The final installment of our OZ trip, enjoy!
Part 1 (Palm Cove) of our trip report is located here http://tinyurl.com/3ney8cp
Part 2 (Uluru) of our trip report is located here http://tinyurl.com/3ln4r35
Tuesday, April 12
Breakfast and shuttle to airport for our 1 hour flight to Sydney, surprisingly on a huge plane, a 767! Maybe it was continuing overseas? We found our shuttle and were transported to the Shangri La Sydney (our splurge hotel due to the location!). Our room overlooked Darling Harbor (but really the bridge highway) which was fine, we did not pay for a premium or harbor view. The room was spacious, plush, robes, slippers, turn down service, etc. We thought we were royalty! We ventured out almost immediately for a late lunch at the Australian Heritage Hotel for their famous kangraroo and pepper pizza, which the personal size was fine for just a snack for us. We walked to The Rocks and found the visitor information center to pick up some maps and brochures. Then went down to Circular key and took a great picture (my profile pic!) across from the Opera House. Walked all the way around to the Opera House, stopped and bought weekly MyMulti passes for transit, then back to the hotel to change for dinner and get jackets since it was getting windy. We were very surprise how large Circular Key is and how long it takes to walk from one end to the other! Back down to CQ and took the ferry to Darling Harbour, as recommended by TAs, so we could go under the bridge. Also got a good look at the other Luna Park. We exited the ferry, crossed the Prymont Bridge (still confused – this thing really opens?), and had dinner as planned at BlueFish in Harborside Place. Appetizer of moreton bays bugs and then shared a huge platter of fish (ocean perch that day) and chips with a side "rocket" salad. Had to ask what rocket was – it's arugula! After dinner we crossed the bridge again, looked for Market Street and were trying to take a bus closer to the hotel, but we could not figure out the right bus. We did not find this area of the CBD well marked for the bus routes (we didn't have the full transit map in hand) and ended up just walking back. The walk to the Shangri La is very uphill no matter which way you come from – but still a great place to call home base! We went up to the Blu Bar on the 36th floor for a drink before calling it a night. Expensive drinks, but you are paying for the views too of course.
Wednesday April 13
Woke up, I was unfortunately feeling pretty miserable with a sinus cold, but trudged on anyway. We had a bike tour scheduled with Bonza and did not want to cancel. We had breakfast at Playfair Café, then checked in with Bonza for the tour. We rode down to CQ, under the bridge to Darling Harbor, through Chinatown, Hyde Park, The Domain, walked the bikes through the botanical gardens and then around the opera house and back to CQ. I had a tough time keeping up on some of the uphill parts (Observatory Hill especially). I guess I'm out of shape plus I felt really crappy! Sydney I think is better suited for walking tours, I would not choose to ride all around Sydney again. Maybe just around The Domain but riding through Chinatown and Hyde park at lunchtime seemed a little silly, it was very crowded and lots of people dodging had to be done. Overall a nice overview of the city though. After the tour we went to the Opera House for our scheduled tour. It was just us and an elderly couple, so we were able to ask lots of questions. Our guide was knowledgeable and took us to a black box theater downstairs, the concert hall and the opera hall. I think going on the tour was important, otherwise you don't know what you are looking at and what it took to get it there! After I was really feeling drained, so we grabbed dinner on the walk back at City Extra, and then dessert at Guylian in the Rocks. Waffle, praline ice cream and chocolate sauce – yum! Back to the Shang and to bed for me! BridgeClimb tomorrow… now I'm getting nervous about that after seeing those people way on top of the bridge all day!
Thursday April 14
Wake up, quick power bar breakfast and I was feeling a little better after resting the evening prior. We walked down Cumberland to the BridgeClimb center and checked in. We were able to get on the climb 15 minutes prior to our scheduled climb, so began the process to sign waivers, breathalyzer, suit up and accessorize! I was a little nervous on the ladders section, but once you get to the steps on the arch you don't even think about the height. The views were amazing, it was a bright clear day and you could see out to the ocean. We had a few pictures, which of course we purchased later. I think they get everyone on that! Overall the climb was awesome and one of the highlights of our trip. On the way back into the climb building you can see a restaurant's 2nd floor at the same level you are, this is the historic Harbor View Hotel. We decided to go here for lunch and sat on the 2nd floor patio, shared a platter of chicken schnitzel and chips which was plenty for us. We watched others on their descent from the climb and waved to a few. After lunch back to the Shangri La to change, then down to the Rocks to do a little shopping. We had popped into "Flame Opals" the day prior, but they were just about to close, so we went back this time earlier in the afternoon. We purchased for me a Southern Cross necklace with 5 opals set in sterling silver – I get compliments on it every day! A great way for me to remember our trip and we didn't break the bank. The ladies at the store were very helpful, not trying to sell you what you don't want, and understood I just wanted a token to remember our trip by. (They would gladly sell you a 15k opal if you were looking though!). They explained the whole duty-free process and packed it up accordingly. We ran back to the hotel to put it in the safe, and then ventured out to the Pylon Lookout since it's free admission with your BridgeClimb ticket. It was also a good venue to take some pictures from high up, since personal cameras are not permitted on the climb. And so we climbed even *more* stairs (about 15 flights I think) to the lookout. It was nearing sunset so we got some nice photos. We then headed back down to CQ and jumped on the 5pm ferry to Manly Beach where was browsed a little on the Corso and walked to the waterfront. DH purchased a shirt at Billabong and we checked that off the list. We had dinner at the Ivanhoe Pub ($10 steak!) and took the ferry back to CQ. I didn't find Manly overly exciting, but maybe if we had been there during more daylight we would have been able to see more of the beach and waterfront. Many of the stores were closing by the time we got there. We had dessert at City Extra on the walk back through CQ and then to bed after a long day of walking and climbing stairs!
Friday April 15
Today was our "free day" where we didn't have any tours scheduled and used a lot of my TripAdvisor research to plan the day. We woke up and had a delicious take away breakfast from Café La Renaissance. They have great soufflés and croissants. We caught a 10:05 ferry to Watsons Bay and walked up to The Gap National Park. We climbed the steps to the top, took a lot of neat photos along the cliffs of the Tasman Sea. You can see North and South head from here where the harbor opens up to the sea, which is pretty neat. We then went to find the #380 bus to Bondi Beach which came within a few minutes. This was a nice ride to see some houses in the suburbs. We got off the bus on the North Side of Bondi Beach and took pictures on the rocks, walked through an art exhibit in the town center, then made our way around to the Bondi Icebergs club for lunch. We were able to grab a table on the patio and overlook the pool and ocean as we ate lunch. After our break we continued on the coastal walk trail to Bronte Beach. It was a very windy day but the sun was out, made for a nice walk. It took about 45 mins to slowly make our way from Bondi to Bronte with stopping to take pictures and take in the views along the way. In Bronte we viewed another sea-water fed pool, then hopped on the #378 bus to Bondi Junction to catch the train back into town. We had to switch trains at Town Hall but it was pretty easy to figure out, and we boarded a train to CQ. The trip out to the beach and cliffs was a fun day and very easy to get to and back. It was nice to get out of the city as well and see some more scenery. We exited the train at CQ and walked back to the hotel through the Rocks, stopping to pick up some homemade candy from "Sticky". Back to the Shang to change for our fancy dinner at Aria. We walked to the Opera house first as we wanted to shop a little in the gift shop. We got some postcards, posters, an ornament and a glass figurine. Then we headed to Aria for our pre-show dinner. I had made reservations with Aria about 6 weeks prior via email and requested a table near the windows with a view. Boy did we get it! I think it was the best seat in the restaurant, we could see both the opera house and the bridge from this table. The dinner was great and service very good. It was helpful to take advantage of the pre-show pricing as well. See full review here http://tinyurl.com/6eokkqx. We headed to the Opera house for the 8pm "Distant Worlds" which was music from the Final Fantasy video games. The Sydney Symphony performed and they played clips from the game on a big screen. There were people there dressed up, dressed down, dressed in character costumes, a very interesting night! After the show we had drinks and the famous pavlova at the Opera Bar (which apparently is owned by Aria!). After a long day we splurged on a taxi back to the Shang ($10) since it had started to rain. A very nice evening out!
Saturday April 16
An early morning, awoke to lots of rain outside. We have to go home today! We went back to Café La Renaissance to get take away breakfast and ate in the lobby of the hotel. We packed up and waited for our airport shuttle and said goodbye to the Shangri La. Our flight was delayed a bit so we had some time to wander around the Sydney airport, of which the international terminal is very nice. If I recall it's really like 2 different airports and they want to build another, right? Our flight home was on the Airbus A380 so it was neat to be on the biggest plane in the world! Service again on Qantas was top notch, food was pretty good. Only problem was we left in the middle of the day, so everyone was awake. It was pretty noisy the first half, but then people started to drift to sleep. We did not sleep much, probably about 4 hours just prior to landing in Los Angeles. We exited the plane, collected our luggage and went through a million ordeals with customs and immigration. It seemed a few very large planes arrived at the same time and LAX was not staffed to handle that many people at once. Then we had to transfer to our domestic flight (LAX to Phoenix to Philadelphia) which was a pain in the butt because the domestic terminal was quite a distance away. There was sidewalk, but after flying for 14 hours the last thing I wanted to do was push all our luggage for a 15 minute walk. There has to be a better way here LAX! Our flights on US Airways to Phoenix and then to Philly were uneventful, luckily the Philly flight was not full so we could spread out and slept most of the way. We arrive home at 10pm (the same day we left OZ at 1pm!) and were picked up by family members. We went home and straight to the showers (finally!!) and then to bed. It took us 22 hours and 36 minutes from Sydney to Philadelphia that day.
Well folks this is the end of the trip report! We had an awesome time in Australia. For the 16 days we were there I think we covered a lot of ground and saw a good variety of places and things. We enjoyed the scenery, the wildlife, the cities, the food, the people, everything! I hope we can get back there someday to experience the reef with better weather, and maybe Melbourne again to do the Great Ocean Road. We are definitely glad we made Uluru part of our trip. Sydney was a perfect ending to the trip as well. This was definitely the trip of a lifetime! Now onto planning the next trip… any suggestions?!
PS – I am trying to get some pictures up to share, will keep working on it!