Recently, I was fortunate enough to take a 10-day vacation to Australia. Prior to my departure, I had never left the North American continent. I didn’t know what to expect down under. Was their fashion stuck in another decade like the 80’s? Were they more eco-conscious than the US? Did they dislike American tourists? Quickly, I would find out.
My travel buddy and I (aka boyfriend) first landed in Brisbane for a short layover. I was amazed at the delicious food out on display at the coffee shops! (Side note: If you travel to Oz, an ice coffee is more of a frappe so beware). I quickly began to ponder that perhaps, Australia was healthier than the US. Fresh sandwiches and salads, I was relieved I may be able to eat better abroad than at home. We would eventually reach out first destination of Melbourne for the first 7 nights of our trip and then Sydney for the last 2.
As our trip continued, I developed an admiration for the healthier culture that seemed second nature to the Australian citizens. Vacations for me, given my occupation, can at times be reason for anxiety. Finding time to exercise, a good path to run on and understanding the preparation of the food I order is stressful for me before I leave. I know this probably unique to other health nut/gym rats like myself but in Australia, my nerves were calmed immediately.
I discovered that the Aussies make sure to have Gluten Free options on most menus. I thought this was interesting since at most only 6% of the population either is gluten intolerant or has celiac disease. Ahead of most American restaurant menus, was this trend part of a fad dieting craze in Oz or a genuine concern for those with health issues?
I was also shocked that packaged candy is not made with High Fructose Corn Syrup. I do not know if this reason is because they have a large sugar industry but even a Kit-Kat is made with real sugar. After a little research I learned sugar is Australia’s 2nd largest export! (Side note: Aussie obesity numbers are less than the US, but their overweight numbers are pretty similar.) They are are also way more on the ball when it comes to being green. From recycling to reusable grocery bags, these “options” in the US are not optional down under.
The Yarra Valley
While staying in Melbourne, we took a day trip to the Yarra Valley for a wine tour. Along the way, I noticed the abundance of farm lands and cows roaming free in large fields. I hoped that most of their farm animals were treated just as well.
The Yarra Valley was breath taking. Views of rolling green hills made for romantic setting, and picturesque day trip. I highly recommend taking the trek. Australians are known for their delicious wine and we were not disappointed.
Although most vacations consist of relaxing on a beach, with so much sightseeing to do, there wasn’t much time to lounge around. Seeing the city by foot in my first choice. Getting in exercise while taking in the views and culture is priceless. Melbourne was clean and had a slight European feel, I was told. Their Greek food was superb, as it should be. They have the highest Greek population, besides Greece itself.
Cliff Walk From Coogee to Bondi
What better way to spend a cloudy and warm Friday in Sydney than walking along one of the most gorgeous cliff walks in the world. The 8K walk was challenging enough that I felt like I earned my breakfast but easy enough that I did not tire out mid day. Why take a sight seeing tour when you can just walk? The path ends at the famed Bondi beach which had a surf competition going on. I did not surf or snorkel but had the weather been a bit nicer, you bet I would have!
Food, Glorious Food
Aussie lacks a unique cuisine really (their words not mine), but they are very close to Asia and the Pacific islands. Why travel 36 hours to eat something I could have back home? The two new cuisines I conquered were Szechuan and Malaysian. We went to Mamak in Sydney and “The Dainty Szechuan” in Melbourne for a taste of worldly cuisines. After watching an episode of “No Reservations” with Anthony Bourdain my boyfriend insisted we go to “The Dainty.” Do you have any idea how spicy Chinese food can be? Literally my boyfriend had bullets of sweat dripping off his forehead. Although the dishes were mostly fried, eating spicy foods actually speeds up your metabolism – hence my boyfriends’ sweat. The Malaysian was delicious as well. The roti was a like a light naan that I devoured.
Drink wine and beer
During my travels in Melbourne and Sydney, I avoided sugary high calorie mixed drinks. Known for it’s wineries, I found it was cheaper down under to drink vino rather than beer or most mixed drinks. It also was delicious. I am a Shiraz girl for sure! I admit all I wanted was a margarita more than once, but the $17 price tag held me back to just one. That one however was made with fresh lime juice and natural ingredients. You see, in Australia I could not find a single product with High Fructose Corn Syrup. Vacations are synonymous with high calorie cocktails but if you can avoid the urge, you’ll save yourself at least 200 calories per beverage.
We also spent a day on Great Ocean Road, a couple in Melbourne the city, exploring downtown Sydney and Darling Harbour, and attempting to dine in Surry Hills. I felt very welcomed in Australia. I could see myself living there although I probably will never have the opportunity. The people were so friendly, the streets were so clean, and the climate ain’t bad either! The flight was not terrible given the great in flight entertainment from V Australia.