Aussies abroad

From the Argus Travel Special

Australians are among the world’s most intrepid travellers Armed with our Lonely Planet guides to tell us what to beware of in unhealthy foreign climes, we gladly put up with endless hours shoehorned into a tiny seat for the pleasures of seeing the world. And there are none so keen on travel as Argus readers. We asked several of them what they enjoyed most about their trip abroad.

Jamie Coulis, gourmet chef, Melbourne, Vic.

"France was shithouse. Everyone knows that the French are up themselves when it comes to food and wine and think they know the lot. But they don’t and I went over and got this job in a restaurant in Paris to help them improve their standards. Frankly, for freshness of ingredients and really innovative cooking you’re better off in any Aussie bistro. I tried to show the head chef how I do seared rare rabbit comfit and the retard just didn’t want to know, even when I told him I’d won an award in Epicure for it. I couldn’t get a work permit so he was able to fire me. The French are so arrogant. I did French to fifth form at De La Salle and they laughed when I tried to tell them in their own language where their mise-en-place was wrong. Then I got food-poisoning and there wasn’t an Aussie doctor anywhere. Stuff France. I couldn’t wait to get back to St Kilda."

Will Guilfoyle, merchant banker, Balmain, NSW.

"I had a real problem with New York. Every restaurant was a rip-off and everyone in them was getting mugged. And the tipping! Gimme, gimme, gimme, that’s all your hear, even from the dude on the information desk at the Stock Exchange. Hey, talk about a materialistic culture! When I swung by Wall Street some occupiers picked my pocket while I was texting and got away with my i-Pad and contacts list. I had this major deal coming up worth squillions and I needed the information but when I tried to call the office in Sydney it was a public holiday in Australia and the whole thing went pear-shaped. The last straw was the hotel trying to charge me for the presidential suite when I’d only been in a penthouse one. Talk about greed. I reckon that even under Obama America is finished."

Raelene Hitch, dentist’s receptionist, Wanneroo, WA.

"I’m really glad to be home. England was awful. I don’t want to sound racist but I had to queue up at immigration for hours while all these foreigners were just waved through. And my great-grandad was in the war!  Every building I saw in London was filthy dirty and you had to pay to go anywhere, even art galleries and St Paul’s Abbey which as government properties ought to be free. The English people I spoke to all thought I was from New Zealand – hello? I don’t say foosh and choops! – and there wasn’t any Australian news on TV. I lost my Lonely Planet on the tube, or someone pinched it more likely. Never again!"

Ray Gibson, retired bank manager and wife Nance ("home duties, definitely not retired!"), Launceston, Tas.

"All we can say is ‘never again!’ to a so-called cultural tour of Italy. We’re getting on a bit and we value comfort. Do you think we could find just one clean sit-down toilet in all the churches and museums we were made to tramp through? The one in the so-called ‘luxury’ coach was always busy and then blow me down if the driver doesn’t announce that the coach is running late and he’ll have to make up time by cutting out comfort stops. Nance had her bag snatched in Rome, Naples, Florence and Venice (twice) and the money belt I wear was stolen from the pub while I was having a lay down. The police were worse than useless. Just shrugged their shoulders and said something in Italian. We won’t be rushing back there, I can tell you."

Melissa Flannery, environmental sciences student, Melbourne University, Vic.

"The pollution in India is unbelievable. I travelled with a group from Youth For Doing Something About Climate Change and we were just, like, appalled. Every time we got into a taxi the exhaust fumes were everywhere. There were factories pumping out smoke like Kyoto had never been. It was all so, you know, unsustainable. My dad had paid for us to stay in a rajah’s palace and the marble was being literally eaten away by acid rain. I just thought, it’s great what Julia Gillard is doing about the carbon tax and everything because otherwise that’s what would be happening in Australia. And the poverty! Think Slumdog Millionaire times ten. An old guy who was some sort of government official told us the poverty was declining because of greater industrial prosperity, but if those factories poisoning the atmosphere are the price of that, I know what I’d choose."

Ken Joyce, unisex hairdresser, South Yarra, Vic.

"Well just let me tell you Amsterdam has become so intolerant. I met this gorgeous Dutch man in a chat room and he asked me to go over there but when I arrived feeling like God knows what after a lifetime in cattle class he said we couldn’t go out as a couple because if we were seen together in the street we’d be attacked by gay-bashers. Apparently there are all these gangs of African homophobes everywhere and the gay scene has just been trashed. Hendrik had his car set on fire, actually it wasn’t his own car it was his rich ex-boyfriend’s Lamborghini and he was minding it while the ex-boyfriend was in Mykonos and he said there’d be hell to pay. Most of the clubs in the Spartacus guide have been vandalised and lots have closed down. All we could do was stay in Hendrik’s apartment and, you know how it is, after a time you start to get on each other’s nerves. It’s a real shame. You used to be able to do anything in Amsterdam, you know, even in public parks and places, but not any more. I couldn’t wait to get back to Oz. I went straight to the Laird and it’s never looked so inviting."

Peter Smugley, National Trust committee person, Adelaide, SA.

"I adore historic architecture but I have to say I found Greece extremely disappointing. The Greeks have got a lot to learn from us about the way they look after their built heritage. They’re years behind even in terms of the most basic conservation. Of course the Euro crisis has knocked the country sideways. All its historic heritage is falling down from neglect. As a person opposed to cultural imperialism naturally I think the Poms should give back the Elgin Marbles but not before the Greeks have learned how to look after them. Would I go back to Greece again? No way, until they get their act together. It’s ‘Tasmania’s Georgian Glories’ for my next holiday!"

Phyllis Spry (Miss), retired primary teacher, Gympie, Qld.

"Our cruise on the Medusa was a disaster from beginning to end. Halfway through something went wrong with the ship and we were transferred to a much inferior vessel where they managed to lose all my luggage. The food was very poor and cabin service non-existent. Several passengers left us during the trip as a result of the shocking conditions. As they say in the classics – never again!"

Christopher Akehurst blogs at Argus-online

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