Every Australian that I had met up to going to the Gold Coast absolutely hated it, denouncing the location as trashy. However, once we stepped off of the plane and I felt sunlight stream onto my face for the first time in weeks, it took all I had to not get onto my knees and weep tears of pure joy on the tarmac.
Before we boarded the bus, my professor told me that if I just always assume those in the North have less brain cells, then my expectations will always be met. Although I did not know what he meant, after a woman at the airport took more than ten minutes to make me a coffee and also have me the incorrect lid, it all became very clear. Luckily, everyone in the Gold Coast was really nice to us, but following in the typical trend of TEAN’s summer program, there was barely any time to meet any locals since our two days in the Gold Coast were almost completely filled with activity.
After leaving Sydney’s dream accommodations, we were a little/a lot skeptical of what would be in store for us living wise in the Gold Coast and Cairns. However, our good fortune of great accommodations continued because we stayed in a hotel with apartment-like rooms where we had two people to choose from four beds. We each got our own room and had an amazing view from the balcony. The Gold Coast itself is a city full of skyscrapers placed directly on the beach, so the skyline was very pretty. Since our hotel was right in the middle of it all, it was cool to see how the buildings caught the light at sunset.
We got to our accommodations around noon, so we all set out on a hunt for food before our tour of the Palazzo Versace hotel. Along the way, we ran into a promoter trying to sell us tickets for a bar crawl for $80/each, which is a ridiculous price, so for the group of 11 girls, we ended up getting $28.50/each. How’s that for some negotiating? The specifics for the deal we got are sort of complicated, but basically we got a bunch of free stuff, including free food at a few places! Yay!
Fresh off of getting that hot deal, the Tourism group returned to the hotel and changed into our nice clothes. Our bus driver was almost an hour late to picking us up, so when we arrived to the hotel, the food they had made us was sent straight to the fridges so they had to re-do some of the decorations on the food for us. Luckily, none of the staff seemed to mind and soon we were stuffing our faces with petifores and small delicacies. The woman who led our tour is the HR representative for the hotel, but had only worked there for a year, and before that, had only worked in the government.
The hotel itself are very beautiful and walking around it was very interesting because we learned about the history of the hotel, as well as what it is like today. Some quick facts about the hotel:
- The hotel cost $250 million to build & was finished in 2000
- The hotel has 200 rooms and 75 condos; all of the hotel was created in Baroque style
- Everything in the hotel, from carpets to pillows to bathrobes to tiles to cutlery, is Versace; if the hotel ever wants to change something in the hotel, it must first be approved by the House of Versace in Italy
- They pump Versace perfume through the air vents throughout the entire hotel to create a sensory experience for the guests
- You can choose your own pillow from their pillow trays – if you are not satisfied with the pillow that you are given, someone will come to your room with a tray of pillows for you to choose from; your choice is then logged in their system so if you ever return to the hotel, they will have the correct pillow on your bed the next time you arrive
- They also offer a “pooch package”; this entails having a Versace dog bed, complete with pillows. The dogs also have their own menus created by the chefs specifically for dogs; if you want to leave your dog to go on your own dinner, you can arrange for a dog sitter to sit in your room with your dog while you go out
- The cheapest hotel room is $530 a night, and $1200 is the cheapest for a night in one of the condos
We also went to their presidential suite where our tour guide told us that this is where Kanye West stayed with Kim
Kardashian after they got married. Obviously, when I heard this, I attempted touching everything in sight. I was even bold enough to sit down on one of the chairs as the watchful eye of our tour guide had been averted from me.
After our tour guide had strangely filled us in on the price almost everything in the hotel, from cutlery to robes, our tour finished with us in the foyer of the hotel, home to the crystal chandelier and huge mosaic of the Versace logo: the Medusa head. We got to know this foyer very well since we sat there waiting for our bus driver…for an hour.
Eventually, we got back to our rooms, and I slept until we went out on the town that night. Since I was getting sick, I played it low key and spent most of the night sitting in a secret, cushioned area with a few of the other girls while everyone else danced the night away.
The next day, we had a scheduled field trip to the biggest theme park in Australia: Dreamworld. Again, our bus was late, so we had to push back our schedule and no longer had a great deal of time at the park to ride the rides. In order to maximize our time, we found the shortest lines at The Claw, Cyclone & The Giant Drop. All of them were thrill rides, but mostly I was afraid because of my lack of trust in Australian engineers employed there since it seemed like every ride had been shut down at some point that day for unexplained maintenance. The Giant Drop was especially terrifying because we were so high up and it was so windy that I thought we were going to get blown away with the wind.
Overall, the park paled in comparison to American theme parks in terms of cohesiveness, ride quantity and park size. Jackie, the Dreamworld representative who gave us a presentation on the park, told us that “Dreamworld really doesn’t compare to American theme parks”, but in Australian terms, Dreamworld is the best one they have.
Speaking of the presentation, we learned that Dreamworld took 7 years to build, and was opened in 1981 with the vision of being an Australian version of Disneyland. Besides the “Big 8” roller coasters in the park, there is also Wiggles World, The Land of Awesomeness, Tiger Land and a Corroboree. The Corroboree is an interactive walkthrough attraction celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander culture. It took 7 years to create (a common number of years to build things in Dreamworld apparently), and utilized 51 people form 22 language groups to make sure all of the information presented was correct. Within this part of the park, there is a cultural centre which is run by Aboriginal people who tell visitors stories about their people as well as inform them about the historical importance of their culture.
Jackie’s presentation was really well done, and was one of the better presentations we have gotten while in Australia. Unfortunately, with the end of her presentation, our time at Dreamworld also ended. The highlight of leaving Dreamworld though was the fact that THE BUS WAS FINALLY ON TIME!!!
We went on a bar crawl that night, but I decided to leave early because I was sick and did not want to pack my things in the morning on only a few hours of sleep. Also, the fact that we had to leave the next morning at 6 am pushed me back to the hotel very quickly. I crawled into bed by 9 pm, ready to get many more hours of sleep than I had gotten in a very long time.
My alarm went off around 5:30 am, and in a sleepy daze, I thought I hit the snooze button, promising myself that I would get up on the second ring.
Unfortunately for me, the second ring came in the form of the room’s phone being called.
When I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was the analog clock which read “6:02”. We were supposed to be on the bus to the airport by 6 am.
I ran around like a chicken with her head cut off, throwing off my pajamas and unplugging my electronics and constantly hearing a faint creaking sound that I assumed was just the old building moving in the wind. As I struggled to shove my toiletries into one of my bags, the sound got louder and I realized that it was someone knocking on the door. I ran to open the front door, flung it open, and ran back to my room to shove the last of my things into a bag. Turns out the person knocking worked with TEAN and wanted to make sure that I was still not asleep.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity since I had woken up for the second time, but in actuality was only 8 minutes, I rushed out of the door with my three bags in tow. I stepped foot onto our van to the airport at 6:12 am, a full 10 minutes after I had lifted my head from my pillow.
And so, we bid the Gold Coast au dieu and were off to our final destination: Cairns. Stay tuned for 6 jam packed days of fun in the sun to end my stay in Australia!