Illinois State Fair–I mean, Sydney Royal Easter Show

They’re basically the same thing.

The day after I got back to Sydney, Ariana, Alicia, Karen and I went to the Sydney Royal Easter Show at Olympic Park. I expected the event to resemble an American state fair–and I was exactly right.

All of the important elements were there: fried everything (including cheesecake–Mmmm), booths selling useless junk, carnival rides, cooking shows, displays of cakes and crops, a lumberjack demonstration, etc. etc. etc.

There were a few uniquely Australian things too, though. I haven’t seen a polo match at any American state fair, and most of them don’t have contests for the best wool either.

Here are some photo highlights from the show:

First-prize winning wool.

Pretty cool display made entirely of natural products.

Poodle grooming at the dog show.

Straight from the Illinois State Fair...

A cow show of some sort.

A giant inflatable cow of some sort.

Meat pie-making demonstration.

Alpaca fashion show.

The showbag hall. Each booth sells themed bags full of useless goodies.

There are always way too many pictures of the Arch entered into the photo competition at fairs near St. Louis. Here, of course, there are way too many pictures of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

I'm not sure which is worse, Illinois' SPAM cooking contest or Sydney's fruitcake baking contest.

I haven't seen a calligraphy division at any mid-American fair.

A small afternoon parade featured the Marching Koalas. Aww...

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Help me plan mid-semester break?

I haven’t left the Sydney/North Ryde/Blue Mountains general area since landing at the airport on February 13. Over mid-semester break, that will change. I get kicked out of my college for two whole weeks (sixteen days, actually), so I really have no choice but to go out and explore Australia. I’m not bored with Sydney yet–not even close–but I’m excited to see some other parts of the country. What will I be doing, exactly? Well, let’s take a look at my itinerary, shall we?

Saturday: Train ride from Sydney’s Central Station to Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station. I don’t know why I’m choosing to spend 11 hours on a train instead of 1.5 on a plane. Oh wait, yes I do. It’s because the train station is more convenient than the airport, and trains are awesome.

Saturday night-Wednesday morning: Explore Melbourne, the city I probably would’ve lived in if Mizzou offered an internship as part of the program. Still, no regrets here. In Melbourne, I plan to:

Sleep in a converted convent

– Catch a few shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, including a show full of female comedians (Deja Vu really needs to get on that) and another show called “Grammar Don’t Matter on a First Date.” Too perfect.

– Go to Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Ride the world’s oldest continuously operating roller coaster at Melbourne’s Luna Park

Check out an exhibit on Disney films at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image

Indulge my pretentious/hipster side at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art

Get locked up (not really) at the Old Melbourne Gaol

Enjoy Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens (Sydney’s will be a tough act to follow)

Check out an exhibition on the history of Australian women in the Army

Ride the tram. Of course.

Once I get all these things accomplished, hopefully I’ll have some time left over to just wander around Melbourne. It sounds like a wonderful city, and I’ve been wanting to go there for quite some time.

I’ll be leaving Melbourne Wednesday morning, spending an hour or so in the Brisbane airport, then arriving in Cairns Wednesday afternoon. Here’s my itinerary for Cairns:

– Snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef

– Um….

Obviously, I’m going to Cairns to see the reef. I will not–will NOT–leave this country without doing so. I haven’t booked a snorkeling expedition yet, because the number of options is overwhelming and I’m having a crisis of indecision. But I will definitely be doing so in the next few days. After that, I’ll still have a couple days in Cairns. I have no idea what I’m doing with them yet. I’d love to take the Savannahlander train into the Queensland outback, but it’s really expensive (especially for single travellers) and I’m not sure I can justify the price. So I may just end up hanging around Cairns with Ariana and exploring the nearby World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest.

At 11 pm on Saturday, I’ll board a plane to Auckland, New Zealand. I hope it’s a comfortable one, because otherwise I’ll be quite a sleepless mess when I land in New Zealand at 5:30 a.m. At this point, though, a little less sleep for a $40 savings is a tradeoff I’m willing to make.

I’ll spend Sunday exploring Auckland, including going to Palm Sunday Mass at yet another St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Yes, I’m aware my Catholic is showing. Thanks for pointing that out.

Then on Monday, I’m joining a sort-of tour of the North Island. I booked an expedition that includes a guide and transport to four different towns. It’s a hop-on-hop-off tour, so in theory I can spend as much time as I want in each place. (In reality, I only have seven days in New Zealand.)  I’m hoping it will give me the flexiblity to do what I want at each place, while still providing the convenience of a guided tour. I’ll probably plan most of this week as I go, but there are two things I know I want to do for sure: visit the glow worm caves in Waitomo, and go zorbing in Rotorua. There are a few reasons I’m choosing to spend almost a week in New Zealand:

– I’ve heard it’s really beautiful.

– I’ll probably never be in this part of the world again, at least not for a while.

– I’ll get another passport stamp.

– The New Zealand dollar is currently worth about 73 Australian cents. At this point, I can’t afford NOT to go to New Zealand.

My tour will depost me back in Auckland on Saturday, and Sunday morning I’ll catch yet another painfully timed flight–this one at 6:15 a.m.–back to Sydney.  I will drag myself to Easter Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, and then….?

Monday and Tuesday are both public holidays in Australia (Easter Monday and Anzac Day observed, respectively), so I don’t have to go back to school or work until Wednesday. Monday, some people and I are going to the Royal Easter Show at Sydney Olympic Park. I’ve been excited for this event since I found out it existed. We’ll see if my love for state fairs transcends national boundaries.

I can’t move back into my college until Tuesday, so I’ll hopefully end up spending Sunday and Monday nights at the home of a friend who actually lives in Sydney. Or the floor of a friend who lives in my college. Or a hostel. Or something.

Anyway…that’s my break in a nutshell (a very, very large nutshell).

What do you think? Any must-dos I’m missing in Cairns, Melbourne, or the north island of New Zealand?

Any advice on which snorkelling tour to take at the Reef?

Any generous donations to the “Angie wants to ride the Savannahlander” fund?

Any requests for photos of koalas, kangaroos, or emus?

Just kidding, I already acknowledged those.