|Larry the Lobster, Icon of Kingston, SA, |
is one of Australia's famous 'Big Things'
It's really hard to say, for sure, whether it is the country's natural beauty that first won us over, or the stunning architecture and history that accompanied it. I suspect it was a bit of both. While natural beauty can always stand on its own, its often the elements brought to us by mankind that brings the area to life, creating the sense of community we relate with.
In many ways, Australia really isn't much different to Canada. Both are British Colonies; both were settled in roughly the same time period, being the late 1800s; while Canada's population might be larger (35m vs. 23m) in both instances, our populations are spread across a massive area of largely uninhabitable land. While Canada is the 'great white north', Australia is the 'great south land'. Economically, both countries have been experiencing housing booms, with the Chinese demand similarly driving both Sydney and Vancouver markets. In other words, our two countries have a lot in common.
But there is as many differences as there are similarities. It seems to me that Canada took its own sweet time carving out its own identity while Australia rushed headlong into it. Canada claimed it's independence through the British North America (BNA Act) in 1867 but didn't officially have a flag until 1965. Red and white were Canada's national colors since 1921 and the stylized maple leaf used inconsistently for decades. Australia received independence in January 1901 and flew its flag for the first time later that same year. The Union Jack is its nod to historical roots; the 5 stars represent the Southern Cross, a constellation that can only be seen from the Southern Hemisphere; and the 7-pointed star represents the union of the 6 states and the territories.
Of one thing we have no doubt: Canadians and Australians are both extremely proud, patriotic and loyal toward their respective country. However, the average Australian is much more likely to sing its praises from the rooftops while a Canadian is more likely to bow his head and smile knowingly but modestly over Canada's achievements. My jury is still out on which one is the best approach.
On to Australia's people. I would be the first to say that we have found people friendly pretty much everywhere we have travelled. All one has to do is to be open and willing to communicate and, on occasion, take the initiative to strike up a conversation. Australia is no different. It took us a minute to understand some of the customs and courtesies of the country though. For example, while in Canada it is expected to be seated at a restaurant and wait to be served, in Australia, it is common to seat yourself and approach the counter to order food and beverages. We discovered this at our first 'self serve' establishment, a small rural cafe that was very popular with the locals from the nearby town of Victor Harbor, in South Australia. When we realized the error of our ways; we approached the counter with an apologetic, 'We're from Canada and we don't know what to do.' From there, we were not only welcomed with open arms but given somewhat of the royal treatment.
|but for the kindness of strangers, |
we would never have seen this lovely view
When we arrived in Launceston, Tasmania, we ambled into the Royal Oak Hotel for a nightcap, seated ourselves at the bar and asked for assistance in choosing a glass of wine and a local beer. Once
|Royal Oak Hotel, Launceston, Tasmania|
Honestly, everywhere we went, we met with kindness, whether it be from staff in local establishments or passersby on the the street. All were more than willing to spend a few minutes or a few hours, whatever the need, to make a few suggestions about what to see or pass along a tidbit of information; anything to ensure we enjoyed our visit. Always, when they spoke of their community, or their country, the pride was evident in their faces and in the tone of their voices. How could we possibly not love this country?
|Along the Great Ocean Road|
There is nothing like a bit of whimsy to make my day and we had plenty of opportunity to see plenty of whimsy. One day, we crossed 'Little Creek', where someone added their own tidbit of information to the sign. . . "why? because it's too small to be called a river'. You have to admit, that's cute.
Even Sydney, with its iconic opera house and bridge, has its quirks.
|Sydney Car Art|
|Another form of Car Art|
No matter where we went, we were barraged bu the evidence that young and old alike, Australians have a keen sense of humor. They aren't above laughing at themselves and, trust me, they aren't above laughing at you either. Here's a little advice: take it all in stride. Australians are a proud, fun loving, crazy bunch of people that, given the opportunity, will make your visit a memorable one.