Australia: You’ll have a ball, but expect prices to be high |

Australia: You’ll have a ball, but expect prices to be high

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Though racing camels in Alice Springs was the main point of our trip, my husband, Carl, and I did take some time out for a little sightseeing.

We started out with a few days in Sydney, staying just long enough to get our fill of the big city. Sydney is home to about 7 million residents, which is about 6,999,000 more than Virginia City.

It wasn’t bad though, despite the people who walked so fast they nearly ran you over and drivers that make Californians look cautious behind the wheel.

We stayed downtown at The Grace, a classic, 4.5-star hotel in a restored 1930s Gothic building. It had beautiful rooms, great food, a great location near Darling Harbor, and the staff gave great service.

The best thing about the hotels in Australia is they offered teapots rather than coffeepots. This tea drinker appreciated that, since in the States, hotels offer a coffeemaker that you can use for tea – if you want tea that tastes like coffee.

We spent four days in Sydney, four in Alice Springs and two on airplanes crossing the Pacific. Both cities were different from each other, and we came away with a great affection for the Australian people.

Australians are a friendly and loud bunch, especially while watching soccer in a saloon – oops, I mean a pub. The football fans at Bully’s have nothing on these folks when it comes to partying while watching their favorite team.

It was cold and rainy for the three days we were in Sydney, as July is the winter in Australia, but we still did all the tourist things. We took a harbor tour; visited the Sydney Opera House; toured “The Rocks,” the oldest section of the city; rode the tram; and enjoyed the Chinese Gardens, a wonderful, soothing botanical marvel that manages to completely shut out the sounds of the city.

We even went whale-watching with a tour operator, who guaranteed that we would see whales, which, of course, we didn’t. If you didn’t see whales, you got a free second tour, but we were set to leave the next morning, so it didn’t happen.

alice springs

In Alice Springs, we stayed at the Crown Plaza, which was a little better than a Choice hotel, but not nearly as reasonably priced. Because it was the camel race event weekend, most hotels were booked, and we were lucky to get a room there.

There were quite a few good steakhouses in both places, which also offered seafood and pasta. Irish stew and shepherd’s pie were also common, and, especially in Alice Springs, kangaroo, crocodile, buffalo and camel meat were served.

I’d had buffalo meat before, but not the others. Kangaroo and camel meat are a little tough, crocodile meat was sweet. I decided to stick with steak or shrimp, both of which were excellent everywhere we went.

In Alice Springs, the landscape was grim and stark but beautiful, like Nevada, and with fabulous sunrises. The sun comes up over the horizon and reflected off the red desert sand, with shadows of eucalyptus trees peeking out. It can take your breath away.

The weather in Alice was cold, but dry, not unlike Nevada winters. We were advised to dress in layers, and were glad we did.

Both Sidney and Alice Springs were expensive places to visit; a basic breakfast buffet cost between $20 and $25. Everything was expensive. Carl and I were very frugal, but still spent about $6,000 for our trip.

It was well worth it, even if I did come in last in the camel races. For my first trip abroad, we picked a winner.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee or 882-2111, ext. 351.