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My First Day in Australia

Updated on September 12, 2019
Virginia Allain profile image

Virginia loves visiting new places and sharing them in travel articles here.

Here I am in Tasmania cuddling a young wombat.
Here I am in Tasmania cuddling a young wombat. | Source

Exploring Sydney, Australia

Twenty years ago, I flew to Australia to join my new husband. He was in Alice Springs on assignment and my arrival had been delayed by visa requirements and an airline strike.

Now I'd arrived all alone in Sydney and had a day's layover before going on to Alice Springs. I'd started from snowy Baltimore on the U.S. east coast and flown to L.A. and from there to Hawaii and then on that last, long leg of the trip to Sydney. Since the arriving flight didn't connect with the one to Alice Springs, I had a day to recuperate from all that flying and to get oriented.

Somewhat jet-lagged and sleep deprived, I set out to make the most of my first day in Australia. From the beginning, I fell in love with the country and the people.

Here I Am Boarding the Plane for Australia

Virginia Allain leaving Baltimore for Australia
Virginia Allain leaving Baltimore for Australia | Source

Setting off for Australia

Obviously I'm dressed for winter in Baltimore and not for December (summer) in Sydney.

The plane landed in Los Angeles at night which gave me a chance to see it all alight. What a sight to see such a large city from the air. It's so spread out that it seemed to go on forever. I could even see the Christmas lights on the houses.

Prepare for a Trip to Sydney

I hadn't really thought ahead of time about how I would spend my time in Sydney, so all I had to guide me was a tourist brochure and its sketchy map. I found that in the hotel lobby.

You'll probably plan your trip more carefully, so there are plenty of travel maps and guides to help you. Check at your public library for travel guides and even read some fiction and history to get the most from your trip.

Books on Australia That We Accumulated Over the Years


Finding My Way around Sydney

The city has a great bus system and you can take the ferries across the harbor (which I did on subsequent visits).

Sydney Has One of the Most Beautiful Harbors in the World

Taking one of the ferries is like being on a mini-cruise.
Taking one of the ferries is like being on a mini-cruise. | Source

The Rocks - Where Sydney's early history comes alive

I knew only vaguely about Australia's history, so wandering around The Rocks area helped get me oriented. The stone buildings included some that were set up as museums. Fascinating.

This Video Shows Some of the Highlights

Lunch in a New Country

An Australian Tuna Fish Sandwich

By lunchtime, I was feeling a little overwhelmed by all that I'd been seeing. I didn't feel adventerous enough to try meat pies, sausage rolls and had no idea what a "pie floater" might be. The small sandwich shop that I'd wandered into listed a tuna sandwich on the menu. That sounded familiar and home-like, so I asked for that.

I knew I wasn't in the United States any more as the sandwich was assembled. First came the slices of whole wheat bread (Australian bread is much more solid and hearty than squishy, white American bread). The worker slathered the bread with butter (oops, I thought, where's the mayo?). He scooped out chunks of tuna dripping with oil and plunked those on the bread.

"D'you want beetroot?" he asked. I couldn't figure out what he'd said at first and asked for a repeat. He gestured to a container of purple-red beet slices and repeated his question. No, I definitely did not want beetroot on my tuna sandwich.

The lunch emphasized to me that I was indeed in a foreign country.

Exotic Flowers at the Botanical Gardens


Wandering in the Botanical Gardens

After hours of walking on hard pavement and seeing the sights, I came to the Botanical Gardens. It was December, so with Australia's seasons being reversed from the U.S., it was a warm summer day. What a relief to stroll the paths under large trees, with vistas of flowers spreading in all directions. Many of the plants were unfamiliar to me and the birds were amazingly exotic to someone more used to robins and sparrows.

What Kind of Bird Is This!!

This was the first time I'd ever seen an ibis. What a strange looking bird.
This was the first time I'd ever seen an ibis. What a strange looking bird. | Source

One that I saw was a good-sized white bird with an incredibly long curved beak. Later on, I found out that it was an ibis. There were a good number of these wandering around on the ground. I could see that I would need a good birding guide for my time in Australia.

Australia has such amazing birds and flowers that are totally new to someone coming from the United States. I heartily recommend getting a few guidebooks to identify these. Then you'll know your galah from a cockatiel.

A Video Guide to The Rocks

The Botanic Gardens and Sydney skyscrapers.
The Botanic Gardens and Sydney skyscrapers. | Source

General Travel Guides for Australia

Australia is a huge country, so if you're heading over for a 2 week vacation, you'll barely hit the high spots. It's as big as the United States and you wouldn't dream of trying to see the whole U.S. in two weeks. Here are some guidebooks for reading ahead and planning out the "must see" places to include in your journey.

G'Day, Mate - Learning Australian Slang

Probably you can figure out the meaning of this shirt but plenty of Australian slang will leave you puzzled.
Probably you can figure out the meaning of this shirt but plenty of Australian slang will leave you puzzled. | Source

Aussie's use a lot of slang, so quite often you're left guessing what someone just said. Sure you know about "G'Day" and "Fair Dinkum" but I bet you'll be lost on what "spat the dummy" means and why you shouldn't say you're "rooting" for a sports team.

A Fun Australian Song - G'Day

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Virginia Allain

Have you been to Sydney?

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    • Tiarna Georghiou profile image

      Tiarna Georghiou 

      7 months ago from Brisbane, Australia

      I loved your article! I really loved reading about your first day in my wonderful country and all of the weird but wonderful things you experienced! Sydney is a beautiful place!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      You mean you put mayo on sandwiches? I'll have the beetroot, thanks! Glad you liked us anyway. :-)

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      @SusannaDuffy: Ah, Susanna, spoken like a true denizen of Down Under.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      But how could you have a tuna sandwich without beetroot?

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      7 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I have never been to Sydney or anywhere in Australia, but it sounds like a great adventure!

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      @TeacherSerenia: I'm always dripping things too, so I can just picture what you describe here.

    • TeacherSerenia profile image


      7 years ago

      I like beetroot, but I would never have it on hamburger simply because it stains clothes and everything just so easily!! And let me tell you, standing in the street, wrapping your mouth around a huge burger with Beetroot stains dripping down the front of your clean white shirt is NO FUN!!! No, when I do have beetroot, its on a plate where I can eat it carefully with a knife and fork. This was a wonderful lens. I have never been to Sydney - although I have been to Brisbane. I would love to get to Sydney some day...

    • Paul Ward profile image


      8 years ago from Liverpool, England

      I found it difficult to concentrate after beetroot and tuna !

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @malena10: It's a marvelous place to visit. Since the country is so large, try to go for more than 2 weeks. 3 or 4 weeks might do it.

    • malena10 profile image


      8 years ago

      i have never been there, but would love to

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      8 years ago from New Zealand

      Great Lens, I can understand how hard it was for you arriving on your first day in Australia, you probably would have the same problem if you came to NZ (understanding what people where saying).You made my laugh, thanks for sharing with us. Blessed.

    • bluewren56 lm profile image

      bluewren56 lm 

      9 years ago

      Fantastic lens... an overcoat is certainly not needed in Sydney in December, nor Alice Springs. Good to hear you enjoyed your time here.. lots of fun!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Oh how I'm enjoying your lenses! I can't get over how much we have in common! I lived in Orange, NSW, Austalia for nearly five years. I can't tell you how much I love Australia and Australians! I began my storytime "career" before Australia, and continued it there. Many of my storytime lesson plans feature Australian songs and other things Australian. I loved "Playschool" and Colin Buchanan, especially! Cheers! :D

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      @SusannaDuffy: Too right, Virginia, no beetroot for me, ever!

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      G'day Virginia! Don't know why you didn't want beetroot on your tuna, I wouldn't have a sandwich (or a hamburger) without it.

    • profile image

      SidneyMorgan LM 

      10 years ago

      Great lens. First your effort to so well describe that first feeling of being in a foreign country is so well done. Plus your step by step narrative is very well written, and with the links and pictures... great job! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I'd love to visit Sydney some day. Thanks for your insight...very interesting!

    • profile image

      vernessataylor lm 

      10 years ago

      What a nice trip (both for you and us)! Do you know if the music in the video is native Australian music? Good thing you weren't on that infamous flight coming home where all the people got LOST. :) 5*

    • heytoto profile image

      Karen Kolavalli 

      10 years ago from Lexington, Kentucky

      During my time in India, I found myself at a dinner party dominated by Australian expatriates. I knew these people and I'd been able to understand them when I'd encountered them one-on-one in other situations, but this evening they were in their element--by the time I figured out what they were saying, the conversation had moved on to another topic. Being two beats behind everyone meant I couldn't participate in the conversation. I felt like such a dolt!

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Lots of fun information here. I am hoping to get to Australia sometime soon. Had only planned on tropical Queensland, but now thinking maybe Sydney too.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      10 years ago from United States

      I have always wanted to visit Australia. Now I will know to stay away from the tuna sandwich:)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thanks for helping me make an Australian Thnaksgiving. It was fun.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Wow does that look like fun!

    • emmaklarkins profile image


      10 years ago

      Sounds like quite an adventure!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      10 years ago from USA

      I've never been but I'd really love to get there one day! Thanks for the tour!

    • oztoo lm profile image

      oztoo lm 

      10 years ago

      Finding yourself alone in a foreign country can be quite daunting. Thanks for sharing your experiences.


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