Reporting live from NZ, OZ, HK!

Mar 27th, 2005, 02:32 AM
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Reporting live from NZ, OZ, HK!

March 27,

The day is finally here. Around noon today a car service will pick me up, and take me from our little paradise on Siesta Key, Florida to Tampa International. It will be a very long day(s) of air travel, but thankfully most of it will be first class. Here is the itn:

American Airlines - TPA-MIA (confirmed first)
American Airlines - MIA-LAX (still in coach, hopefully upgrade will clear before flight)
Qantas - LAX-SYD (first class)
Qantas - SYD-AKL (business class)

Arriving in Auckland on Tuesday.

The final destination before the fun begins is Christchurch, but I will get a nights rest at a motel in Auckland before I fly Qantas the next day to CHC.

13 days in New Zealand, 11 days in Australia and finally 5 days in Hong Kong before I head home on the 27th of April.

I will try to do a short report every few days about the places, experiences, and anything else that may interest some of you. I'm planning on seeing Christchurch, Queenstown, Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne and many other places. Glacier walk, bungy jumping, cave tours, Tranz Alpine train, etc.etc.

I will also post pictures, just not sure where at this time.

Anyway, wishing everybody a great Easter Sunday!

Talk to you in few days!!!

AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Mar 27th, 2005, 03:10 AM
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Thanks, AAFF - looking forward to your despatches from the front. Happy Easter to you too.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Mar 27th, 2005, 10:18 AM
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Welcome to New Zealand.

Hope you have had a restful flight and a good night's sleep, leaving you all set for a wonderful trip. Have a great time. Look forward to seeing your reports and impressions of NZ.
dotty is offline  
Mar 29th, 2005, 08:56 AM
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March 29/29, 2005

The flights on AA were very uneventful and my MIA-LAX upgrade did clear at the last moment at the gate.

A quick report on the QF flight. Just woke up from a wonderful 7 hour sleep and found out were somewhere over the Pacific, crossing the dateline. Were still about 5 hours away from Sydney, but this 14 hour plus flight is very much bearable in First class on Qantas. After boarding we were served Dom Perignon 1996 Champagne. The FAs distributed luxury PJs and toiletry bags. The duvets with pillow were already at the seats. Shortly after takeoff dinner orders were taken. I had a wonderful Sweet Potato, Chilli and Lime Soup, followed by a petite fillet with potato puree and Coriander rice. Both dishes were exceptional. Never had a steak at 35,000 feet like this one. Very tender, juicy and cooked just right. There is an all night snack attack table set up in the galley with fruits, cookies, pastries, etc. The FAs will also be very happy to serve you anything from the menu again if you so choose. The suites are nice, but I have to say they are not as comfortable as the AA Atlantic suites or CX F suites. Nice entertainment center but again I do prefer the CX AVOD system. Whats nice is that each seat has actual US power plugs, so no adapters needed for the laptop or whatever else you need to power up. Ive read some reports that the QF long distance crews are not the best, but on our flight they are just wonderful, attentive, friendly and the female FAs very beautiful. Got to love the Aussie accents too.

One of the FAs offered a free bottle of wine or champagne to me just before landing. Believe it or not I chose a nice bottle of Chardonnay over a Dom Perignon Champagne. Im just not a champagne lover. I thought it was a very nice touch and it made me feel very special. Thanks Carol!

Had a long layover at the SYD airport, but fortunately I was able to use the Qantas lounges. Took a nice long, hot shower. I also walked around the airside area of the International terminal and I have a little warning for any future connecting flyers. The food choices are very limited once you are past security. Only 2-3 places in the entire terminal and they did not look very appetizing. On the other hand the terminal has a nice selection of gift and duty free shops., so if nothing else, you could occupy yourself with window shopping. I did not see any particular good deals.

Finally it was time to board my Qantas flight to Auckland. This was a 2 class flight on a 767. I did fly in business in seat 2A. Never saw a layout like this one in business class on a 767. It was 1-2-2, so all the A seats had a window and aisle access. Very nice. As you could imagine I was tired at this time. I really had no appetite so after a quick drink and a delicious ice cream I went to sleep. The business section did have a choice of dinners from a menu but I really did not pay attention. After 2.5 hours of flight time I was awaken by the captains announcement to the FAs to get the cabin ready for landing. It was totally dark outside so I did not have a chance to see anything. Few minutes later I was one of the first in the immigration hall and faced a very stern, serious and very inquisitive immigration official. He took my passport but did not opened it. Instead he was asking why, where, when, what, etc. Why did I choose NZ to visit? I thought that was a strange question. Anyway, after about the 10th question he finally peeked inside my passport and saw the many, many stamps I have from all over the world and it seemed to calm him down. I will never know but was he thinking I wanted to stay in the country???? Within a minute I had a stamp and finally a little smile from him, welcoming me to NZ. No problems at all with customs although I did declare my Reeses cups as I was told the NZ customs is very strict about ANY food items coming into the country. The official asked me what it was I was declaring and after I told him it was chocolate candies he gave me a green mark on the form and directed me to the x-ray machines. EVERY piece of luggage has to go through these machines. No problems there. In the arrivals area I bought a SIM card for my phone. I had reservations at an airport area motel for one night, the BKs Pioneer Motor Lodge. As Im flying this morning to Christchurch all I needed was a place to crash. This place is perfect. They do run a free shuttle. I called them from my mobile and within minutes I was on my way. The place is your basic motel type but very clean and spacious rooms. All the rooms have some kind of kitchen area. My studio only has a sink, fridge and a microwave. The bigger rooms have full kitchens. I really did not care as I wasnt about to cook anything anyway. Slept like a baby. Its early morning now and Im just about ready to take a shower and head out to the airport again. I will recommend this motel if all you need is an overnight stay near the Auckland airport. My rate was $100NZ.

In few hours the true vacation will finally start once I arrive in Christchurch. Next report will be mostly about places not about travel.

Got to run!
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Mar 29th, 2005, 09:30 AM
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Thanks for the first installment-- I'm looking forward to the following reports!
Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Apr 1st, 2005, 04:03 PM
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AA - Waiting with bated breath for your next installment. I'm headed to NZ in two weeks - until then, I'll have to settle for living vicariously through you - more, more!
Melnq8 is online now  
Apr 5th, 2005, 01:27 AM
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Sorry, I was cut off from the communication world.

Christchurch - I booked a stay at Apartment 37 B&B, located in the Old Government Building, located right smack in the middle of all the action. The hosts, Lynne and David are just faboulous. Ok, I admit, Lynne was the one that took care of all my needs, but I finally did get to meet David on the second evening. ([email protected]). If you don't mind a B&B type situation, this place is IT! Location, location, location!!! About 1/2 of the apartments are rented out by the Heritage Hotel next door. You will get the apartment all to yourself, but the price will reflect that as well.

The city - Beautiful, VERY British city, but also very limited as to sightseeing. My advice, and it's ONLY my advice - no more than 2 nights in Christchurch. Some very nice and somewhat old architechure, outstanding city parks and the Gondola! After that it's time to move on. There was a Jazz Festival going on during my stay and Lynne helped me to get a ticket to see Mary Coughlin do a tribute to Billy Holiday. A highlight of my stay in Christchurch.

Tranz-Alpine Train - A beautiful journey through the middle of South Island. The train is little worn and old, but still comfortable and the views are out of this world. The train has an open car for photo freaks but be warned, get a spot early as many people get there as soon as the train leaves and don't go back to their seats till the journey is almost over. Great photo opportunities. I did not have a problem booking the trip night before and from what I saw, the train was about 90% full.

When I booked the train journey somehow I was also booked for the InterCity bus ride from Greymouth to Franz Josef. It was not a problem till later (I will explain). The InterCity busses are NOT what we in the US think of, basically Greyhound. They are very comfortable, full of foreign travelers and they do stop very often at "touristy spots". The busses stop at many "lookout" spots as well as little towns and the driver does do a commentary as s/he drives. What looks like a 4 hour journey on paper, is actually a 2+ hour journey plus the stops. Many photo ops and dining/drinking possibilities. The ONLY problem I had was the choice of seats. As stated above, the busses are used by many foreign travelers and especially backpackers. They are mostly kids, having a great time but some forget the power of shower/bath. If you do decide to take the Intercity busses to get around, get a seat up front as soon as you board. Nothing to do with security, but a lot to do with your nose.

Franz-Josef Glacier - A quiet little village with every excursion based around the glaciers. I made a BIG mistake. I booked a full day glacier walk. To make the long story longer, I realized around noon that day that I've made a huge mistake. The walk is all that and more, but you better be in prime shape to do a full day. When I finally "crawled" back to the bus around 4pm I was in a state of "death". Seriously, unless you are very young or in prime physical condition, DO NOT do the "full day" glacier walk. The 1/2 day walk will give you the same photo ops but your body will also be very grateful for your wise decision. 3 days later I'm still feeling muscles that I forgot existed. I did it, but I'm warning everybody that reads this report - either you are in peak physical condition and if not, book the 1/2 day walk. I stayed at BellaVista Motel at a rate of $115NZ per night. Very basic, yet very clean and great location. Think of Motel6, but few notches above. The entire village has many lodgings available and most were available for walk-ins.

Here is where the bus booking came back to bite me. Franz-Josef is a little village, so there are no car rental places. As soon as I arrived, I realized that I had no choice but to book another bus to Queenstown. No biggie, but on paper it looked like an 8 hour trip. It wasn't as bad as it looked. We stopped often, either for photo ops or food/bathroom breaks. I did realize at some point that I could actually relax and take in the sights as opposed to worry and drive by myself. 99% of the road was a 2 lane mountinous road with MANY one-lane bridges.

Queenstown - A little shocker. Allow me to say this - Disney has NOTHING on the Queenstown marketing people. The beauty of the town's location does take away some of the initial shock, but if I had to compare this place to something in the US, I will say it's a cross between Vail, Colorado and Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. The scenery is unmatched anywhere in the world, but unfortunately the commercialism is alo there. I'm not here to defend Disney/Universal, but at least they package all the attractions into one nice price(or not). Queenstown (wild) attractions, (bungy, skydiving, fly-by-wire, 4X4 trips, Milford Sound, Trilogy, etc....etc...) are NOT cheap. The town is divided into 2 sections, shops/restaurants or excurision selling. The prices for EACH excursion range from $50-500US. If you show up with a family (let's say 2 adults and 2 kids), your CC better be free to rock!!! The town itself is going through some major construction boom. Many new hotels are being build, roads are being fixed, etc...etc... At the present time - not a pretty picture and VERY expensive.

First 2 nights I stayed at the Brown's Boutique Hotel. Very nice and romantic, yet not the best location and also very little in the way of communications. I would highly recommend it to couples that want to have quiet times together, but not to anybody that wants to be in the middle of things or wants to stay in touch with the world. Ask for room #10 if you decide to stay here. Today I moved to Glebe's Apartments and it's a different world. It's little closer to the main action area, but more importantly it has high speed internet and laundry facilities in the apartments. I have a 1 bedroom apartment with a full kitchen and it's only $20NZ more per night.

Brown's Hotel - $200NZ
Glebe's Apartments - $220NZ

I did the fly/cruise/fly excursion to Milford Sound today. You will not save any money by booking it early or by booking it in town. Same price either way. BUT IT'S WORTH IT!!!!! Words can not do it justice. I will post pictures sometime soon.

I also did the Gondola and took some great shots of Queenstown and the surrounding areas. $18NZ just to take a ride up there but IMHO, worth it.

Tomorrow I will do a winery tour and visit Arrowtown. I finally rented a car for couple of days here in Queenstown. Got a great deal from Rent-A-Wreck in town.

Weather - It has been just beautiful. The only rain I saw was the morning of my Glacier walk in Franz-Josef, but it cleared up in the afternoon and all day yesterday in Queenstown. Today was just perfection. About 70 and sunny all day. In Christchurch it was somewhere between 60-70 Deg. and mostly sunny. It does cool down after sundown to anywhere between 40-50 Deg.

More to come.........

AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 06:17 AM
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AAFF - Thanks for the detailed reports! I'm printing these out for future use.
JohnInMiami is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 02:47 PM
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What a great trip report! Ah the memories!!
I'm glad you are having such a great time.
May I butt in and add something for the benifit of others?
My friend chose to do the full day Glacier tour and I'm sooo glad that I didn't!
But here is what I did and I highly recommend it for anyone not doing the walk.
I booked with White Heron Sanctuary tours and it was excellent. The tour was great. As well as seeing the breeding white herons, we went on a jet boat ride and also walked through lowland rainforests.

I look forward to your next 'chapter'.
kodi is offline  
Apr 6th, 2005, 11:07 PM
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Enjoying your report - glad to hear you're having good weather. Hope it holds for us as we leave next week. Yippee!
Melnq8 is online now  
Apr 7th, 2005, 11:10 PM
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New Zealand - part 2

I'm very greatful to the weather gods. It has been just spectular.

NO RAIN since my last report, all sunny, all day, and very warm.

I never made it Arrowtown, but there was a good reason for it. No need to go into it right here but Queenstown had better offerings.

Did couple of wineries. I probably blew my entire vacation budget doing it. 3 dozen cases are on the way to US. Not sure what the US side will do, but shipping it back home the cost went up to an average of $10NZ per bottle from this side. Still worth it to me. I shipped each case to a different person. Not sure if this will help. Will report later.

Flew on Qantas from Queenstown to Rotorua. One class plane, just like the one that I took from Auckland to Christchurch. AGAIN, my OneWorld status was recognized and I was assigned row 1, but window this time. The middle seat was blocked, so despite the fact that it was coach it felt different. Unfortunately the power went off at the ZQN airport about 40 minutes before my flight. The air traffic control tower had power so no problem there, but everything else had to be done manually. We were delayed for about an hour.

Rotorua - Not my cup of tea. I was planning on doing 2 nights, but changed my mind an cancelled my second night at the Millennium Rotorua. I'm just not much of a SPA person and after seeing a Maori show, the town did not have much to offer. OK, I found later that I was wrong, but it was too late to change it back. At first I didn't see anything worthwhile, but during my second walk through the business district I found some wonderful restaurants, bars, and also saw a poster to a Reggae show at one of the biggest local live music establishments. I was able to get friendly with the locals at one of the coolest bars that I've seen lately. They were also planning on seeing the show, so with their help I was able to secure a ticket. To my surprise all the musicians were local Maoris. The performance was exceptional. I was able to talk the manager into allowing me to take photos. ALL photos/video was strictly prohibited during the show, so I felt like a "superstar" photographer with my new Canon SLR Digital with 3 different lenses. He wanted me to get a photo release from the band after the show but unfortunately I did get a little drunk, received a call from US on my mobile and as I went outside I forgot all about it and just left. Oh well.

I was thinking about renting a car to do the drive from Rotorua to Auckland, but I did find a bus deal that suited my needs perfectly. It was a luxury bus that picked me up at the Millennium Hotel, and in the price included a tour of the Waitomo Caves and finally dropping me off at the Hyatt Auckland. The price was $119NZ. I booked it. The car would have been around $50NZ, the cave tour about $30NZ. It was worth it to me to be able to sit and relax and take some photos, read a book, do some computer work and not worry about Auckland traffic. Plus getting a ride from/to hotels probably would add another $20NZ.

Waitomo Caves - OK. I give it about 6 out of 10. My opinion ONLY. I've visited some other caves and IMHO, the operators of this one are making a FORTUNE! . The Glowworms are somewhat different, but after 5 minutes, well..........

Anyway, it was ok.

I'm making this report from the Hyatt Auckland. I will be here for the next 4 nights. Somehow I got lucky and was upgraded to the Regency Club level. Free brakfast,free cocktails in the evening at the club, and all that for $150NZ a night. Nice view of the harbour. Have not ventured out in Auckland just yet so I will do a report in few days about this city.

And did I say the westher has been perfect?

AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Apr 7th, 2005, 11:35 PM
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Fodor's - what's up? I did the editing part, fixed all the mistakes, yet the original report got posted????

AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Apr 8th, 2005, 05:09 AM
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Just curious - which wines did you like the best? I've never shipped any home but I sure drink alot of the stuff while I'm there. I'm partial to the Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough myself.
Melnq8 is online now  
Apr 8th, 2005, 08:23 AM
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Everytime I stay in, I keep on waking up at the weird hour of 1-2am (about 9am at home). I try to watch some TV and hopefully fall asleep again. I'm succesful about 1/2 of the time. Now it's 4am and I'm fully awake.

Anyway, about wines - I'm a Chardonnay lover myself, but I did get a case of some other whites and few reds. The main reason I decided to do the shipping part was that I know for a fact that I can't get any of the Chardonnays at home. I have a friend that owns a liquor store on Siesta Key and he has a wonderful selection of wines, so I called him and asked to talk to his suppliers. He confirmed that most of the wines I listed were not available in US, or at least not in our part of the country.

I hope this will not cost me dearly, although the shipper was convinced that it will not.

Full day in Auckland planned for today. Bungy jump of the Sky Tower, about 192 meters, equal to about 210 yards. The price is about a $1NZ per meter. It's expensive, but I have to try it. Walk and bus around the city during the day. Hopefully many good photo ops. A rugby match between a local and South African team is planned for tonight as well. A nice dinner after the game.

Will report later on what actually happened...........

AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 10:14 PM
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Sorry, but I had such a fabulous time in Auckland that I just did not have time to sit down and do any reports.

Also, I lost a dear friend in Afghanistan, which was a BIG downer. The fact that I could not attend his funeral and pay my respects to this hero made it even more depressing.


What did I do? - controlled bungy(kind of) jump from the Sky Tower. Expensive and I would NOT do it again, but for the few seconds it was exhilarating!

I did a sailing on 1 of the 2 NZ's America's Cup yachts. IMHO - worth every penny.

Took a ferry to Devonport and did a little tour, which included great photo ops of Auckland and the surrounding areas from the tops of ancient volcanos. Beautiful Victorian era houses and great antiquing. Had a wonderful lunch there as well and as this was on Saturday afternoon , got to do a lot of people watching. The locals were just having a GREAT time.

The Auckland Museum - Special as well as regular exhibitons. It's called the War Memorial Museum, so the third floor of this magnificant building in a beautiful park setting, is dedicated to the New Zealand's contribution to the British Empire's fights throughout the history. It's a very moving experience. The second floor is all about New Zealand's natural habitat and it's native species of animals and plants. During my visit, the ground floor was all about the Maori culture and history. Very rich and full of information exhibition. Recommended.


Many afternoon outdoor cafes for lunch and outstanding evening restaurants for dinners.

Did I say the weather was just brilliant!!!

Out of the 14 days in NZ the ONLY rain I had was the full day in Queenstown and the early morning drizzle in the Glaciers in Franz Josef. THAT's IT!

The rest of the time it was almost perfect. The temps ranging from low to mid-70's and gorgeous blue skies with occasional clouds. Thank you weather gods!

The best for last. On Sunday I went to Auckland Wine/Food Festival. Great wines, nice food and great people watching. I met the organizer of the festival's entertainment and also a performer herself, Jasmine, a beautiful lady and we kind of hit it of. Her website:

We had a fabulously brilliant time. It all started with a Freddie Mercury look alike doing a show at the festival. For some reason Queen tribute shows are HUGE in NZ. I started popping pictures of this guy and she approached me, thinking I was some professional photographer. This camera think is GREAT!

Final thoughts on New Zealand -

People - Extremely friendly, very proud of their little paradise and willing to share any and all information with you AT ANY TIME!. A tourist question may get you involved in their lives. In many instances I was pulled in to whatever was happening(family, group, individual) just because I asked an innocent tourist question. Also, very laid back, almost like Caribbean islands natives, but with this incredible urge to go for the andrenaline rush on occasion.

Country - Very beautiful, in some cases unique, and all available within a very short traveling distances. With few exceptions it's no different than Colorado, Alaska, Chicago, but it's a very small country.

I'm in Sydney right now. Started of with a bang and it seems to continue. Will report in few days. Just one word- BEAUTIFUL!
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Apr 13th, 2005, 10:52 PM
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Great reading ! Sounds like you are having a fantastic holiday.

Hope the weather holds out for in you in Sydney!
Tassietwister is offline  
Apr 15th, 2005, 02:46 PM
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Flew Business class from AKL to SYD on Quantas, and also had access to First Class Lounge at the AKL airport. The lounge was very quiet, had some limited food offerings, open bar and free internet stations. The business lounge seemed very busy and loud. Ahh, the power of status . The flight was also very nice. The purser walked around the J cabin and introduced himself to everybody. He knew everybody by their last names. It was impressive, especially with some names like mine. It was an all male crew in the front. Very nice and attentive on this short 3 hour flight. Breakfast choices were between full American or Continental breakfast. I finally watched "Meet the Fockers" and although I thought it was entertaining and had some great funny moments, IMHO it wasn't as great as some of my friends thought.

Anyway - landed in Sydney around 10:15am. No problems with immigration this time, a quick walk through, followed by also quick recovery of my luggage (priority tags that actually mean something with these airlines) and within minutes I was buying Australian SIM card. It took about 5 minutes to do the paper work and set up my phone. Walked over to the public transportation information booth. I decided on purchasing the 5 day Green zone pass. There was also a LOT more expensive (I believe it was around $130AU) pass that included some of the harbour ferry tours and some other tours and R/T on the Airport train, but the return would not work for me because I need the airport train in 10 days time and you had to use it within the 5 day pass time, so the $40AU pass plus one way airport train ticket for $8.80 that I purchased allows me to use the public ferries to get around the harbour, which basically do the same routes that all the tour ferries do, (but they just don't have the bar/restaurant services), all the trains and busses within the central red zone and outlying green zone including the Sydney Olympic Park. If you need to travel outside the zones all you need is a new ticket just for the actual route, starting at the outlying green zone border to your destination. Better value IMHO.

Took the train to Circular Quay station, located about 3 minute walk to Marriott Harbour Hotel and at around 11:15am I was in my room. This was booked through Priceline. I wanted to stay in Sydney for 5 nights so it was a no brainer. I got this wonderful hotel for $100US a night plus tax and fees of around $50US. LOCATION!!! is just great. During checkin I asked if it's possible to get a room with a harbour view and immidiately I was offered the following choices: For $30AUS more a night I could have a great corner room with a view of the Sydney bridge on a high floor, for $60 or $70AUS I could get pretty much the same, little higher floor but also included lounge access (breakfast and free drinks in the afternoon) and for $100AUS more a 2 room suite but no lounge access. I chose the $30AUS option. Very nice property, not in the class of Four Seasons or Conrads, but just a notch or 2 below. Worth the money, especially if you could score it through Priceline.

Sydney - Beautiful and fascinating city. The Rocks area is more European looking than most European cities.

I will write more detail reports on what I did in Sydney so far some time tonight but it's time for shower and breakfast and today I will hit Manly Beach area and also do the Opera House close up. That's what's planned anyway.

See Ya later!
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Apr 15th, 2005, 04:52 PM
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G'Day AA!

Great trip report.....sounds like you're having a wonderful time.

I feel postively vindicated to know I'm not the only one in the world who was less than thrilled with the Cave experience!

We look forward to your Sydney experiences!


Certified Aussie Specialist
wlzmatilida is offline  
Apr 17th, 2005, 02:45 PM
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Sydney - Love the city!

Where I blew my money?

Bridge Climb - worth it but I had one problem. They will not allow you to take a camera with you. They do say it's for safety reasons. I think it's so they could sell you their own pictures. Great views.

Featherdale Wildlife Park - Great for families with little children. For me it was a waste of time. It's basically a miniture zoo. I thought it was more of a free range zoo. IT WASN'T! Lot's of Japanese tours and families. Crowded, smelly, and frankly not interesting.

Blue Mountains - Ok, but? I don't know, I was not that impressed. I did get some nice shots.

I saved a bit of money by doing the 2 above excursions on my own. Took trains to both on the same day. Had a great lunch at a wonderful restaurant. I probably saved 1/2 of the cost of an organized tour that does the exact same thing. I also had the opportunity to leave the widlife park early when I realized it wasn't for me.

I used the public ferries instead of the "tour" ferries. The difference? The public ferries run regular routes and don't have any food/drink services. They are a lot cheaper and you get to see exactly the same things that you would from the tour ferries.

Went to see a GREAT rugby match between the Roosters and the Bulldogs. Both Sydney teams but it was the Bulldogs home game at the beautiful Sydney Olympic Stadium (Now called the Telstra Stadium). Great time and also learned all about the game. The Bulldogs were on fire in first half. Scored 3 times to take a 16-0 lead. It looked hopeless for the Roosters, but the second half belonged to them. They scored 29 unanswered points and took home a well deserved win. This was the National Rugby League game. There are different leagues and different rules, so not all rugby (footie) matches are the same. Highly recommended.

Visited the Olympic park earlier that day.

Lost few pennies at the Star City Casino. Beautiful facility.

Visited the Australian Museum

Now, here's the stuff that didn't cost at all or very little and I had just as much or in some cases more fun -

Walked around the Rocks - more European than most cities in Europe

Walked around King's Cross - interesting

Went to Manly Beach - very nice and fun

Walked around Darling Harbour - fun

Visited tens of great, average and not so good gallaries. I do plan to go back to 2 of them when I have another full day in Sydney and make a decision on what I will take home. One is a photo artist with great Australia landscapes and the other had a wonderful oil painting of Sydney. Still thinking about it!

Took many shots of the Sydney Bridge, the Opera House, the city's very modern skyline, people, etc.

Stood around and watched a Warner Bros. filming of "Superman Returns". Wasn't much action so I left after about 45 minutes or so. The local businesses very mad as the filming blocked of many areas of the main CBD on Saturday afternoon, but on the other hand, I saw hundreds of people working for the production and I'm sure majority were local, so I guess the saying "you can't make everybody happy" was really true here.

Food and entertainment -

Had wonderful dinners with couple of new friends at:

Aqua - Outstanding food, but also very important to mention - WHAT A VIEW FROM THE OUTDOOR BALCONY - THE CITY SKYLINE, THE BRIDGE AND THE OPERA HOUSE all lit up with the evening lights! Had great fun with a new friend, delicious steak and the view was breathtaking.

Iceberg - Located right over Bondi Beach. Again, had great food with another new friend and the view and the sounds of the surf while sitting on the balcony over the beach was just a great finishing touch.

Highly recommend both restaurants.

Many outdoor cafes lunches. You can't mess this one up. Hundreds to pick from.

Visited The Establishment Bar (that's where I met both ladies on different nights). Beautiful bar with tons of room, relaxed music and mostly a very chic, downtown crowd.

The Basement - Right next to the Marriott hotel. Went on a night that had a Led Zeppelin tribute band. Very crowded and lot's of fun.

One or 2 other short stops but I don't remember the names.

Sydney has a very vibrant, diverse nightlife, so there is something for everybody.

By pure luck (being at the right place at the right time), I received an invitation to a private gallery opening night for one of Australia's best artists. I don't have the info with me here in Melbourne (left 1 suitcase back in Sydney), but he is very famous for his sports art. He is the official artist for Beijing Olympics. The opening night was for his Ferrari Racing team art work. The artist as well as couple of the Ferrari Racing team drivers were at the gallery. To be honest, the sports art is not my cup of tea, BUT he also had a beautiful collection of nudes, and if they were not expensive I would have brought one home. His most expensive work was "Cityscapes", which included the last five cities where the summer olympics were held. These were HUGE (probably around 10' x 10'), very colorful, rich and depicted every city's main landmarks. They were priced (are you ready?) at $500,000AUS each. It was a very fun start to an evening. That's one event I couldn't plan, I was just lucky. It does have something to do with the willingness to knock on some back doors, talk to strangers about their work, don't do organized tours, etc.

Weather - the only "possibility" of rain was on the evening of the rugby match, Friday. It looked bad, but nothing happened. Rest of the time, beautiful, warm, sunny, little clouds.
Once again the weather gods came through for me.

Thanks Sydney for a very fun time! I will return.

The only bad thing that happened was on Saturday night. There was a drive by shooting right on the outskirts of the Rocks area. 2 guys were gunned down by 4 guys shooting from 2 vehicles. I was about 3-4 blocks away at the time. The police suspect heavy gang involvment (obviously) and fear there will be reprisals. It's NOT common here in Sydney, so I don't think it's something that anybody should fear.

I took the train from Sydney to Melbourne. It is an 11 hour journey and it's not very scenic. I was hoping to see Kangaroos hopping out on the plains, but was not succesful.

I did it for a reason. I needed a day "off" after the last 3 weeks and I thought that this would be a perfect way to "force" myself not to do anything and get some work done. In that I was succesful.

The train was comfortable and had some ok food offerings. I would not recommend this route if you're looking for scenery. THERE IS NONE. Mostly plains with sheep/cattle farms, some hills and few mountains in the background.

I will fly back to Sydney early Friday morning. My flight to Hong Kong does not leave till 10pm that evening and one of the new friends agreeded to spend the day with me.

It's Monday morning here in Melbourne, my first full day. Time to shower, breakfast and start my touring again.

Will report on this city soon.
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Apr 17th, 2005, 05:56 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,283
Hi AA,

Well, it seems you've had some exciting times..not all of them good either! Yikes, drive by shootings? I thought we'd cornered the market on that in California!

re: the Bridge Climb and cameras; well yes, you are right, of course they want to sell you THEIR photos; but it really is a safety issue as well -- imagine if someone dropped their camera from the height of the bridge onto someone's windshield driving below....

and just out of curiosity...who does "Superman Returns STAR anyway?"


wlzmatilida is offline  

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