Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Wonderful Land of Oz

Yes, I’ve been away: that’s why the One Direction hairstyles have been at the top of page for so long. I was in Australia: a week in Sydney for business, then a few days in the Outback. All of it totally awesome. Sydney for style, scenery, food, wine and microbrews. The “Centre” for a whole lot of nothing—spectacular rocks and vistas.

Pictured above is the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney, which houses a high-end shopping arcade. Sydney is a mix of (relatively) old, classical sandstone buildings and the very latest commercial towers. The scale of the town is nice—more Boston than New York. But the feel—on the Pacific coast, loads of waterfront, temperate weather, fairly relaxed people—is more San Francisco.

Heres the obligatory shot of the Opera House and Sidney Harbour Bridge taken from the Royal Botanic Gardens. I took a ferry from The Rocks (the heart of Old Sydney) out to Manly Beach and walked up and around North Head where I found this colorful specimen; I'm told it's a rainbow lorikeet.

For a change of pace, I flew to Alice Springs, rented a car, and drove down to Ayers Rock and Uluru National Park. Driving on the left (with right-hand steering) isnt too bad. The highway, which bisects the continent from Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south, consists of two lanes. Easy going except for occasional kangaroo loping across the road. At night. When you are doing 75 mph.

While the marquee attraction is Ayers Rock, I really liked the Olgas, picture above. They are a bunch of roiling rock domes that pop out of an otherwise flat landscape. A two hour hike takes you through the heart of them. Beautiful.

Back up in Alice Springs, I drove out into the Western Macdonnell Range—a series of ridges and outcroppings with some fantastic gorges and vistas. Like New Yorkers who have never been up the Empire State Building, most Aussies I met told me they had not been to The Centre. Too bad.

The smellscapes? Ocean spray, eucalyptus and blue gum trees, and a flowering, spiky-leaved plant that I have yet to identify. Plus some great Shiraz, Cab and Pinot headspace, and hops over the foam of some excellent IPAs.

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