Australia: Sydney

On this adventure, I am taking Mortimer, a stuffed platypus, that was given to Tom by his science fiction/fantasy writer friends when we had to cancel our trip to Australia in 2010; I figured it appropriate that he serve as Tom’s spirit on the trip. My friends from northern California, Barb and Bill, were also joining me on the trip.

Mortimer ready

Because of the amount of stuff we saw during our 3 weeks in the country, I will be putting writing four different posts for the blog.

Left home on September 8th for 1:15 flight out of Cedar Rapids to Sydney in which arrival there would be 6:25 in the morning on Friday; that would be 3:20 in the afternoon on Thursday at home. Met up with the Knapps at LAX and we were onboard for our 14.5 hour flight to Sydney.

Our “home” for 14.5 hours

Great flight, good food, and sound sleep of 9 hours. Arrived in Sydney shortly after 6:00 a.m. and all of us felt good. Got thru Customs and Immigration, exchanged money, and arranged shuttle to our hotel. Arrived at our hotel and we were able to get into our rooms even though it was only shortly after 9:00. Pier One is the name of the hotel and it would be our home for the next six nights; Pier One. After refreshing ourselves, we talked to the concierge about possible adventures for our stay. Onward to find the Big Bus Sydney Hop On/Hop Off; here is the link Big Bus if you would like to look at all the places we saw on the two different routes; inner city and outer beaches.

On the bus

Sydney Tower

St. Mary’s Cathedral

Approaching beach


Really was one of the worst hop on/hop off buses I have experienced; surly drivers, boring tape telling us what we were seeing which was difficult to hear, and lack of signage showing the buses pick up points. One bright spot was lunch at the Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel’s outside area.  And we did enjoy our visit to Bondi Beach.  That evening we ate at an Irish Pub off Georges Street called the Mercantile Hotel; the salmon was good and the atmosphere relaxing with our sitting outside.

Opera House at night

In bed with lights out by 9:30; we were getting up for a backstage tour of the Opera House the next morning at 6:45.

We connected up around 6:15 a.m. and took a taxi to the Opera House. After walking all over the place, we found the correct entrance.

Sun rising

Sun shining on the water

Our tour guide, Alex, appeared; he was a delightful, funny guide! It was an excellent tour that ended with a good breakfast; here is the link if you are interested in hearing about the opera house and tours available Opera House.

Smallest performance hall

Huge pipe organ

Lipstick Wall

Inside performers lounge

Outside on balcony

Bridge reflected in window

Entrance hallway on upper level

Audio Room

After the tour, because travel bag that I was using as a purse had both zippers break, Bill and I took off to find a new bag while Barb went back to the hotel. Finally found a reasonable priced bag at a local department store; by the time we got back to the hotel, it was noon. Headed to The Glenmore and their rooftop pub. A good lunch of Teriyaki Chicken sandwich with chips along with Big Yak beer.  Then we walked the harbour bridge on the lower level and walked up 200 steps to an outside viewing platform – reading about the bridge construction on boards displayed on the walls as we climbed. Beautiful view on a clear day; Harbour Bridge.

Lunch at Glenmore

Outside Glenmore

Town view from viewing platform

Another town view

Our hotel from viewing platform

Climbers going to top of bridge

Three of us enjoying the view

After the bridge, we walked to the ferry terminal where we caught a ferry to Manly; we timed it so we would be on the ferry in order to see the sunset beyond the Harbour Bridge and Opera House; a glorious sight!

People on top of bridge at sunset

Sun going down

Sun completely down

Sydney after dark

Dinner was at Garfish, a restaurant in Manly; I had fish curry which was very good. Caught the ferry back to our original wharf. Got back to hotel shortly after 9:30 and we headed to our respective rooms.

On Sunday, after having coffee and breakfast at The Fine Food Store, we headed to the ferry terminal to purchase tickets for the ferry and Taronga Zoo; Taronga.  The weather was beautiful with sunny, clear skies. We had a very enjoyable day viewing all the animals and having lunch at The View restaurant.

Mortimer and Bill walking to breakfast

Mortimer and I on the ferry

Scene from cable car


Ringtail possum taking babies for a ride



Three of us with friendly koala

Sundial Gardens

Knapps having lunch

Mama and Baby Elephant




Got back to Circular Quay, a harbour in Sydney, about 3:30. Wandered the area and found a place to purchase gelato…yummy! Headed back to our hotel and we gathered in Knapps room where we attempted to get seating assignments for all of our domestic flights scheduled in Australia. Had a very difficult time and, since we were tired, decided to eat at the hotel instead of going out. Went into the bar area and had salad along with a glass of wine. Back to the room where we continued to work on getting our seats and this time we met with success! Returned to my room where I prepared for bed and read for a very short period before turning out the lights.

Another beautiful day as I awake on Monday. After a shower and gathering my stuff, headed over to Knapps for breakfast from room service. We were going on a tour of Blue Mountain. The tour bus picked us up at 8:00 and we headed out of the city. First stop was Featherdale Wildlife Park which has nearly every unique Australian mammal, bird, and even a crocodile; Featherdale. I got to hold Elmo, a baby kangaroo, and hand feed adult kangaroos. It was an excellent stop!

Southern Cassowary

Baby Elmo

Awake koala

Feeding a kangaroo

Goodfellows Tree Kangaroo

Active penguins

Sleeping crocodile

After leaving the wildlife park, we stopped for lunch at Katumba which is the tourist capital of the Blue Mountains; Blue Mountains. Lunch was quite tasty. After eating we drove to Scenic World where we rode Scenic Skyway across Jameson Valley to the opposite side getting a good view of the Three Sisters along the way. Then we rode the world’s steepest incline Railway, which is 415 metres in length and has a vertical drop of 206 metres, to the bottom of the valley where we took a stroll along the boardwalk through world heritage listed wilderness consisting of rainforest, eucalyptus trees, long view of Katoomba Falls which were very difficult to photograph, and many birds. Took the cable car to the top which ended up at the entrance of the gift shop…isn’t that where most tours end?  Got back on the bus and headed to Echo Point; while others walked to a overlook point for viewing the Three Sisters, we had a local brew.

Three of us at viewing point for Blue Mountains

View of Blue Mountains

Cars of railway

Three sisters

Walking path thru rainforest

Far view of the falls

Another mountain scene

We returned toward the city but stopped at Olympic Park where we picked up a boat for a relaxing river cruise on the Parramatta River to Darling Harbor. At Darling Harbor, we strolled along the harbour side and found a seafood place for dinner called Nick’s. And we lucked out with getting a table right along the waterfront. Delicious meal of King Crab salad.

Sun going down

Getting lower

Sun has set

Fountain and crane sculpture Darling Harbour

Found a taxi and returned to the hotel where, after some discussion, we decided we would explore the Australian Museum and Susannah Museum on Tuesday.

Tuesday saw us heading out about 8:00 a.m.; we had breakfast at the Mercantile Hotel and then found a taxi to the Australian Museum. This museum was established in 1827 and was the first Australian museum to explore the country’s natural and cultural history through its huge collection of artifacts; Australian Museum. We spent the day there covering all three floors; had lunch on their outside terrace restaurant. The areas I enjoyed the most was the History section describing Australian development from its conception to today; the section on the Aboriginal people was excellent. And they had a special exhibit displaying photo works of Australian artists.

The Australian Museum

Mounted peacock

Barb and Bill; is the animal about to bite Bill’s head?

Dinosaur exhibit

Found a taxi to take us back to the hotel and relaxed for an hour before walking to the Mercantile Hotel for our historic Pub Tour; Pub Tour. Hotel in Australia means pub. We explored 5 different places with a drink at each place. Our guide, Gary, provided the history of each place in a story format. The hotels we went to were Mercantile; Australian where we also enjoyed a meal of emu, crocodile, and kangaroo pizzas; Fortune of War; The Hero of Waterloo; Lord Nelson Brewery where we actually went into their brewery in the basement. An excellent evening! We found our way back to the hotel and went to our respective rooms.

Pub tour participants

We are in jail!

Eating pizza

Wednesday was our last day in Sydney with our having a flight to Melbourne scheduled the next morning. It was decided Barb and I would go shopping while Bill went to the Powerhouse Museum. Before going our separate ways, we had breakfast at Bar Cycle Sports; delicious omelet that I split with Barb. The temperature had turned quite hot with it getting into the 90’s. We started our shopping adventure at Clocktower Square and worked our way down to George Street. It turned out to be a successful shopping experience with both of us acquiring items we wanted. Met up with Bill at the Clocktower and went to lunch at The Loft where we split a salad and kangaroo burger. Went to Susannah Place Museum for a tour; Susannah Place. It was built in 1844 by Irish immigrants as terrace houses that were occupied until 1990. We were able to explore all four quaint homes while our guide provided us with detail of how life was back in the particular time period she was discussing. The small houses have the city’s oldest original outdoor laundries and brick lavatories. One of the houses has been recreated as a corner shop that sells goods during that era. We found a taxi and ventured back to our hotel where Bill and I printed out our boarding passes for three of our four domestic flights. It is interesting that there is no time period for when a boarding pass can be printed; we are used to in the US where it can only be printed within a 24 hour period. In the evening, we had reservations at the O Bar which is a 360 degree revolving restaurant on the 74th floor of the Australia Center; O Bar. All of us dressed for the occasion and had a wonderful time with delicious food and conversation. One thing to note: in Australia, Entrée on the menu means Appetizer.

Three of us at O Bar

View from above

Vegetable Entree

Took a taxi back to the hotel and went to our respective rooms to pack for our departure the next day around 10:00.


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