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Trip Report I've been, I've been to the Land Down Under...

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(and I really had a great time!) My three nieces and I had our first trip to Australia from 26 July to 11 August, seventeen straight days of sunshine wherever we were. :) This is going to be my somewhat wandering trip report; I got in at 2AM yesterday and worked today, so please excuse any minor incoherency.

Qantas's 16 hour flight from Dallas to Brisbane did just what it says on the tin, got us from Dallas to Brisbane, so comfortably that I slept for about 14 of those sixteen hours. Of course, staying up the whole night before helped with that.

The first thing we noticed, of course, was the language difference. To quote from my email home,
"The letter r is highly overrated anyway, right?
Let me start that again...
Cheehs, mates! The lettah "ah" is highly oveh-ated anyway, innit?
We're loving the Australian accent, but it is amazing how closely you have to listen to make sure you're going the right way and such."
Of course, I realize that it isn't an accent when you're living there, but it was to us. (And I'm sure there are tons of regional varieties, and we enjoyed them all. We're not picky.)

A station wagon taxi took the four of us to our first place, Tribeca Apartments on Boundary Street. The lovely young man at reception let us in early--at 9AM, in fact--which predisposed me to like the place anyway, but there was nothing to dislike anyway: a two BR, 2 Bath apartment with a full kitchen, terrace, and washer/dryer is a great way to spend some time in Brisbane. (Oh, and here I'm going to make a big ol' stereotypical generalization and say that a. there are a lot of Aussies who could talk the hind leg off a donkey and b. most of those people either have been to or want to go to the US, which is funny, because most of the people I know in the US want to go to Australia. Kinda nice, really.)

We walked out into clean brisk Brisbane and found our way over to the River Walk, where tons of people were out playing in the Saturday sun. There were also fair numbers of ibis; I can see where they could get annoying, but they provided a nice change from pigeons. Later in the day we walked to Woolworths (supermarket, not the 5&10 Americans would be familiar with) and got supplies. I was in awe at the dairy case: cream, heavy cream, slightly thickened heavy cream, thicker yet heavy cream...All my dairy dreams come true, and I have to say in all due modesty that I made the best chicken fettucine alfredo ever with the leftovers of a Woolworths roast chicken and some of that cream and parmesan. I also loved the selection of eggs, although it was a bit bewildering to have to decide just how happy you wanted your chickens to have been.

Next day we went to the train station (with some directions assistance from a guy on one of the ubiquitous rental bikes; great plan, that one is) to catch the early train out to Beerwah for the Australia Zoo. For anyone who wants to do this, it's quick and painless, but I will give you a bit of warning about the announcements: they announce in segments and it sounds like you're going to be ending the line somewhere far short of Beerwah, which can be a little disconcerting. But just stay on and the train goes to Beerwah station where the Australia Zoo bus is waiting to take you to the Steve Irwin assemblage.

Part Disney, part zoo, and wholly money-making, the Australia zoo was nevertheless a fun time. My nieces were brought up on the Wiggles and Steve Irwin, and their Australia zoo visit was equivalent to my visit to the Inca terraces in Peru. (I was brought up a geek. But regardless of your opinion of Steve or the Wiggles, my nieces have grown up into lovely young ladies.) For those of you whose lives have remained Wiggles-less, here's a look:

There's a fair amount of interaction available, with feeding elephants (huge lines for that one), holding koalas, and feeding kangaroos special 'roo food, plus the shows. (Okay, the Crocoseum show was kinda lacking in the crocs area, but the bird part of it was cool.) You can also pay for animal "encounters", which are nicely conducted with passionate and sincere animal handlers. It's a private enterprise and heavily involved in conservation, so the $59 ticket and added costs seem to be going to good causes. We did pack our lunch, though, which is allowed and which I recommend. A bottle of water alone will cost you about five bucks.

The next morning before our flight out to Cairns we walked about the city some more, admiring Cathedral Square and the Anzac Memorial (including a visit to the underground crypt) and the big City Hall, where the Olympics were playing to the almost empty big square on a large-screen television. I would like to have had more time in Brisbane, in fact, but Cairns was calling, so off we went.

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