Our friends live near the coast. That could safely be said of most Australians. Within half an hour's drive of their home there are resorts, campgrounds, marinas, fishing charters, restaurants and a national park. For the most part it is a domestic vacation spot, but cruise ships have started stopping here for whale watching. We ate breakfast overlooking a marina and wandered around enjoying the sunshine and bright blue water. Then we took a five minute ferry ride to avoid a lengthy drive around the winding coastline to Newcastle, a city of about 160,000 that serves as the locus of government and services for this part of New South Wales. We boarded a tram for a narrated tour of the city. Newcastle reminded me of many of our rust belt cities. It used to be a major steel producing town, but when that industry collapsed the city struggled for a while until it found its footing. Today it is a healthy mix of new construction and preservation of the old. The extensive shoreline is full of attractive places to eat, shop and recreate.
At lunch we were joined by another listener to our podcast. What luck that he lives in the same area as Al and Sue. He is a musician and gave us a CD of his music. One of our discussion topics was tipping. Here, in many restaurants you study the menu and go up the counter to order and pay. Then you wait for your beeper to vibrate and pick up the food for yourself. There is no wait staff to tip and overall, the restaurant has less staff to hire. Unless you are fine dining, this is a satisfactory method for most eating occasions in my book.
RV'ing is what brought us together, so we made a stop at the dealer where Al and Sue have just bought a new RV. RV's the size of ours are not appropriate for most roads and situation here in Australia, so rigs well under 30' are the norm. Individual campsites are not sewered, so a removable cassette stores the icky stuff and has to be emptied by hand. The windows are often made of plastic rather than thermopane glass. If the rig had a washing machine, it was barely large enough to wash one pair of jeans. Multiple slide walls are very popular in the US to increase living space. Here you might find one. Of necessity most things are more compact, but microwaves, ovens, TV's, and stove top burners are common. Overall, the decor tended to be light, airy and modern, more to my taste than many of the over decorated and styled RV's we have at home.