The Gold Coast.
Doesn't it sound glamorous? Doesn't it conjur up images of perfect beaches and weather? Isn't it just the kind of place you would like to go on holiday?
Well, it did for this British Bird. You want to know what our holiday destinations in UK are called? Bognor, Blackpool, Southend-on-Sea... not much golden about these place names is there.
And yet the Gold Coast, or more specifically Surfer's Paradise - one of the busier and most developed towns on the "GC" - was described to me by a few people (Australians and British) as the Blackpool of Australia's east coast. For those who don't know what Blackpool is like, this video of "the North's decaying fantasy island" paints a charmingly tender portrait of the once most popular holiday destination for working class families in the UK.
Having visited both places for roughly the same amount of time I can see some similarities - the flood of native tourists, the depressing number of amusement arcades, theme parks and fast food restaurants, the dated plastic shop fronts, the blissful innocence with which children enjoy their time there - and yet there is quite literally a world of difference between the two.
The eponymous stretches of golden sand into which deep blue waves of dramatically crashing ocean pound all day, every day make Surfer's Paradise beach picturesque and indeed paradise-like in a way that Blackpool, sadly, couldn't compete with.
Thanks to differing economic climates on both sides of the globe, every summer Blackpool fights for its survival as the number of empty shops and deteriorating shells of demised businesses multiply. In the Surfer's Paradise at the peak of it's high season - the Christmas period which is slap bang in the middle of Australia's summer holidays - it was exactly how Blackpool would dream to be - busy, bustling, alive... profitable.
There is no denying that the weather in Blackpool, and indeed most of the UK, is as much about pot luck as the casinos both destinations house, whereas the odds for bright sunshine and blue skies over on the Gold Coast are consistently good. There are other reasons why Surfer's Paradise has the edge on Blackpool; scuba diving, jet skiing, surfing, power boating, sky-diving above the ocean. Even the most die-hard Blackpool fan wouldn't be keen to indulge in these activities in the Irish Sea.
Drawing this comparison has made me strangely homesick and sympathetic for the plight of Blackpool and other holiday destinations in UK. It is potentially ironic for me, a traveller with a life long lust for wandering away from home shores, to now be considering the effect that travelling abroad has on UK tourist destinations. And yet in many ways it is completely bizarre to even consider a trip to Blackpool, a place I've never lusted for and have only visited briefly and by accident, when there are still 101 places I want to go in the world. That said, Surfer's Paradise wasn't one of them.
However, Surfer's Paradise was warm, easy, enjoyable and harmless fun. We swam in the surprisingly cold Pacific Sea, we drove along the rest of the Gold Coast and marvelled at pretty, clean beach after pretty, clean beach and we found some very nice independent restaurants among the plastic fronted chains and worryingly cheap burger joints.
The whole time we were in Surfer's Paradise NewMan kept reminding me that this wasn't "real" Australia. I was confused; it was popular and clean, the people were friendly and helpful, we felt safe and welcome. Why wouldn't he claim that this as the "real" Australia? I think it may have had something to do with and those flippant references to the Gold Coast being like Blackpool.
And yet, there is one difference where I think Blackpool has the edge. I happen to think that Blackpool is the real UK. It is both a historic seaside town and a sign of our current times and as the above Vice video proves, the people who live there have true British qualities; resilience, pride, realistic optimism, a prevailing sense of humour, a deep and grumbling sense of nostalgia and upper lips that have stiffened with age and experience. And this British Bird is very proud of that.
Frances M. Thompson
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