Sydney 2020 Day Four

February 14 – Friday

My last day in Sydney, and one of the many kind things the guy at reception did for me when he upgraded my room was ask me what time I was headed for the airport and extended my check out time till 12:00 for me.  So that meant I had half a day to enjoy the amazing room and do some last minute shopping.

I figured I had enough time to race to the Westfield Mall to check out Myers Lego department and then go up the Sydney Tower, the sun was shining so it was a great day for going up the tower.  The salesperson in Myers said the same thing about the Sydney Skyline set – it has been retired.

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My trip up the tower was probably the fastest “been there done that” sightseeing I’ve ever done.  I even asked the girl selling tickets how long it would take.  Crazy question I know but I needed to know if there was a long wait to get up there – there wasn’t.

I made it back to the hotel in time for one last look at the spectacular view, grab my bag and check out.

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Because it was so hot I contemplated getting a taxi to the airport, but then I had noticed a lot of taxis driving around with their windows open, so I didn’t like my chances of getting a taxi with air conditioning.  Plus if there was traffic I’d be quite stressed, so I caught the train which was fast and easy and nowhere near as hot as the one I caught from the airport.

I made it to the airport with plenty of time for several beers and shopping, but I think that should have been the other way round, because it was hot and I was thirsty so I drunk many beers quite quickly and then went shopping.  This of course made the purchase of the really expensive new Apple earpods with noise cancellation very very easy.  But I love them, and thank you to everyone who gave me birthday money – this is what you bought me.

Oh and as I passed through bag search, guess what I found… the Lego Sydney Skyline Architecture set, for about $20 cheaper (duty free) than what it would’ve been if they’d had it in any of the stores I went in to.

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The flight home was fun and I managed to finish off the movie I started watching on the way over – Judy, starring Renée Zellweger.  The flight even had wifi so I needed to take a picture of something so I could post it on Facebook (seemed like a good idea at the time), so this is the pic I posted.

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Getting my bag and going through customs etc was easy and a very kind friend was waiting outside to pick me up and take me home.

Sydney 2020 Day Three

February 13 – Thursday

My Birthday and my whole reason for going to Sydney.  I woke up earlier than normal because all these wonderful birthday wishes started happening at about 6:00 am because that’s 8:00 in New Zealand.  So I was wide awake and enjoying the rainy overcast view (cooling everything down for me) when my magnificent room service breakfast arrived.

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Eventually at about 9:00 I set out for the Apple Store to buy myself a birthday present.  The weather gods even decided to stop the rain as an added bonus for my birthday, so I set out in glorious sunshine.  However the glory didn’t last long – the Apple Store was CLOSED FOR RENOVATION!!!  Seems I’m doomed to never get inside that particular Apple Store, it wasn’t open back in 2015 when I was last in Sydney either, click here to read about that day.

That completely threw me and I completely forgot it was my birthday and didn’t really know what to do after that, so I stayed on the flash new air conditioned tram till I got to a stop near Paddy’s Markets.  When I was 16 my parents took the whole family to Sydney for the August school holidays and one of the places we went to was Paddy’s Market – it was cool.  There was so much amazing stuff you couldn’t get back in New Zealand and the coolest thing I bought was a Nintendo Octopus game.

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Sadly the Paddy’s Market of 2020 was nothing like the 1981 version.  Or maybe it is still cool I just didn’t like any of the stuff they were selling now that I’m not 16, it seemed like a never ending $2.00 shop with row after row of identical stalls, so crammed with cheap stuff that you couldn’t move around each stall to have a proper look.  But I did find some Stubby Holders which was on my list, so it was worth it just for that.

After the markets I headed for the Chinese Garden of Friendship which I really enjoyed and it only cost $8 to get in.  The garden is set amongst some really tall buildings so at times when I looked up it felt like I had been magically transported to Hong Kong.  There were the biggest frangipani trees I’ve ever seen in full bloom and these gigantic lizard things that just lay around everywhere (I nearly stood on one, not sure which one of us got the biggest fright).

After that beautiful relaxing experience I headed for the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium with a quick stop at McDonalds along the way.  The aquarium cost $45 to get in and definitely was not worth it.  The best part (and probably the reason I went) was the lovely cold air conditioning keeping all the fish & penguins cold.  I got to see a Dugong but the whole place seemed run down and creepy.  The penguin expedition was over in about 30 seconds!  So glad I didn’t need to queue up for it.  Check out this sad penguin in dry kinda ugly conditions.

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Last time I was in Sydney I caught a ferry back to Circular Quay from Darling Harbour and it took about 10 minutes, so I thought I’d do the same thing this time.  I asked the ticket man which peer for the ferry to Circular Quay and he pointed me in the direction of a ferry that looked more like a hydrofoil than a ferry, so I thought things have really got flash in the last 5 years.  45 minutes and about 20 stops later, me and several other tourists realised we were miles away from the Quay and certainly not headed in the direction we should be in.  One lady asked a crew member if this ferry was going to Circular Quay and he said no – so they hurriedly got off, but it took me too long to work out what they had asked the dude and what just happened.  So I got off at the next stop and luckily the ferry returning to Sydney was just pulling in.  It took another 45 minutes to get to where I was supposed to be going, so all up a 10 minute ferry ride took me an hour and half.  At least it was a pleasant trip around the very expensive North Sydney harbour suburbs.  I guess a 90 minute harbour cruise for $6 is a bargain.

Here we are heading in the wrong direction getting further and further away from the city.

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According to my iPhone this is Drummoyne.

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90 minutes later this was a very welcome sight.

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So… after all that I wasn’t really sure what to do for my birthday dinner.  I really didn’t feel like getting all dressed up to sit somewhere flash all by myself, so I bought a box of beers, a lot of junk food and thoroughly enjoyed my wonderful hotel room with the stunning view.

 

Sydney 2020 Day Two

February 12 – Wednesday

Very exciting morning, I went on a tour of the Sydney Opera House.  The tour was fun, educational and well worth taking the time to do – I loved it.

At the start of the tour you have to put on these headsets and receiving devices which was not a good look or a good feel and I said to the guide “do I really have to“.  He explained the device was so I could hear him talking no matter which way he was facing or how far away from him I got, which is perfect for someone like me who always straggles behind the pack, taking photos and looking at things just that little bit longer than everyone else.  After only a couple of minutes I was loving the headphones.

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We got to see inside several of the different theatres and learnt how all the different stages work and watched a video on the history of the Opera House.

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From there I went back to the hotel to enjoy my incredible room and view and then headed out to Bondi Junction on a bus.  The bus departed from a stop right across the road from the hotel so it was easy, with no wait time and I got to see a lot more of the real Sydney than if I’d caught the subway.

My reason for going out to Bondi was not for surfing (ha ha) but to find the Lego Shop and some hard to find Australian TV show DVDs in JB-Hifi.

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Interestingly the Sydney Lego Shop wasn’t any better than the one we have in Auckland and I was disappointed they no longer sold the Sydney Skyline architecture set, apparently it’s a retired set and I’d missed out.  I never really wanted it before now, because the Opera House in the set looks weird and there is a building I didn’t recognise.

 

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While there I found a great place for a very late lunch called Lobster Tail Seafood with a great view of the Sydney skyline from an outdoor deck.

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I did manage to find a couple of the DVDs on my list in JB-Hifi but I didn’t manage to find my way out of the 5 floor Westfield mall.  I had to consult a directory map touch screen several times.  Exit is not a search option, but Bus or Train is!

Sydney 2020 Day One

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Royal Botanic Gardens (Sydney Conservatorium of Music in the background)2

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!!!

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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.

Sydney Day Four

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Today was our last day in Sydney and we really only had a morning there before we needed to get out to the airport and fly home.

We gathered at a cafe near the hotel for breakfast, somewhere that had mushrooms as part of their breakfast menu.

After breakfast a couple of us headed off for some last minute shopping/sightseeing.  The last thing I needed to check off my to do list was visit the Apple Store, so we headed off down George St past some beautiful old buildings.

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Strangely everything was closed and Sydney seemed like a ghost town at 9:00 on a Sunday morning!

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At last we found the Apple Store after walking what seemed like a really long way, but it didn’t open till 10:00.  Sadly I worked out that if we waited for the store to open, had a very quick look round, NOT buy anything, walk back to the hotel, pack my suitcase and meet everybody in the hotel lobby at the arranged time, I would be really pushing it. So we gave up that idea, found the one coffee outlet that was open, found a nice place to sit and enjoy our coffee and headed back to the hotel.

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The flight home was not as fun and exciting as the flight to Sydney, but at least there were no hold ups and things like check in and airport security was really easy at both ends.  Strangely however there was a sad lack of shops open at the Sydney airport.  Not sure if that was due to renovations, but most stores were empty and looked abandoned.

The view from the plane while we waited for take off was awesome – the city looked really close and hot!

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Sydney Day Three

Saturday, 14 February 2015

This morning we set off for Bondi Junction by train to do a spot more shopping at another huge Westfield mall and a great super discounted chemist with amazing bargains.  On the way to the train station we saw some unusual looking birds which apparently are called Ibis.

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After shopping we headed back to the hotel to dump our shopping and head out for lunch.

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We caught a taxi from the hotel out to Darling Harbour for lunch where we found a groovy bar and grill called Bungalow 8 right on the waterfront with a great menu.  We ordered a delicious jug of Sangria to go with our lunch.

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After lunch we took a leisurely stroll along the waterfront for about one minute – suddenly the sun was too much and I had to head for the nearest bit of shade.  Shortly we ended up at some wildlife place and I bought a cap which allowed us to go back out into the sun.  From there we caught a ferry to Circular Quay which gave us great views of Darling Harbour and even stopped at Lunar Park.

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A surprise bonus of this little excursion was we got to go under the Harbour Bridge and photograph the Opera House again.

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Once at Circular Quay we caught a different ferry out to Manly.  We wanted to do this for two reasons:

  1. I knew there were great opportunities to photograph the front of the Opera House from that particular ferry and…
  2. There is a song called Reckless by Australian Crawl that has the lyrics: “as the Manly Ferry cuts its way to Circular Quay.”

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The ferry was jam packed with people (mainly young surfer type dudes) which seemed really strange coz I don’t remember there being anything interesting at Manly for cool people to do.  I went to Manly when I was 16 and all I remember was an old run down aquarium and a very small almost abandoned fun park.  There was so many people I started to feel a bit like Rose on the Titanic – “there weren’t enough life jackets”.  But we survived and because of all the people it took ages to get off the boat.

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Once on dry land we headed for the information centre so I could find out what was going on.  Turned out it was the Australian Open of Surfing.

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The surf beach was only five minutes walk away so we joined the fun.

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Here’s me lovin every minute of it.  We even went for a refreshing paddle in the surf.

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Sadly we had to drag ourselves away from Manly and head back to the hotel in time to meet up with everyone for our last dinner in Sydney.

Near our hotel there were a lot of Chinese new year celebrations going on, so we ended up in a Thai restaurant and got to enjoy all the fruit carving, food stalls and dancing on the street.

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Sydney Day Two

Friday, 13 February 2015 – My Birthday

Up early to check out the view from the roof top swimming pool before the champagne breakfast with my friends who had flown to Sydney to help me celebrate my 50th birthday in style.

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After breakfast and many glasses of fabulous champagne we set off for the Harbour bridge so I could take photos of the Opera House. Along the way we walked past the Sydney Tower and many beautiful buildings and stopped at a Starbucks to give us the strength required for the big walk across the bridge.

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As we approached the bridge even the weather god wanted to help us celebrate my birthday by presenting us with clear blue skies.  The view of the city and the Opera House was stunning and I just couldn’t get enough of photographing everything.

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One of my friends and I even walked up hundreds of stairs to check out the view from the Pylon Lookout. Up the lookout was a movie, spectacular views and even a shop.

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Next we walked around Circular Quay all the way to the Opera House itself so I could touch it.

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Once inside we headed to the shop where I found the Lego version of the Opera House. That was so cool coz it was the Opera House inside the Opera House.

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Check out my Lego blog to see the one I built back in April:

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https://beejaygelego.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/10234-sydney-opera-house/

After exploring the Opera House we had a pre-dinner cocktail in one of the harbour-side bars. I think the drink was called a Sydney Sling which seemed appropriate.

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On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the incredible QV shopping mall where I found an amazing toy shop and bought an Air New Zealand jumbo jet model. I wanted to buy this particular model because Air NZ don’t fly Boeing 747s anymore.

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The last part of my birthday was spent up the Sydney Tower in the revolving restaurant “Orbit”. The evening was fabulous, great company, great food and spectacular views. The staff even suprised us with a Happy Birthday plate decorated in chocolate words.

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Sydney Day One

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Too excited for words, we arrived at the airport to check in for our flight to Sydney.  This was the first time I could use the self-check in with my new passport which made everything so easy.

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The flight to Sydney was loads of fun with great service.  However the plane was delayed a bit due to its late arrival from somewhere, so it was very exciting to finally see it dragged in to place.

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The weather forecast was for thunderstorms so it was very exciting to arrive in Sydney on a sunny and only slightly cloudy day, We were even sitting on the best side of the plane so we got a great view of Sydney and the Opera House before landing.

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After dumping our bags we walked along Pitt St to make the most of the late night shopping at the massive Westfield Mall.

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Videos taken outside the Westfield Mall – awesome buzz: