Saturday, February 18, 2012

Travelling in my vast country...manners matter...

Cairns Crocodile Park 
I have just returned from a two week vacation catching up with friends in Queensland and my daughter in Sydney.  It was a time of healing and also an opportunity to spread my wings with wonderful people, way too many wines and a lot of laughter and some adventures...with crocodiles, sea turtles, sting rays, and parrot fish.

Snorkling with friends on Michaelmas Cay, Great Barrier Reef
 (photo courtesy Ocean Spirit Cruises)
The holiday was also enhanced by fabulous meals and observations about the diversity of the fresh  food available and the cooking styles used to complement it…from the sophistication of Sydney to the fusion, east/west cuisine of Tropical North Queensland. I will post again with more about the cuisine of Australia.

The Gold Coast (photographer unknown)
It was wonderful to travel up the East Coast of Australia, from Sydney, to the Gold Coast;  and from the Gold Coast up to Cairns in FNQ – Far North Queensland as it is referred to up there. Each place is so different…the climates, the population demographics and the landscapes.  I live in a truly breathtaking country!

A view from the road between Port Douglas and Cairns (photo Christine Simmonds)
All of the places I visited this time I have also been previously.   But somehow I viewed them through different eyes.  Perhaps it was  because I was solo and so had many opportunities to talk with my fellow travellers, both tourists and locals moving from place to place.  I was able to explore the reactions of Europeans to our hot and humid climate after the freeze of their winter;  and to chat with fellow Australians about matters such as airline standards, airport ease and the ongoing tirade about taxi drivers.

A view north to Port Douglas (photo the author)
Perhaps the observation I found most interesting was the ease of the people and their face to face communication as I moved north.  In Sydney, when in Centennial Park, the other walkers did not make eye contact;  on the Gold Coast I was invariable greeted with a “Good Morning” and in Cairns with a “G’day!”…it was as if the pace of life which infuses the residents of the various regions was entirely proportionate to the ease of eye contact and friendly communication.  Perhaps there is a lesson for us all in taking time out to respond to others…personally and not through electronic devices. 

I also noticed those same subtle but distinct differences in the shop assistants I met.  In Sydney they would often remain on the phone, or folding clothes, except in the luxury boutiques of Chanel, Tiffany, Louis Vuitton and Gucci which I visited to “browse”  and where the service was impeccable.  But in the smaller boutiques and shops the customer in Sydney seemed to be regarded as an intrusion.  On the Gold Coast, everyone was pleasant in offering assistance;  in Cairns they were effusive, without being uncomfortably so.

Michaelmas Cay, Great Barrier Reef (photo the author)
And so, in many ways my vacation was an all consuming experience.  Travelling on my own for the first time in some years, enjoying the support and encouragement of my family and friends and seeing the differences in the people who enjoy living, like me, in this vast country of mine.

And shopping at the markets, cooking, enjoying restaurants…more next time….

2 comments:

  1. Fascinating! I suppose Australia is as different as Europe with its many countries and cultures. As you've been to Europe you must know that. Shopping or eating just isn't the same in - just say - Belgium and France. Not to mention Italy vs Sweden. I'll be travelling to France with Swedish friends in June, and I really don't know what to expect. It'll be a real challenge!

    Please keep posting more of those breathtaking photos. Australia truly is a beautiful country ... paradise on earth. You are soooooo lucky! Martine

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  2. Martine, I am so pleased you enjoy the photos! And yes, Australia is like Europe in its diversity...not different countries, but rather, different spaces. And the people who inhabit those spaces are vastly different to each other.
    I will post more photos...which I hope you will enjoy.

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