I was invited to the Mildura Writers Festival, so in mid-July I left for my first trip to Australia. The Festival itself was incredible—in a small city north of Melbourne, part of Australia’s grape-growing region. It was small and intimate and seemed to center almost as much on food and wine as on books, which was a huge plus in my mind.
I was flown over with the help of the US Consulate, and the Consul General of Victoria attended, which was part of the reason that the Festival Dinner on Saturday night had an American theme. Certain attendees were tasked with creating centerpieces, which were then entered into a competition. Here is the centerpiece of our table:
Bruce! Zappa! And a talking wizard-prognosticator device! (In what way the last represents America I am not sure, unless there is some deeply symbolic reason I am missing—entirely possible). The centerpiece was killed later in the evening, sadly, by an emphatic drumroll on the table.
And here is a group of Australians singing “My old Kentucky Home” or “Deep in the Heart of Texas” or some other song that makes sense to sing while wearing cowboy hats, I forget:
And a good time was had by all…
After Mildura I went on to Adelaide, which is a very lovely city with several very interesting museums and a Central Market that actually sort of reminds me of Philly’s Reading Terminal. While there I tried Turkish Delight, which is big in Australia, apparently, and which theretofore I had only ever read about in the pages of the strange British children’s books of my youth. Based on its name, I had always imagined it as something extraordinarily delicious, like manna, something cream-based and sinful. It is not like this. It is in fact like this:
Gelatinous, floral-tasting, powdery. My American palate was let down.
The best thing I did in Adelaide was muster up my courage and energy and figure out how to take a couple of public busses to Cleland Park, in the hills outside the city. Cleland Park is a big open nature preserve where wild birds and kangaroos and other harmless creatures wander around. You are allowed to interact with these creatures so closely that it makes you feel slightly scared. You look over your shoulder as you approach a sitting kangaroo, watching for the park ranger who will inevitably come barreling toward you, yelling, “step away from the kangaroo!” But there is none. Because you are, in fact, allowed to get as up-close-and-personal as you deem safe and reasonable. Witness:
I was feeling pretty confident until I watched a kangaroo box a duck out of its way like a punching bag. Then I made for the (other) hills.
Before I did I had a very important interaction with a koala:
A close-up, so you can see the softness, the incredible softness:
A noble creature. Also, a creature who is permanently stoned on eucalyptus leaves, I learned. But who’s keeping track.
Then it was on to Sydney, which was so spectacularly beautiful that I fleetingly considered making owning a second home in Sydney a life goal, until I remembered that one solitary leg of a multi-flight trip to Australia is 16 hours, and then I changed “Sydney” to “the Poconos.”
Still, look at it:
Cliff walk near Tamarama, where gracious friends were hosting me
Overlooking Bondi Beach while having a drink at a fancy bar
My brave friend Jo, who goes swimming in the ocean IN THE WINTER most mornings, for kicks
Obligatory photo of the Sydney opera house, from the deck of the Museum of Contemporary Art
Gorgeous houses in Balmain, a suburb in which I spent a lovely afternoon and evening being shown around by the wonderful author Drusilla Modjeska:
One of my favorite memories from the trip. Good sightseeing and excellent conversation.
I’d love to go back someday…it’s a big country, and there’s lots more to see…
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- danisdapper said: Turkish delight more like turkish UNDELIGHT..FUL! Yeah, I’m not a writer,
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- pizzatoporkpie said: Looks like a lovely trip. So jealous that you got to pet a kangaroo!
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