And Happy New Year from down under! As I type this, I'm sitting at Chris' dining room table in Balmain, a suburb of Sydney (sort of like Brooklyn to NYC). It's January 2nd and I've officially been in Australia for a full week. I had a rough start in Melbourne but since flying up to Sydney, all is well.
Following are some highlights:
So, the plane ride was the quickest 14 hours I've ever experienced (other than when I got my tonsils out and got a shot of Demerol). We took off at 10:30 p.m. from SFO, I closed my eyes and when I woke up, there were just 3 hours left. Not sure how that happened considering I didn't ingest so much as a glass of wine, but it was fine by me.
Before I go on, I have to make a point to mention the landing into Sydney airport, which was most definitely the best view I've ever seen flying into anywhere. You can see the entire harbour including the bridge and the Opera House with a backdrop of harbor inlets and rolling hills of country-looking houses with thatched red roofs. Think Florence meets Boston…sort of. Once we landed, I transferred flights to Melbourne and 2 hours later I was in a taxi (on the left side of the road!) on my way to Chris' mate's house (Mark), clutching the directions he had emailed me the day before to share with the taxi driver.
After deciphering Mark's instructions to find his house key hidden under the "wheelie bin" in the driveway (I imagined a wheel barrow but it turned out to be a garbage can), I let myself in, cleaned up, grabbed the Aussie cell phone they had waiting for me along side my ticket to the Boxing Day cricket match and was off to the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground). I managed to find Chris and his four mates in the stands, and there I spent my first day down under--drinking the local beer and lemonade vodkas and eating stadium quality meat pies while "the cricket" unfolded down below.
As for “the cricket,” one thing that struck me is how funny it is to see all these extremely "pissed" (intoxicated), very large Aussie "lager lads" (as they call themselves) cheering for a no contact game where the players run around in little white outfits and take breaks for tea. The crowd was very intense about the whole thing, too--definitely on the level of the Super Bowl...but drunker and more misbehaved in the stands. An interesting transition to Australia for me after 16 hours in the air to say the least...
The next day I convinced Chris and his crew to take in the sights of Melbourne. One of his friends was visiting from England and Chris and his friend "Tommo" (pictured above with me) were down from Sydney, which is how I guilted them into doing a tourist day. I dragged these poor blokes around on a tram tour of the city which ended early in a compromise to hit a pub and catch the end of the cricket. Hours and hours later, we'd eaten nay a meat pie and the night continued on in full force. The next thing I remember is getting out of a taxi and wondering where my wallet had gone. Yep, mates--every traveler's worst nightmare--it was nowhere to be found. "No worries, mate--beers on us!" was the oddly comforting response from our crew which had doubled in size by this point.
After returning home via taxi by way of the neighborhood kebab café with my new mates, I canceled and reordered my credit cards (very responsible, I know) and drifted to sleep to the sweet sounds of Duran Duran coming from Mark’s outdoor patio—those Commonwealth boys love them some English 80’s.