The last time I was in Australia, it was my honeymoon of my previous ill-fated marriage. There was an aspect of returning to this place that I was looking forward to, with the notion of being able to replace old memories with new, fond memories of being here with my lovely wife, Jenni. Oddly, that has not really worked out.
First and foremost, I am not the same person I was when I was here last. One of Jenni's many influences has been to change what I ask for out of travel--culinary experiences are now a strong feature, and a good meal at a nice restaurant can mean as much as seeing a highly rated tourist sight. Also, Jenni prefers to travel much slower: no racing on to the next big thing, but a more sedate pace that allows us to absorb the vibe of a locale, not just "show up and get the photo." With this new paradigm, Sydney and Katoomba have been more like completely new places to visit than returns.
In Sydney, I have seen two concerts (one in the Domain, one in the Opera House), visited the art museum, seen the ferry races for Australia Day, and seen the Hyde Park barracks. All new; makes me wonder what I did when I was here last. I also wandered the botanic gardens, something I vaguely remember from before. Lastly, since we are staying with friends, I have had two solid weeks to discover the neighborhood of Rozelle, a great part of the city of Sydney I wish I could transport wholesale back to Chicago to be the urban community in which I would like to live.
Visiting Katoomba was even more surprising. While I know I was there, Jenni and I stayed there for three days, soaking in the wonders of this lovely little town. It was a completely new expereince, hunting down the perfect cup of coffee (flat white, please!) while discovering yummy matching pastries. We also visited the Jenolan Caves, and while I had been in Chiefly cave ,we toured Orient and Lucas caves, so it was again all new.
Lastly, we returned for a stay at the Carrington Hotel, a grand old building from the 1900s. I had fond memories of a great stay in a large room, with a grand tub and a great meal in the restaurant. My return was underwhelming. Not that it was bad, but it certainly was less grand than I remembered. So, in a certain way, I might have been beter off to not have returned, keeping the old shiny recollection, instead. Still, the Carrington certainly had the best scotch in town!
The final bit of change for me has been a realization that return visits are worth having. I had always thought, with so many places I would like to see in the world, taking a return trip to someplace I had already been would somehow deprive me of future travel options--one only gets so much vacation time, so each visit needs to be exciting, fresh, and new. Lo and behold, returning to Australia has been all of the above, and trying to compare this visit with the one that went before is nearly impossible. One can never go backwards; life only moves forwards. It is in embracing that forward momentum that makes life shine.