Saturday, January 19, 2008

Aussie Ears

While watching the magnificent tennis match in the Australian Open in which Roger Federer needed a fifth set to beat Janko Tipsarevic, I immediately realized my ears needed an Aussie tune up. The score could not possibly be 14-13 could it? Did my brain take a break and totally forget tennis scoring? A look up from my knitting reassured me that indeed, the score was 40-30 and I had relapsed into the Yankee habit of actually expecting every syllable in the word to be pronounced, and clearly to boot!

Before you protest, let me offer further evidence of the laziness of Australian pronunciation. Later in the match, one of the commentators was talking about Federer "hitting to the Jew side." Gasp! That cannot be what he said! How ignorant and rude! And what the hell does it mean?

Bless modern technology. I backed up the digital recorder, and put the sound on mute. The person/software doing the translation from word to closed captions offered up "hitting to the juice side." Okay, better than the Jew side, but I am still confused. Again, what the hell does it mean? Illumination - the game has progressed, the score is "Deuce" and the announcer clearly says "Juice."

I rest my case.

Friday, October 26, 2007

To whom it may concern

22 October, 2007 – Complaints
Australia Head Office
13 Railway Terrace
Milton, QLD 4064

To whom it may concern,

The purpose of this letter is to serve as a formal complaint against Dengiz Taner and his administration of the Saray’i Hotel in Palm Cove Beach, Queensland.

Our experiences with Mr Taner and Saray’I on October 9 – 12 of 2007 were alarming, and we are compelled to advise as many business associations and fellow travellers as possible as to the negligent practices and violent behaviour of Mr Taner.

We selected Saray’I based on descriptions and photos displayed on Specifically, we were enticed by the following statement: “Downstairs you can enjoy the ocean view and breezes as you sample meals in Neptune’s restaurant (prepared by our Fijian award winning chef) or sip on cocktails in our popular bar.”

We arrived at the Saray’i Hotel at approximately 7:30 pm on Tuesday October 9, 2007 to find the registration desk unattended, the lobby deserted, and a sign attached to a telephone indicating to ring for after-hours check-in. Since there was no response after 20 rings, we approached the restaurant to make inquiries. We were disappointed to discover that Neptune’s restaurant had been converted into a take-away pizza service. We rang a bell on the counter. Several minutes later, a lone pizza cook emerged from the kitchen. He seemed distraught and confused by our presence. We asked if he knew how to contact the caretaker as per our late check-in instructions provided by With uncertainty, he said that he could check us in, but we would have to wait a few minutes while he tended to some pizzas as he was the only employee present.

Several minutes later, he came to the front desk and we presented him with our reservation confirmation # 7389360. Our names were not in the reservation book and he could find no record of our reservation. He explained that he does not really handle check-in, that he was just the pizza cook. We asked if there was a night manager or a caretaker that he could contact, and he then said that he was the caretaker. We began to lose confidence in the credibility of this establishment.

After leaving us once more to tend to his pizzas, he returned and offered to show us to a room, saying we could sort out the reservations with the owner in the morning. He lead us through a darkened lobby in which was parked a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and out onto a brick path that was overgrown with bushes such that we had to bend aside branches to make our way. He left us to inspect the room while he went to check on his pizzas and get us two towels.

The room may best be described as dreary, hot, and odorous. The overhead lighting was cold and weak. The toilet leaked. The door to the rear patio, a small concrete enclosure, was unlocked, causing us immediate concerns regarding the security of the facility, as there might have been an intruder concealed in the room – imaginative perhaps, but personal safety is a serious concern for women travellers. The beds were worn and lumpy, and the springs could be felt through the tired covers. In no way did this room resemble the elegant boutique rooms shown on the website.

Returning to the lobby to retrieve our luggage, we asked if we should park in the rear as had been indicated on our instructions from He asked where we were parked now. We said out front to which he replied “It’s safer out front. You’re alright there.” This statement raised further concerns regarding the security of the property, and we determined that we did not feel safe enough to remain at the hotel. We informed the caretaker/cook of our feelings and our intentions to depart. Although he did offer to show us to another room, we did not feel that solution would provide us with any further security or allay our doubts as to the integrity of the hotel.

We departed the hotel and found another facility that was brightly lit and well-staffed with friendly competent personnel who made us feel welcome, safe, and secure.

On the morning of October 10, we contacted to inform them of our experience. The reservation agent said she would contact the Saray’I Hotel on our behalf. She returned to the line and said the owner would not offer any refund, and that he “wasn’t very nice…in fact, he was most unpleasant.” We stated that we were less concerned by the refund, as we were by the fact that the property was entirely misrepresented on their website and that we had concerns regarding its security, since we had felt in danger upon our registration. She advised that we lodge a formal written complaint to

At 5 pm that evening, Audra returned to the Saray’I Hotel to speak with the owner directly. Mr Taner was sitting at a table out front drinking a large beer and smoking cigarettes. She explained our experiences of the previous evening and offered our sincere apologies for having caused him any inconvenience. He immediately became agitated. He said we had been offered an upgrade. She said we had been offered to see another room, but that was inconsequential since we did not feel personally safe staying at the property. He became more agitated and asked for further explanation as to why we had felt that way. Audra explained about the unlocked door, the comments made about the safety of parking out front, and the fact that a motorcycle was parked in the lobby, to which he replied that it was his motorcycle and he parked it there to keep it safe, thus confirming our perception that the property had security concerns.

Audra informed him of our intentions to lodge a formal complaint with because, aside from the security concerns, the property had been grossly misrepresented on their website. She told Mr Taner that one of the features that had attracted us to his property was “an award-winning Fijian chef”, yet we arrived to find a deserted pizza kitchen. She said that was false advertising. He responded that the chef had quit some months ago, but that didn’t matter because there were plenty of other restaurants up and down the street. Audra went on to explain that the features of the room were unsatisfactory and did not meet expectations based on what was described on He became visibly angry and said his property had been independently assessed and given a 4.5 star rating. Audra then explained the level of quality we were experiencing down the street to illustrate the contrast for value. He raised his voice and leaning forward in his chair yelled that he wasn’t going to give us any “damned refund”. Becoming frightened, Audra explained that she had not asked for a refund and that it was worth the sacrifice to ensure safety and comfort. At this point, Mr Taner became enraged and shouted “That’s it, you fucking bitch. Get off of my property you fucking bitch!”

We were intimidated. Audra felt distinctly threatened by his aggressive behaviour and his abusive language and was worried he might assault her. She promptly left the premises.

No one deserves to be threatened or intimidated in the course of a business dealing, particularly in the hospitality industry. We feel obligated to convey our experiences to the relevant authorities, associations, and agencies to establish firm documentation of Mr Taner’s aggressive behaviour and hostile attitude towards his guests, in the event that in the future he loses his composure and becomes physically violent.

Thank you for your attention and consideration to this matter.

Kind Regards,

Linda Dydo Audra A McKinzie

Smithfield Police Station
Australia Hotel Association
ACT Office of Fair Trading
Council of Small Business Australia
Australian Turkish Business Council
Restaurant and Catering Association
Chateaux Commercial
Municipal Employees Credit Union of San Jose

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Palm Cove, Kuranda, and on the road through tropical Queensland

The first step in Cairns announces a change - just as hot, but oh so tropical. Breathing is easier, no dry throat, and my face re-moisturizes itself.

I am the cause of many jam-ups on the sidewalk as the birds regularly stop me in my tracks. I hear more than I see, but I see plenty. If you live here, do they just become garden variety birds? Probably not. I love the local birds in California, and a good Mockingbird call will fascinate me all night. The lorikeet concert in the palm trees in Townsville was a real treat.

We obtained a rental car, and headed to Palm Cove, where we had a dreadful experience with the "charming" hotel with "an award winning Fijian chef" that we booked online. Audra and I will fully blog this after our blistering letters of complaint are posted. We found a wonderful alternative in the Hotel Mercure, with a luxury apartment and the most charming pool ever. But the whole fiasco took so long, we were forced into beer and peanuts as the only items left on the pub menu. We retreated to our luxury apartment with rum and potato chips, with the promise of a good breakfast.

We were just a cross-walk away from the beach where I spent hours swimming in the South Pacific Ocean. The sand was like silk. And I saw crocodile tracks in the sand!
Spice was the name of the restaurant and bar attached to the hotel, and I discovered a Bleu Blue, a martini made with Sapphire Gin and green olives stuffed with blue cheese.

We took a steam train ride up to Kuranda, a village at the top of a mountain covered in tropical rainforest. We selected this activity on the advise of a total stranger we met at the sunrise visit to Uluru. A group of refugees from a local road race in Broom were toasting the sunset, and commented on my viewing perch in the boot of the car. Audra told them she was making me tour Australia in the boot, they offered to take our picture in from of Uluru, we shared a toast and an evening friendship was cemented.

His advise was solid. We had lunch in a balcony jutting into the forest and were amused by the birds. We tasted local wine, I bought some lovely shifts for the upcoming cruise, and Audra stocked up on sarongs. Many fine minutes were spent tasting local honey, but I wonder how they know for sure that the bees made the honey
from the nectar source listed on the label? Hours later, we boarded the gondola ride down through the rainforest. Audra managed to relax into the experience. It was breathtaking. You could look straight down to the forest floor, or view the horizon, the ocean, back up the mountain, or forward down the slope.

We hit the road to meet up with Kevin at Airlie Beach for the cruise. We had a frightening time when Kevin called from Sydney. He was experiencing heart palpitations and was rushed to hospital. We were ready to cancel all plans and go to Sydney, but it was not a serious situation, and Kevin recovered fully with promises to take a boatload of tests, with definite lifestyle changes. He arrived in Persepine Airport on schedule, with the cruise as treatment for frayed nerves. He brougt internet access with him, so of course I logged on, only to learn that my mother Charlotte was in hospital after a heart attack. Again, I was ready to cancel all plans and fly to Ohio, but my sisters Marsha and Nancy assured me that all was well. Mom was airlifted from her small village into Toledo and a major hospital where she underwent surgery to install stints in her arteries. She assured me there was nothing I could do, and that Mom would feel really guilty if I cancelled my trip. Staying here was very hard. I wish I was there to help my mother and my sisters. But our life never delivers the script we draft, and we are forced to perform the one that is written. I will set sail tomorrow with a heavy heart that is no more than my fair share of life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Uluru and Kata Tjuta

Audra and I flew into the resort at Ylara where Audra picked up a rental car and drove us into the resort there. We stayed at the "Lost Camel" which has a typical Aussie legend about it's name. It starts out charming, then muddles up the internal logic of the legend, and then just ends without making a clear point. But the hotel was charming. We went straight out to Uluru, pausing to get some photos of a herd of feral camels. Now there is something you don't see often in the U.S. The rock was formerly Ayers rock, and formerly Uluru before that. "Ownership" of the rock had been returned to the tribal people because it is sacred to them, but they have wisely decided to co-manage it with the national parks service, for the benefit of everyone. There are spots they request you to not photograph, and really make a pitch for you to not climb it. It is an impressive experience to view it and walk along it. I took random pictures of wind and water erosion formations, and was constantly fascinated by the play of sunlight and shadow. Thank you Audra for renting the car. The poor tourists on the bus tours had a limited amount of time at the viewing spots and always looked rushed. When Audra and I had enough sun exposure, we went into the air-conditioned car and escaped the flies. Even with my fly net, I became a master of the Aussie salute.

We had a dining experience called "Sounds of Silence" where we were shuttled into the outback, had a buffet that featured kangaroo, crocodile, and barramundi. I can tick this tasting experience off my list of things to do once. Our table was internatioal, newlyweds from Japan, Italy, and France, a father and sun from England, and A mother and daughter from the U.S. (us)Unfortunately, some cloud coverage moved in, and we did not get the full star viewing, but Scorpio put on a wonderful show.

Unfortunately, the "opera singer" from Dallas did not do the same. Read Audra's account. I tolerated her abortion approach to "Climb every mountain" but was seriously wondering if I could poison her wine and bury her in the outback when she launched into "Danny Boy."

The next day, Audra and I drove out to Kata Tjuta, 45 kilometers from Uluru, and a totally different experience. We hiked up a gorge, where Audra potted some bones near a dry creek bed. They were camel bones, and Audra could not resist one of the vertebrae, which is about as big as my head. We did not consider this pilfering a national park, as the camel is not a native. Sunset at Uluru, then one more morning drive-around where we stopped at the climbing site, because pleading does not work with some tourists, and they clamber up the rock anyway, so it was decided to give them one area to use, one far away from the sacred sites.

I think my favorite part was the camel ride. We slowly sailed through the desert, and being so high up gave us an excellent view of the beauty of the outback. We arrived at Kata Tjuta at sunset, where i took some more amazing sunset pictures.
Back to the airport, back across the tarmac and off to the Cairns area in tropical Queensland.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Sydney University and Bollywood

The excitement of flying to Uluru (Ayers Rock)later on top of too much delicious Indian food is proving a superior foe to sleep. So I will post a few random thoughts over the last few days, as Audra and I will be off the web for 2 weeks. But we are taking a laptop so we can draft posts, and we will have my fun camera, so be prepared for a glut upon our return to Sydney.

I hooked up with Audra at Sydney University and we went to lunch. The University is very much like any campus, alive with youthful exuberance, and a combination of very old and very new architecture. The lab where she works is not as slick as corporate science facilities, probably because there is no profit to be gained, just knowledge, so it seems to be OK to fund that activity at a lesser level.

The photo of "cockfighters ghost" is from the window of a liquor store and made me wonder - I don't approve of cockfighting, and if I believed in ghosts,
I would find them scary, so why is this phrase appealing to me?

Some differences noticed so far:
smash repair - auto body shop
98% fat free milk - 2% fat milk
(and the 98% is thicker than the 2%. how can that be?
doesn't the math work out to make them the same product?)
eggs are not kept in the refrigerated section of a supermarket
one "falls pregnant" (well, the females do)
if you are the sole passenger in a cab, you ride in the front with the driver
Hungry Jack's - Burger King
byo is the norm in restaurants
If possible, fail to pronounce an "r". Second choice, pronounce it as a vowel.
If all else fails, pronounce it.
B"r"itney Speeahs just lost custody of her kids.

Ouch. I am leaving to dig the antacids out of my packed luggage. Stay tuned for stories of tasting kangaroo, emu and crocodile, my attempt to snorkel, and my Whitsunday cruise.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Zoo and Mozart and the Cosmos

Audie and Kevin's folks and friends might like this tour of their Sydney home that is listed in the video gallery.

I trundled down to Circular Quay and took the ferry to Taronga Zoo (which I misspelled as Toronga when labeling my photos). As with all zoos, it is changing its attitude toward caging the animals, so is in a state of construction confusion as old cages are revamped or abandoned in favor of open, more natural housing arrangements for the tenants. But oh my, the views from this place! I spent over 4 hours, sharing time with the animals and myself. View wombats, admire the view across the harbour, find a bench, and read a chapter of my book. Repeat process with a different critter and view. A lovely investment of my time. The wind was warm and invigorating.

I returned to the Quay and walked up to meet Audra and Kevin at an establishment that simply called itself "The Bar" on a discreet brass plack. Upholstered chairs and couches around wooden tables, with swishy Asian waiters who kept me supplied with Vodka and soda and lime is the perfect tonic to the warmth of the zoo afternoon.

We walked up the street to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and met up with Audra's friend Cheryl, who will prove to be a charming companion for the evening, and went in to "Music & the Cosmos" which was a very entertaining evening. Robyn Williams who Jon will recognize from NPR was the host. We started with Mozart's Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K551, "Jupiter" with the orchestra conducted by Imre Pallo, and then had three wonderful talks by Tim Bedding, Peter Tuthill, and Geraint Lewis, following the theme of the underlying music of the Cosmos. The coolest part was the sound produced by the universe since the Big Bang to now. Confused? You had to be there. Cliff Kerr, who is studying Brain Dynamics and composition and conducting, performed an original composition he calls "Quasars, Pulsars, and Black Holes." Audra and I were a little concerned about modern classical music especially one that would deal with the music of the universe, as our untrained ears hear noise, not understanding music theory. But this was lyrical and powerful and modern. We approved.

The lecture started at 6, so we had skipped dinner, which we remedied at a noodle shop. Way yummy! Gyoza, noodles, teriyaki beef, chicken salad and a bottle of Chardonnay ended a lovely evening with lovely company.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A night at the Opera

In spite of misguided advice, Audra stayed strong and got tickets to see Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Gondoliers" at the Sydney Opera House. I really wanted to be inside, and was not about to sit through Wagner to do so. We started the evening with a lovely gourmet Chinese dinner at "The East" with a table outside on the Quay where we could view our destination as we savored Scallops with pea pods, Lettuce wraps, and Magic King Prawns with fungus and snake beans.

We had a charming time in the loo before the opera, and our seats were front row balcony. Audra let me have the 10% obstructed view seat, and she took the 28% obstructed view seat, but it was all good. There was no one behind us for several rows, so it was like having a private box. The Zanies were charming, making me forget I really do not like mimes. The singers were excellent, the production charming, and we were close enough to see the expressions on the performer's faces. We could peer into the orchestra pit and watch the conductor.

We had a perfectly charming evening, enjoying Gilbert and Sullivan in spite of the well meaning naysayers. So phhhht!

I posted the pictures myself without Audra's assistance, which is why some did not get rotated. I will do better next time.