Category: Australia

Unlike the world outside the US’s lack of fascination with the Oscars and the Super Bowl (the latter I understand, but not the former), the Olympics are a world-wide event. Everyone everywhere cares.

Next stop…..London!

While I was completely out of the loop for the 2004 Olympic games in Athens (I was finishing up my summer in NYC, commuting 2 hours each way to work during the first week and then dealing with first week of school (and my last semester ever) issues the second week), I do remember the 2008 games in Beijing. I was living and working in Sydney, which was like beyond perfect. I was in a sports-mad country living with people that actually could give Americans a run for their money in many sports! I would have felt kind of depressed, kicking ass and taking names (the Aussies thought this saying was hilarious!!) if I was still living in New Zealand during the games. It was all around a very interesting experience.

Sydney Olympic Parade, Winners!

Everything pretty much took place in nearly the same time zone. There was very little recapping as Sydney is only 2 hours ahead of Beijing. AWESOME! But since a lot of the sports were set to American East Coast time, I remember there being issues with swimming as usually the main events take place at night, but so they could be broadcasted live to the east coast, somehow NBC struck a deal with the IOC to have them in the morning, so they could play live. Which meant they aired around lunchtime for us. Not the worst thing ever, as the job I was working had a TV in the lounge and it was on the entire day and people would gather for a few moments here and there to watch certain events.

Sydney Olympic Parade, not to shabby!

Also, being the minor huge media nerd I am, I remember Channel 7 (the station that covered the games back then) having reports on the US coverage. It’s like NBC was its own event! They talked about how much space NBC took up, how many employees they brought over and the security measures in place for NBC and only NBC. It’s something that obviously does not get covered in the US and very interesting to hear.

Sydney Olympic Parade, the most they won, still awesome!

It was weird watching events without Americans. I don’t think NBC has ever done that. And actually, back in 2008 the only event there were no Americans in was like girls handball or something. Something I did miss, was the montage packages. No one can put a spin on any story like the US. I missed that! I cheered for countries in the following order: US (it was nice to have some patriotic pride after a year and a half!), Australia and then New Zealand.

So very very London at the Sydney Olympic Parade.

A few weeks after the games ended, all the Australian Olympians went on a national tour of the country, doing parades in each state capital city where a variety showed up for each. Ohmigod, could you image if they had to do that in the US?! It would take like a year! Anyway, since by then I was unemployed, I went to the parade in Sydney. Super fun! I actually recognized some people I had seen on TV a few weeks prior up close in person and actually remembered their names! And funny enough, watching the games now, I am like, those names are still sounding familiar. Love it.

Libby Trickett of swimming fame.

Steve Hooker (hehe, that name!! That hair!!) of pole vault fame.

Moral: If given the chance, I would highly recommend watching The Olympics in a country other then your own (especially if you are from the US). You learn a lot and get another perspective of a worldwide event. Just another life experience that you can not get within your own borders.

Looking down George Street during the parade. Go Green and Gold!

I forgot how much I liked this author!!! I bought a couple of his books when I was over in the UK like a million years ago and I haven’t read anything since. And when I was just browsing the travel section at the library, I saw this one and just took it. It is about an Aussie who buys a vespa in Italy and drives it around all summer. He goes to small towns and has issues with the bike along the way and it’s really entertaining. It’s an area I have been to many times, but I wish I could remember the small details of the small towns we have driven through. Nothing super special, but just a really enjoyable read.

While I enjoyed this book, I felt like there was something off about it. I felt like it had a religious undertone about it, which annoyed the hell out of me. It was about two couples who go on an adventure in the Australia Outback. Each of the dudes want to propose to their girls and I have never read about dudes making such a big deal about this, after a while, it was like, who cares. They each get a rental car and one couple gets majorly lost and the majority of this book is about their attempt to get rescued. Eventually, the dude has to blow up the car to get the attention of a plane flying far away. Because they have destroyed the car, for some reason, they owe the place were they rented it a huge amount of money. But for some reason, they didn’t have to put down a deposit or credit card when they originally rented it and the rental company lets them leave the country, with only a promise that they will pay them back. I mean, what the hell kind of business practice is that? It’s crazy talk if you ask me. Also, it seems like the main couple had never been together, *in that way*, before they got married. And the guy seemed like obsessed with getting married and not being away from his women. It was a bit weird. I liked the Australian aspect of it all and that story, but the characters seemed a bit off.

This book was super cute! Like 40 years ago, a couple from New Zealand got married and then did their OE in the UK. But instead of just taking a shit home, they bought a Bug and drove it home. And this book was about recreating that, as old people, in the same car! It was definitely an interesting read, but probably my least favourite thing about it was the Dude’s need for media attention regarding it. It was like, they were driving through some pretty rough countries and having the media attention on them was both good and bad. The Girl definitely had a better outlook on it, but unfortunately, it was the Dude who did all the talking. I liked how they inter-spliced it with memories of the olden days. Good read for travelers, especially since they were ending in Australia, even though they were from New Zealand. Plus throw in the UK, and I have been to all those places! (Except everywhere in-between, almost).

**I wrote this review when I was living in Australia, sometime in late 2008, early 2009**
It’s been awhile since I have read a comedy! And I have always seen stuff from this author, but never picked it up (YAY! for the free pile!). I think I just get hung up in details sometimes. This book was entertaining, always saying Yes to everything (the movie was based on this book, but I read it even before I knew that they were even making a movie) and it’s a good experiment and a good way to live your life, I think. I know I have said yes more lately (crappy jobs, etc…) when I think of this book. You just never know what is around the corner. The downside of this book, is like all travel humour books, the authors seem to have like buckets of money. So like, the Dude sees an ad for a trip to Thailand. Gotta say YES! Girl-sort-of-friend asks you to come to Australia (on a separate trip from the previous Thailand trip) Gotta say YES! Seriously, if the world had unlimited money, I don’t think people would ever say No. But since most of us live in the real world, the word No has to come up at some point. And I can’t remember the turning point in the book (these books always have them) but it seemed kind of lame and forced. Otherwise, always entertaining and I hope to pick up more from this author once I get a library card!! God, I miss the freedom of the library instead of having to rely on the trash that people leave behind.

I was in New Zealand and Australia for exactly 2 years and 2 weeks. But with my timing, I was actually away for 3 Academy Award ceremonies. Growing up in Los Angeles, this was a huge deal. As I have gotten older (and cared about movies less and less) the deal has gotten smaller in my mind. But like someones sports teams that changes towns, I still keep an eye on them. What is getting buzz, what got too much buzz too early and is now left for dead. I care less, but I still find the whole thing kind of interesting. I might search out the best picture after the fact, but only when it finally makes it to TV. My favorite joke is that when I was flying back from Australia/New Zealand, I had the choice to watch Slumdog Millionaire, but chose High School Musical 3 over it. My reasoning? You try reading subtitles on that tiny little seat screen! So there are my priorities.

Anyway, for the most part, the Academy Awards are not a big deal overseas. Most countries has their own version of them and unless your country has a movie in contention (a-hem, Lord of the Rings), New Zealand didn’t air them on any channel and they are only on satellite in Australia. Not really the free-to-air channels we are used to in the United States.

The first year, I had just arrived in New Zealand hostel hopping. I waited until the show was over (like mid afternoon Monday) before I hopped online to read about the show. THE DEPARTED won that year, a movie I had not seen at the time (I would eventually see it later in 2007 on Sky Movies in New Zealand and then a bunch more during my time backpacking down the Australia East Coast in later 2008) and for the most part had no interest in. To me, it was too long. Though I was happy that “Marty” finally got his statue!

The second year, I was at my job and one of the perks being that I got to watch a lot of TV. I mean A LOT. We had a channel on our tv’s that was a feed of whatever the people in the satellite room were getting fed in at the time, usually whatever big event was happening around the world (I didn’t realize this before and missed the Super Bowel a few week prior, even though the commercials are filtered out of the feed) and today was the Academy Awards. We all had our owns tv’s and all changed them to the same channel and watched the show in our cubes, all laughing at the same part. Jon Stewart hosted that year. Since the show aired in the later afternoon on a Monday in New Zealand, the show ran long (of course) and everyone left the office, except for me. I had to see the end, even though I didn’t know what any of the best picture movies were. Most had not come to New Zealand yet, as they were smaller pictures that year. I do remember Diablo Cody won for Juno and I was really happy. I was also on chat with some friends back home who were watching and couldn’t believe that I was watching the show live, same as them with no delay. Oh, I was a nerd, I felt so special! The show did not air on any channel that year in New Zealand.

The third year, was a bit different. I was on a week long tour from Adelaide to Alice Springs (I just realized I never wrote about my tour! DO’H!). The big event during that ceremony was Heath Ledger getting nominated (and eventually won) after his death for the latest Batman movie. Most of that tour, we were out of cell phone range, which of course was nice. And since the tour was so long, we all kind of lost track on what date and day of the week it was. But once we got to Ayers Rock, my pals on the tour, an Irish couple I hung out with the most, started texting their friends back in Ireland to find out who won what. And I remember sitting around a picnic table in the Ayers Rock campgroup when the text came in that Heath had won! The three of us were so happy!! The rest of the group didn’t care (damn Euros) and even the tour guide, who was Australian thought Heath was a wanker or whatever. We found out the results from the rest of show during our meal and it was the most surreal way I ever “watched” the show before. When I got back to Melbourne a week later and had like 7 hours of computer time to waste before I left the country, I watched so many videos from that show.

And ever since then, I haven’t really cared about the show. I work in the film industry now and I could not careless about the show and who wins. But of course, I keep watching. If you were traveling during a major tv event, would you search it out to watch it live?

This book was perfect! I read it over a few weeks, going to bookstores when I was in Australia. Whatever, so sue me. It was written by a 40-year old Australian Dude who had done the backpacking rite of passage around Europe like 20 years previously and wanted to experience and write about what Europeans do when they come to the East Coast of Australia. It was pretty spot on! It was written like in the 2nd half of 2007, so a lot of things were still relevant to me (even though I read it after I did the East Coast in late 2008/early 2009). Some of the choices he made could have been a little better (like doing the self drive on Fraser instead of a tour) but he did hit all the spots that everyone does. Also, he spent a little too much time talking about Sydney and I wish he did what he did with Sydney with all the towns he hit. Like the Sydney chapter was like 70 pages or something and everything else was like 50 or less. A good read for the situation I was currently living. Plus, I love when he talked about the “theme song” of his trip. If I hear the Kings of Leon CD again, it will be too soon. That whole thing was the theme song of my trip. At least all the songs sound the same to me and I don’t full out hate it.

I got this book back in 2003 when I was in London and really liked it a lot and it was one of the few books that I never sold because I knew someday I would want to read it again. I thought about it a lot when I was in Australia and I was excited to re-read it when I got home. And I finally did! Like a dork I am, I got out my guide book from Australia and followed the authors travels around the country, even though a lot has changed since this book was written and then the guide book (I don’t have the latest edition) to now. I had been to about half the places the author talks about and he does a pretty good job describing them, which is why I think I saved this book and wanted to re-read it. It starts in Cairns and ends up in Darwin and takes the longest route ever to get there, most of it which is off the main backpackers trail, which I liked a lot. He goes from Cairns, to Alice, down to Port Augustus, over to Perth and up to Broome and all the parks to Darwin. He wants to find the “real” Australia and in reading it and talking to people, I don’t think he realized that he is talking to the real Australia. People are raciest and it’s hard to find aboriginals, just like it’s hard to find Indians in America. This is the book that put that in prospective for me, that the Aboriginals in Aus are just like the Indians here in America and I kind of got off my wanting to go to Australia and learn about them-kick, which I realized I didn’t really care about knowing about the Indians here and sort of felt bad about that. I like books that make me realize stuff about myself that I didn’t know before. It comes about so rarely! It’s not that I know much about myself, it’s just most of the books I read are crap.

I read this book like a millions years ago when I was just branching out into travel lit and read everything by Bryson. I must have sold my copy as I don’t have it anymore, so since coming back from Australia, I have wanted to reread it. I don’t remember it being very memorable and it was totally that. One thing that I sort of didn’t like was Bryson wrote way too much about everything that can kill you in Australia and it’s so not as bad as he writes. Yeah, Australia probably has like 8 out of the ten most lethal snakes/bugs/etc that can kill you, but the chances that you come across any of it in your travels is so slim. Everything that can kill you is more afraid of you then you are of it anyway, it’s so not a big deal there at all. But after reading this book, I can see why people don’t want to visit. He makes it seem scary! I liked the routes and places he wrote about, even though it was a little dated and his route took him all over the most random places. And of course, got to have a little on the Aboriginals and how they aren’t part of city culture there at all and he wanted to learn about them, but couldn’t, but it wasn’t a big part of his book (thank god). Anyway, I am glad I reread this book, but I can see why I didn’t keep it or have no reason to re-buy it.

Used: 2008, 2009

I remember one of the first times I heard of someone I knew flying Air New Zealand. They flew from LAX to LHR. That’s right! You don’t even need to fly anywhere near New Zealand to experience New Zealand hospitality. But the first time I flew them was actually just a really quick trip return from AKL to CHC over Easter Weekend as they have the most flights within the country (duh) which is super helpful for a major holiday weekend when everything is expensive anyway. Flying domestic in New Zealand is a joke anyway, especially compared to what I am used to in the United States. I worked in central Auckland and got from my work to the airport by taking the shuttle and passing through security and sitting at the gate within an hour. Like I said, JOKE! You don’t even need to show ID to board a domestic flight.

Anyway, it was a pleasant but a generally unmemorable flight as it was only a little over an hour. I loved the airport in Christchurch, they have this awesome open air deck in the domestic terminal were after you pass security you can watch the planes land and take off, outside! I loved watching all the tiny Air New Zealand planes doing their business. I am so used to only seeing huge planes, that it was so funny to see tiny propeller plans flying!

View from the outside deck at CHC

Later in the year, Air New Zealand had a major promotional push in advertising their trans-Tasman flights across the ditch to Australia. They were becoming major players against the strong hold, Qantas. They upgraded tons of their planes and the types of planes they used to only use on long-haul flights, they were now flying just a short 3 hours to various ports to Australia. I barely even thought about it when booking my return flight to Australia after my summer vacation back in New Zealand, as they were cheaper than Qantas anyway from Christchurch to Sydney. It wasn’t until I boarded the plane that I remembered about their upgrades. And they were awesome! My favorite perk, individual screens on every seat. Actual meals served. And of course, a nice, smooth ride, as the plane was a lot bigger then the Qantas jet I had flown over on a month earlier.

I got so excited a few weeks later when I made plans to fly back to the US. Air New Zealand ended up being the cheapest option out of Melbourne, with a quick layover in Auckland. Back in 2008, you had to pay an exit fee when you left New Zealand and I was 50cents short in cash my fee when I left Christchurch (so I had to pay with a credit card, annoying!) but since I had a few hours to kill in Auckland, I was happy to have the extra cash to buy food and magazines and other last minute items. I was so excited for a last minute trip to Auckland before I finally came home even though I never left the airport. I just loved my time there so much, I was so happy to have once last goodbye. You don’t pass passport control when you transfer plans in Auckland, but you have to go through security again. I had a whole bottle of water with me, which they asked me to toss, so I backtracked and tossed the water in the sink in the bathroom so I could pass with my empty bottle, one of my flying tricks of the trade. I went through metal detection again and filled my bottle up at the various water fountains in the terminal. So annoying and a waste of water! I specifically wore one of my favorite New Zealand t-shirts for the ride home and when I boarded the plane, the flight attendant commented on how much she liked my shirt!

Me in my All Blacks Kiwi shirt, moments after walking into my parents house after 2 years and 2 weeks overseas! My dad made this awesome sign.

The flight back was awesome. Great selection of movies and tv shows, which is key for me. I watched and caught up on so many shows I hadn’t seen in months that I doubt had even aired in Australia or NZ at that point. Awesome selection of movies. I love telling people that I chose to watch High School Musical 3 over Slumdog Millionaire (have you ever tried to read subtitles on those tiny screens?!). Don’t remember the food, though we got served a lot, so I am sure it was good. One of my favorite parts was how they did drink service. They gave us all cups at our first meal and we were supposed to save them. A flight attendant was continuously walking around the cabin with spare cups (just in case) and a pitcher of water and all you had to do was hold your cup up and they would fill it up for you on request. You didn’t even need to leave your seat! I lost my cup at one point (in those small seats and area?! I know, it happens) and they happily replaced it, though I did like that they tried not to. And I felt bad when a few hours later I found my cup at the bottom of the pocket. The seat space is pretty big too, way more than Qantas. I was impressed with it and I am not a big person anyway.

The tail in Auckland. Rainy, of course!

Something that I didn’t experience, but my family did when they came to visit me. Apparently, they used to have a code share with Air Pacific, the Fijian airline which is one of the few routes that you can fly from LAX to AKL, but you have to stop in Fiji. My mom first booked tickets for her and my dad and a week later booked my sisters ticket on the same route for the same price. They all show up at the airport to check in and apparently my sister is booked on the Air New Zealand flight. Same times, same route, just a different terminal. There was no note anywhere on the ticket about this and they didn’t know until they showed up at the airport. And what a huge difference between the airlines! My parents were jammed in while my sister had whole rows to herself, since they all flew over Christmas. My sister said the flight attendants welcomed all the kids with gifts because they were “skipping Christmas” (They left on the 24th and arrived in Fiji on the 26th). But at least they evened out on the way back. My parents got the Air New Zealand flight after their Fiji layover while my sister was stuck with Air Pacific the whole way because we realized that Air New Zealand only flew from Fiji to LA on certain days and my sister stayed longer and flew on a different day.

Adopted home, home on the range!

Moral: Air New Zealand doesn’t fly too many routes outside the south pacific but if I am flying somewhere they go, I will make them a priority, thanks to their service. Plus, I miss New Zealand tons and anytime I can grab a little bit of it, I will take it. They vary in price and even if they aren’t the cheapest, if they aren’t too different in price, I would take them into consideration depending on how long the flight is. I would love to fly them over to London someday! How fun!