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Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Sydney Family Selfie

In April, I called mom and dad and told them I had lots of time off, and we needed to go somewhere. Mom had always wanted to go to Australia, so we decided we'd go to Sydney.

Posting this on Mother's Day, I'm glad I could help provide what my mother has deemed "The Best Trip Ever."

Full album of pictures can be seen here.

Here's her description of our trip (with my additions in italics):

AUSTRALIA TRIP APR. 20 - APR. 27, 2014

We left home (Henderson, NC) Sunday April 20, 2014 at 5:30 a.m, driving to Raleigh-Durham Airport (RDU). We left RDU for Atlanta at 8:15 a.m, then left Atlanta at 10:45 a.m. for Los Angeles. We arrived in Los Angeles at 12 noon their time.  We left Los Angeles for Australia at 10:10 p.m.

Boarding for Sydney in Los Angeles

On Board the Boeing 777-200 LR

We arrived in Australia at 6 a.m., Tuesday Australia time.  Australia is 14 hours ahead of our time.  We checked in at our hotel (The Swissotel), then went sight seeing. (Fortunately, our room was ready, so we were allowed to check in and freshen up before seeing the sites.)  

View from our room, overlooking the dome of the Queen Victoria Building 

We took the Sydney Explorer “hop on - hop off bus”. (We bought a 48 hour pass -- this is a great way to first explore everything and then hit the locations you want to visit. It can also be just a great way to get around town, while listening to a narrated tour guide.) We got off at the Harbourside Shopping Center, where we shopped a bit and walked around the harbor. Had lunch at a food court before getting back on the hop on/hop off bus. We saw most of the interesting places as we rode around the city. (We also got off the bus on the first day at Circular Quay, where we posed for our first shots with the Sydney Opera House, before jumping on the Bondi Beach bus line to go out towards the beach and eastern suburbs.)

Town Hall, where we boarded the Bus
Waiting to get on the bus
Having some fun on the upper deck of the bus
At Circular Quay, overlooking the Sydney Opera House
Harbour Bridge
Sunset over Sydney, heading back from Bondi Beach
Sydney at Sunset

On Wednesday we took the Explorer bus over to the Opera House and took a guided tour. (There are two major concert halls within the facility, and five other smaller performance venues. The Sydney Ballet was rehearsing in one of the larger halls when we toured.)
Opera House Selfie

Up close and personal

Dad's great picture of the Harbour Bridge reflected in the glass of the Opera House
Our tour guide, in one of the smaller performance halls
Inside looking outside

After the guided tour of the Opera House, we jumped back on the Explorer Bus to the beach (Bondi Beach), a very beautiful beach.
Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach 

We had lunch at the Iceberg Café. (Iceberg's is a club for Australians who swim every Sunday year round for at least 4 years straight. For lunch, I [Frank] ordered vegemite and toast, just to try vegemite. It wasn't so tasty. The salmon was much better!)

Vegemite and toast

Mom and Dad at lunch at Iceberg's. 

Frank went swimming. (Only after getting out did I see the sign.)

Leaving Bondi Beach on the open-air bus

Then we went back to the hotel and we did the Sydney Showboat Dinner Cruise.  This was wonderful, food was delicious, sights were beautiful and the show was great.

The Sydney Showboat

On board the dinner cruise before leaving harbor
View of the city on the dinner cruise 

Thursday morning,  Frank got breakfast for us and bought it back to the room (I woke up before everyone else, shocking the shizzle out of everyone!)   
Breakfast. (No the wine wasn't for breakfast.)

We went to the Botanic Gardens, beautiful sights.  (What I really liked about the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney was there were signs saying "Please Walk On the Grass!")

Dad. In the garden alone. While the dew was still on the roses. 
The Wollemi Pine in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. It is one of the world's rarest plants, first thought to be extinct but discovered in 1994.

Bridge and Opera House from the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Walking throught the gardens. Notice the Cockatoo perched above the fountain

We saw Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair (an early 19thcentury carved rock seat from where Elizabeth Macquarie (the Governor’s wife) watched the harbor.  

Sitting in Mrs. Macquarie's Chair

After leaving the Royal Botanic Gardens, we bought passes for the hop on and off ferry and rode the ferry to the Taronga Zoo.  Our ferry was named Alice.  (We had seen 'Alice' from Circular Quay on the very first day. I would end up riding the same boat several more times.)

When we got to the zoo, we took a cable car to the top and worked our way down. The Taronga Zoo was nice -- we were glad to see koalas, kangaroos, wombats and wallabies. Probably the coolest thing at the zoo that you can't really see many other places though were the platypuses. I don't think I had ever seen one before. 

The city from the ferry coming back from the Taronga Zoo

After we docked in Darling Harbour, we had supper at “I’m Angus Steakhouse(in Cockle Bay Wharf on the harbor) boasting the finest Australia beef.   Very, very good.  This was a special treat from Frank.  We had a beautiful view of the harbor.  (They had asked us if we had reservations, which we didn't, but then proceeded to seat us in the best seat in the house.)

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and to bed. (While mom and dad went to bed, I went out to check out the scene. Walking through Hyde Park, I came across this possum in a tree. He was a friendly looking little fellow who just posed while I took pictures. The Australian possums are much cuter than ours.)

On Friday we watched the Australian Anzac Day parade.  Anzac Day is dedicated to World War II veterans and also veterans of wars after World War II.  (Anzac stood for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. This was the first 'non-gorgeous' day of the trip. It rained on the parade, and was pretty rainy and overcast for much of the day.)

Anzac Day Parade

Frank went Ferry hopping and F. T. and I went shopping.  (I took the ferry from Darling Harbour to Watson's Bay where I had fish & chips. Afterwards, I participated in a game called Two-Up, a gambling game only allowed on Anzac Day as soldiers used to play during the war.)
Arriving at Watson's Bay
Frank's table and view with Sydney in the far background 

Bought some Anzak biscuits, they were really good.  Then we all went to China town and to the Paddy’s Market (like a flea market).  F. T. bought a leather hat, then we took the light rail to the Fish Market and back to China town to eat.  Went to the Wishing Well then walked through Queen Victoria building then back to the room and Frank went back out.

Mom shopping at Paddy's Market

The Sydney Fish Market

The Anzac Bridge at sunset, from the fishmarket
Chinatown night market
Back at the hotel with the hat dad bought from Paddy's Market. 

Saturday - Our last day and a great day.  We took the train then a bus to the Featherdale Wildlife Park.  This is one thing you must do when you are in Australia.  You have to see and pet and feed the Koala bears, the Kangaroos, and birds.  

Tasmanian Devil -- running around in circles

Had pictures made with the Koala bears.  Had a wonderful meal there (one of the cheapest we had anywhere. Food was very expensive in Australia).  I asked for salt and she said “chicken salt” and I said yes, I reckon so.  Took the bus and train back to Central Station and a short walk to the hotel. Our trip to the zoo was about 40 miles out from Sydney.  

The Southern Cassowary

Flying Fox Bat


Wrenns and a young Wallaby

That night, Frank did the ultimate view of Sydney, the Sydney tower eye. (At the very top, you can put on a harness and walk around on the outside, overlooking all of Sydney, standing on a glass platform looking down below.) This is the tallest structure in Sydney.  It is twice the height of Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Sydney Tower was a helpful landmark -- it was just over our hotel

We had supper at Oporto restaurant. (We had seen this fast food chicken place everywhere since we arrived and finally tried it).

Sunday I opened the mini refrigerator in our room and opened a bottle of water (I thought it was one Frank had put in) it was only $6.50.  I think we had seen everything in Sydney. It is beautiful country and it is very expensive.  Frank is a great tour guide.  He can find his way around anywhere.  If you ever travel to Sydney and need to know where the bargains are just ask me.  We left for the airport at 8 a.m., our flight left at ll:20 a.m., arrived in Los Angeles at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday.  

Picked up rental car and drove to Uncle Norman’s house in Taft.

Terry, Cindy, Darby, Jacob, and Marley all came over for lunch.  We had a great time with our West Coast family. We sat and talked all afternoon.  Norman told us our bed was waiting, he said nobody had slept in it since we were there 5 years ago.

Monday, up at 6 a.m., Norman and Christine had a big breakfast for us.  We picked lemons from the tree and bought home.  Off to the airport at 7:30 a.m.  We had a 12 noon flight to Memphis, TN, Memphis to RDU at 6 p.m., arrived at RDU at 9:30 p.m.Total air miles traveled 19,554 miles.

This was the best trip ever.

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