Joe Tro's Australia/LA trip report

Old Jul 3rd, 2014, 10:59 PM
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Joe Tro's Australia/LA trip report

Day One:

So far my trip is off to an auspicious beginning. When I arrived for my flight at DFW, I was told that the ETA had not been transfered over (the agent could not see it), even though I booked it months ago, received a confirmation, and checked it out. So, I paid $45 to buy a new one at DFW. Just sent a sternly worded e-mail to the Ottawa Australian office ...

I'm now at LAX, where my flight has been delayed 2.5 hours. The same thing happened yesterday, so I'm thinking this is there way of making schedule changes as a policy. I have many friends in LA, but I don't really fancy a late night uber and going in and outside of security. 3:15 hours left until my flight ... This means I won't get into Sydney until 10 am, so it will surely cut into my sightseeing plans already. Sigh.
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 12:14 AM
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Oh dear...best laid plans and all that.

Here's hoping things improve and quickly.
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 04:53 AM
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Safe travels, Joe. Looking forward to hearing your impressions of Australia.
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 02:59 PM
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Just hope you've got a good book!
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 04:12 PM
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He'll have the WSJ
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Old Jul 5th, 2014, 02:30 AM
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Funny ... I had already read the WSJ!

My plane ended up being delayed maybe 3 - 3.5 hours. It just kept going with the announcements. We were on our way, finally, though. And I slept most of the time. Headphones weren't really working that well. Did a little work.

Arrived today and made it to hotel about 12:30. Got kind of lost coming from the Circular Quay train stop. Should have looked up (you know, to see a Marriott logo) rather than searching for a particular street.

Walked around the Rocks and went into the Museum of Contemporary Art, Rocks Discovery Museum, and the Observatory. Wow, the views from the Observatory were stellar. Definitely my happy place so far. Killed nearly 2 hours in the pub at Lord Nelson, then had an amazing meal at Fish on the Rocks, the early bird special including salmon and calamari. Highly recommend. Now about to hit up the concierge lounge for dessert.
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Old Jul 5th, 2014, 04:55 AM
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Glad your trip has gotten off to a good start so far. Another wonderful spot for views is at the Harbor Bridge. There is a lookout in the southeast pilon.
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Old Jul 6th, 2014, 02:34 PM
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Yes, going to Pylon Lookout today.

Day 2:

Headed out for Botanic Gardens around 9:30. I loved the contrast between the natural beauty, the water, and the skyscrapers. A bit too many noisy birds, though, and I'm more of a flower person and less of a tree person. Still impressive.

Walked to Art Gallery NSW. I enjoyed the Australian impressionist type artists and was impressed by the array of women artists displayed. Walked from there to Saint Marys - impressive Church, and caught a marching band playing in Hyde Park. Went to Australian Museum and was met with my worst fear: way too many children. Wasn't really my cup of tea, but I appreciated the Aboriginal section. Was astonishing to hear of the "intervention" as recently as 2007! (not that the US has a great race relations history). Walked from there to Elizabeth Bay House - a bit of a seedy walk in places. The house was good, with enjoyable views. Caught a taxi back (14.50) and stopped for a quick packet of crisps at a local store (2.40). Wow, Australia can be expensive! Enjoyed the hotel and the lounge, walked for a great meal at Jamie's Italian, and back to the hotel for bed.
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Old Jul 8th, 2014, 02:40 AM
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Day 3:

Ended up being a walking day, without taking much time to see the sights. Walked from my hotel to Queen Victoria Building and The Galleries, had a bit of a wander there and through Strand Arcade. Then, it was time for St. Andrew's Church. I walked to Darling Harbor and into the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Simply gorgeous, and a lot more there than originally met the eye. I walked back, into the State Theatre, State Library, and by (but not in) Parliament House. Went into St. James. Then, I took a cab to Park Hyatt (about $10), checked in (got an amazing room with a view of the opera - just stunning). I walked the bridge, on my own and back and went up Pylon Lookout. It was so amazingly gorgeous, I think I nearly cried. Had dinner at Altitude, and then an early bed.
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Old Jul 8th, 2014, 02:42 AM
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Day Four:

Just a few sites, but with a good chuck of time at each. I took the early bird tour at 9 am of the Opera House. We had an amazing guide, and I loved the audio system and the videos. Stunning views. Took the bus to Bondi, and I did a round-trip walk from Bondi to Bronte. It was definitely much more of a hike than a walk, with a ton of steps and elevations, but it was so worth it for the amazing views. Had some fries at the Bronte Kiosk which hit the spot, and amazing gelato at Cafe Messina (served by the most gorgeous Italian man). I took the bus back, spent some time catching up on e-mail at Customs House, and spent a little over an hour at the Museum of Sydney before it closed. I liked it more than I thought I would and appreciate the comments to go see it. Had a drink at Bulletin Place Bar, and a quick dinner on the fish special at Waterfront. Now back in the room ... and exhausted!
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Old Jul 8th, 2014, 04:37 AM
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Joe, it's great that you're really diving into Sydney. If you haven't already, I would recommend spending some time on the water, perhaps take a ferry to Taronga or Watson's Bay or Manly, so that you get to see Sydney from it's most spectacular viewpoint - the water.
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Old Jul 11th, 2014, 12:16 AM
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Day Five:

I was beginning to hit the wall this day, and the next one. In any event, this day was the last one in Sydney. So gutted to leave. I had a bit of a lazy day, mostly just enjoying the hotel, properties, views, pool, etc. I took the ferry out to Manly and stayed there about an hour and a half. Had a nice walk and enjoyed great (and cheap) fish and chips at Ivanhoe Hotel takeaway. I loved the ferry ride, especially back, but I wasn't that crazy about Manly. Glad I went. Probably could have really pushed it and headed to Tarronga, but I didn't. I walked the short way back to Circular Quay (walking on the harbour side rather than the street, Hickson, was a godsend - which I had known this earlier) and then got the train back to the airport. Changed my flight from 7:30 to 6 pm and I was off. Skybus to my Melbourne hotel (Grand Hyatt) ended up working pretty well, although my bag got a bit stuck in the door as I tried to get out ...
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Old Jul 11th, 2014, 12:18 AM
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Day Six:

First full day in Melbourne, and it was really a bit of a bust. I got out about 11:15 or so, as I had to finalize my conference talk. Went to the National Gallery of Victoria (Ian Potter) and a bit around Federation Square. I really enjoyed the impressionistic stuff, but I wasn't that keen on the rest of the museum. I made the crucial mistake of heading quickly back to the hotel for a small snack in the CL ... and promptly stayed in the room another three hours, missing valuable sightseeing time. The fact that it was rainy probably didn't help. I walked to the cellar bar at Grossi Florentino and had some nice pumpkin pasta for $18 AUD.
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Old Jul 12th, 2014, 03:13 AM
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Day Seven:

My conference began, and I walked over from the Grand Hyatt. Was about 15-20 minutes, so not too bad. The Exhibition Centre is something else! My talk went mostly fine. I popped into the Crown complex for a quick $20 loss in a slot machine, and to wander around. Very impressive and similar to Vegas with a nice casino, good shops, and chic restaurants. I cut out around 3 pm to do a bit more sightseeing (Flinders Station, St. Paul, the lanes/arcades, just a bit of random walking). Had dinner somewhere in Chinatown - was just okay.
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Old Jul 12th, 2014, 03:15 AM
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Day 9:

Spent all day at the conference. Took a lunch break to walk back to Lord of the Fries ... and found it closed. Also got rained on at that point. Was not happy. Had dinner at Hooks on the Yarra - seafood risotto. Was just okay, kinda of average in fact. Walked back and really enjoyed the South Bank all lit up at night. Saw some sort of fire show for a few minutes out of the pillars there. Got lost going back to hotel. Am now passing out very early ...
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Old Jul 13th, 2014, 05:17 AM
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What a great report! I can't work out if
You researched restaurants in advance?
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Old Jul 13th, 2014, 05:51 AM
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Yes, I did research restaurants in advance and made bookings at nearly all of them. I've also played it somewhat by ear (see my forthcoming post).
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Old Jul 13th, 2014, 05:57 AM
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Day 10:

Skipped the one morning talk at the conference after realizing it would take me longer to get there and back than to actually hear it. I made a beeline around 10 am for Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens. I didn't realize that there was a little JFK shrine beforehand. I'm still searching for the Mrs. T shrine here ...

I spent about an hour in the Old Treasury Building, which had more interesting exhibitions than I would have thought. I enjoyed some of the stuff about trade and crime, and of course the gold rush. I didn't particularly care for the gold vaults themselves, though. I walked some more around Fitzroy, which was more lush and peaceful than I would have imagined, though I didn't do all of the fountains. Walked quickly past the Park Hyatt, where I nearly stayed but changed at the last minute. I walked back to my hotel, relaxed for a few minutes, and then walked across the bridge the the NGV International ... where I promptly spent about 3.5 hours until closing. Just a stunning museum, really one of the best I think I've seen. So many kinds of works, like decorative art, that I just don't see enough of. I really appreciated not only the variety but also the quality. Some, by artists I'd never heard of, where just really arresting. Highly recommend. I also enjoyed the nearby gardens along the walk to/from the CBD.

I walked back to the CBD, had a quick burger at Gril'd in one of the lanes (loved the fries, didn't really like the burger, was too sweet for my tastes), then spent a bit of time in the hotel gym. Definitely a full day.

I'm a little behind schedule, as I plan to do the Zoo and the Botanical Gardens/Rod Laver arena tomorrow, with maybe the Melbourne Museum. However, it seems to duplicate a lot of what I've either already seen in Sydney or will see in Canberra, so I may give that a miss.
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Old Jul 13th, 2014, 08:21 AM
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Good to hear you're continuing to enjoy Australia. If you have a day or two, I would recommend going to Philip Island to see the penguins or doing the Great Ocean Road for some fabulous scenery. While you could probably spend a month in Melbourne (or Sydney), leaving the city would give you a chance to see some of the beautiful Australian countryside and hopefully its signature wildlife as well.
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Old Jul 13th, 2014, 01:48 PM
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Where did you end up staying?

The NGV is one of my favourites too.
Did you make a note of the artist/s you liked best?
Don't miss the Portrait Gallery in Canberra - it's next to the NGA.

Melbourne is known for its beautiful parks & gardens. If you're impressed now, imagine how gorgeous they are in Spring & Autumn.
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