Monday, June 14, 2010

God save the Queen

The Queen's Birthday was celebrated in Australia this past weekend and all the working stiffs got Monday off to mark the occasion as they saw fit. This is odd only because according to our British friends, no one gets this day off in England. I think it is the sort of thing that no Aussie wants to acknowledge out loud for fear of having it taken away, like in the last minute of class when everyone knows the teacher hasn't assigned homework and no one is raising a hand to remind her.
Anyways, this being our first Queen's birthday, we were a bit scattershot in our approach to celebrating but I would like to think that the old maid herself was up at 4 in the morning drinking, just like us. More on that later.

World Cup Central in Darling Harbor

We started the weekend by attending the World Cup kickoff ceremony in Darling Harbor after a massive dinner in Chinatown. Sydney is one of the official host cities of the World Cup and they have huge screens set up in the harbor for viewing the games as well as vendors and an overall carnival atmosphere. We stopped by for the opening ceremony and then ran/drove home to watch the first game - Mexico vs South Africa. This drive was interesting as it featured a singalong version of Bohemian Rhapsody which starred James as DJ, Debs ad Chris as Freddy Mercury and Amy as the fuming sober driver. The issue of a fuming sober driver raises the important point of "if you didn't want us screaming in the back seat, why did you allow Bohemian Rhapsody to be played?".

The answer to this perfectly logical question is still to be determined. For anyone who watched the opening match, you will surely agree that this was an exciting game and a great way to start off the World Cup. This whole exercise however was a mere dry run to help us decide where to watch the upcoming England vs USA game the following night.

Royal National Park

Saturday morning was a day spent as surely the Queen would have enjoyed, hiking in Royal National Park, about 50 minutes south of Sydney. This park is the 2nd oldest national park in the world and its conversation was modeled after it's older sibling, Yellowstone National Park in the US. It is a beautiful expanse of wilderness that follows the coast for many miles just south of the major metropolis that is Sydney.

Sun starting to go down in Royal National Park

The hike started off in an underwhelming fashion as it was mostly on a fire road which is essentially a dirt road through the woods used by rangers to inspect for forest fires and the conditions that may cause them. This is a great idea but it makes for a bit of a dull hike. It was however spiced up by the passing of the occasional child cross country runner. What kind of a sick parent sign their kid up for cross country running? To paraphrase the great Kenny Powers, kids want to play real sports, not be the best at exercising.

Tread the path

Our hiking was greatly rewarded however upon the discovery of a fantastic waterfall at the end. I don't know how high it was as it disappeared into the canopy below us but it had multiple cascading levels and after some investigation, we were able to climb down the side and into a grotto that had been hollowed out behind the wall of water.

This made everyone's day. It was awesome sitting on this ledge as hundreds of gallons of water rushed down mere inches from your face.

Waterfall. Awesome.

Next up was the brutally early 4 AM England vs USA game. The promise of white russians, bacon, and french toast casserole drew us out of bed at the appointed time, arriving at 4:20, with 10 minutes to spare before kickoff.

We were in enemy territory to watch the game, with our hosts Kat and Webs hailing from the UK but this advantage was quickly overlooked by them after England scored a goal within the first few minutes. God knows I didn't want to have to hear about it from these people for the next few years so I stirred my white russian and began to focus my cheering/wishing powers at the glowing receptacle of the television.

Can I get a do-over?

This paid off late in the first half when the US scored a totally BS, blooper reel goal. My shrill laughter that followed witnessing this will surely haunt the Brits for generations to come. Their disappointment was absolute and they begin making excuses about "luck" and so on. I calmly explained that the British goalkeeper simply couldn't stand up against the sheer POWER of the American strikers. We all knew this was a ridiculous and boastful lie. However, my hubris went unnoticed by the gods as we held on to the 1-1 tie. After which, we went back to being on speaking terms.

Sadly, the same outcome cannot be said to have happened for the Australian team on their first outing. The Socceroos suffered a 0-4 loss to Germany. The poor Aussie fans added the shame of this loss to the insult of having to wake up at 4 AM to watch it occur.

Dutch fans mesmerized by the TV, except that one woman who clearly does no want her picture on the internet in that hat.

We ended the 3 day weekend at an event sponsored by Holland House, which featured drinks and a viewing of the Holland vs Denmark game. This was an exciting event with the crowd swathed in Holland's orange and a marching band making their way through the crowd. The Dutch fans were intense, screaming and cheering along with the game. The place erupted when the 2 goals were scored and the crowd was magnanimous in victory at the close of the match. It was a great way to finish off our weekend of royal festivities.

God save the Queen.

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