Month: April 2018

Sydney, Australia

The concierge at the Mercure booked a driver to take me to the Melbourne airport.  It was a much better price and the driver was very professional.  He arranged for the same company to pick me up at the Sydney airport.  The driver in Sydney was waiting for me in his new Lexus.  What a treat… and much less hassle than standing in the taxi line.  My hotel, the Megaboom, was in the middle of the business district.  My friend, Patti, stayed there several years ago and gave it a great recommendation.  It was small but updated, and the location couldn’t be beat.  After checking in, I walked to the end of the block and went into the Queen Victoria Building on George Street in search of dinner.  The building took up an entire city block and housed lots of sophisticated shops and cafes.  I chose Vanto, an Italian café on the top level of the arcade.  I had a pizza, and wouldn’t recommend it.  It was soupy and probably one of the worst pizzas I’ve ever had.  I walked the top level of the arcade and explored a few shops that were about to close on the lower level before heading back to the Megaboom.  The young man at the front desk helped me book a tour with AATKings for the day before I was leaving to return to the U.S.

The next day, I decided to walk around Sydney and take photos.  I followed George Street, which was under construction for a new tram line, and set off in the direction of the harbor.  I wandered along taking photos and stopped for a tea and scone at a small café in the Rocks, the historical district near the harbor.  A short walk took me to the harbor and I spent an hour or so walking around taking photos of the Opera House and the wharf area.  I had a great lunch, a hamburger with chopped shrimp, and a glass of Pinot Grigio at the Searock Grill.  As I sat watching the tourists and the ferries leaving from the wharf, I enjoyed the sight of the huge QEII docked across from the restaurant area.  I spent another hour walking around taking photos before heading back up the hill to the central business district and the Hotel Megaboom.

I had to walk to the Hilton Hotel, a couple of blocks from the Megaboom, to meet my AATKings tour the next morning.  The tour took us to several locations to take photos of the Opera House and the harbor before crossing the Harbor Bridge for our first stop at Manly Beach.  We had plenty of time to explore the shopping area, get a tea and scone, and take photos of the surfers before going back across the bridge to Darling Harbor.  At Darling Harbor, I boarded the Captain Cook excursion boat where I had a nice seafood buffet lunch and went up on the top deck to take photos as we cruised the Sydney Harbor area.  It was a beautiful, breezy day and I got lots of photos of the skyline, Opera House, Harbor Bridge, etc.  After the lunch cruise, it was back on the bus and off to Bondi Beach.  Bondi Beach is one of Australia’s most iconic beaches and a mecca for surfers.  I had an ice cream, bought some T-shirts, and took lots of photos of the beautiful, busy beach and the surfers challenging the waves.  Sydney Mardi Gras was coming up on the weekend, a gay pride celebration with lots of tourists and a huge entertainment line up headed by Cher.  I was glad my timing was taking me home before the onslaught of tourists arrived.

As I boarded my Quantas flight for Dallas the next morning, I was glad to be heading home and looking forward to seeing my friends and family.  While I was a little disappointed that my Year in the World had only been Six Months in the World, I realized that I needed to be home to take care of some health issues.  I can take a river cruise and travel to most of the other places on my itinerary over the next few years.  It has been a great adventure and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.  Thank you to all my friends and family who have read this blog and shared my journey.

Sydney Opera House and Skyline
Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge
Sydney Waterfront
Sydney Harbor Tour
Sydney Skyline and Sail Boats

 

Manly Beach Surfers
Bondi Beach Sea Kayakers
Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach
Didgeridoo Player

Melbourne, Australia

The Golden Princess docked in Melbourne at 6 AM and I was scheduled to disembark at 8:15 since I was staying in Melbourne a few days.  The disembarkation process worked well until we were stuck on the pier for an extended wait in a queue for a taxi.  It seems the taxis were having a problem getting to the ship because of a traffic tie up.  I finally managed to get a ride on a taxi van and was the first to be dropped at my hotel.  I was staying at the Mercure Welcome again since I had booked a tour through the concierge for the next day.   I spent an hour waiting for my room visiting with a retired nurse from Brisbane, who was in town to visit her daughter.

I unpacked and went in search of lunch since I hadn’t eaten on the ship.  The Emporium, an upscale shopping center across the street offered a good selection of restaurants.   The Unabara Lobster Bar caught my eye with their photo of a lobster roll in the window.  I waited a few minutes for a seat in the small restaurant, but the service was good and I enjoyed the lobster roll even though it wasn’t as good as the one I had at the bar on the beach in Waikiki.  I decided to shop around and ended up buying two pair of shoes.  My luggage would need to be repacked to make room for them, but they were light weight and wouldn’t add any cost to my baggage fees. Rain was forecast for the afternoon and I quickly made my way back to the hotel just as the first sprinkles began to fall.

The next morning, I was in the lobby early and was picked up by AATKings for my Puffing Billy and Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary tour.  It was a beautiful sunny morning as we drove toward the Dandenong range.  We made a brief stop for tea and scones at a local restaurant where we fed and photographed the macaws before heading to Belgrave Station for our short trip on the narrow-gauge heritage railway called “Puffing Billy”.  The train trip was a hoot!  Unlike in the U.S., where we’re told to keep our hands and feet inside, passengers were encouraged to sit in the windows and hang their feet over the edge during the trip.  After our ride on Puffing Billy, we boarded the bus and continued our journey through the Yarra Valley to Healesville.  Several members of the tour had opted for the Winery Tour, and we dropped them off on our way to the Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary has over 200 species of wildlife and our guide, Glenyse, was excellent.  We saw the hospital, where she explained the work being done to protect the species and to treat injured animals brought in by the public.  The Sanctuary provides an up close and personal opportunity to view indigenous Australian animals, such as kangaroos, dingoes, Tasmanian devils, platypuses, kookaburras, wallabys, and koalas.  The Spirit of the Sky demonstration featured performances by trained parrots, eagles, cockatoos, and an owl.  Very impressive!  A great way to spend an afternoon in Australia!  We took the scenic route back to Melbourne and were rewarded with beautiful views of the Valley.

On the Way to the Dandenong Range
Macaw
Macaw
Puffing Billy Tour

 

Puffing Billy
Puffing Billy

 

Wallaby
Glenyse, Our Sanctuary Guide
Wallaby
Kookaburra

 

Koala
Koala

 

Hedgehog
Kangaroo
Kangaroo
Pelican
Dingo

 

Spirit of the Sky Show
Spirit of the Sky Show
Spirit of the Sky Show
Winery Helicopter