There are some places here that have stolen my heart. Any spot in Surfer’s Paradise is worth remembering, but a few of them mean the most to me. Number one on the list is the McDonald’s on Cavill Avenue. Every time I pass the golden arch of happiness I smile. I remember the time my roommate walked with me to that McDonald’s at midnight to buy a hashbrown, French fries and a chocolate drizzled McFlurry. I couldn’t stop telling her that it was the best ten dollars I had ever spent. We switched roles on a dreary Tuesday when I escorted her there in the pouring rain so she could order away her cravings. We sat there freezing as a one-legged pigeon flew around the tables. I played with the French fries I had bought to pass the time as Nikki consumed the most satisfying meal of her life. Every time I pass that arch, glowing on the corner of Cavill Ave with a beachfront view, I think of the other times I stopped in that universal franchise on this study abroad. I’ve gone in it enough to realize after multiple confusions that Frosty’s are only sold in Wendy’s, and that if you ask the cashier politely five times for a twisted Frosty, she’ll solve the problem herself and give you a McFlurry with chocolate sauce. I’ve also been there enough to learn that Australians call McDonald’s “Mackers.” I’m not sure how they got that out of the word, but the fact that it’s one syllable is a good enough reason for the Aussies.
I’ve also fallen in love with the pull up bars. I suppose this favorite spot complements McDonald’s well. Almost every evening, my Aussie friend and I go to the pull up bars on the Esplanade. The Esplanade is a walkway that runs along the shoreline and the road. It’s miles long and travels from the north part of Surfer’s Paradise all the way down to the town of Burleigh Heads. Every so often, the Esplanade is dotted with workout equipment, like some parks have back home in the USA. I never gave the equipment a second look until I suddenly became consumed with the idea of being able to do a pull up. I guess the Australian workout culture rubbed off on my subconscious enough to nudge me to make nightly trips down to the pull up bars. Walking there after dinner, I pass families eating on the beach, joggers getting in their daily runs, people taking a rest on the comfy benches looking out at the ocean, and all the things I love about this place. The rhythmic sound of waves in the background, the lights of the shops and clubs. I’m up to about 25 pull ups (with lots of breaks and lots of help), but apparently I’m “getting there.” I think my friend means to say I can move myself off the ground half a centimeter now. Despite my feeling of nightly public humiliation, I’m beginning to love those pull up bars. If I’m there it means laughter, even if it’s always at myself.
My heart has also made room for the Burleigh Market. Since March, I’ve been making a trip down to the Burleigh Market every Saturday to fill up my early mornings and to come home with a week’s worth of fresh food for under fifteen dollars. There’s nothing particularly special about the market. It’s a relatively small venue, but a perfect size for building a sense of familiarity. The banana bread man knows me now after I’ve tried too many samples. And the orange juice guy gave me a free large cup of the most perfect juice I’ve ever tried. “Don’t worry about the money, dear, just enjoy the juice.” At the pineapple place I pass the same worker every week, standing outside his tent holding a container of pineapple samples and boasting the sweetest pineapple on the Gold Coast. I usually pick up more than I need and have to trek back on the bus looking like Santa Claus trembling under a bottomless bag of veggies. But sometimes if I haven’t gotten a lot I walk down the road to the Burleigh shops. Just this week I discovered a quaint bookshop. The packed shelves and tiny size of the place reminded me of Roslyn Library back home and of reading buddies as a child. I picked up Siddhartha and Great Expectations in case my book-loving-brain decides to come back at some point.
Besides McDonalds, the pull up bars, and the Burleigh Markets, there’s other places here that I wish I could recreate anywhere. There’s almost a place a week that I’d love to save forever. The beach (of course). The mountains in New Zealand. The sunrise at Mount Warning. Tallebudgera Creek. Mount Tamborine. The Great Barrier Reef. The dessert station at the Gold Coast Markets every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. My balcony, looking down at the town between swaying palm leaves. I love so much of this place, and I can’t believe I have spent the last four months in this Paradise on Earth. It’s all like a hazy beautiful dream, as you might expect paradise to be.