Seems to me I've been kind of hard on Australia in my last couple of posts so to make up for it, here are 10 things I really love about this country:
1) The weather...duh. Okay, it's May 26 which means it's late fall. Today, it's about 75 in Sydney, not a cloud in the sky. By night time, it will be down to about 55 and Aussies will be wearing sweaters and complaining but for a Canadian, weather conditions don't get much better.
2) The beer. Australians drink a heck of a lot of it and produce some very good ones. The most common beer that people drink in Sydney is Victoria Bitter (VB) and it's quite delicious on a hot day, which is almost every day.
3) The Shout. This is tied to beer. When you're in a pub, Australians buy everyone at their table a round and take turns. Very civilized. Plus, if you're a foreigner, you'll usually get special treatment. My liver hates The Shout but the rest of me loves it.
4) The women. Australian women are beautiful and they know how to dress to show it off. Plus they're awfully tolerant of Australian men which is saying something because Australian men tend to be far less sympathetic to women than in other places, such as Canada. Australian men better hope the women never figure it out.
5) National Rugby League football. When I went to high school, we played a lot of Union rules rugby which is the boring kind where half of each team spends half the time hugging each other with their heads down in a scrum while everyone else stands around. It's the official upper crust type of rugby. NRL, on the other hand, is an incredibly fast-paced, hard-hitting game that's a good deal of fun to watch while enjoying beer and food. Plus, its players - who make far less than most North American pro athletes - are genuine people. Most of them will emerge from the stadium after a game and spend time talking with fans and signing autographs. When's the last time you saw a major league baseball, hockey, football or basketball player do that on a regular basis?
6) The food. Australians love to eat and love to barbecue. The other night, I went over to a friend's place to watch the first NRL State of Origin match (a three-game set played each year between players from Queensland and New South Wales). The menu included: fresh prawns and oysters, barbecued steak, barbecued sausages, potatoes, salad and beans not to mention little snacks. The drinks included beer, wine and port. Now, I ask you: how can life get much better than that? This was on a Wednesday night, mind you. On the weekends, they eat and drink even more.
7) The Sydney CBD (Central Business District) or, as North Americans would call it, downtown. Beautiful old buildings, well preserved, shopping galore, good prices and lots of the aforementioned pretty women walking around. Great place to sit at an outdoor table at a cafe, have a coffee and just watch the people.
8) The manners. Sydneysiders are almost always polite and don't put on airs. They actually seem to enjoy helping people. The only other large cities I know where people are genuinely that nice are Montreal and - believe it or not - New York.
9) The Sydney Harbour. Unlike most cities built on the water, Sydney has preserved its waterfront. Darling Harbour, the largest gathering place on the water, is a wonderful place full of walking paths, little waterways, lots of greenspace and neat things for the kids to do.
10) The accents and the lingo. I don't always know what Australians are saying but it always sits nicely on the ear whatever it is.
Anyway, tomorrow it's back home - which will be very nice as I've had one or two too many nights out and a lot of work to do while I was here. But once again, Sydney has been a great place to be.