Dave’s Ramblings: 10 Reasons to Love Australia
The weather has been mostly lousy, we’ve been sleeping on top of plywood boards for the past three weeks and I haven’t sat on a room temperature toilet seat for two weeks unless 45 degrees counts as room temperature. But guess what? We love Australia!!!!
Vanilla Slices: Has a country ever chosen vanilla as the basis of one of their signature desserts over chocolate? Australia has and we couldn’t be happier (though I suppose creme brûlée also qualifies).
Kangaroos: Once you get out in the country they’re everywhere. So many that they’re not much of an oddity for us anymore, but when you see a pack of them running it’s an amazing site. Here, check it out.
Central Business Districts: Most small towns we’ve driven through have them and feature a local butcher, small grocery and independent shops. So much nicer than seeing the same chains in every U.S. city.
Speaking of chains, did you know that Burger King is known as Hungry Jack’s in Australia? Crazy that such a well-known brand world-wide has a different name here. Oh, and Woolworths is a major grocery chain. I think it’s a part of Safeway.
Electric outlets: Electric outlets in Australia and New Zealand all have on/off switches for each outlet. I’m not sure if it’s for energy saving or to protect young children, but it’s something U.S. outlets should also have.
Solar Panels: Sticking with energy, I’ve never seen so many houses that have solar panels as in Australia save for Berkeley. Even out in the country you’ll see solar panels on homes in neighborhoods where you would never expect to see them in such numbers. With nine months of no rain you’d have to think it’s a prudent investment. Oh, we picked the other three months to visit!
Wine: It goes without saying that our trip in Australia has to a large extent revolved around wine. We’ve visited six wine regions by my count and have rarely used the spit bucket to dump anything out. Highlights were white wines (Riesling especially) from Adelaide Hills and Clare Valley, Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley, Grenache and Shiraz from the Barossa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon (and surprisingly whites wines) from Coonawara and one of our best tastings of the trip at Alpha Box & Dice in McLaren Vale. Australian wines in the U.S. have had a tough go of late due to a strong Australian dollar and a tarnished perception of Australian wines due to the domination of Yellow Tail in the States. Which is why you should revisit Australian wines, spend $20 on a bottle from one of the regions above and enjoy something different.
Interesting cars: One of my favorite things about traveling in foreign countries is seeing cars that we can’t purchase in the States. Australia has its own brand, Holden, that is a part of General Motors and makes some nice cars. You also see cars manufactured in France that aren’t available in the U.S. Peugeot makes some of the smartest looking small cars I’ve seen while I’ve been traveling, as does Renault, though I can’t vouch to their reliability. One of the strangest things I’ve noticed automobile-wise is the large number of Mazda and Mitsubishi autos we see. Indeed, the Mazda 3 was the best selling car in Australia in 2012, though Toyota sold the most cars, then Holden, then Mazda.
Grated Urinals: You know how when you approach a urinal, especially those in airports, you’re often stepping in a puddle of pee? Not in Australia. Here, they have grates you stand on and any pee splash falls harmlessly between the grates. At least that’s what I think is happening.
Chips: It’s what they call French fries here and I would imagine most of the rest of the world. We need to make this the standard in the U.S. as well. Did the French have anything to do with French fries? To eliminate any confusion we’ll just need to say potato chips when we want those.
Cellar Doors in winter: We’ve benefited from traveling in winter here because it’s the off-season, but we’ve really gotten some deals at wine country tasting rooms. Virtually all we’ve visited have had something on special and we have typically been able to buy a very good bottle for $20 or less. And tastings have almost always been free.
Here’s the not-so good.
Beer prices: I’ve harped on this over and over again, but it bears repeating. We have, for the most part, been priced out of drinking decent beer here, much like New Zealand. We rarely go into a bar because we know a beer will be $8 or so and a six-pack of craft beer can run you $25. I believe taxes are to blame, but it needs to change. Shouldn’t someone champion this cause? I’m available at a reasonable price.
Loebethal Bierhaus: This is one of only four brewpubs we’ve visited in Australia so far because of the above-mentioned issue, and while the beer is decent the attitude is not. Jill couldn’t decide whether she wanted an Oatmeal Stout or Porter so she asked the bartender if she could have a taste of each. The woman said she could sell her a taster glass for $2, but not give her a taste. Jill said no, she just wanted to taste the beer before she bought one and the woman said she could describe the beer to Jill instead (for free I think!!). I’ve been to a few
hundred brewpubs and can honestly say I’ve never seen a person who asked for a taste refused. Just a poor policy and one that has not been repeated at other brewpubs I’ve visited here.
Roo Poo: Where there are kangaroos there is kangaroo poo and lots of it. It’s been unavoidable on many of the hiking trails we’ve been on and in the caravan parks where we sleep. We call it Roo Poo for short, though I also like Kangapoo.