15.10.2013 - 24.10.2013 70 °F
It took two long long flights with a five hour layover in Seoul to get from Tokyo airport to Sydney airport then an efficient 15 minute train ride to our hotel. I have to report it was not what we expected. No question that the city has a beautiful harbor, incredible beaches, and an outstanding icon.
But it seemed overpriced and overhyped. Maybe it was our accommodations. I chose The Great Southern Hotel because it was in the CBD and conveniently located by the Central train station. But that was the only positive. The room rate was almost four times more than what we had paid for decent accommodations in some other countries. It was tacky, without charm, and not well maintained. And on top of this there were extra charges for everything; wifi, stored luggage, one hour late checkout, credit card usage, and sitting in the lounge. (OK, I lied about the last).
Admittedly, Sydney had a tough act to follow. We left Japan dragging our hearts behind us. Arriving in Australia, we found street trash, graffiti and a roughness in dress and actions which didn't serve it well. (And what is this, "no worries" instead of "you're welcome")?
Another surprise was how mediocre we found the food outlets to be...even independent of the cost. We had trouble finding a good meal. We frequently found quantity substituted for quality and there is evidence of obesity to prove it. Our best meals were the picnic lunches Steve put together.
But there are good reasons people want to visit. Aussies refer to their country as "Oz". I was told it was how they pronounce the first three letters in their country's name, "aus". And in some ways it is Oz. The Pacific is clear with beautiful shades of blue, even in the harbor.
The beaches have light, fine as flour, sand. There are tons of good pubs with excellent beers on tap (Chancer Amber Ale was one of our favorites). There are two pubs that both claim to be the oldest in the city. We felt we had to visit both to be fair. Here are the pictures to prove it.
And there parts of the city we really enjoyed like seeing the Harbour Bridge from Circular Quay (pronounced "key"),
the Rocks (where we saw the theater production of "A Murder is Announced"), Manly Beach, and all the places Denise's daughter, Teacy took us.
she's the one on the left.
They included Bondi Beach, the favorite haunt of surfers, Oxford street, where fashion houses used to reign, Paddington, and Watsons Bay. The New South Wales Museum had an interesting albeit small, aboriginal collection. And to walk through the Botanical Gardens was a pleasant afternoon.
We found four nights in the city was more than adequate and had booked a train to take us south along the coast to meet our friend, Neil, at Nowra which was half-way between Sydney and where he and his wife, Teresa, have a home in Narooma. The latter is a charming small town on the Pacific Coast. He was gracious to pick us up at the station because it was a two hour drive to his home. Before I boarded the train in Sidney, I was feeling very dizzy. By the time we reached our stop in Nowra, I could barely walk. Neil was on the platform when we arrived. I was very happy to see him, gave him a hug, then promptly puked into a water drain by the station door. (I don't have a picture of this). I must say that if you are going to be sick, hope you have hosts like Neil and Teresa. The next day was Sunday and I had not improved one iota so it was decided I would go to the emergency ward at a hospital 45 minutes away. All I can say is the Health System in Australia is pretty darn good. It was a busy day but they got me into a bed within minutes. The nurses were efficient, friendly, even fun. The doctor took the necessary tests and explained his conclusions simply and clearly. I was seriously dehydrated (the travails of traveling) and the solution? Just that...bags of saline solution. About four hours later I was released, feeling much heavier, and the bill was half what I would have paid in the states.
After another day, I was able to walk and eat without regurgitation. (Lucky me)! This is what I saw from Teresa and Neil's porch....
In the next several days we did some exploration of this beautiful area visiting small towns, each one more charming or rustic than the other. And each beach was more beautiful than the last.
We even saw a pool that is built into the rocks by the sea and filled by the waves.
Joining us on these trips were the family's three Westies and they made our travels even more fun. Here they are posing for the camera....
One of the days, Neil drove us to Canberra, the capital of Australia, and about a three hour drive east of Narooma. To get there one crosses the Great Dividing Range, the third longest land-based range in the world. Like the US, this was not the first home of the nation's capitol. It was moved to this more neutral, architect-designed city from Melbourne. ("Never let an architect design a city," Nile says). It has a bicameral government with a Senate (like the US) and a House of Commons (like the UK) led by a Prime Minister. Here is the Parliament Building
and the the House chamber
The end of the day we checked out the embassies. The most expansive were the Chinese and the American complexes. What's that tell you?!
The next day we packed for the next leg of our trip, this time to Melbourne. Neil and Teresa have a home in Albert Park which is beach area right outside the city center. They had a reason to go, as well...their grandsons. So they offered to drive us there. We had a trunk full of baggage with three happy Westies on top that had a much better view than normal. It was about an eight hour drive going through interesting towns and beautiful countryside. We were on the lookout for kangaroos (Roos) and Teresa had the first sighting. One was carrying her joey but I don't have a picture to show you. We got to our hotel none the worst for wear and settled in for our six night stay.