Monday, March 3, 2014

Down Under - Day Twenty Six, Sunday, March 2, 2014, Sydney, Australia

Qantas Lounge at Sydney Airport
I left off last night in the Qantas Lounge at the Sydney airport.  We boarded our double decker airbus at 9:00 on Sunday evening, March 2nd.  Remember the time here folks.  More on this later.

Suite 4A on Qantas Flight 11 from Sydney to Los Angeles.

I've been on a few airplanes in my lifetime, but this one was unbelievably impressive.  With only 14 "suites" in our section and 4 flight attendants to cater to our every need, it was quite comfortable.  The suite was the size of two large first class seats but configured in a bedroom setting.  Albeit small, it was equipped with everything one may need for a leisurely, homelike setting.  There were two remote controls, one for the 19" t.v. and one for the lounge chair.  The chair had a massage feature, so I enjoyed a nice massage while watching the live take off from the tail mounted camera.   

Steve and Diane from Boca Grande, FL chat with Stevie.
Steve and Diane from our cruise were on the same flight, so we enjoyed telling tales of our vacation over cocktails before take off.   They were equally impressed with the airplane's set up, but having flown over on the same Qantas flight, they were much less in awe.    
My own Qantas P.J.'s.
I guess you can take the girl out of Arkansas, but you can't take the Arkansas out of the girl, because I was having a ball playing with all the gadgets, flipping my recliner around in different positions and opening drawers and discovering all kinds of goodies ... like my very own Qantas P.J.'s ... in the right size!  How did they know??  I was kind of like a kid in a candy store, in wonderment of all the cool features in my room.  I wasn't raise like this folks!

Shortly after take off the flight attendant brought me a caviar Bellini and a blue cheese tart.  Move over, Bertha, let the force feeding continue.   I'm having the tasting menu for dinner tonight while listening to music in glorious surround sound from my own personal playlist.  I pushed the button to lower my window shades ... yes, plural ... THREE of them in each suite.  

After dinner, the flight attendant came around to make my bed.  The recliner went flat, she covered it with a fleece mattress and sheets with a down comforter and two full size pillows.  Sweet!  I really didn't want to go to sleep because I was afraid I'd miss something, but shortly after my evening tea, I dozed off for several hours.

The next morning, I awoke to the smell of bacon and eggs.  Is there a better way to wake up than the smell of bacon??  We had a couple more hours before landing in LA, so I started playing with gadgets again.  I went to the toilet and when I came back, my bed was gone and the recliner was awaiting.  I must say, the service on this airplane is phenomenal.  I've never seen so many perky, friendly flight attendants.  They brought my tea, I did a few yoga stretches and floor exercises - yes - the room is that large, and then I started scanning the tv channels.  

We landed in Los Angeles and I must admit, I wasn't quite ready to disembark.  They still had plenty of champagne and food on board that I hadn't gotten around to enjoying.  All in all the Qantas flight was one of the best flying experiences to date.  It was a stretch to fine a negative ... ok ... no wifi.  But I was so busy playing with all the other toys, I didn't really miss it.  

Stevie and I breezed through customs and immigration.  If you don't have a "GOES" pass and you travel internationally, you really should consider getting one.  With a quick electronic scan of my passport and fingerprint confirmation, we were through immigration within about 60 seconds.  All my bags arrived and we were in and out of customs in a matter of minutes.  Nirvana!  Back on US soil.  And here's the thing.  Remember when I told you we left on Sunday evening at 9:00?  Well we arrived back in LA on Sunday AFTERNOON at 4:30 p.m.  Almost 5 hours BEFORE we left.  I finally found that day I lost when we went to New Zealand.  

Stevie and I said our goodbyes after clearing customs.  She had to catch her flight to Houston.  We had such an amazing time.  The best thing is, we spent a month together and we're still good friends.  We had such a great time sharing this experience.  Thanks, Stevie for being such an amazing friend.  I miss you already.

It sure feels good to be home.  I'll be here in Los Angeles for a few more days spending time with Jeff and friends before returning to Aspen.  I'm so glad that you checked in with me on my journey.  I can't wait to catch up with each of you to hear what's happening in your world.  We're all on this adventure together ... the adventure of life.  We can spend it any way we want, but the truth is, we only have so many trips around the sun to enjoy, so let's spend them wisely.  I can't think of a better than to embrace each day than with the awe and excitement of a child, exploring new places, people and ideas but mostly sharing those things with the ones we love.  

This is Julie and Stevie's Down Under Adventure signing out.

Love to all!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Down Under - Day Twenty Five, Sunday, March 2, 2014 - Sydney, Australia

STILL Soggy Sydney

Still Overcast and Rainy in Sydney.
It's still overcast and very cloudy this morning.  Stevie and I are trying to plan the day ... since we're here for another day because of a flight delay ...  until tonight.  Bonus day!  Yay!  And as with every day of this trip ... "I got up" ... then went to breakfast.

Harbor Bridge from walk way.

After breakfast, I went for a walk.  It was cloudy and a little misty, but I did not let that dissuade me and I'm so glad I went.  I walked across the Harbor Bridge, which was such a fun and scenic walk.  
Trouble, with a capitol "T" looking for a place to happen!! That's me!
I met a group of local college boys who were dressed so nicely.  They were on a scavenger hunt as part of a fraternity assignment, gathering clues from across the city.  We walked together for a while and I had to have my photo taken with them to send to Jeff at USC.  The outfits were so perfectly matched and charming and the knee socks added that little something extra, don't ya think?  Really fun kids.  

Queen Elizabeth is in port.

As I continued my walk down to the Wharf, I met an Aborigines gent, or as they refer to them in Australia, an "indigenous" gent, playing a digeridoo.   Turns out, he's been to the US and while there, got married 6 times.  

Aborigines Gent looking for wife number seven.  NOT ME!!
Said he loves America because the wives are so plentiful.  We talked for a while, I dropped a bill in his bowl and got the heck out of there.  Didn't want to be mistaken for wife number 7.  Ouch!!  But he did play interesting music on his digeridoo.  

Sydney Opera House
Next, I wandered down to the Sydney Opera House.  What an amazing structure.  I'm still reeling from my very FIRST Opera right here last night.  There were people from around the world circling the place.  I took dozens of photos of people and photo bombed a few others.  It's so much fun meeting people from around the world.  "Would you like a photo of you together?" seems to be understood in any language.  
Gotta love it.  She's still carrying a handbag on her walkabout.
I met some German kids who are backing packing across Australia for 6 months.  Notice the girl's pack BUT she's still carrying a handbag.   My kind of gal.

I continued on past the Opera House into the Botanical Gardens.  These folks are big on Botanical Gardens.  Seems to be one in every port.  The one in Sydney is huge and beautiful.  I only walked a short way into it before the rain started coming down pretty hard. So I pulled up my hood and ran back to the hotel.   

I caught my first glimpse of sunshine in Sydney when I arrived back in my room.  It didn't last long, but long enough for me to catch this photo.  See the sun shine on the Opera House???  Shortly after this photo, the rain set in again.

First glimpse of sunshine in Sydney.  
It's time to get packed up again and roll these suit cases down to the car to  to the airport.  Hopefully there will be no further delays.    And hopefully there is a very strong bellman coming up.

Well, the Bellman got the bags loaded in the car and we have been "collected" for our drive to the airport.  When we arrived at the terminal, a Qantas representative met us curbside to gather our luggage and Stevie and I.  She walked us through the check in process.  Actually, she parked us in the check in "lounge" and she took it from there.  It wasn't long before she came back to let me know that my bags were over the limit of 32 Kilos.  The luggage belt does not move if bags are over weight.  I was prepared to buy a bag to transfer 5K out of each bag to get the belt moving again, but the agent said, "No problem, Mrs. Wooley.  I have a couple of Samsonite bags that will work nicely.  Just transfer 5K out of each of your bags into the Samsonite bag and you'll be good to go."  Can you believe that???  I love Qantas!  Hope they don't decide to go on strike while we're over the Pacific Ocean.  That would definitely change the way I feel about them.

So now, Stevie and I are in the lounge having a nice "free" dinner and lots of free wine before we board our airplane at 9:00 and head for the good ole USA.   Can't wait to see you all!!  My last blog entry will come to you live from Los Angeles!!

Early in the Cruise.

By the way, I thought I should warn you.  This is what I looked like when we arrived.

This is what I look like now.  Just kidding, but this is what I feel like after a month of eating and drinking my way across the southern hemisphere.   I've turned Maui into a 4 syllable word.  Gotta hit the gym when I get back to make sure I don't need to shop where Bertha does.  Sorry Bertha.

Just had to end this blog with a laugh!  Look forward to seeing you all when I get back to the states.  Love for now.  Over and out.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Down Under - Day Twenty Two - Thursday, February 27, 2014 - Sydney, Australia

I seem to be missing my blog page for the 27th.  I remember writing it and posting the photos, but I can't seem to find it anywhere, so here goes again as best I can remember the events of the day.

Sydney Skyline
We arrived in Sydney early this morning.  Getting up early was so worth it.  We sailed into Darling Harbor at 5:30 a.m. to the twinkling lights of the Sydney Skyline.  
Sydney Opera House
Greeted by the Sydney Opera House and continuing on beneath the Harbor Bridge, we finally docked just after sunrise.  

Harbor Bridge
We said our goodbyes to our new friends and crew members as we were disembarking the ship.  On the way out, I finally found the ship's steering wheel.  It was NOT in the bridge when we did our bridge tour.  
Found the Steering Wheel!
No wonder the captain was having difficulty dodging the waves in the Tasman Sea.  

Stevie and I checked in to the Shangri-La Hotel and then hit the streets of Sydney.  In a city of over four and a half million people, we managed to run into several people that we'd met on the ship.  It was fun seeing Annabele and Heather, ship's entertainers,  at Lulu Lemon's.  

Kangaroos and Koalas  

I ran into my first kangaroo and koala today.  This is as close to the real thing as I'll come this trip.

We had dinner at a renovated bank building called RockPool Bar and Grill.  
Chandelier made of 2,682 Wine Glasses
The chandelier in the bar is made of 2,682 Riedel Riesling glasses.  
It was a Martini Kind of Night at RockPool Bar and Grill
Very pretty.  We had a great meal and returned to the hotel to turn in.  We'd scheduled an early morning start time the next day to visit the Sunshine Coast.  More news later.  

Down Under - Day Twenty Four, Saturday, March 1, 2014 - Sydney, Australia

Soggy Saturday in Sydney

Harbor Bridge over Darling Harbor.
Yup!  Still raining in Sydney.  Stevie and I were scheduled to do the Harbor Bridge walk today.  We bought our non-refundable tickets when we arrived Thursday.  The climb goes rain or shine, unless it's lightening.  Well, let me just say, the best $250.00 bucks I've spent in a long time was NOT doing the bridge walk in the pouring rain.  
Lunch at Polo instead of climbing the Harbor Bridge in the pouring rain.  Good call!
We decided to have a nice lunch instead at Polo in The Rock Center.  The Rock is an artsy area with great shops and restaurants in downtown Sydney. 
Shopping at the Farmer's Market in Sydney.  
Very trendy and Bohemian.  Loved it.  There was a big Farmer's Market going on.  We found a few treasures to bring home. 

Going to the Opera at the Sydney Opera House.  Priceless!
Sydney's Opera House ranks in the top 10 Opera Houses in the world.  It's prominently located on Darling Harbor and welcomes ships to Sydney.  So it's only natural to want to visit the Opera House while in Sydney. 

Tickets to "The Magic Flute".   Again ... priceless experience!
We took it one step further and actually went to the Opera tonight.  My very first Opera, "The Magic Flute," may be one of the highlights of the entire trip.  Just visiting the iconic Opera House was amazing, but to see an Opera there ... well, that was really special.   I've decided that I should make it a "bucket list" goal to see Opera in the top 10 Opera Houses in the world.  
Sydney Opera House - Ranked #6 in the world.
I'll be visiting Jacqueline in April and will be checking to see what's playing at the Lincoln Center, which ranks number 10 on the list.  So that leaves another 8.  Anyone interested???

Tomorrow is our last day in Sydney and the Southern Hemisphere.  Our 3:30 p.m. departing flight was cancelled because the Qantas Jet coming in from LA clipped the wing of another airplane while on the tarmac at LAX.  
Mardi Gras Guys.
So now, we leave tomorrow evening at 9:30.  It's supposed to rain again tomorrow, but we'll find some trouble somewhere.  We managed to find trouble today in the form of guys dressed for the Mardi Gras Celebration in Sydney today.  

More news later.