This was the first time I’d been below the equator and over the International Date Line. I know it’s not a big deal but it felt like it.
I didn’t kill anyone while driving on the left side of the road but I did scare the crap out of Justine multiple times every day.
The fine for parking too long in Byron Bay is $79. I swear that I didn’t see the sign until after I got the ticket and even then how the hell was I supposed to know what 1P meant. Hertz didn’t give me a guide to traffic signs.
Gold Coast Australians are the most polite drivers I’ve ever encountered. Unlike NYC, where I hear horns honking 24/7, I only heard two people honk their horns during my two weeks there. Both times it was a driver honking at me because I did something stupid before Justine could tell me not to.
Speaking of polite, Australians on the Gold Coast are as polite as we Charlestonians are. Trust me, we know polite.
Australians love to talk to foreigners, even Americans. Ask a simple question and along with the answer you’ll get a recent family history. One night after we ordered a supreme pizza the guy behind the counter told us about how he’d spent time in jail after he’d run from police and killed his best friend in a automobile accident and how he’s turned his life around since then. He had just starting telling us about how he goes to Florida to compete in drifting competitions when our pizza came out of the oven and we escaped.
Australians abbreviate many words in both conversation and print. Breakfast is breckie, university is uni, McDonald’s is Maccas (no apostrophe, they aren’t big on those either), Brisbane is Brissy (pronouned Brizzy), the Salvation Army and it’s stores are Salvo. I feel sure that Justine can list many more examples that I forgot, or never heard. They also leave similes hanging as in “He’s as fast as”. Evidently you are supposed to get the rest of it.
No one said “G’day, mate” to me while I was there. The most common phrase I heard was “No worries” followed by “Good on ya’” and “How ya’ going?”
Australia, at least the Gold Coast, is expensive. Very, very expensive. Partly it’s because the US dollar is in the crapper (the US dollar is now roughly at par with the Australian dollar) but mostly it’s because Australia is very, very expensive. Bacon, eggs and toast for breakfast will run you $12 to $13 in the cheapest restaurants. Just toast and coffee runs you $6. A burger costs $12 before you add fries. Dinner for two at a not-so-great restaurant, as we discovered, runs anywhere from $60 to $80. The exception to this is McDonald’s. Their meals cost about the same as they do in the US. Justine is convinced that it’s part of their plot to conquer the world.
Part of the reason things cost so much is that wages are high. Justine says that waitstaff in restaurants make $18 to $19 an hour before tips.
Speaking of high, I saw a poster in the window of a bank offering 7.75% interest for a 3-month certificate of deposit. I hate to think what mortgage and car loan rates are.
Everything is extra. Want ketchup with those fries? 20 cents a packet, although some places, but not all, give you the first one free. Tartar sauce with the fish and chips? $1.20 for a small plastic tub of it. If your server asks you if you would like bread before your meal arrives, make sure that you ask “How much?” before you say “Sure”. The price runs from $2.50 to $5.00. At least no one charges for the butter. As we discovered in one restaurant even gravy can cost $4.50.
Justine and I still haven’t figured out what Australian cuisine is. Several restaurants on the Gold Coast say that they serve it but their menus consist of little more than chicken, lamb, beef and prawns prepared in unimaginative ways. Oh, and pumpkin soup. Evidently you are an Australian restaurant if you serve pumpkin soup. I’m hoping that if I ever go to Sidney or Melbourne I’ll find out what Australian cuisine really is.
Asian restaurants - Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian - dominate the Yellow Pages. Italian restaurants lag far behind. We found one Chinese place that has great noodle bowls. I love noodle bowls.
When I first went to a bookstore looking for mysteries by Australian authors (a sub-genre American publishers have yet to discover) I almost had a heart attack. Small-format paperbacks, the sort that sell for $6.99 to $9.99 here, go for $21.99 to $24.99 in Australia. Trade paperbacks start at $34.99. Hardbacks? $45.99.
Despite what the TV ads here in the US say, Foster’s isn’t “Australian for beer”. When I didn’t see Foster’s sold anywhere I asked a liquor store clerk about it. He said that Foster’s is one of the worst-selling brands in the country. VB (Victoria Bitter) and Tooheys Extra Dry are two of the most popular beers. Again, Justine can fill you in. She has experience.
Snopes is right. Water drains whichever way it wants to on both sides of the Equator. I filled the sink in our hotel bathroom and when I pulled the plug the water drained clockwise. Ever the scientist, when I got back I filled the sink in my bathroom and the water in it drained clockwise, too. It is true, however, that high-pressure systems below the Equator rotate counter-clockwise and low-pressure systems rotate clockwise. A cyclone (aka hurricane) formed far north of the Australian northwest coast while I was there and it fascinating to see satellite photos of it spinning the wrong way.
I was hoping to see what the southern night sky looked like - the Southern Cross and the Magellanic Clouds. Unfortunately the light pollution along the Gold Coast is so bad that even at 4 AM all I could see were a few of the brightest stars.
I didn’t meet anyone named Bruce.