I have never been very keen on Australia. Snakes, sharks and poisonous spiders, busy, hot cities, remote, outback towns, vast expanses of nothingness. Australia is a nanny state full of restrictions, rules and limits.
I flew into Sydney for the 5th Ashes Test Match. The cricket was disastrous, the heat excessive but the ground and the occasion were pure magic. No braying from triumphant locals, lively entertainment from The Barmy Army and The SCG reeked of history and those classic games of the past. Sydney was a joy. Paddington with those delightful Victorian terraced, wrought iron decorated houses, Bondi with its conspicuous youth policy, Bellevue with its smart homes with vast garages and Double Bay punching a price for desirable dwellings; all sang loudly for the merits of Sydney.
The food was sensational. Australia seems as obsessed as we are with cooking programmes, recipe magazines and the quest for outstanding cuisine. We certainly found it.
I flew to Christchurch, New Zealand thinking very differently. Is there a city in the world that matches Sydney? English speaking, cricket playing, outdoor living, the tops in food, relatively safe even from terrorists at present, a growing economy, a vibrant, youthful population, a national pride and confidence with a belief in person and state. Expensive but jobs are generally well paid and I never saw a snake, a shark or a poisonous spider whilst I was there.