Australia and New Zealand-Ongoing

Dec 24th, 2015, 11:05 PM
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Australia and New Zealand-Ongoing

As I often at least TRY to do I will as much as possible make more or less daily entries to this trip report.

As background, we began planning the trip about one year ago. One reason for that was we knew we would be in Sydney for the New Years Eve fireworks display and that some hotels with views of the harbor and bridge would sell out very quickly. You can imagine my disappointment when I learned that the places I was most interested were already full 12 months out. But more on that later.

My husbear and I have never been to this part of the Pacific region in the past. We've been to various countries in the Far East previously and I spent two combat tours in VietNam which really isn't akin to the usual travel/visit but you get the idea. We knew Australia is huge; we also had been told by numerous friends that New Zealand has spectacular scenery. Combining the two seemed realistic. We also know how we like to travel and I am acutely aware of the differences in interest in our household.

I am the person who usually "does the planning" and Mr. Excitement simply comes along for the ride. Fine by me and has been for more than 42 years.

We left Miami on Wednesday afternoon and flew non-stop to Los Angeles. Spent several pleasant hours hanging around in the Star Alliance lounge in the Bradley terminal before boarding our Air New Zealand flight to Auckland. There was no way we were going to make this journey of 12+ hours from LAX in anything but a flatbed seat and it was worth the money IMO. Good service from the flight crew who were dressed in Santa hats and had strung holiday lights in the airplane galley area.

Smooth flight and on-time arrival; took showers in the Air New Zealand lounge and had a bite to eat. Weather overcast; one of the lunge workers (from Fiji) declared that, "It is always like this in December." We were glad to have arrived.

About three hours later we boarded our flight to Perth where I am typing this in the hotel room. Weather is great here; as I look out the window it is totally cloudless and beautiful. Palm trees like at home (we live on the beach in Fort Lauderdale) and of course, all those eucalyptus trees.
The room was ready (gratefully) and we are staying in the Hyatt for the next couple of nights.

The main reason we came all the way to the West Coast is so we could take the Indian-Pacific back to Sydney. Yeah, I know, but I'm the "train person" and I've wanted to do this trip for years and we already know we can't "do everything."

We will have our Christmas dinner in the hotel tonight at their rather pricey buffet. We figured this was a safe bet since as we rode into town in the taxi it was obvious that lots of establishments are closed for the holiday. I reserved via email with the hotel some weeks ago.

So, on that note, Merry Christmas to all of you who might be reading this. I'm delighted: no airline delays, no lost luggage, the food on the plane was certainly edible, and even the movies were good. AND we are finally here. What's NOT to like?
Dukey1 is offline  
Dec 24th, 2015, 11:18 PM
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I'm on for the ride !

I took that train from Adelaide to Perth many years ago and had a ball, hope you do too....check out Freemantle if you have time.

Merry Christmas ...
sartoric is online now  
Dec 24th, 2015, 11:49 PM
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Welcome to Australia! Hope you have a terrific holiday - looking forward to reading your trip report.
marg is offline  
Dec 25th, 2015, 01:16 AM
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Glad to hear your trip to Australia and New Zealand is off to a good start. I hope you fall in love with Sydney as much as I did. Try to spend time on the water and do take walks along the harborfront if you are able. There's nothing like it.

I look forward to reading about your experiences of NYE in Sydney as we are planning to be there next year. Surprised to hear that you couldn't find available hotel rooms at some places in 12 months out. I started contacting a few hotels a couple of months ago and were told that they would not start selling until January or February. In the meantime, I'm monitoring the websites. Where will you be staying? Also have you decided from where you'll be viewing the fireworks?

Merry Christmas and enjoy Perth and the train ride.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Dec 25th, 2015, 02:49 AM
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Merry Christmas & welcome to our part of the world

Hope you have a good time; looking forward to your trip report - let us know if we can help you along the way.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Dec 25th, 2015, 03:28 AM
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Merry Christmas and welcome to our part of the world. Looking forward to reading of your adventures. My DH was posted to Perth when he was in the Army so we drove across with two small children wanting to listen to nursery songs all the way.

october_fun is offline  
Dec 25th, 2015, 10:01 AM
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Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to you, Dukey. I'm following your adventures with misty eyes. We've just returned from a month in New Caledonia, Australia and New Zealand and I wish I were back there right now. New Zealand has stolen my heart.
Treesa is offline  
Dec 25th, 2015, 10:46 AM
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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I loved NZ - only saw Sydney in Australia which I also really liked. Eager to hear about the train ride - it's definitely on my "things to do " list.
thursdaysd is offline  
Dec 25th, 2015, 01:16 PM
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Welcome to our country.

Enjoy the differences. Have a great trip. Ask if you have any questions. We're keeping an eye out for you.
margo_oz is offline  
Dec 25th, 2015, 08:23 PM
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enjoy-happy Boxing day . BTW we say gum trees not eucalyptus.
northie is offline  
Dec 25th, 2015, 09:35 PM
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Merry Christmas, Dukey! I'm a big fan of Air New Zealand; we've flown with them twice and will make it a third time in May. I'm looking forward to reading your trip report.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Dec 26th, 2015, 02:21 AM
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wow - that's quite a journey with which to start your trip, dukey! Miami - LA - Auckland - Perth - I'm impressed with your stamina.

hope you enjoyed your Aussie Christmas and look forward to reading more about your trip as it evolves.
annhig is online now  
Dec 26th, 2015, 05:54 AM
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Thanks very much to everyone for their kind comments and, again, I hope all had a memorable holiday.

People always talk about jetlag afer overnight plane journeys and how you shouldn't drive and you should stay up and all that. Understandable, but on this trip we were fortunate enough to actually feel "awake" when we arrived in Auckland thanks to those flatbed seats.

The leg from Auckland to Perth which took 7+ hours also had flatbed seats on a B787 and we were encouraged by the crew to nap as needed and we did.

As I said above, we had made a reservation to eat the evening Christmas meal in the hotel. The hotel itself was pretty full and the lobby was very busy with all sorts of folks; lots of families with their children milling around when we checked in.

The big meal was given in one of the hotel restaurants and there was certainly plenty to eat including all sorts of seafood, a large salad bar, roasted vegetables in some crazy combinations, and meat (about 8 different types). The booze was flowing, children were carrying on loudly; the tables had those "Christmas poppers" containing the paper crowns (yes, we wore ours!) so we gorged ourselves silly.

Folks talk in trip reports about "meeting the locals" and I was interested in observing kinda up close, the so-called "natives."

BIG surprise! They more or less look and act just like we do. In this case the overall scene was casual to semi-formal attire. Some men had coats and ties on; others wore T-shirts. Lots of the wives and girlfriends had made the effort to look very nich for the holiday meal; several tables were filled with families of several generations including what appeared to be the grandparents and their children and their children's children.

I notices that the wait staff appeared to be from other parts of the world (think India and Indonesia).

Plenty of drinking and some singing at points. One older lady was playing with her granddughter, dancing around the room when she tripped and fell; this caused the expected commotion and when she didn't get up immediately lots of folks went to the rescue and eventually the local paramedics were called in.

This whole thing did not stop a lot of the other celebrants from continuing their own merrymaking.

I had forgotten that today, the 26th, is Boxing Day (a holiday not generally observed officially in the US) but things remained closed here. Despite my so-called very careful packing I realized I needed a couple of small items and we decided to take a walk through part of the Central Business District in which we were told a couple of 24-hour convenence stores/small markets were open.

The hotel rents bicycles and had I been alone I would have done that but the Husbear is definitely "bicycle-challenged" or thinks he is. And that from someone who rode a huge Harley Hog for decades. Go figure. The walk was better as exercise for us anyway so we set out.

Found an open store close by, made the purchase (I had changed a small amount of money in Los Angeles..finally got rid of those Japanese Yen I had been saving since our last trip there) and continued on.

Downtown Perth is a mixture, achitecturally, with so-called "heritage" structures (I notice in the real estate ads that "heritage" becomes "character" when describing structures; so many clever ways of saying the word "old") along with mid and high rise buildings (plenty of residences I think) as well as office spaces. There were more than a couple of huge cranes evident, too, so construction continues. Plenty of reinforced concrete. At least one "brutalist" building (the concert hall) as well as the wonderful Elizabethan-looking (at least with those towers) Government House.

The Government House gardens were closed to entry but the nearby Stirling and Supreme Court gardens were open so we explored those. Plenty of familiar trees and plants to those of us who live in the US. I don't think I have ever seen Lillies of the Nile (Agapanthus) that are this big. Beautiful colored flowers and a few of those colorful parrots (is that what they are) flying around from tree to tree and peering down at us.

There is some sort of construction project underway at the Esplanade and the businesses at the ferry terminals were more or less all open. I noticed the Bell Tower was selling engraved "love locks" which you can attach to specially-provided lengths of chain outside the structure. And those chains were jammed full of these things which are reviled by so many.

There was a sign which said that love locks may have originated at the Great Wall of China! Who knew?

Everybody has told us, both on here and from elsewhere, how much we needed to see Fremantle but we decided to forego that and rather than take one of the cruises (or the train) there we returned to the hotel. Walked along the edge of the Swan River and the absolutely huge expanse of grass and trees called Langley Park.

The city was wise, IMO, to have reserved a lot of green space along the banks on both sides of the river. There are numerous mid and high-rise residences and hotels along the north side. When you look across the river to the south side the buildings appear to be much lower and you can see the many trees and the hills beyond and that makes for a pleasant view.

Plenty of water action including kayakers, sailboarders, along with a few speedboats. A few joggers and other walkers all of whom were not too engaged to say hello or nod recognition.

Back at the hotel we put on swimsuits and headed for the pool. One reason I switched from my original accommodtion choice to this one was the presence of an outdoor pool. Beautiful cloudless day (sun comes up earlier down here; at home it rises over the ocean around 7:00 AM right now and comes through our front windows and I am usually up to watch it. This morning by the time I got up the sun was waaay up already).

The pool area was kinda crowded with some of those same families who were at the dinner. Women looking glamorous; men with tattoos!

We spent time swimming and also browsing through the local newspapers including "The Weekend Australian" and "The Weekend West." I think when you travel somebody should actually ban all newspapers because they have this effect of bringing you back to reality!

Looking across the Swan River things seem totally pleasant and you wonder if people here are as "driven" and caught up in struggles with Isis and nasty political debates and so forth.

Apparently they are. Everything from a Vatican crisis to "Obama Rounds Up Hispanic Families" to "An 'unsafe' Boxing Day Test: cricket gets its just deserts" along with lots of coverage of the Rolex Sydney-Hobart sailing race.

All of that along with sale inserts from "The Good Guys" and "Wizard Pharmacy" and "Winning Appliances" and Domayne's Half-Yearly "Big Big Deals."

Bill Bryson tells about Australian uniqueness in his, "In A Suburned Country" but in some ways we all seem to be the same. So much for "exotic lands" LOL.

We have had to rearrange our luggage for the train trip tomorrow. We are "encouraged" to check everything but the essentials due to space constraints so we will travel with a couple of hand-helds and one clothing bag (which I brought in one the suitcases just for this upcoming segment).

A limo driver will arrive tomorrow morning compliments of Great Southern Rail, the company which runs the train, to transfer us to the East Perth station where the train starts out.

We are told there is little, if any, connectivity while aboard. I don't expect to see any cell towers on the Nullarbor Plain (thank God) but will continue to make notes and then when I am connected will make another entry or entries.

Best wishes to all of you.
Dukey1 is offline  
Dec 26th, 2015, 06:10 AM
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The rail company is sending a limo? Wow!

Glad to hear the flight went well.

Those "poppers" are Christmas crackers. Wiki says they are also called "bon-bons" but that's rubbish, never heard them called anything but crackers.
thursdaysd is offline  
Dec 26th, 2015, 06:30 AM
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poppers? something else entirely.

this is a Christmas Cracker:

this is a [party] popper:

[I realise that I have fixed on the most trivial part of your trip completely ignoring the rest!]

Nice start to the trip and how lucky to have flat-beds on two legs of your flight. hope that the train ride is everything you might wish for - and we look forward to hearing from you again when you reach Sydney.
annhig is online now  
Dec 26th, 2015, 10:50 AM
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Nice start Dukey. I once looked up from my coffee to see a yellow Tiger Moth landing on Langley Park. I thought it must be in trouble, but it was an exhibition flight by some vintage planes. Right place, right time for me.

We've always called them "Bon Bons" in our family.

I wonder whether you had a chance to get up to Kings Park. Stunning views of the river & city and beautiful parklands with many native plants.

Those birds you saw would have been parrots -possibly King Parrots if they were large red & green fellows.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Dec 26th, 2015, 04:14 PM
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Ah yes, the 4:30 am summer sunrise in WA. Can't say I miss that much. I suspect the parrots were rainbow lorikeets or 28's - a green parrot with a yellow neck and a black head.

Enjoying your report Dukey. I hope the weather isn't too brutal. Scratch that, you live in FL, you're probably used to brutal.

That big esplanade project is Elizabeth Quay - it's been life altering for Perth and it's foreshore. And not necessarily in a good way IMO.
Melnq8 is online now  
Dec 26th, 2015, 10:59 PM
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Interesting Dukey have not heard the term lilies of the Nile - just agapanthus - grow like weeds in many parts of Australia especially as street flowers. They are noxious weeds in some places and are not allowed to be grown.
Sounds like the trip over in business helped the jet lag . Enjoy the train.
northie is offline  
Dec 27th, 2015, 12:58 PM
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Nice report so far.

They're Bon bons in my family too.
cathies is online now  

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