Straya

About two months ago I began my journey to the southern hemisphere. I can now safely conclude that the rumours are (at least partially) true, for a great deal of beer does flow in the land down under. I can’t really say anything about chundering men.

My journey began with what was probably my worst long haul flight experience. At a step above budget-tier, I flew with Air China. This also afforded me the benefit of having a day-long layover in Beijing. Beijing in general was a pretty mediocre experience. I arrived, it was cold, it was smoggy (this was when Beijing pollution levels hit a red alert), the wall was cool, the toboggan ride down was almost cooler, and after asking for “unique local food I’ve probably never had before”, my guide gave me Kung Pao Chicken. The End.

Arriving in Australia was great. I was immediately welcomed by the warm sun and I could not have been more excited to be wearing a t-shirt again. I had planned this Australia trip for a few reasons. Firstly, I wanted to escape the cold of Japanese winter for the holidays. Additionally, the idea of seeing my Australian friends from exchange made me so excited. It was about time for a mini Mario Party reunion.

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I don’t exactly remember all the minor details of what happened and when but a vast majority of my activities revolved around eating, drinking, or a combination of both. I was rather determined to get my fill of food and beer that I couldn’t get at home in Japan. Other things I did included visiting Taronga Zoo, exploring Sydney’s beaches, and reminiscing about Sweden with friends.

I actually find that lately I love doing solo trips to zoos. If I’m in a city with a relatively well-known zoo, I almost always go. I love taking photos of wildlife, and I’d argue that doing it at zoos is really a bit of a cheat, but some of the pictures do turn out quite nicely. It also gives me a chance to use my long-distance lens in some of the larger enclosures.

The trip wasn’t without its hiccups and somehow I failed to do a few of the things I had really wanted to do, but it was easily my best trip in a very long time and I actually had a lot of surprisingly great moments. My only major disappointment was that I didn’t get to meet Hugh Jackman. I can definitely get down with the idea of a warm Christmas. I may just have to fly south again next winter break.

Sydney itself was fantastic. I’ve never been to a western city that had such strong Asian influences. In everything from food to language to retail goods. It seemed to me that Sydney was a city full of forward-thinking lovers of good food and drink. Even people I met who didn’t consider themselves foodies could talk at length on food and drink recommendations. It seemed such a far cry from my life back in Canada where many people I know would survive on frozen dinners and fast food. Even the craft beer scene in Sydney seems far ahead of what I’m used to back home. I did a beer tour on an afternoon and had the pleasure of visiting several craft beer bars and two breweries. The variety of beers in Sydney blew me away. It wasn’t just quantity, but also styles. There were so many more obscure styles of beer that I’d never expect to see from a brewery at home in Calgary (despite the fact that there are now about a dozen breweries there). In particular, I had a mind-blowing Scotch Ale from Batch Brewery. Perhaps it’s simply because Canadians are set in their ways with what styles they like, or perhaps it’s due to a higher appreciation of beer in Sydney. I shall never know. With its perfect food and drink scene, warm locals, and easy public transport system, I think Sydney may just top my list as the most-livable city I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. After exploring the beautiful city, it made total sense in my mind that this was where my good friend Sam spent her last few years. After living there for so long, I can’t help but think that anyone would develop an insatiable taste for good food.

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In addition to seeing Sam, I also met up with Matt, Patricia, Chris, and Nikki (who flew in all the way from Brisbane). It had been nearly 2 years since I had arrived in Stockholm. It felt great to know that even after so long, we had kept in touch. Nikki flying down for the weekend was especially a great treat as I’ve missed her dearly and we don’t talk nearly enough. It felt as though almost no time had passed since I last saw her in London way back in July two summers ago. I continue to love how I now have friends all over the world and I hope I can meet up with more exchange friends in the coming years in my travels. Here I am singing the praises of exchange once again.

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As the trip wrapped up, I was ready to come home, but I was not quite ready to leave warm Sydney and my friends. I know I’ll see them again so there’s no problem there. I just hope it won’t take two years. I also want to thank everyone who made my Sydney trip possible by hosting me, taking me around, or sharing a meal with me! You’re all beautiful people.

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