Dec 19, 2014

Why Australia Was the Perfect Trip

in the airport

I am not one for keeping up on current events (Mike does enough for both of us), but you can be sure I followed the hostage situation in Sydney earlier this week. Just a couple weeks before, I was walking very close to where it happened. I wish it had turned out better but am so grateful it wasn't worse. We feel a connection with that country that I hope we never lose.


It's safe to say that Australia most likely ruined us from ever traveling again (while at the same time giving us this intense desire to see more of the world). It was as near to a perfect trip as you could possibly get, and I'm fairly confident in saying that nothing else will ever quite match up.

It's not that Australia is the be all, end all, nor the ultimate vacation getaway. It's just that, for us, all the stars seemed to align, and everything just seemed to work out.


 palm beach

Location

I keep trying to tell people how awesome our location was, and no one seems to get it. Anne and Nate literally could not have lived any closer to the beach. This is the view from their balcony:

 manly beach

And of course, now I'm just feeling super frustrated because even though I'm showing a picture of it, it's too bright, and you can't hear the crash of the waves or smell the salt or feel the ocean breeze. But let me tell you how amazing it was. We could say, "We're going surfing now," grab the boards, cross the street, and we were there. When we were done, we could cross the street the other way and immediately hop into a hot shower. No parking, no driving, no planning. It was just there. (Besides the beach, they also live next to the Corso, a strip mall with unlimited access to fish-n-chips, souvenirs, groceries, peachees, and other necessities.

And for all of this, we paid the grand price of . . . nothing. I just don't know how you beat that.

Christmas downtown

Activities

If we had had to spend our entire vacation on Anne and Nate's beach, you wouldn't have heard us complain (Mike, I'm sure, would have gone snorkeling every single day). But part of the reason the trip was so amazing was because of the variety of activities we got to do. We spent a lot of time on the beach for sure, but we also went into the city and got away into the country. Mike played rugby with the locals, and we even dressed up one afternoon and went to a concert at the Opera House. It was just a perfect mix of things to do.

rugby field

Transportation

During the course of our trip, we went on a jet, ferry, train, and bus. We drove in a car. And we walked. If we'd been limited to one form of transportation, we wouldn't have seen such a big slice of Sydney and the surrounding areas. We wouldn't have driven north (and later, south) along the coastline. We wouldn't have seen Sydney's skyline from the water. Taking a variety of ways to get places made the trip interesting.

sublime point lookout (near wollongong)

Tour Guides

There is no substitute for having people who know their way around. There just isn't. It takes away the stress and fear and makes everything go so much more smoothly. Anne and Nate were the perfect tour guides. And even though they weren't with us for every minute of the trip, they were always available to give directions, suggestions, and advice.  

mike and nate, manly bus stop

Laid Back

You might not believe this, but Australians are just really laid back. Which makes traveling there really easy. You don't have to worry about what you're wearing. You can ask for help from just about anyone. It was actually really entertaining to just walk along the beach and watch all the people. There was quite the array of beach attire, but everyone just sort of seemed to go together.

 manly beach

Time of Year

Originally we were going to do this trip in January, but then we thought, Are we crazy? I'm so glad we changed our minds because going at the end of spring was infinitely better that being there during the height of summer. The temperatures stayed almost entirely in the 70's and 80's and the vegetation was gorgeous.

royal botanical garden 

Weather

Maybe it was the time of year we went, but the weather cooperated beautifully almost the entire time. There were a few light showers here and there, but they never slowed us down, and most of the time, we appreciated them. Even the mornings that seemed cool turned out not to be bad at all once we were in the water.

sydney opera house

Downtime

Staying with family meant that we could go, go, go, and then when we got tired, we could come home and crash. We could stay up late chatting, eat leftovers, or take a nap. It offered the perfect balance to what could have been a crazy-exhausting trip.

early morning swimmers

Accent

You have to admit that if you're going to see another part of the world, going somewhere with an awesome accent is a pretty great bonus (especially when they're still speaking English).  Before we'd even left the Sydney airport, the customs official had called someone "mate," and Mike and I both went a little giddy.

42 wallaby way, sydney (actually manly wharf)

Babysitter

During the course of the trip, Mike and I frequently said, "Clark, you are a pleasure to have along." And he was. Truly you've never met a better baby. But he was still a baby. There were moments when it would have been inconvenient to have to bring him with us except that . . . anytime we wanted to do something baby-free, we would just put him down for a nap, ask Anne to keep an ear out for him, and go gallivanting around like we didn't have any children. (Thank you a million times, Anne!)
 
palm beach

Family

Mike and I enjoyed this getaway (understatement of the year), but we both admitted we would have gotten sick of each other if we hadn't been able to break up the time with family. It was just so nice to have other people to talk to, a place that felt like home, and kids to help us not miss our own too much.


In the weeks before the trip, I spent a lot of time worrying. Leaving three of your children for 10 days? Scary. Taking a six-month-old with you? Scary. Flying halfway around the world? Scary. Swimming in the ocean, driving on the wrong side of the road, trying new things? Scary, scary, scary.

A friend of ours recently went on an Alaskan cruise, and just a couple days into it, she broke her leg. I know it's kind of morbid, but I kept thinking, If I broke my leg now, would the trip still have been worth it?

But I didn't break my leg. And everything did work out. I'm so grateful Mike and I got to have this adventure. We will always remember it.

It was definitely worth it.


Dec 17, 2014

Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith

A couple of years ago I read Betty Smith's well-known and much loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Not surprisingly, I loved it too. (I loved it so much that I wrote my review of it and then, a few weeks later, I wrote even more about it.)

Since that time, I have wanted to read more of Betty Smith's words. And I finally did.

Joy in the Morning wasn't A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. But I didn't expect it to be. And really, I didn't want it to be.

The book begins on the morning of Carl and Annie's marriage. Annie had turned 18 on Wednesday, and so, against their mother's wishes (as well as the advice of the Dean of the law school), they decide not to waste any time and are married on Saturday--immediately after Annie arrives from Brooklyn on the night train.

What follows is a recounting of their first two years of marriage: the ups and downs, the exciting and mundane. There are money problems (Carl still has two years left of law school, and he tries to work three jobs at the same time); they have dozens of arguments (some of them petty, others more substantial); Annie tries to find herself (she loves to read but only has an eighth-grade education); they find out they're expecting their first child (they didn't want any children until after law school, but once they find out, they're thrilled). In those two years, they're selfish and selfless; they grow in love; and in the end, they come out on top.

When I wrote about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I said that it didn't have a gripping plot . . . unless you find human nature gripping (which I do). The same is true for Joy in the Morning. Nothing particularly exciting happens, but you get to peek in at the window of Carl and Annie's little house and see how they handle disappointment, ambition, passion, and stress, and it's completely fascinating.

My initial impression of Carl was not flattering. Because the book drops you off at the cusp of Carl and Annie's marriage, you haven't yet spent any time getting to know them, and here they are, making a pretty big life decision. That afternoon, they are waiting to get into their little studio apartment, and Carl is having a difficult time keeping his passionate feelings subdued. All of a sudden something sets him off and he starts ripping off Annie's shirt while they're still sitting on the front porch. This was a mere twenty-five pages into the book, and I seriously thought, Who is this guy, and why in the world did Annie agree to marry him?

But first impressions can be wrong, and in Carl's case, mine was. By the end of the book, I liked him so much. He proved to be hard-working, respectful, thoughtful, sweet, and tender. Once I knew the real Carl, the passionate porch scene didn't necessarily seem out of character but neither was it an overriding component of his personality. In fact, his most frequent request is for Annie to come sit on his lap and put her arms around his neck. Which, you have to admit, it pretty cute.

If Carl took a little warming up to, Annie was instantly loveable. She is open and honest and genuinely kind and friendly. Even though her formal education is very limited, she has this insatiable desire for knowledge that is inspiring. She can't seem to stay away from the campus where Carl attends classes, and she religiously camps outside one of the literature classes--eagerly listening, taking notes, and fulfilling assignments without anyone in the class even knowing she's there. (Incidentally, I found it fascinating to discover that this part of the book was not unlike Betty Smith's own early years of marriage.)

It was also just so adorable to see how much joy and pride she took in becoming a wife and having a home of her own--even if it was just a teeny tiny room (it definitely reminded me of my best friend and her husband, who also lived in a one-room apartment but loved it so much you would have thought it was a palace). I loved this paragraph during their first week of marriage, after she has carefully arranged each of their few possessions:
"She wondered how the room would look to a stranger. She decided to test it. She went out, closing the door, and walked down the hall, then came back. Hand on the doorknob, she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and walked in. She opened her eyes. The sunbeam on the glass ashtray threw off colored, shimmering glints. The bittersweet, duplicated in the mirror, seemed to fill the room with color. Her makeup things looked dainty--and the clock! With its short legs spraddled out, its shiny tin sides and honest open face, it seemed like an old friend. Annie sat on the bed, her hands clasped between her knees, and whispered, 'It's beautiful! It's just too beautiful!'"
Besides being really sweet and uplifting, there were some darker undertones to the book as well. There are some hints to Annie being abused by her stepfather (which is part of the reason why she rushed to get married as soon as she was a legal adult). Also, both Carl's and Annie's mothers were initially opposed to the marriage and are still angry and unforgiving even by the end of the book. These were both themes that I think would have been more of a focal point if the book had been written today (because we seem to prefer books with issues).

Earlier this month, I mentioned that Mike and I are on the brink of our 10-year wedding anniversary (by the time it actually happens in the spring, you all will be sick of hearing about it). Reading this book right now felt both poignant and sentimental as it surfaced all sorts of memories from our first year of marriage. Not unlike Carl and Annie, we were poor (but, "poor for something," as Annie so aptly put it), working multiple jobs, and trying to get through school. We lived in a tiny apartment, made some dear, long-lasting friendships, and tried to get used to the give-and-take of being married to another person. There were hard moments, but I think both of us would agree that we look back on that time with only fondness.

Betty Smith captures what that year is like with stunning and, at times, jolting candidness. Marriage is not endless bliss but neither is it eternal drudgery. It's a mix of the two. Annie and Carl made that discovery. And Mike and I made it, too.

Dec 15, 2014

A Perfectly Eclectic Christmas Tree


I don't think I will ever be one of those people who has a gorgeous, perfectly matchety-matched  Christmas tree. I'd like to be, but even if I someday live in a home that is big enough to house two trees, two trees is . . . a lot of work. I guess I'm a fan of being able to finish all our decorating in one day. Actually in about three hours. It's really pretty nice.

And if I can only have one Christmas tree? Then I guess I'll stick with the eclectic, homemade variety I've got. It's not like I have an amazing ornament collection, but the ornaments I do have are full of happy memories.

I love the little Christmas tree ornament I made out of a paper bag when I was around nine years old--not because it's pretty to look at (to tell you the truth, I usually put it around the back of the tree), but because it was one of the first sewing projects I ever completed, and sewing has brought me a lot of joy in the years since.


I also love the handcart ornament I got when I was 12 and participated in the sesquicentennial trek commemorating the Mormon pioneers' arrival in Utah.


I even love the dozen or so beaded candy cane ornaments that Aaron made with obsessive zeal last year. Every time I turned around, he was hanging a new one on the tree, and it was actually pretty funny to pull them all out again this year and think about how he's changed (and not changed) over the last year.


But one of my favorite ornaments (and the real reason for writing this post) is one I didn't even receive until after last Christmas. So really, this is its first official year hanging on our tree.

My little hometown commissioned a series of limited edition ornaments that featured various landmarks unique to the town. One of them was the library, and my mom knew that out of all the ornaments, that's the one I would want to have. Other than my parents' house, the library was my very favorite spot and the place where I spent an amazing amount of time as a child. (If you are a fairly new reader here, you might want to go back and read My Hometown Library--still one of my very favorite posts.)


Anyway, on the back of the ornament, it gives some cool little facts--such as that the town's first library opened in 1915. But to me the most amazing info given there is that since 1931 (when the library featured on the ornament was built), there have only been three librarians. Did you catch that? Three. In over eighty years, a grand total of three women have held that position. (And something tells me that, unbelievable as that is, it must be true since in the 31 years my parents have lived there, they have only known one librarian). Apparently, when you're one of only three, you've basically reached star status, and you get your name printed on the back of the commemorative ornament.

When we decorated our tree a couple of weeks ago (and one of the added benefits of having a tree like ours is that you don't worry about your kids helping with the decorating), I was so happy to pull it out and give it a spot among the paper bag Christmas tree, handcart ornament, and beaded candycane.

It looked just right.


P.S. I seem to wax sentimental in December. Last year I wrote about the little wooden train Mike made when he was a teenager.

Dec 12, 2014

Australia Top 10, Part 3

I know you're probably getting sick of seeing pictures from Australia, but humor me. I've been having so much fun going through them the last couple of weeks and remembering all the fun we had.

Here's the third installment of our Top 10 (which means we're now up to a Top 30):

1. Finding Peachees


My brother served a two-year mission in Sydney (and surrounding areas), and he told us one of the things we had to try while we were over there was Peachees. We looked (and asked) for them everywhere, and everyone just looked at us like we were crazy. I was just beginning to think they weren't really an Australian thing when Mike found one (the last one in the case!) at a convenience store. I think perhaps they're not really referred to that often as "peachees," at least not in Manly. Bundaberg has a whole line of carbonated sodas (and a couple days later, we ended up trying them all). The grapefruit one was a close second to peach. (Oh, and that BenBry burger Mike's holding? Not a gross complement to the soda.)

2. The jackaranda tree


And . . . another tree makes its appearance. But tell me you don't just love this purple tree (the one in the center)? It's like a lilac bush . . . but a tree. I'm so glad we were here during the time of year when it was in bloom.

3. The Sydney Opera House



There were moments on our trip when I would forget what part of the world we were in, but this was not one of those days. I knew exactly where I was, and it was magical. We went to a performance of Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor (Op. 15) and Mahler's first symphony in D major. We sat at the very back, which might have been considered the worst seat in the house, but I loved it because I could see every part of the concert hall.

4. Pie Thanksgiving


Australians may not celebrate Thanksgiving, but we Americans knew how to put an Aussie spin on it. Our whole meal consisted of pies, both savory and sweet. It was delicious! Mike's sister made five of them, and the other four were purchased. I'll always remember this Thanksgiving, and I'm so grateful we got to spend it with people that we love so much.

5. Surfing


I think Mike and I both have a deeper appreciation for surfer dudes. It's not easy, and it's quite a workout as well. Even though I stuck with the body board, I still only managed to ride a few waves. It was actually relatively chilly on this morning, but once we were in the water we were perfectly comfortable.

6. Walking across the Sydney Harbor Bridge


We didn't do the climb over the bridge (my fear of heights would never have allowed that), but just walking across was super fun anyway. The harbor was absolutely beautiful from up above.

7. The view from the Sydney Eye Tower


First the bridge, then the Eye Tower--Friday was definitely the day for taking in the size and scope and look of Sydney. I'm glad we saved this for the end of our trip because by that time we had already done quite a bit of sightseeing and were able to orient ourselves fairly quickly once we were up the tower and find familiar landmarks. The picture above shows Hyde Park, which we walked through the Saturday before.

8 Fish 'n' Chips


Let's just say it's a good thing we left Australia when we did because I think we would have just kept eating fish and chips (as it was, we ate it three times). The snapper we had in Huskisson was my favorite.

9. Cousins


I'd be lying if I didn't say that being in Australia with family was one of the highlights of the trip. And for Clark, I'd say it was the highlight. Man, he loved being around his three cousins.

10. Seeing Sydney at night


The night before we left, Mike and I put Clark to bed and left him with Anne and Nate and then rode the ferry from Manly to Circular Quay. When we got there, we got off, grabbed some gelato, and got back on. Oh yes, we're that exciting. But seriously, all we really wanted was to see Sydney all lit up, and seeing it from the water definitely provided the best view. It felt somewhat symbolic to ride back to Manly and see the lights of Sydney fade away. It gave us an opportunity to bid that country a very fond farewell.

That wraps up our trip, but I still have one more post to share with you about our time in the land down under. Look for that next week!

Dec 10, 2014

The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright

When I made the goal at the beginning of the year to reread a favorite from my childhood, I immediately thought of The Saturdays. I have a little tender spot in my heart for the Melendy family, but my memories of actual details were very limited (basically, the only thing I could tell you was that it was about four children who lived in a house with a cupola on top (and that little bit is actually from the next book, The Four-Story Mistake)).
At first I was just going to read it myself, but then I thought, As long as I'm reading a book from my childhood, I might as well be reading it to my children. And so I did.

There are four children in the Melendy family: Mona (13), Rush (12), Randy (10.5), and Oliver (6). They live in a tall, skinny house in New York City with their father and the housekeeper, Cuffy. On one rather boring Saturday, Randy comes up with a brilliant idea: If they all pool their allowances together each week, they can take turns using the money and going on an adventure. The plan is a good one, but it does backfire a little when Mona uses the money to bob her hair and paint her nails bright red and when Oliver takes the money on his week and goes to the circus all by himself without telling anyone. Eventually, they decide that perhaps it would be a better idea to still combine their resources but go on the adventures together instead.

When I read this book as a kid, I'm pretty sure I didn't think it was anything shocking for a kid my own age to be wandering around New York City alone. I wandered around my town alone. Why shouldn't they? (Granted, there were only 1,700 people in my little town of one square mile, but how different could it be really?) But you can bet I noticed it this time around.

I realize this book was written in the 1940's, and maybe 10-, 12-, and 13-year-olds were more mature and responsible back then (maybe there's no maybe about it), but New York was still a vast city with millions of people, and there were times when they were very much at the mercy of strangers (thankfully, always kind and well-meaning strangers). Their father sends them off with this advice: "Don't get run over. That's the first and most important rule . . . If you get lost or in trouble of any kind always look for a policeman . . . Don't talk to strangers. Unless you know by looking at them that they're kind people, and even then think twice."  (I'm not including the six-year-old in any of this because, even though he also was wandering alone around New York City, it was without his father's permission. Speaking of Oliver though, I can't imagine my own six-year-old navigating our city alone . . . he could maybe make it to the park at the bottom of our street, but that's about it.)

Besides that, there were also a couple of truly frightening moments--one when the house fills with coal gas in the middle of the night and they all nearly suffocate and another when Randy leaves a dress hanging over a bare light bulb and the house starts on fire. If I'd remembered those near-tragedies, I probably would have held off reading this to my kids for a few more years. As it was, I couldn't tell that they were negatively affected until we were two pages away from the end and Max said he wanted to stop reading because, "I haven't liked any of it. Not the fire or the coal gas or the sharks. Not any of it." I guess he was processing it after all, and it was scaring him a bit. You can be sure that I felt bad then about reading the whole thing.

So maybe it wasn't the best choice for a four-year-old, but overall, I liked it, and I can see why I liked it so much when I was eleven-ish. I loved their old brownstone, which was so full of personality. I loved their family unity and the way they loved to do things together. And I loved the distinct personalities of the children and Cuffy, captured so well in the following paragraph when they're on the train, bound for the lighthouse: "Oliver got chocolate all over the windowpane trying to get a last glimpse of Father, and Cuffy mopped her hot face with her best handkerchief. Mona started reading her book almost at once so that the other passengers would realize that travel was nothing new to her, but Randy stared out of the window frankly interested. As for Rush, he surreptitiously opened the suitcase beside him and gave Isaac [the dog] a piece of chocolate."

While it won't go down as one of our favorite readalouds ever, I would still definitely recommend it to kids in the 7-12 age range or to adults who like nostalgia. 

Dec 9, 2014

A Decade Old Engagement Story


One of the reasons Mike and I decided to splurge on the Australia trip was because our 10-year anniversary is this coming April, and we wanted to celebrate it in a big way. (Australia may have been too big since we probably won't be able to top it for the even more momentous 25- and 50-year anniversaries.)

I go back and forth between thinking, Whoa, it's already been ten years?! to Only ten years? Really?

This past weekend, those memories felt very close, almost like they could have happened yesterday. Mike proposed on December 4, 2004, and with the anniversary of that important date passing this past week, I decided to try and recreate the evening.

It has been a long, long time since I've told this story (although, in the days immediately following, I must have told it a hundred times). As Mike and I visited our old spots, we found our own memories clashing just a bit. But this is how I remember it.

Mike and I were students at BYU. I was a sophomore; he was a junior. We had been dating since the beginning of the year and had mentioned the possibility of marriage (while still trying to be rather vague and non-committal about it).

Several weeks earlier, I had purchased tickets to Christmas Around the World, a performance that features multicultural dances by BYU's folk dance teams. The tickets were for December 4th.

Before we went to the performance that evening, Mike suggested that we get Panda Express and take it over to the Tanner Building. The Tanner Building was a favorite of ours. Although neither of us were business majors, we had choir practice there, we loved the architecture, and we liked finding secluded corners to, er, study in.

We had time to kill, so after we ate, we rode the elevator to the seventh floor. It was a Saturday evening, and the hallways were deserted. We went to our favorite corner and sat on a couch while Mike told me about why he couldn't sleep the night before. Before he started, he pulled out a box and said, "This story has visual aids." I opened it, and inside was a gold chain with a black pearl pendant. I don't think I said anything because I didn't know if it was a present or merely a prop.


He started telling me about a woman on his mission (he served a mission for our church in the West Indies from 2001-2003) who had been like a mom to both him and his companion. Before they left, she gave each of them a black pearl pendant and told them to only give it to the girl they planned to marry.

I know it's crazy, but until he said those words, I had no idea that it was the lead-in to his proposal. I glanced down at the necklace that I was still holding. Me. And he had just said that he was only supposed to give it to the girl he married. And I was holding it.

And then I knew exactly what we were doing in a secluded corner on the seventh floor of the Tanner Building. He didn't even have to say the next words (but he did), and I don't think he even really needed my answer (but I gave it anyway).

Then he put the ring on my finger, we kissed (it was our first one), and we practically skipped on our way to the performance. I remember very little about the dances except that we hid my hand from view in case we bumped into any casual acquaintances (since we hadn't told either of our families yet).

Afterwards, we phoned our parents (who were not surprised), told my roommates (who went crazy), and basked in the glow of being engaged.

And so that is why last Saturday, we did the same things we did ten years ago (circumstances called for doing them out of order, but we did our best). We again ordered Panda Express. We walked the halls of the Tanner building and sat on the edge of the fountain and argued about which corner it really happened in. (It was a little confusing since they've recently added onto the Tanner Building, but after much debate, I ceded to Mike who got me with, "I was thinking about the location a lot more than you were, and I picked the spot farthest away from the elevator.)


We went to the same performance of Christmas Around the World (thanks to my brother and his wife who watched our four (!) kids--definitely something we didn't have to worry about the first time).


I actually think I enjoyed the performance a lot more this time. Ten years ago, I was (a little) distracted.

Tanner Building - 2004

Tanner Building - 2014

Dec 5, 2014

Australia Top 10, Part 2

Okay, so it should be fairly obvious with this second set of Australia pictures that this isn't so much a top 10 (since now we're up to a top 20) as just a condensed travelogue. But it's really hard to narrow it down (believe me, I'm already cutting out a lot of pictures I would love to share) since it was a near-perfect trip.

1. Visiting the Manly Public Library


You didn't honestly think I'd pass up such an opportunity, did you?

2. Bus tour of Manly



One of the great things about this trip was just joining in with some of the things the locals did. This bus was one of those things (although, considering the fact that we rode the entire circular route without getting off at any of the stops probably revealed the truth that we were actually tourists).

3. Driving on the left side of the road


On Tuesday and Wednesday, we borrowed Anne and Nate's car and drove south along the coast. It was an adventure. Mike took to the backwards roads like a pro, and I only caught him driving on the wrong side (i.e., the right side) twice (and thankfully, both times were in rural areas with no traffic).

4. Minnumurra Rainforest


Where we sat on this bench . . .


. . . And looked at this waterfall:


(Clark, as you can see, was unimpressed.)

5. Robertson Pie Shop


You'll never hear us complain about pie being Australia's national dish.

6. The white sands of Jarvis Bay


Sadly, the evening we'd set aside to go swimming was actually a bit chilly. Mike still got in the water, but I wrapped myself in a towel and watched him, while worrying the entire time that he was being followed by a shark. The beach (and accompanying water) was really pretty though.

7. Seeing kangaroos


If I was really limiting myself to only ten favorite things, seeing kangaroos would most definitely have made the cut. There we were, just driving along, and this family of kangaroos was just hanging out on the side of the road. That little joey was out of his mum's pouch. When we drove past, he jumped in headfirst and then turned himself around. Oh, and watching them all bound away was pretty cool too.

8. This pine tree


I guess I was a little obsessed with trees on this trip (see the fig tree in the first Australia post). I believe this is the Norfolk Island pine. They are all over down here (right next to the palm trees). Their branches look like ferns. (While the tree is beautiful, the ocean and hills in the background aren't exactly ugly.)

9. Kiama Blowhole


I actually thought this was pretty cool. It's kind of like a geyser except it sprays much more frequently (and, obviously, is not created by a hot spring). When we were there, it was going up several times each minute. This video shows it much better than a picture (skip to 0:17 for the best one--although not the best one of the day, for sure).

video

10. The donut van in Berry


I actually wasn't a huge fan of the donuts themselves (too spongy for my tastes), but come on: it's a van that sells donuts. How could I not love that?

And . . .  that doesn't take us to the end of our trip, so it looks like there will be an Australia Top 10, Part 3. Stay tuned.
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