Monday, March 17, 2008

Sundays from Singapore: Land down under

This is the very last Sunday for Singapore post. I don't know why I stopped writing them, but I did. Hope you enjoyed my reliving the biggest adventure of my life.


I think we are finally done with travel for a while, having spent 2 months in the States, and just now, a week in Sydney, Australia.

My expensive suitcase, bought at one of those chichi luggage stores, looks like it has been used as a soccer ball by the International Elephant League, and is held together by Duck Tape and neon straps. I no longer worry that someone will steal my American-sized clothing, because only a desperate XXXXL woman would acknowledge ownership of such a mortifying valise. You will be please to know , however, that my $15 dung-colored duffle-on-wheels is in fine form, with wheels that roll in the same direction and a handle that fully extends and retracts.

Did you know that you can take a climbing tour of the harbor bridge and walk on the topside of the bridge structure? See those groups of people flanking the flag at the top? I think I'll pass!

Sydney was a marvelous city, and in spite of being the dead of winter there, the weather was gorgeous, and allowed me to wear jeans and long-sleeve shirts for once. Stud Muffin was hosting a four-day meeting, so we camped out in a great hotel in the center of the business district. In most US cities, such a location would afford you a choice of bars, copy shops, and the occasional bookie, but Sydney is more accommodating than this. Within easy reach of my feet were two harbors (including the famed Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House,) shopping, museums, botanical gardens, a major movie (Matrix) shooting location, and assorted cafes. Clothing was expensive, food reasonable, and interesting gift shops and curios abound. In fact, the only drawback to the city center was the annoying habit of everything closing for the night at 5 PM. And I mean everything... including places to eat.

One afternoon, when the girls and I knew we were once again on our own for dinner, we happened upon a cafe in an alleyway surrounded by cute little shops. It was around 4 PM and we knew it was time to start foraging for food to get us through the night. I mean, a Kit Kat bar will only carry you so far, before you start thinking your tennis shoe might taste okay with a little mustard.

So here we were, perusing a menu mounted on a signpost, when a waitress comes up and explains that this menu "no longer applied." Oh goody, I think, since the listed fare was kind of frou-frou and I don't go in for salmon pizza and squid salad (big seafooders, these Aussies!) Maybe there is a more substantial and less pretentious menu for the afternoon. This menu no longer applied, she explained, because the kitchen closed at three! And with that, she hoisted the sign from it's stand and walked off with it.

This left us with a choice of McDonald's, Burger King (sometimes called Hungry Jack's, for no apparent reason,) or the hotel restaurant, which offered kangaroo fillets and emu steaks. The hotel was definitely out, I was filled to overflowing with Burger King's Cinni-minis for breakfast, so McD's it was.

I really wish I could buy commemorative postcards or something showing the local favorites from all the regional McDonald's I have ventured into! That way, you would know I'm really not making this up! In Singapore, we have (oooh, limited time only, rush in today) McSalmon burgers and Black Pepper chicken sandwiches, or for breakfast, the ever popular Curry or Red Bean pies, while Australia has the McOz and the Aussie burger.

I was unable (and unwilling) to discern the difference between these two special offerings, but the Food Pyramid guys will congratulate the Aussies on including almost every known food group in a single sandwich. In addition to the usual and expected beef patty, cheese, some kind of sauce or condiment, and leafy vegetable, these burgers include fried egg, beets, and tomato. I say, add a scoop of ice cream under the top bun for dessert, and I think you've got it covered!

I'm having trouble ordering food in Australia, too. If you want french fries, you must ask for chips, but if you want potato chips, ask for crisps. And don't bother asking what the "tasty cheese" indicated as coming on your sandwich is, or you will get a blank look. Maybe it is a brand name, or maybe it just proudly points out that they have left off the really ripe, super stinky, probably found fermenting in a professional footballer's gym bag, stuff that their competitors use. And all the salads are composed of weeds mowed down from the median strip, but hey, at least they are composting it one way or another.

Food aside, the people we talked to were very friendly, the homegrown boys were proclaimed "yummy" by my teenagers, and the people are ecologically minded, which I appreciate. The toilet, for example, includes two flushing options, a half flush for minor needs, or a full tank flush for more solid waste. Lest you think I show an unnatural obsession for bathroom fixtures, as indicated in previous posts, well, my husband says I never met a hydrant I didn't use.

Me, trying not to look cold on a boat around Sydney in July.

The highlight of the trip (at least for me) was taking the girls to the opera at The opera house shown on every postcard in town. We saw Gilbert and Sullivan's "Iolanthe," which is an English language opera involving slutty fairies, members of Parliment, and a Lord Chancellor who appeals to himself for permission to marry a ward of the state, and repeatedly loses the case before himself. Okay, I guess you had to be there.

The girls really enjoyed the evening which included sixth row center seats, and a chance to dress up, but I think their vote for favorite activity was the Jet boat ride around Sydney Harbor. This was a high speed power boat ride which cut radical circles and came to dead stops to allow water to swamp the passengers. Mom, gratefully declined to join then, and was the only dry person walking home!

Everyone enjoyed the trip so much, we think we might go back at Christmas, which in the illogical world in which I live, will finally be summer Down Under. Until then, I will busy myself with washing the "clean me" notices written in dust by some smarty off every surface in the apartment, and preparing for the girls to reenter the school system. In my spare time, I think I will work on a list of other taste treats to present to McDonald's Worldwide, thus starting a new career to fill my empty days. Whadda think of a McSushi sandwich? How about Escargot McNuggets? Or maybe...


Anonymous said...

That was such a fun trip :) I remember the food part especially... Poor Americans.

I love you! Happy Birthday Mommy!

Not Quite Grown

Thimbleanna said...

What a great adventure! I hope you had a VERY Happy Birthday!!! And you're so lucky to be planting now -- we can't even look at those young tender things for another month -- it even snowed again briefly yesterday!

Catty Ax Lady said...

The whole trip sounds simply amazing! So did you go back over winter?

Lisa said...

WEll, CAtty, we did go back, but without the girls. They were in school (instead of homeschooling) so they had to stay home. Studly and I went, though, and other than the food, had a great time!