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New South Wales, Australia

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New South Wales is a largish state on the eastern side of mainland Australia, stuck between Victoria and Queensland, with a rather eclectic geography. It has the perhaps slightly dubious honour of being where most of the European settlers – read 'convicts' – were dumped during the late 1700s and early 1800s to make good the new-found land. After Captain Cook had sailed into Botany Bay, it wasn't long before the First Fleet of settlers were competing for coastal land with the locals. They quickly filled up the place, and it took a while before some bright spark thought that if they crossed the huge 'blue' mountains around the settlements they might find more land to live in over the other side. They did, but many still preferred the beaches – and do to this day, with Bondi Beach being amongst New South Wales' premier attractions.

The capital of New South Wales is Sydney, a tangled web of a city which holds not only a beautiful harbour, an Opera House shaped like a pineapple head, a huge bridge that looks something akin to a coat hanger, and a yearly Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, but also a strange little monorail system, some interesting taxi drivers1, and King's Cross - the red-light district that puts Amsterdam's to shame. Though having said that, tourists often mistake Sydney as Australia's capital city (it is in fact Canberra), as it is a hive of activity. With an amazing nightlife and wonderful attractions – such as Taronga Zoo – you forgive them the fact that the locals are a little arrogant. Anyone driving in the city (and indeed the state) should take out good insurance beforehand; almost anyone from New South Wales who drives seems to conveniently forget to indicate left. Oh, and don't forget that Sydney was the home to the Olympic Games in the year 2000, too2.

New South Wales offers a wide range of things to see and do, but most popular are either the beaches, or the rich mountains. The aforementioned Blue Mountains are home to some amazing rock outcrops and breathtaking views, while the coastal city of Newcastle has some pretty brilliant seaside activities. The coast is important too, as it is along this and in some of its small townships that the popular Australian television soap opera, Home & Away, is filmed. Not to be outdone by their northern neighbours in Queensland, Coffs Harbour is home to the Big Banana, a rival to the Big Pineapple. This rivalry between the two states carries over into their sport, the annual State of Origin Rugby League clashes bring out the yobbo3 in even the most placid of New South Welshmen. The inland area of New South Wales does come under flak from other Australians, though, with places like Dubbo, Goulburn and Wagga Wagga being the butt of many a joke about inbreeding and animal love.

New South Wales is where, in general, sheep are farmed in Australia, so most meals served up are the many variations of what you can do with mutton and lamb (you're looking at traditional Irish, Scottish and English convict fare, to be honest). However, there's a lot of Asian food chucked in, and the mix of Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese and Thai has opened up the New South Welsh palate to include these types of foods. So, while you can enjoy a hearty lamb roast, you can equally enjoy a wonderful Thai Green Curry, perhaps even at the same restaurant! However, the working class still hold strong in New South Wales, the average Aussie workman from the country being the sort who plays rugby, knows how to cook a mean barbie, drinks Tooheys and doesn't like his woman to look like a bushpig. The city-slickers from Sydney and Bondi are a completely different type of Aussie to those you'll find out in places like Hay and Albury - so assume nothing when you meet a New South Welshman.

One other gentle reminder - look out for the Funnel-webs!

1This Researcher recalls one taking him to his hotel, and zooming onto a ring road around the city to get there. We ending up getting lost, and at one point the driver turned around and said, 'Look mate, there's your hotel. I can see it, but I can't bloody get to it!'2If you do, it won't be long before you're reminded of the fact.3Slang for an idiot.

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