First and Foremost, E and I got engaged on a beach beneath the Southern Hemisphere stars a few nights ago. We're pretty stoked.
The beach vacation destination was Sydney, Australia and environs. The entire trip was amazing. The 9 PM New Years Eve fireworks display at Darling Harbour was the largest both E and I had ever seen and it paled in comparison to the 12 AM show.
Sydney, during the holiday (and I suspect at other times as well), may very well be the most international city I've ever visited. There's no monopoly on culture or language, just thousands of people all from different places enjoying and/or living in the friendliness, beauty, and congeniality of one of the world's greatest cities. Sure, there are plenty of Australians, but their numbers seem to be matched by members of various other cultural groups depending on the region of the city where you are taking data samples.
Sydney-siders and other visitors often tried to draw the comparison between Sydney and the San Francisco Bay Area. It's there, but there are differences. The Sydney Harbour doesn't reek like the SF Bay during summer, the views from the tall buildings are much better, and the proximity to warm beaches without fog or wind in the summer is something the SF Bay rarely, if ever can offer. Also, in SF, there is no meal known as "Brekky," which is a good thing.
Bondi, Coogee, and the like? Best damn sand in the world. They must go through it with a seive to keep it so fine and clean.
The Tsunami was the front page the entire time we were there. In their generous response and emotional outpouring to the nations affected, Australia is embracing its Asian location in a time of need and healing old wounds for many (they had a white-only immigration policy until 1970). The lesser pages of newspapers focused on baffling local politics, Arts and Entertainment with a much larger American bent than I would have guessed from the street fashion, and, of course a much larger "World News" section than American papers have. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, "World News" must include a true article about some oddities perpetrated by or to the French, like the details of the capture of the Gentleman art thief, and the adorable French tradition of car-bombing on New Year's Eve. I admit, it was amusing and did help me feel more worldly.