Quick math – if your printer can turn out seven counterfeit $10 bills in one sheet, you can buy:
a) a night at the Holiday Inn
b) a tank of gas for a mid-size car
c) a fancy-pants dinner for two
d) several days worth of groceries
e) all of the above
If you guessed “e”, you can at least understand the mindset of the criminals who minted enough $10 notes in Australia in the early 80’s to fuel a major outrage. Said fury led to polymer note technology – literally plastic bills that are heaps more difficult to fake. The shelf life of the new style of notes was so much longer, especially when exposure to tropical climate was factored in, that soon dozens of countries were signing on to have their money printed ‘down undah.’ Even Canada has recently joined the conga line!
Other gems learned or seen on my Sydney walking tour:
Take This Job and Shove It – when Aussie was still a convict colony, well before the time of the aforementioned plastic notes, the currency for paying workers was rum!
Hot Cross Buns! – What I thought was just a silly, outdated song all American elementary school children learn upon picking up their first instrument turns out to be a food still eaten in Australia. Easter brings the buns-with-religious-markings out in droves.
Old-But-Not Buildings – Generally newly-constructed edifices showcase the style of the period. Think Victorian Gingerbread houses and 1930’s Art Deco. In Sydney however, in attempt to feel more British, heaps of buildings were built in styles of centuries past.
The Letter I’ll Never Read – On the top floor of the Queen Victoria building is a sealed letter her majesty wrote in 1985 to the people of Sydney… not to be opened for 100 years. Sadly, it’s unlikely that anyone reading my ramblings, including yours truly, will be around for the great reveal.
We Do It Every Year – Speaking of revealing… the Harbour [sic] Bridge, one of Sydney’s two iconic features, hosts a neat little local tradition. Annually a secret image strung up in lights on the bridge is electrified at midnight for all to enjoy.
Bigger on TV – It surprised me that Sydney’s signature feature – the opera house – wasn’t as enormous as it appears in photographs, etc. Much like the Statue of Liberty in New York, it’s far grander on screen, but still pretty awesome in person.
Porn-No – I guess out of a desire to be demure, 18-and-over items of a sexual nature are vended under the business guise of “Adult Book Exchange”. Nice try guys. Unwillingness to offend leaves the layfolk confused/curious and requires additional signage defeating the purpose.
Physics in Action – the Sydney Tower, tallest point in the metropolis, remains erect thanks to 1,000 miles of cable and several thousand gallons of water. When the tower is buffeted by breezes, the water sloshes in the opposite direction the wind has pushed the monolith, resulting in an equalizing force.
Lookin’ Good – I adored the eye-candy in Sydney – felt like Europe with all the form-fitting, fancy office duds on the streets. Also lots of women in flattering fifties dresses. And is it just me, or are half of Sydney’s ladies preggo?
Laksa – I don’t know how I’ve hung out in Asia for so long and not had this dish. John, a guy I met through Couchsurfing and who spent the afternoon showing me the city’s secret spots, finished the private tour in Chinatown where we dined on a Sydney “favourite.”
When I returned very late from the city, I did something very unusual (for me). I got lost! I was so taken with the incredible stars – dizzy with delight at being able to enjoy the Milky Way – that I literally had my head in the clouds. I came to an intersection and had absolutely no clue where I was. Luckily, I easily retraced my steps to the station and took the more familiar route home.
Gabrielle was still up chatting with a new young Frenchman who arrived that evening. Paul spent the day in Sydney, too, getting sunburned at the infamous Bondi Beach. As a result, he summoned me to the bathroom twice a day to rub after-sun cream onto his hard to reach (delightfully well-muscled!) regions. He and I spent the next few days going on trail runs, hiking, and doing jobs for Gabrielle, including making a kiwi trellis and “bagging” the final walls of the mud-straw house. Much like Pierrick, Paul decided for himself that I was in charge. It was a bit fun having these young French men expecting me to boss them around and teach them new things.
My favorite trail run was National Pass – sprinting along the edge of cliffs overlooking a gorge… amazing! And we hiked Porter’s Pass, which started out with a fun bit of canyoneering. We also saw heaps of awesome bird life including some new red and bright blue parrot I hadn’t yet seen and a very cool “lyre bird.” The latter has tail feathers a bit like a peacock and mimics sounds better than a parrot. Fellow (local) hikers told us that one bird hung around a nearby cafe and reproduced ringtones!
Only one winged fellow would hold still long enough for a photo, but we got heaps of shots of our little slice of Blue Mountains paradise. I’m going to miss this place! And Gabrielle! ♣
See what French boys eat for breakfast, how Sydney businesses advertise when it’s sunny, and a poignant memorial to avian life before the urban jungle takeover – all in this Facebook album.