australia · Uncategorized

Australian Birthday Extravaganza!

Originally published 10 August 2013.

We made it! Our plane found the Australian sunrise just half an hour or so before we landed, and it was every bit as beautiful as Wednesday’s sunset. Breakfast was quite the feast, with two types of eggs, sweet rolls, fruit, yogurt, juice, and coffee. We landed right on time and breezed through customs. We showed our passports, got stamped, handed over our entry cards to the appropriate customs agent, and off we went! Neither Steve nor I ever check a bag, so we didn’t have to wait at the baggage claim. Traveling light is the way to go!

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An Australian Sunrise

We found the trains that would take us to our hotel and bought our tickets. But much to our puzzlement, we couldn’t get out of the exit gate from the train station! Luckily for us, a couple of kind Australians let us through on their tickets. What did we do wrong? We have no idea! We just know these things happen when you travel. Be prepared for anything!

Next stop, the Bayswater Hotel. The guy at the front desk said one of our rooms was ready, and the other would be ready around mid-day. So we got to leave our luggage in one of the rooms, and off we went—next stop, the Sydney Opera House!

We took a scenic walk through a little neighborhood, down by the water and a naval shipyard, and I got a beautiful shot of the Opera House across the water. Seeing it for the first time was like seeing a postcard come to life! We made it to our scheduled 9:00 tour with about 15 minutes to spare. We could see the Sydney Harbor Bridge from where we stood waiting for the tour to start, and we saw some people doing exactly what we planned to do the next day—climbing the bridge!

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And then began our tour of the most recognizable building in the world! Our tour guide, Mary Ann, was a true delight! She was funny, full of hard facts and humorous anecdotes, and she’d had four cups of coffee before the tour started—two at home, one on her way to work, and one waiting for her when she arrived. She was loads of fun!

The opera house project was started in the 1950s, and a Danish man, Mr. Utzon, won a world-wide contest to find the architect. The project was supposed to be completed in 3 years, with a budget of 7 million AUD, but that’s not how it went down… In 1963, 16 years and 102 million AUD later, the Sydney Opera House was completed and opened in a ceremony with Queen Elizabeth of England! Worth it? Maybe. The opera house is a major reason I wanted to go to Australia in the first place!

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Young Love!

I had read online that the 9:00 tour gets to see more of the opera house than all of the other tours, so that’s why we chose it. We saw three theatres, including the one where we would see Don Pasquale the following night! Usually you can’t take pictures of any of the theatres, but Mary Ann allowed us to in the concert hall. It’s beautiful—over a thousands seats “in the round,” the seats are hot pink and white, and the light fixtures are gorgeous!

We finished up our tour a little after 10 and set out for our next big adventure… the Taronga Zoo! We rode the ferry over (I love a good ferry!) and took the “ski lift” up to the top of the mountain, where the zoo entrance is.

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An Australian Sunrise

First things first—to the koalas! Koala bears are so cute I almost can’t stand it! There were at least 4 sleeping in the trees at that first exhibit. They are so sweet and cuddly-looking. We also got to see a couple of sleeping Tasmanian devils, rock wallabies (that hop like kangaroos!), birds like I’ve never seen before, lizards, dragons, turtles, tortoises, wombats, etc., etc., etc. I didn’t get to see a platypus, but perhaps I’ll still get a glimpse of one before the trip is through!

Back on the ferry, we marveled at just how beautiful Sydney is, especially right on the water.

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From there we walked back to our hotel to freshen up and get Steve checked into his room. We left out again around 4:00 in search of dinner. Since it was my birthday, my wish was to eat at a seafood restaurant at Darling Harbor with my darling, Steve. And we did just that! I’d planned to get straight-up seafood, but the kangaroo fillet with prawns captured my attention instead! Still a bit of seafood, but also with an almost exclusively Australian flare. It tastes like beef to me, but sort of gamier. But I enjoyed it!

With no room for dessert, we caught a cab back to the hotel—which was quite a feat. They have some system for their cabs that has to do with a light being off or on at a certain time. We were too jetlagged and full to try and think too much about figuring it out at that point!

Steve walked me to my door to wish me a happy birthday once more. I tried and failed to figure out the heating system in my room, took my shower, and collapsed into bed. Tomorrow, we’ll take in the view from the Sydney Tower, climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and enjoy the opera at the world famous Sydney Opera House! The adventure continues!

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