Do you come from a land Down Under?

Australia is not the most exotic of locations for a westerner like myself to visit. Barring the Outback and whatnot, it felt a bit like the USA more than once. Cairns, especially, reminded me of South Carolina specifically: palm trees, wide lanes for traffic, hot and humid weather, wooden fences around some houses with front lawns, strip malls and other buildings that seemed, how shall I say, unostentatious, perhaps even slightly shabby at times. Portion size of my dinner in Cairns was decidedly American (i.e. huge, although it was a crocodile schnitzel, not a typical American dish, except maybe in Florida?). When I saw the Target and K-Mart, I became almost convinced that Australia is simply America in disguise.

The otherness of it, in fact, being a foreign country was most apparent when I tried to order a coffee at a café, and was asked if I meant a “long black.” Whaaa–??

My time in Australia consisted of Cairns (including scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef!), Sydney, and Melbourne. The latter two cities did have a distinctly European feel to them, which makes sense given the history of the country. Despite this, however, I didn’t end up taking a ton of pictures.

Did you know that in most of Australia, it’s illegal to actually hold a koala?

No caption necessary:

The ferry ride in Sydney Harbor to Manly past the Opera House GREATLY reminded me of the ferry along the Bosphorus River in Istanbul, due to the low hills with various buildings along the shore. And speaking of Manly, I was very impressed with how CLEAN the beach there was! Hong Kong beaches are filled with trash everywhere; here, it was almost sparkling. I’m not sure if they just don’t have as much washing up on shore, or if they’re better about cleaning it up. Maybe both?

Melbourne was probably my favorite spot. The city is filled with street art (aka graffiti) and has a very funky, laid-back, artsy vibe to it.

Hozier Street:

More street art, including one done by Keith Haring:

Brighton Beach Bathing Boxes, just south of the city. These are nearly 100 years old and used to be (still are?) used by wealthy beach-goers as private changing rooms.

Bathing boxes and beach, with Melbourne in the distance:

Melbourne also has a lot of really cool architecture. Here is a not-the-greatest example in Federation Square with St. Paul’s Cathedral to the left:

I was surprised at the number of monuments dedicated to World War ONE. For example, the enormous Shrine of Remembrance:

Based on conversations that I had with locals prior to visiting, I arrived in Australia with certain expectations… which meant I received a stern lesson about how expectations are merely a set-up for disappointments. Although I’m glad I went to Australia (if for no other reason than I got to see my good friends Kayti and David!), my experience there didn’t fit at all with what I had thought it would be like. Regardless, a second visit to see Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) and the Outback will definitely have to happen at some point!

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