They call Australia "the lucky country". Never have I travelled somewhere where the people are so generous, easygoing, and happy. "No worries, mate" is the cliché expression all over Australia but it carries real meaning.
Some quick first impressions. Australia is more like the US than any place I've travelled, including Canada. Only more American than the US; less crowded, bigger city sprawls, more informality. It's a very prosperous place, beautiful and comfortable. And it's not all flat and hot; I never saw desert, just lots of rainforests.
Melbourne was my favourite city, comfortable and cosmopolitan with a European street cafe culture. Sydney is beautiful but so much like San Francisco we felt like we hadn't left home! Tasmania is amazingly wild and wonderful and the countryside in Victoria is charming with lots of great 19th century history apparent.
There's nothing like international travel to make you ashamed of US politics. The folks I met were all very friendly and polite about it, but Bush is deeply disliked there. The Sydney paper doesn't pull any punches with its headlines, either; "Revelations add to picture of US torture". What a horrible legacy.