A (chilly) Australian Spring

Some of you must be wondering what I have been up to in the last couple of weeks. Well, I briefly stopped in Singapore/Phuket then continued to Sydney and have been enjoying the Australian spring ever since. Amazingly there are no signs of an economic crisis in this part of the world. In Singapore there are still more construction sites than in any other place I have been in the last 12 months and locals are back in their favorite activity of real estate speculation. Australia on the other hand is probably the only major country in the world that has not been in recession since the crisis started and hence it is no surprise that no one is bothered by it down under. The Aussie real estate market has also sprung back to life, albeit for different reasons than in Singapore (supply-demand imbalance, population growth) and the Central Bank has just raised interest rates to avoid a speculative bubble. Real estate prices in Australia have been going in one direction only for the last 25 years and are now among the highest in the world.

Anyway, after spending quite a bit of time in Australia on business trips it is actually nice to be down here and have time to explore the country. Sydney remains one of my top spots in the world and every time I come down here I get that warm and fuzzy feeling. It is a small city with a spectacular setting , there is a very diverse restaurant scene and nightlife (Pure Platinum, Rodney!), some of the top beaches are very close to the city (my favorites are Manly and Bondi), the climate allows for a great outdoor lifestyle and finally people are relaxed and have a great sense of humour. The only downside is that the cost of living is high because of the real estate prices (as mentioned above) and the high taxes (not just income but also alcohol, cars etc).  But I guess if you want a piece of paradise it comes at a cost…! Oh, and the other interesting thing is that this is the only place in the world where I can watch a sports channel and have no clue about what is going on (cricket, footie, netball anyone?)

 Luckily, I have made some friends in Sydney over the past couple of years and it was great catching up with them.  Particularly enjoyed staying with Lindsay and Richard (we met in Peru earlier this year) in Manly. They showed me where to get the best pizza and boobs combo, inspired me to do the Manly Scenic Walk (highly recommended) and we had some good laughs about our travel experiences in Peru. Ups, almost forgot to mention that I happened to be in Sydney during the dust storm. It was surreal and felt like the end of the world was approaching (plus I could not stop coughing)…

After a couple of days in Sydney I was off to Adelaide a pleasantly laid back city with roughly 1 million inhabitants. The city itself is nothing to write home about but the beauty is that beaches and wineries are very close. So I spent some time in the beach resorts of Victor Harbor and Glenelg and also took a ferry to Kangaroo Island. Now, KI is a very special place. It’s a pretty big island (150km from one end to the other) with only 4,000 inhabitants but plenty of wildlife and spectacular coastline. In fact, the place really reminded me of the Galapagos… Kangaroos, koalas, sealions, penguins, whales, dolphins and all kinds of birds. Too bad the weather was not very good (very cold!), otherwise I would have spent more time there. The flipside of the coin though was that I got to spend more time at the wineries! And I did quite a bit of tasting in Barrossa Valley and McLaren Vale (plus later in Coonawarra). While still not a wine expert, my general impression was that the whole wine production is very commercially oriented (ie made to drink not to age) and it was difficult to find some nice boutique wineries (but thanks to Daphne I did!). Also, while the quality of the wines is of high standard it was difficult to find something exceptional or outstanding. My favorites are Langmeil (Fifth Wave Grenache, Freedom Shiraz), Fox Creek (Shiraz!), Rymill (Cabernet Sauvignon), Bowen Estate (Shiraz/Cabernet) and Redman (Cabernet-Merlot). Because of my travels, I had limited capacity for any cases but still managed to snap up a bottle each of Langmeil and Redman. Thanks to the flexible BYO policy of local restaurants we could enjoy them with a nice dinner (wish we had a BYO policy in Europe)!

Before turning into a wine addict I hit the road again. This time with my cousine Melanie who had flown in from Perth.  We were planning to do the  Great Ocean Road,  a beautiful stretch of coast between Adelaide and Melbourne. It is famous for some beautiful limestone formations just off the coast (most prominently the 12 Apostels). They really are magnificent but so are the lovely coastal towns like Port Fairy and Apollo Beach. We also managed to do some whale watching at Logan Beach (from the shores!) and spent 2 days in the Grampians National Park where some stunningly beautiful mountains rise out of nowhere.

I am currently in Melbourne and heading to the Gold Coast tomorrow. Melbourne used to be the world’s richest city during the gold rush of the 1850’s (there is no gold rush currently despite record high prices – somehow everyone is into real estate here too) and it is still a very nice place (apparently voted as the world’s most liveable city). Again, I like the compact size, the bustling alleys, the many green parks and when walking along Lygon Street I really felt like walking on Italien territory…

Anyway, that’s it for now. I shall keep you posted more regularly again on the coming adventures…

Sydney sunset

On a day like this, this is the best place on earth!

Manly Scenic Walk

Manly Scenic Walk

Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island

Penola Rainbow

Even mixed weather has its advantages (Penola)

Coonawarra Winetasting

Winetasting at Ryemill in Coonawarra

Southern Grampians

The Southern Grampians

12 Apostels

12 Apostels (in black and white)

Brunchtime in Melbourne

Brunchtime in Melbourne

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