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Trip Report Craig and Jeane Visit Sydney and the Blue Mountains - September 2014

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We are a couple in our late 50’s from Connecticut (New England), USA. We have traveled extensively in Asia, but this was our first venture into Australia. If you click on my name, you can access reports from previous trips dating back to 2006. On this visit we only had 6 full days of touring before heading to Bali to be with friends. They were action-packed days however, so hopefully this report will be helpful to future travelers.

Our journey began in mid-September from the airport not far from our home in Connecticut. We had booked our flights in business class using United frequent flyer miles. Our itinerary had us flying from Bradley Airport to Chicago O’hare to Los Angeles to Sydney. The night before we were to leave, I received an email saying the Bradley-Chicago leg had been cancelled so I had to scramble and spend 45 minutes on the phone with United to reroute through Washington Dulles. An auspicious beginning, but fortunately everything else went smoothly. The flight from LAX to Sydney was 15 hours, so we had plenty of time to sleep in our lie-flat seats.

We arrived in Sydney just a bit late at about 6:30 AM (4:30 PM at home). Immigration and customs went fairly quickly. Visitors from the USA are required to apply online for an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) before coming to Australia. The process takes less than a day and costs AUD20 per person. In the arrivals hall, I stopped at an ATM and withdrew AUD200 before heading to the taxi queue just outside.

After a ride of about a 1/2 hour, we arrived at the InterContinental Sydney. I chose the InterContinental for 3 reasons: (1) we had a “Friends and Family” rate, (2) the hotel has a “Club” floor, and (3) the hotel was close to the Royal Botanic Garden, Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House. Check-in was performed at the main reception, rather than in the Club Lounge. It went very quickly however, and soon we were admiring the view of the Eastern Harbor from our Deluxe King room on the 12th floor. We spent some time unpacking and organizing. I called down to reception to confirm that WiFi was free to IHG Rewards Club members (it was).

Just after 9 AM, we headed down to Circular Quay to purchase our Ferry and Taronga Zoo pass. The sky was slightly overcast, but there was no threat of rain. Since it was still winter in Sydney, there was a bit of a chill in the air but as the day progressed it got warmer. We had decided that it would be good to do an outdoor activity in order to adjust to the time change as quickly as possible. The zoo was perfect for this. After a short wait, our ferry arrived and we set out for the zoo. On the 12 minute ferry ride we had our first great views of the Opera House and the Sydney skyline. On arrival at the zoo, one can take either a bus or a gondola to the main entrance - we chose the gondola and enjoyed seeing the elephants grazing as we headed up. We spent about 3 hours walking from top to bottom. I took a neat photo of the giraffes with the Sydney skyline, the bridge and the Opera House behind them.

After a short wait, we took the ferry back to Circular Quay. It is important to hold on to your passes as you need them to exit the ferry dock. Next on our agenda was a visit to the David Jones department store. Jeane had done some research online about upscale places to shop and had me put this on the itinerary. From Circular Quay it was about a 15-20 minute walk. From my point of view, David Jones is just your typical department store - a nice place, but nothing special. Jeane however seemed to have hit the jackpot when it comes to “fascinators” hats. She had a field day, purchasing 4 of them. Thankfully, I was able to sit, relax and go online with David Jones’ free WiFi while Jeane shopped. Our last stop that day was at the Museum of Sydney where we purchased our Museums Pass and spent about 45 minutes soaking up Sydney history.

Afterwards, we headed across the road to the InterContinental for happy hour in the Club Lounge. We are not big eaters and our reason for staying on a Club Floor was to take advantage of the “free” breakfasts in the lounge and the happy hour hors d’oeuvres in lieu of dinner out. The lounge did not disappoint. We filled ourselves up on all manner of goodies, probably not the healthiest, but good none-the-less. The selection of free wines was very good as were the mixed drinks. Afterwards we were quite ready to crash, and that we did.

Next: Sydney, Day 2

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