February 11 – Tuesday
I made it!!! There have been several times recently that I was afraid I might not make it to Sydney because of bushfires, smoky skies, corona virus and debris on the runway closing Auckland Airport twice. Ok that wasn’t all in one day but for the past few months there have been events that made me think I might not get to go.
At last all the stars aligned and an awesome friend who also lives on the North Shore got up extra early and gave me a lift to the airport. Because of the corona virus I needed to be at the airport an hour earlier than normal, so I was there three hours ahead of departure and I had the place to myself, there was no queues anywhere and no holdups, so I managed to get through check in/bag drop, passport control and security really fast. This meant I had loads of time to wander around Auckland airport checking out all the fab new areas and flash shops that weren’t there two years ago when I was last there. If you take a walk beyond the food court towards the really far away departure gates and look up you will see this amazing art installation.
At last it was time to board and take my seat, luckily I was the first in my row so I could wipe down the window, touch screen and everything else I’d be touching with wet wipes. As the name implies they were “wet” wipes and I ended up soaking the window, so I had to hurriedly dry it with something before the people seated next to me wondered what happened. The airplane was one of the new Boeing 787s, was very comfortable, had really big windows and a clever window tinting instead of a blind.
For many days before departing I had my eye on the weather forecast and sadly it was all doom and gloom with nothing but thunderstorms forecast for the whole week I was going to be there, however 1/2 an hour before landing the Captain announced the great news that all the horrible weather they’d been having had cleared up!
A friend recommended I catch the train from the airport to Circular Quay as it is cheap and easy, so I did and it was. But it wasn’t air conditioned and the heat was unlike anything I’d experienced in a very long time, maybe not since living in Japan. Once I stepped off the train I was hit with a wave of heat and sunshine that was both a happy surprise and unbearable. I was dressed for rain, cold and thunderstorms, I didn’t even have a cap. So here’s my first pics of sunny Sydney.
Luckily the Hotel Intercontinental was only 5 minutes walk away from the train station and it was stunning. As this trip was for my 55th birthday I splashed out and treated myself to three nights of luxury in a 5 star hotel in a great location very close to the Opera House.
While checking in at the very flash & luxurious reception desk the friendly and welcoming guy at the counter went through my booking and noticed the reason I gave for this trip was for my birthday. He asked how old I was then refused to believe it, so then he went to the office to see if there was anything they could do and came back with an amazing free upgrade to a room with a view on one of the top floors. But the room wouldn’t be ready for a while, so he gave me some free drink vouchers to enjoy a nice cool beer (or 2 or 3) in the lobby bar while I wait. I was quite early, it was only 11:30am, but 1:30 New Zealand time, so I headed to the bar and had lunch plus several free beers.
After several beers and lunch I decided to go for a walk to fill in time before my room would be ready at 3:00, at the rate I was going I’d be too drunk to make it in to my room. But it was very very hot and humid outside so I didn’t last very long, but I did manage to cross the road and have a quick look at the Royal Botanic Gardens.
The hotel from across the road.
The Royal Botanic Gardens (Sydney Conservatorium of Music in the background)
After what felt like an eternity I headed back to the hotel and waited in the beautiful air conditioned lobby for my room to be ready. Just after 3:00 my fantastic room was ready, everything was awesome; spectacular view, a bath, fully stocked minibar, a Nespresso machine, a flash desk with executive swivel chair, an electric blind that was controlled from the bed, a sofa and a very handy window bench seat to lie back on and enjoy the view and a few more beers.
And just when I thought I couldn’t get any luckier there was a knock on the door from Room Service – they gave me a special birthday treat of a cake with an Opera House type decoration. Wow!!!
Eventually I felt brave enough to go back outside in the heat and take a stroll around the Opera House. Actually it was early evening so I figured it should be cool enough. While I was wandering around the Opera House a very rusty looking cruise ship (the Ruby Princess) departed which was a very impressive sight from where I was standing.
Once it got dark I headed back to the hotel for dinner and drinks in the lobby bar.