Much like in my first semester, the weeks prior to my study break were enlivened by the arrival of visitors from back home. This time it came in the form of a family visit, though slightly staggered as my Mum and Sister managed to fit an extra week in before Dad flew out. Though it was great to see them all again it did create a rather hectic schedule as I had to balance my work with seeing them as much as possible, which led to a couple of late nights writing an essay proposal due in just before the study break!
As I was once again playing tour guide I got to go back to some of my favourite places in and around Perth. A third trip to Rottnest Island was only slightly marred by Mum leaving her phone in a toilet cubicle and only realising once we had cycled to the other side of the island (thankfully it was later handed in!) but I once again enjoyed the lack of bustle and beautiful beaches on the island, even if I had forgotten how cold the water is on the island!
A long weekend was spent in Margaret River with friends of my parents’ who now live in Perth, and we happened to be there at the same time as a Pro Surfing competition. Now, as people who know me will attest, I would watch old women cross the road if someone told me it was a competitive sporting event, but even I slightly struggled with surfing, given that quite a lot of the time the competitors simply sit on their boards doing nothing and waiting for a perfect wave that never seemed to quite arrive, then when they did deign to actually do some surfing they were a little bit too far out at sea for you to actually tell if they were doing anything well. Having watched some TV coverage of the same event, I might suggest it’s a better sport when you’re sat on your couch as opposed to stood at the top of a windswept cliff.
It seemed all too quick that I was packing the family off on a plane, however. Though a major benefit was that they could take home some of my accumulated clutter as I start to worry as to whether I can fit all my belongings under the Draconian weight limits of international airlines when I have to return home. They departed the weekend before the last week of term before study break, which gave me a week and a half to catch up on all the work I had been neglecting, before I headed off on some travels of my own.
Now this blog post shall enter the phase of being ‘Frazer’s great year abroad mea culpa’. Back when I was picking a destination for my study abroad year, I had kind of settled on Australia, but not which city. The real choice came down to Perth or Sydney, and eventually I ruled out the latter on cost grounds (which, in hindsight, was a good decision!) but not before I had denigrated the idea of living in Sydney, saying that “I might as well just go and live in London, all big western cities are exactly the same.”
I had, however, always wanted to visit the city, and given the financially flexibility afforded to me by the scholarship kindly provided by the Western Australian government I decided to book flights, even if it meant travelling alone. I spent four days in the city, and realised my previous position was entirely foolish, Sydney is utterly amazing. The fact the city is built on a natural harbour means it has some of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen, green hills and rock shorelines are backed by the immense glass and steel skyline of the CBD, a contrast that I’ve never seen in any other city. Obviously, the Opera House is probably the most recognisable of the city’s landmarks but I couldn’t get over the sheer enormity of the Harbour Bridge, which stands out starkly as it spans the river, a relic of the industrial age in a thoroughly modern landscape. The suburb known as The Rocks was a real highlight, the last remnants of the city as it was, stone flagged roadways through wooden beamed sandstone buildings which feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
I also ventured outside the city, joining a tour to the Blue Mountains, situated around 90 minutes out of the city centre. I had always wondered how the mountains got their name, having never encountered any blue rocks, and it turns out the name comes from the fact the vapours that rise from the evergreen eucalyptus trees that adorn the landscape sit above the trees as a kind of blue cloud, which makes for some spectacular views. Similarly glorious vistas were supplied by a visit to Bondi Beach, and walking along the cliff path to Coogee beach slightly along the coastline, though it was far warmer than I had expected given I was south of Perth, the lack of a constant breeze came as a bit of a shock!
Possibly the best experience, however, was going to the SCG to watch the Sydney Swans take on their local rivals, Greater Western Sydney, in an Aussie Rules game. I first got into AFL when I was about 11 years old, and chose to support the Swans given they share a colour scheme with my boyhood football teams, Exeter City and Arsenal, and ten years later I finally got to watch them play. They got a bit of a thrashing, but I didn’t really care, the experience enough was worth it for me.
So, I’m sorry I misjudged you, city of Sydney. I hope the amount of money I spent in your bars (courtesy of a slightly pricy night out with dorm mates) makes up for it. I’m now back in Perth, and having to face up to the reality of essays and exams, and the fact that this whole Year Abroad experience is nearly at an end.