Australia: Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne

Jun 18th, 2018, 06:21 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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Australia: Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne

Finally, the trip report: Australia. 3 weeks. Divided our time among Sydney, Cairns, and Melbourne.Having never been before, but knowing that the country was big (but not HOW big!), I decided to partly plan on my own, and partly get the assistance of a travel agent specializing in Down Under travel. Getting help is not my usual protocol since I enjoy the planning phase almost as much as the trip itself and, besides, I have serious micromanagement issues. However, I disclosed this fault to my Melbourne born and raised travel agent, so she wasn’t offended or insulted when we worked together planning the trip with all of my “I wannas”.

Digression: On the “big country” part, when I lived in England, I had friends from California come to visit and they were going to do a road trip. They planned visiting me in London a few days, then drive up to Oxford for a visit before moving northerly to York. They had planned FOUR DAYS to travel by car from London to Oxford. After a good laugh, it was explained that while a map of England might be the same physical paper size as a map of the United States, the actual travel time by car was about 1 ˝ hours.

Time of year: April. In my mind, that is my October, and always a good time to travel – not too hot, not too cold. Didn’t realize all of the climatic environments in Australia – and I should have, considering we were going to zipline in a rainforest, see crocodiles, snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, and bring summer and Southern California winter style clothing. In short, we were prepared for all kinds of weather, and that’s what we had. From California to Oz, I learned you lose an entire day going there, but return to California based on date and time, before you left Australia. Which seems like a time travel movie, but for us, even after 20 or so hours, no jet lag on either end! It could have been the nice beds in business class on Air New Zealand . . . .

Sydney: We had 4 full days in Sydney, 5 if you count the afternoon of our arrival, and the morning before our departure. Our travel agent put us up in the CBD (Australian for Central Business District) in an apartment hotel called the Adina. I had my reservations, but it was a good match for us. It was similar to the self-contained Marriott Residence Inns, but our unit included two balconies, one of which was huge. It also had a washer/dryer, great since my husband is not an “in the bathtub wash as you wear” kind of guy. But, yeah, a really spacious place with a pool and spa not over-run by scores of kids, and literally across the street from a rail line (going through an indoor mall).Speaking of malls, Sydney’s CBD has to be the enclosed mall capital of the world. Well, maybe the warmer weather world, since I do recall quite the underground shopping city in Toronto. Seriously, there are so many arcades and malls, one blending into another, you practically never have to go outside.

Transportation in City: the Opal card. Pick one up at any 7/11 (and they have a LOT), and they will give you your first top up in the amount you pay for. The Opal card is used on all public transportation: trains, trams, and buses. I’m not sure if it’s easy for everyone to figure out (like, do you tap when you go in and tap when you leave?), but because Los Angeles with all of its relatively new public transportation, and its requirement of the use of a tap card, I’ve become an expert in my own mind. That said, with all of the construction going on in Sydney, it does mess a little with public transportation, especially if you are circling a lot of activities at or near the Wharf Quay at the weekend. The city does try and help the locals and the visitors by providing free bus service when the trains are not going directly to the quay, and lots of staff helping you find the right tram, train, or bus.

Sydney tours: We did two. The de rigueur one of the Sydney Opera House and one entitled “When Rum Ran the Rocks”. The second one involved history of the rocks and history of the pubs in the Rocks. And a lot of drinking in the pubs in the Rocks. Both well “worth it” if I was going to rate a tour. Not much sense in describing the Sydney Opera House tour other than to say because tours are conducted every 15 minutes, and everyone wants to do it, it’s better to do it earlier (like 9 or 10 a.m.) than later in the day when the area and the tours become packed with people. Also, because it involves walking up a lot of steps, and Australia is really behind on the disabilities services (like elevators and the like), a decent pair of sneakers and being relatively active is necessary.We loved the drinking tour, not just because of the drinking. We were the only two on the tour and our tour guide, John, was a Sydney native and had our full attention. There were two pubs we liked a lot – simply because they were old, had a good vibe, and they had live music playing the Australian pub standards (meaning mostly American ‘70’s – 90’s covers). They were the Fortune of War and the Hero of Waterloo. Fortune of War is right as you head into the area from the quay, and is especially lively on a Sunday afternoon when the locals come out and dance to the music and party before heading back to work Monday morning.

Our Sydney Beach day was a coin toss between Manly and Bondi Beach. Manly won. Now, there’s two ways of getting there from CBD, both by ferries from the quay, one public and the other “Fast” Ferry, private. Until the end of 2017, the Fast Ferry left Wharf 6, but it’s now Wharf 2, while the public ferry departs from Wharf 3. We know this because one warm day we were sitting eating ice cream at Wharf 6 and a load of people kept running towards us like bulls in Pamplona to make the Fast Ferry in dock and ignoring all of the signs on poles that said it departs at Wharf 2 now. Out of breath, they’d get to the docked ferry only to be told by the crew that they have to go to Wharf 2. We licked as the exhausted dads and moms, and teens and kids and strollers, no longer playing Beat the Clock, headed back to the right dock. It was an amusing pastime watching this, not gonna lie. We used our Opal card on the public ferry . . . didn’t really see the point of spending a few extra dollars to shave off 10 minutes of being on a boat checking out Sydney Harbor on a warm sunny day to get to Manly.Manly Beach is pretty spectacular. And clean. With plenty to see and do. The water was warm and clear; the sand silky. Really, soft white sand. I always thought Los Angeles beach sand was pretty soft if compared to more pebbly grains in the south of France (Antibes and to the west, not the rocky beaches in Nice, that is). Well, compared to Aussie beaches, LA’s sand is pretty grainy. Even the public toilets are clean. Weekends at Manly also have the outdoor kiosks lining Sydney Road at the end of The Corso. It was there we found the perfect street Paella. We ordered a serving and had it split into two containers, and it was still a huge meal for each of us. Found a bench nearby to eat it and watch the parade of people.

Next stop . . . Cairns.
Surfergirl is offline  
Jun 18th, 2018, 03:14 PM
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,199
Tagging along. Sounds like the light rail construction has made it to Circular Quay.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Jun 18th, 2018, 05:29 PM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 11,763
Nice start, surfergirl. I’m looking forward to the next chapters, too.

Just a couple of clarifications, if I may:

Opera House Tours - There is an “Accessibility Tour” each day at 12 Noon. Same price & duration as the others ($40, 1hour).

There is also lift ( “elevator” for the North Americans) access to the various upper level theatres for people with mobility issues. All on the SOH website.

There is also a more extensive, “Backstage Tour”. 2 1/2 hours, $175 ( 10% discount for online bookings foe all tours). Needs a good level of fitness.

MANLY: In addition to the ferries from Circular Quay, there is also an eco hopper ferry from Watson’s Bay, and buses from Carrington street ( near Wynyard station).

Light rail construction: It’s a particular mess at the northern end of George Street & along Alfred Street at the moment. We roll our eyes at the various incompetences of the NSW Stat Gov’t that have prolonged &will prolong this - and work our way around it. Doesn’t extend beyond Alfred Street, so The Rocks is undisturbed.

I don’t know what the noise level from the construction is inside the Four Seasons, but may be something to consider if anyone is considering a stay there just now.
Bokhara2 is offline  
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