Once Upon a Time Down Under

I’m enjoying my brief visit to Australia immensely. Everybody I’ve met here has been friendly, and author Anne Gracie should be given an official post as a cultural ambassador. She not only equipped me with the treasure map and compass for navigating Melbourne, she’s been my self-appointed conference-mum at the Romance Writers of Australia annual gathering here in Sydney. And THEN she gave me some of her scrumptious books…

Romance authors really, really are a special bunch of people. If I ever get stuck on a desert island, I’ll try to make sure it’s the romance authors’ desert island.

All of this travel has visited some insights upon me. The first is, daylight really matters to me. I’m not sure this was always true, but it’s true now. When I landed in New Zealand, the weather was dreary for a solid week. When the sun finally came out, it was time to stay in the hotel all day in conference sessions. In Australia, the problem has been sky scrapers.

My hotels have been amid urban canyons, such that even when I go outside, I walk streets that the sun touches only briefly at mid-day. The hotel courtyard might get twenty minutes of sunlight. The rest of the day, even if it’s a brilliantly sunny day, is shadowed. The result is that my biological clock, three weeks after leaving home, still doesn’t know when to sleep or wake up. How do city dwellers deal with this?

Another insight has to do with noise. I know I love quiet, but I hadn’t realized how dealing with noise–conference noise, street noise, construction noise–physically tires me. I drag-butt up to my room, shut the door, and suck up the quiet like a vampire let loose in a bloodmobile. Quiet gives me energy, noise sucks it away. This is a step beyond my sense that “I prefer” quiet, such that I now recognize quiet as a physical and emotional nutrient.

Third, courage is required of all of us. The New Zealanders face earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis, but they have no venomous snakes or spiders worth mentioning. Australia has a lot less seismic activity, though there’s a spider here whose bite results in death in less than fifteen minutes. Back in Maryland, we get the rattlesnakes, Lyme disease, flooding, freezing… To dwell on earth is is face hazards, for most of us. I’m reminded of this, and of the fortitude we develop to cope with those hazards, even as we enjoy life and know we have it pretty good.

Despite these hazards, the planet is beautiful, most people are pretty decent and kind. Books are wonderful. Good chocolate seems to be a universal human value, and technology is amazing. I will go home very happy to have traveled, and ecstatic to be back amid the peace and quiet of my bide-o-wee.

If you could wander for three weeks, where would you go and why? Would you take anybody in particular with you? Leave anybody home? To one commenter, I’ll send a SIGNED copy of Anne Gracie’s Marry in Scandal.


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14 comments on “Once Upon a Time Down Under

  1. At this moment in time I am working through my bucket list and traveling about the U.K.Seeing towns and cities I have not visited before but longed to see.Usually I go with a friend but sometimes I go alone,these trips have always been in the U.K.At the end of this month I am off to see Brugge in Belgium and I am nervous because I am going on my own and it is a different country and a different language.Then I read your blog and enjoy your exploits in New Zealand and Australia and realise that I am being silly,my little worries will be cast aside when I see the beautiful medieval town and learn it’s history.Do you ever have little panics when you travel far and wide Grace?I have enjoyed reading about your travels to the other side of the world and wish you a safe journey home.

  2. Northern India. My dad mentioned it as one of the places he thought was some of the most beautiful country on the planet and he’d most like to live there if he couldn’t have the US. Considering he circumnavigated the globe 6 times back in the days of propeller planes and crude navigation when Earhart had trouble managing once, I figure he saw plenty to choose from.

    Australia and New Zealand because the bits I’ve seen on TV and movies look gorgeous.

    I’d travel alone because wandering on a whim is half the fun of travel. Then I could bring friends back for a second go at all the best bits.

  3. I’m also a seeker of light and quiet. I moved to Arizona from Iowa in 1989, exchanging long dark winters and dreary, rainy springs, summers and falls for 330+days of sunshine a year. Initially, I chalked up my sizzling energy to the change of scene, but gradually came to realize it’s my new normal, the result of my new light bright surroundings. After nearly 30 years, it still holds. I’ve become a hiker/backpacker, the better to savor the unique light, the soft desert air and the amazing starry nights of the desert southwest.

  4. I would take 3 weeks to visit Ireland and England. Would love to soak up the local color, good and music in a English & Irish pub!
    Would love to visit the museums and gardens in London. The Cliffs of Mohir in Ireland look gorgeous.

    It’s a dream but maybe it might come true!

  5. I would go to Scotland and southern France. Both are links to my family–Scotland, Mom’s side and southern France, Dad’s. While I would LOVE to go to Scotland, France would be my choice if I could only go to one place.

    I look French–dark hair and eyes and a very French face and nose (!)–and I would like to see other people who look like me. Of my five other siblings, I am the only one who takes after the French side. It would be wonderful to see my face in other people; I never feel part since I am different even from my siblings.

    I grew up in the city–Chicago–a land of skyscrapers. I can tell you the downtown tends to be tall building filled, but when you get out in the neighborhoods, not so much. There is music in the noises of the city–the *El*, the whoosh of traffic–that is almost *white noise* in the background. I live in the suburbs now and it is quieter. When I visit Dad and my brother for any length of time (the family compound is in Wrigley-ville near Cubs Park)the sounds get to me when I’m outside, but inside, it doesn’t bother me.

    Love Australia, Grace. Hope you had a wonderful time!

  6. I’d go to Ireland & take my ex-sister-in-law. I visited southern Ireland many years ago but she hasn’t. My particular interest would be Northern Ireland where my father was born. His parents came to America when Dad was 3 – he & his Mom went back for a visit when he was a teenager. I have pictures of that visit & I’d love to visit those places.

    I’d love to get to New Zealand & Australia someday, tho the distance is intimidating.

  7. I would like to wander through Iceland because of its geology.I also like the idea that it was the first country in the world to have a political party formed and led entirely by women. I think that party has merged with another one but I think I read somewhere that all major political parties have a 40% quota for women. I would like to be accompanied by my husband and son.

  8. I would like to spend 3 months in Ireland. It would allow time for jet lag, for both good and bad days. My entire extended family would likely show up for parts of it.

    I visited Sydney, Australia for about 6 weeks as a 14 year old. We house sat a beautiful home near the beach on the inner harbour. We watched boats. My mother allowed me an unprecedented amount of freedom taking the ferry across to downtown. In that day before security cameras, I slid down the bannisters at the Sydney Opera House. I was introduced to the sticky dessert known as baclava and to pavlova. My mother’s cousin showed up for lunch wearing white gloves, white “court” shoes, a white hat and carrying a white puse with her navy blue dress and pearls. I filled my suitcase with books published by “Mills & Boon.”

    I could wish you that, Grace. This not needing to be “up” for every part of a new experience. Thank you for going, however, to let the rest of us enjoy your trip.

  9. I would go to London and go to Harrods book department and then the used book stores in the Book District. Then I would go to the British Museum which is to die for as they give so much information on their displays. I don’t think there is a better museum in the world because of their explanations (written by the displays) Then, since I missed it in the past, I would go to the Tate Art Museum.

    I would take my husband as he loves museums and reading.

  10. I love London, could easily spend three weeks there and have, though it has been a long time ago. I have a girlfriend who loves to travel, so I would definitely take her with me. My husband does not like to travel, but he is good about taking care of the cats and dogs.

  11. Loved this post, Grace. From reading the Word Wenches blog, I’m not surprised to hear that Anne Gracie was such a gracious hostess and ambassador for the RWA. I tried to find a list of who attended this year and must not be searching correctly. grrr. I had hoped another Aussie fave author could have been there this year, Anna Campbell, but she had another commitment this time around. I would’ve loved to have the two of you meet, too.

    I’d wish to spend at least 6 mo., maybe longer in the UK seeing all the literary sites I crave visiting….from Austen, Beatrix Potter, Gabaldon, Burrowes, Starnes, Reynolds, Gaskell, etc., etc. And of course spend about a week in the museums of London. I might need two weeks.

    Then I’d like to spend about a month on Cape Cod, or somewhere very like that, (maybe in the UK???) in the off season to quietly restore my soul. Living smack in the middle of the country this appeals in very visceral ways. Unless they were like-minded I wouldn’t want to spend that time visiting with friends. But I would take my better half of 41 years.

    What a lovely giveaway, but I’ll pass on that for someone else to enjoy while I stick to my e-reader with the ability to enlarge the font. 😀

  12. Believe it or not Grace, the who is easier than the where. I’d take my hubby and most likely my young adult kids. We are all alike in our love of history, hiking, and learning so we generally agree on sites to visit and things to do.

    There where? Australia sounds great (my husband is there right now on business) as does New Zealand. However, we all also want to visit: Ireland, Scotland, England (again), pretty much every European country actually. Honestly, I don’t know that 3 weeks would be enough time to see everything and do everything that we would like to do.

  13. Actually, Australia and New Zealand top the list for a 3 week visit! I would love to travel there on a cruise ship making the time change less detrimental to my health! Another advantage to cruising is enjoying French Polynesia along the way. Plus I love cruising!

    It would be nice if my daughter could join me for this trip. I really miss her now that she is in Oregon attending Law School. It’s only a 90 minute plane ride to the SF Bay Area from Portland, but she is so busy and I have that “work thing” so we are only fortunate enough to see one another about 4 times a year.
    Scotland is also on the list, as is Greece and the rest of Europe!