Well folks, it’s time for another guest blog! That’s right.. one of the benefits of visiting us in Australia (in addition to Dan’s fabulous cooking and Lisa’s willingness to share a bottle of wine with you) is that you get the opportunity to share your thoughts with our many readers. This post was written by our friends (and fellow bloggers), Phil and Wade, who visited Oz in March. Enjoy!
When people asked why we were going to Australia I had a single favourite answer: we’re going to visit friends who live in Wagga. Where? Wagga Wagga, the place so nice they named it … after crows (look it up). Phil and I (Wade) had told Dan and Lisa that we would visit them when they left Edmonton and, true to our word, a short 18 months later, we had made it to Wagga.
We had spent a week in Sydney, then a few days in Jervis bay and Canberra before making our way to Wagga Wagga (read all about it at our own blog, www.gay-tripping.com). We arrived on a Thursday afternoon and retired to the patio to toast our arrival with a civilized drink of sparkling water with lime and ginger cordial. Cordial, apparently, is a big thing there and if there was room in the suitcase we would have brought some sarsaparilla cordial home. Alas, we’ll have to settle for Italian soda flavouring which may very well be the exact same thing with a different name. That tends to happen in Australia but make no mistake, tomato sauce is NOT ketchup.
When Dan got home from work we got ready for the night’s activity. The Wagga City Library’s Club Celluloid was screening David Lynch’s 1986 seminal feel good family classic, Blue Velvet. If you’re not familiar with this movie then I’ll point out that I’m being sarcastic. It’s a brutal movie with, as the woman introducing the movie indicated, strong language, nudity and a scene depicting non-consensual sex. In the basement of the public library we sat down in the back with our wine and snacks. In front of us sat row upon row of white haired ladies. As the movie was about to start we knowingly glanced at each other and silently made bets with our eyes on just how long it would take someone to leave. Full credit to the aging culturati of Wagga as it took quite some time until we lost one [Lisa edit: 22 minutes; yes, I timed it], but once the rape scene kicked into high gear a lady in the front row respectfully stood up and quietly exited. That apparently was the permission two others were looking for and moments later, after glancing at each other and agreeing (okay, count of three!), stood up and exited. These two were not as quiet and made the requisite old lady huff that says, “well I never!” with puffs of air. I made sure to affix on my face an expression of pure joy, like it was not only the best movie I’d ever seen but that I was somehow enjoying it too much. They weren’t going to talk about this movie with their society ladies on Sunday at the track, but maybe, just maybe, they would talk about the pervert in the back row whose eyes were wide with glee. We would have stayed for the debrief but we were hungry so we made our leave to The Thirsty Crow for beer (fantastic micro brewed to boot) and pizza (fun, experimental, and recommended). Dan and Lisa’s friend Virginia joined in the fun and we were treated to a nice taste of the local scene. From grey haired ladies to hipster beards, my kind of night.
After a few weeks on the road we were ready for a home cooked meal (which we ate outside), laundry facilities (with clothes dried on the line in half the time of a dryer) and wine (that was the deal: if we make it to Wagga, Dan and Lisa will supply the wine). We got to bond with the kitties and sit and do nothing. Some days there’s nothing better than nothing. It was perfect. When Dan got home he tackled the quintessential Australian meat tray. If you go to a pub quiz, that is the prize, a tray of meat. If you go to farmers market there might just be a lottery for a meat tray. Aussie’s love their meat trays. Dan got his from the butcher. We paired staring at the tray of assorted meats with bubbly.
On the Saturday we took a drive to the neighbouring town of Junee. Signs advertised that a Saturday Fete was taking place and you know what they say about fetes. Go to them. Apparently a fete is what you get when a farmers market, rummage sale and garage sale collide. Plus there was a band.
One of Junee’s big draws is the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory. I loved it. If you’ve never had fresh Licorice it’s damn good, unless you don’t like licorice, then it’s still terrible.
When we got back to Wagga we rushed to the butcher to fetch some items so we could fashion a charcuterie dinner in Bright, which we’d be leaving for the following day. In Australia you might see something similar on menus called a ploughman’s [lunch]. They vary greatly in what you’ll get on the plate/board so it’s always a fun surprise and a risk well worth taking. I should go back a step here, I’ve written the word butcher twice now. That’s the most I’ve used that word perhaps ever with the exception of the times I’ve complained how massive chain grocery stores have all but killed the profession in Canada. In Australia the profession is alive in well. We saw butchers in small towns and big cities and everything in between. There’s still a girl or guy behind the counter who actually knows where the top sirloin comes from. If you want a rack of lamb they can get you the size you want, trim it to your specifications, and suggest how to cook it. I like that. Of course they close at 4:00pm on Saturdays which I found weird. Apparently so did Dan because we just squeezed in the door as they locked it behind us. We also took a trip to the grocery store to stock up for our trip to Bright. I love going to food stores in every country and city I travel to. What is or isn’t on the shelves tells you so much about the culture; what they hold dear (TimTam), what’s popular, what isn’t selling well enough and so on. There’s also always the fun finds that would be jarring in your own country. I found it fascinating that they sell huge tubes of raw meat for dogs (clearly labelled, “not for human consumption”).
Wagga was an adventure. It was leisurely and educational with a million little memories, like the overly thorough lady from the travel information centre who should be a SNL character or the adventure of figuring out the sizing of men’s footy shorts purchased with the expressed purpose of making an appearance at Edmonton’s next pride parade (they’re seriously short, seriously). Unlike most American and Canadian towns of comparable sizes, the downtown of Wagga is still bright and alive, presumably because a Walmart hasn’t been built on the outskirts.
On the Sunday we left for another adventure, off to Bright to bike, eat good food, drink amazing wine, and get driven around by a barman’s wife and a waitress (separate times). But those are stories for Bright Adventures and for another time.