. McDonald's - two blocks this direction, and another one 3 blocks in that direction). It's amazing...

When you order a soda down-under, don't expect to get ice with it unless you're at a McDonald's. Don't expect to get a free refill either. Ice tea is tough to find, and milk can only be purchased at supermarkets. They're not too keen on peanut butter, but they love their chocolate, and, all types of gourmet foods.

During our stay in Melbourne (with a friend), we kept very busy. We traveled extensively throughout the region (on the wrong side of the road), and when not shopping for Aboriginal art or an Aussie boomerang, we searched out and did many unique and exciting things the normal traveler wouldn't expect.

We visited two model homes while in the suburbs of Melbourne. They were built somewhat smaller than we are accustomed to in the U.S., and without separate family rooms. There was very little wood frame construction in Australia; everything was made of brick. The kitchens did not contain much cabinetry, especially overhead cabinets, and an explanation of the laundry room requires a paragraph all it's own...

Every home seemed to have a laundry room, but not nearly big enough to house the washer and dryer we imagine. Most homes had a small 'Hoover' built washer that would hold about 3 pairs of jeans (max.). Setting next to the small washer is an equally small spinner (a kind of dryer). After the wash cycle is complete, you hand rinse your clothes in a nearby sink, then slop them into the spinner for about thirty seconds to take most of the water out. Then it's out to the backyard with clothes pins in hand to hang your laundry on the clothes line which every home seemed to have. Once again, a mixture of old and new. You have people living in the past with things like clothes lines, yet at the same time Australia has more cellular phones per capita than in the United States.

Another major difference we found in Australia were the toilets! If you desire a toilet, you had better ask for a toilet, not a bathroom. They have separate rooms for the toilet and would NEVER consider placing a toilet in the same room as a shower and sink. The only exception to the rule; a few new restaurants like McDonald's...

We had the pleasure of dining with two different Aussie families during our visit. They serve your dinner on a single plate (instead of serving bowls of food upon the table) and do not normally serve anything to drink while you eat.

Cable television is fairly new in Australia. Most homes still use antenna and receive only about five channels. They actually think we Americans are silly to have so many stations (50+ channels). They wonder, "how could we possible spend so much time watching television".

I would say about 80% of television broadcasts down-under is American programming. It consists of programs like; six month old 'Star Trek's', along with a dabbling of old reruns like 'Hogan's Heroes' and 'Beverly Hillbillies'. Their prime time shows are programs similar to 'Sixty Minutes' and 'Good Morning America', but these programs are done with Aussie actors and about Aussie concerns.

One morning we enjoyed a ride on an old steam train through light bush and high into the mountains. Another day began with a visit to a human hedge maze (eight feet tall) made of thick foliage and covering many acres. We ate like pigs, but it wasn't our fault. Food was everywhere. If I had to label one thing that Aussie's did as good, if not better than we Americans, it was eating...

Finally, let me give credit where credit is due. 'Qantas Airlines' was superb. From the moment you stepped onto the plane you were treated like first class. Food, drinks, blankets and pillows, even a pair of socks, a toothbrush and sleeping goggles. We saw 2 movies and were served 3 meals during the fourteen and a half hour flight from LAX to Sydney (seventeen and a half on the return - Melbourne to Denver).

The one thing I would surely do different next time would be to break up the flight with a stop-over. Either Hawaii, New Zealand, or some island in between. The flight was simply too long...

A final note: Sydney is huge, but then, so was Melbourne. I was told that 70% of the people live very near (or within) the city limits of most cities. This makes for some very BIG cities throughout Australia...

Another final note: When you order an 'Aussie burger' at a McDonald's down-under, it comes as a 'quarter pounder' but with a fried egg and sometimes BEETS on it.

Copyright © 1995 - 2015 by Michael Hensley. All rights reserved.

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