So part of the mega-bonus of our life in the Foreign Service is regional travel. When posted somewhere, it makes taking trips to nearby places much more attainable. So New Zealand and Australia were the obvious places we had our sights on when we got our posting to Suva. There are a ton of other Pacific Island countries we would love to visit but unfortunately, it is super pricey to get to them....as you have to transit through another country...for example Fiji to New Caledonia....840 miles away as the albatross flies.....for us though, we would have to fly all the way to Sydney (2000 miles) and then back to New Caledonia (another 1255 miles) for a mere $1500/per person.....so....that's not happening!
So anywho, back to Australia! It is place I've wanted to visit since high school at least. I saw a special on the Monkey Mia dolphins and was all, that's what I want to do when I grow up. So I went to school to become a marine biologist (where I also learned all about the Great Barrier Reef...another place to visit in Australia). So with the sand in our Fiji hourglass running out, we realized the big Holiday/school year break was our last chance to get there. The Australian Government has this interesting graphic showing just how big Australia is.....roughly the size the continental US.
The school year ended on Thursday, we had a lovely rainy weekend for the kids to start being bored, Richard and I worked Monday, and on Tuesday morning we flew out to Sydney. We missed the direct flight to Sydney, but it was still a quick 30 minute flight to Nadi and then another flight to Sydney that took about 5 hours.
Of course it was sunny in Nadi and it was a beautiful landing as you can see as we approached the Sydney airport. Since we arrived a few weeks before Christmas, just outside the airport their was a lovely tree decorated with golden opera houses, koalas, and kangaroos....iconic Australia.....
We dropped our luggage at our hotel and made our way down to Harbourside. Prior to our trip, I had booked us a combo pass for the Big Bus Tour along with two other attractions tickets. So we grabbed some lunch at Hard Rock Cafe (a cheesey tradition we have), we picked up our tickets, and then started our tour around town. Big Bus has to two routes around Sydney (it is a rather big city). I was a bit surprised by some of the older, almost gothic looking architecture.
When we had the chance we hoped off the city route, got our Starbucks mugs for our collection, and then hopped on the Bondi Beach route. Just to keep things real, here's a lovely shot of a motion sick kid, a bored kid and a surly wife as we waited on the Bondi Beach bus to come.
Bondi Beach is famous for its beautiful beach, being close to a major city (so lots of visitors), and the lifeguards due to rough ocean conditions.....there is even a TV show about it! So we got off to check out the surfers,
take some selfies (this is the wait, I have hair in my face let's take another and poof she was gone series),
and someone decided to dance like no one was watching...
...but we busted her and got quite the look.
After playing in the sand, we grabbed some dinner. We ended up with two extra hours that evening due to the time zones.....which was nice. By the time we got back to our hotel, the wild rainbow lorikeets were starting to roost in the tree right outside of our window. It was pretty cool to see tons of these "pet store" birds flying all over (and they are quite noisy).
The next morning, we headed down to a pet shop we'd seen just down the street from our hotel. As there is no such thing in Fiji and we had 'separation guilt' for leaving our cat at home, so we bought IsaLei some toys (not too many as we were carrying them in our backpack all day). Given our afternoon arrival into Sydney, we still had some time left on our 24-hour pass for the Big Bus. So we hoped back on the city route and continued the tour.
Digging the retro telephone booth (they had been refitted with ATM machines....pretty smart idea). The iconic 'Coke Sign' as it is called, has been lighting up King's Cross since 1974. Our recording told us, that it was purposely turned off for the first time in 2007 for the inaugural Earth Hour. In 2015, the old sign was taken down, pieces of it auction off for charity, and replaced with an energy efficient one. Mr. Wiki says the new one is the largest controllable LED sign in the Southern Hemisphere that can also change colors.
We had a bit of overlap towards the end right before we got off at the attractions we had gotten tickets for with our package deal. Our first attraction was the Wildlife Sydney Zoo in Darling Harbour. Mason was a little (Tasmanian) devil when we got there!
Then we saw a real Tasmanian Devil momma and her baby!
Cool little bird in the open kangaroo walk thru.
Mason showing us how he is nearly as tall as an emu. Then an emu, running right up to us. Luckily there was glass as emus can be pretty mean.
This sign just cracked me up....don't feed your kids to the croc!
They were so cute and cuddly, almost makes you want to take one home.....j/j. The zookeeper was saying because the Australian government has listed the koala as vulnerable, if one moves onto your property it will likely lead to a lot of paperwork if you ever wanted to change landscaping or add on to you house, etc.....
So after all the warning signs....we did have an incident with a crocodile.....luckily, this last photo was uploaded to the cloud........
Just kidding....Richard stuck his head up in the viewing tube and got the close up (note the St. Louis Cardinals hat!!).
Here is another dugong, either a female or modest male....lol! I don't recall. Took a selfie with this one.
Then I was photo bombed.....can't see the dugong as well but it's a funny picture....so I'm adding it. The biggest difference I noticed was how different the face of a dugong is compared to the manatees I have seen. Dugongs also have more 'whale-like' tails where as manatee tails are more paddle like.
Clarissa and I played with these chambered nautiluses for a while. You could speak into one side and it "translated" your words into dugong squeaks and whistles. It was kind of fun to learn dugong-ese?!?
Clarissa took this photo of the penguin. It was rather funny. This little penguin would waddle right up to the window and soon as it got close enough for me to get a picture I would step up with the camera and it would turn around show me its tail feathers as it waddled away. Seriously, this happened 3 or 4 times, it didn't do it to anybody else....just me. So Clarissa said, give me the camera I will go get a picture. We showed that penguin!
After the aquarium we headed back to our hotel....someone wanted to try out the roof top pool! She wanted to someone else to go swimming with her. I was the only who could handle the cold...but only for a bit. It was nearly the first day of summer, but still Brrr! (Also, what you don't see is there was company having a huge cosplay holiday party just to the left of this image (1980s movies theme...fun to guess the movie/character), but that always makes a dip in the pool a tad awkward!
The next morning was opening day for the Star Wars movie! We had pre-booked tickets for Richard and Mason to see the movie in one of the first time zones it was showing in the world (better than the option of Richard dealing with a media blackout for the entire trip). Richard said it was the probably the nicest theatre he had ever been in (and it was about $20US per ticket...so while a tad pricey, it was a pre-book, online, opening day, etc - so it was not super crazy expensive).
Clarissa and I opted go shopping in Target! Yes, Australia has Target!!! In the same mall while they saw the movie, too! We then just enjoyed wandering around the mall and saw all the holiday sales. Once the movie was over, we all met back up for lunch and headed back to our hotel (totally took advantage of late check out!). After the movie, we leisurely got packed up and then headed for the ship....time to start exploring some of more of Australia! Unfortunately....that'll be another post [coming soon hopefully]!!!
Upon disembarking after our 10 day/9 night cruise, we choose to use a free reward night just up the street from the cruise ship terminal. So we dropped our luggage and headed back down to the harbor front. As you will see in the next post, from the cruise ship we got some amazing photos of the iconic Sydney opera house but we wanted to go check it out up close. On our way, the kids posed with our previous home away from home one last time.
Around the walkway from the overseas passenger terminal to the Opera House, the Aussies make Americans look a bit shallow. We have our Hollywood Walk of Fame, they have their Sydney Writers Walk....honoring famous Australian writers....as well as writers that lived in or visited Australia! We found one of the visitor plaques - Rudyard Kipling - there is also one for Mark Twain.
Not sure which photo I like better....the photo of Richard taking a selfie with the opera house - or
Mason photographing his photo bombing of the opera house selfie.
Not sure what I expected the Sydney Opera House to look like up close, but I was surprised.....
Finally a proper photo with the opera house.
Okay....so maybe not a proper photo......a unique typical tourist photo......After we did the opera house tourist thing, we headed on to wander around town to get some souvenirs/gifts for people that we hadn't found on the cruise. We happened upon this Christmas Eucalyptus tree....(that rhymes really well!) in one of the malls.
At some point, we had walked all the way over to Darling Harbour and with it being the holidays we had the chance to take some #Elfies!
And a photo in a giant ornament!!
After we grabbed another meal at Hard Rock (apparently we were really having a hankering for American food...lol). We figured out it would be cheaper to grab a water taxi back to our hotel than a a regular taxi around town, so we headed down to the dock to wait for the next one (they ran about every 20 minutes). Richard got this nice pano of downtown Sydney.
He also got a great shot of the Australian flag (I got the honor of making sure nobody took a dip in the harbour to look for orange/white or blue fish...j/j). Fun fact (wow...suddenly feel like the Big Bang theory guy)....the five stars to side represent the Southern Cross constellation. The largest white start under the Union Jack represents the six states of all Australia and the seventh point represents all territories.
On our water taxi ride back, we went past the Sydney Luna Park....I still can't get over the creepy mouth entrance! Otherwise, it looks really fun!
I guess he had a flight to catch too! We didn't see any reindeer on the runway when we were taking off! It was a great trip and we only saw a bit of Australia...there is so much more I/we want to explore (I'm looking at you Gold Coast and Perth on the map!). Hopefully, someday we will be posted in Asia and can make another trip to those areas (by that time our Australian friends will likely be back from Fiji and we can catch up with them too!).