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Archive for October, 2012

Sydney Cityscape

I believe in creating wonderful travel experiences – putting yourself in a fortuitous situation and then allowing the magic to happen. That means making the effort of learning about your destination and planning the trip accordingly.

 That is why I was out of my comfort zone when my husband suggested that we go to Australia and make our internal trip arrangements with a local agent once we were there. Since it was difficult to put together our transportation connections and other detailed plans from the USA, I agreed.  We left for Australia with only the airline reservations that got us to Sydney and back home, and hotel reservations for the first two nights in Sydney. That’s it. Lots of people would thrive on that level of spontaneity – Cliff loved the idea, but I admit to being a little uneasy.

 One year ago today we walked into X BaseTravel in Sydney to make travel arrangements for our trip. We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do (I did do my advance reading and research after all!) but we needed somebody to help us put it together.  Thank goodness we found Jay. He put together a detailed itinerary for the rest of our trip, which included flights, trains, buses, day tours, accommodations and all our connections. We put ourselves in Jay’s hands, and were rewarded with easy and relaxing travel to awesome destinations. Thanks, Jay!

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Overlooking Katoomba Falls at Blue Mountains National Park.

The Blue Mountains National Park of Australia is remarkable on many levels. Paths lead to breathtaking vistas overlooking waterfalls and a rain forest. In the distance are sandstone formations like The Three Sisters, and a eucalyptus forest that emits a fine hazy mist that gives the Blue Mountains their name. Wild cockatoos fly overhead. The park protects sites of significance to Aboriginal culture. No wonder this place is part of a World Heritage area.

We were part of a day tour which picked us up and dropped us off at our hotel in Sydney.  We

The Three Sisters and the blue haze of the eucalyptus forest beyond.

learned that tour operators in Australia do this type of excursion very well.  We could just relax with other visitors in a small bus and leave the driving and all the details to our genial host.

 One of our destinations in the park was Scenic World, with its skyway ride over fern trees in the rainforest valley below. We also took a ride in an open air “train” (like a caged-in roller coaster) that plummets into a hole in the ground – the world’s steepest railway plunge – in what used to be a coal mine. Of course, Cliff and I, along with our new friend from the tour, Tamara, climbed into the front seat of the train so we could be the first to take the dive!

Our instructions were to take the boardwalk path to a skyway ride that would lead us back to the bus in Scenic World’s parking lot. Somehow, the word “boardwalk” dropped out of my memory and I led Cliff and Tamara astray, hiking along a steep, rocky path. I thought the occasional signs that said “Landslide” referred to the trail’s name – until we came to an actual landslide area!  By the time we realized our error and turned back, our bus had left without us. Luckily, there were other tours there. A guide was able to track down our driver and arrange a rendezvous in a nearby town. I bought a package of fine chocolates to share with our guide and tour mates – hoping the treat would help put me back in good standing after causing a delay! Lucky for me, it all ended well, and we even saw our first kangaroos in a golf course on our way back to Sydney.

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Here I am in front of the busy Circular Quay area of Sydney Harbour on my first day in Australia.

We arrived in Sydney one year ago today.  It was a warm, lush, humid spring day – a contrast to the fall weather we left behind in the USA.

I am not able to sleep on airlines, so it is an understatement to say I was tired. We settled into our hotel room and rested for a while before venturing out to see the city on foot.

Sydney immediately became part of my short list of favorite urban areas. It has fascinating architecture – a juxtaposition of modern and historic – public art, blooming gardens, and peeks of sprawling Sydney Harbour, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean, beyond the buildings. We walked to  the busy waterfront to see our first glimpse of the Sydney Opera House. 

Back in our hotel we booked a tour of the nearby Blue Mountains National Park for the next day. Check back here tomorrow for more.

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One year ago today my husband and I began to fulfill one of the dreams long-held close to our hearts. 

This idyllic view of the Golden Gate Bridge was taken during our stopover in San Francisco last year. Thank you to Rick and Danny for picking us up at the airport in SF and returning us there a couple of hours later. We had the chance to stretch out, eat brunch, and experience a little low-key sightseeing as we prepared for the long journey ahead of us.

On the morning of Saturday, October 1, 2011, we left Minnesota, taking a route that would lead us from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport to Denver, San Francisco, and Vancouver. We left Canada shortly before midnight and landed in Sydney, Australia on Monday morning.  Because we crossed the International Date Line en route, Sunday did not exist for us last year.  

It was a very long flight. The next time I go to the other side of the world (I sincerely hope there is a next time!) I think I will plan an overnight (or longer) stopover in Hawaii. 

I hope you will check back here occasionally in the next few weeks. I’ll be sharing photos and memories here, as they happened a year ago.

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