We had an uneventfull flight to Australia, going through LA then 14 hours to Sydney. Movies included Crosswords, Pirates of the Caribbean, Cars, and most importantly, The Devil Wears Prada - "Do you have an ugly skirt convention to go to?" After landing around 7:00 in the morning, we were lucky to be able to check right into the hotel. Jim just wanted to take a shower, but Steven insisted on booking trips and shows with the hotel Concierge. We started right out with a tour of the Sydney Opera House.Sydney Opera House
After the Opera House, we took the Manly Ferry to Manly Beach. The place was not very impressive, but this was possibly due to the time of year. Later in the week we took the Bondi Explorer Bus Trip, when these photos were taken.
The hotel that Steven found was absolutely lovely. In a location that was quite near the Opera House, and adjacent to the city’s Botanical Gardens, we were in an ideal location for exploring Sydney. The Intercontinental had a penthouse lounge with a fantastic view of the harbor. We ate breakfast there each morning and had free cocktails in the evening during happy hour. One night we even saw Johnny Knoxsville, the idiot of Jackass fame, who was in Sydney for an awards show. The wait-staff apparently were required to be anorexic.The Intercontinental Hotel
This was the view from our window at the
Intercontinental, a stunning vista of the
Circular Quay and Sydney Harbor Bridge.
We toured the gardens, where they have a small hothouse with many orchids and the such. The flies were so thick that it was hard to spend much time outdoors. One amazing thing we saw were thousands of large bats (flying foxes) that migrate to the park during the springtime.
The picture to the left was taken during a wonderful
food and wine festival in Hyde Park to benefit AIDS charities.
From our room we could see the Luna park, an amusement center that was given to Sydney as a gift because of the noise made during construction of the bridge. At night the evil clown face is lit up to look positively demonic.
On our way to the Blue Mountains, we had breakfast at this wildlife sanctuary. They had around 30 Koalas, one of which they brought in while we were eating. We saw and petted just about every species of Australian wildlife at this park; kangaroos, Koalas, wambats, echidnas, dingos and emu. We saw the cute fairy penguins, but were told that they are now called little penguins because of political correctness.
We explored the Blue mountains, so called because of blue haze released from all the aromatic eucalyptus trees. This region was referred to as the Australian Grand Canyon. At "Scenic World" we took a tram across the gorge, another down to the bottom, and a train back up to the center.
we ended the tour with a champaigne toast in the floor of an extinct volcano, were we saw wild kagaroos and cockatoos. All in all this tour was well worth the money and we had a great time.
We toured the famous Bondi Beach, were we saw real surfers and had a lovely lunch of fish and chips on a patio overlooking the beach. We each touched the South Pacific Ocean. Jim wanted to take the walk along the cliff, and Steven stoically agreed.
We climbed to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the view was spectacular. The little dots you see at the top of the bridge are actually people. The tours go 7 days a week, closing only so they can put fireworks on the bridge for New Years Eve. We reserved a twilight climb, but had the only cloudy day of our entire time in Sydney.
We spent the second half of our trip in Melbourn where Jim had a conference. We did not do much sightseeing in the city, but did get together with Bill and Ian, a couple that we had met in South America. The conference was at the Crown Prominade, located at the largest Casino in the Southern hemisphere. Steven's luggage didn't show up until the second day, but other than that we had a good time here and found Melbourn to be a refined city.
Jim blew off one day of the conference and we took an all day tour of the Yarra Valley. Our driver was a charming ex-police officer who was very knowledgeable about the area. We went to four wineries and tasted many good wines. We ended the day with a cheese tasting at a local dairy. It was amazing how similar the Australian wine regions are to California.