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From Auckland to Sydney: Touring Sydney, Going Home

Seeing the sights and sounds of Sydney


Day 19-Sydney, Australia (1/20/05)

Our last full day in Sydney began as the others had, with bright sunshine, a blue sky and a warm summer breeze. Mom and I had a great (and filling) breakfast of bacon, eggs, grilled Portobello mushrooms, toasted French bread and coffee at the Harbor Kitchen. The restaurant’s wall of windows was open wide and the relaxing sound of the ocean complimented the gorgeous harbor view.


Today we decided we would use the Sydney Explorer bus system for seeing the sights. The Explorer was a hop on, hop off bus system that visited 26 different attractions and featured full onboard commentary on each site. The first stop on the circuit was conveniently located a few steps from the Park Hyatt so we didn’t have far to go to get aboard. We left the hotel around 9:00am and caught one of the buses about 5 minutes later. As luck would have it, there were empty seats near the front of the bus with wide picture windows that were perfect for viewing.


The Explorer route took us up George Street, past the Museum of Contemporary Art to City Center, the central business district. City Center has an amazing array of things to see such as the Sydney Town Hall, St. Andrews Cathedral, with it’s stunning gothic architecture, the 250 meter Sydney Tower and Hyde Park. One of the city’s finest 19th century buildings houses the glorious Queen Victoria Building. Filling an entire city block, the QVB as it’s called, has 5 levels of Sydney’s best international shopping with contemporary fashion, food, art, jewelry, antiques, and authentic Australian gifts and souvenirs. Other great shopping centers include the Pitt Street Mall, the Victorian-era styled Strand Arcade and the duty and tax free DFS Galleria.

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Moving on from City Center, we rode through Chinatown and the China Gardens before stopping at Darling Harbour. Located on the west side of the city, Darling Harbour is home to some of Sydney’s top attractions and water side restaurants. The IMAX Theatre, Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Convention Center and the Harborside Shopping Mall are located along the waters edge at Darling. A few blocks from Harborside is the popular Star City hotel and Casino, which has a 5 star hotel and 14 restaurants and bars.

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Before having lunch at Harborside, Mom and I decided to visit the Star City Casino to see what Australian casinos have to offer. The casino was very large and somewhat quiet and not very busy compared to casinos in the States. We were quite surprised to find primarily 1 cent video slot machines at the casino, but we enjoyed playing a few of them for an hour or so before we left to eat lunch and do some shopping at Harbourside Mall.

Harborside was busy and crowded for a Thursday afternoon. The place reminded me pretty much of every other mall that I had visited at home except that this one was on the water. There were parents and kids everywhere and finding a place to eat was somewhat of a chore. We finally snagged a table in the food court for a quick meal. Needless to say, we did not stay long after eating lunch. We did find a bookstore on the way out were we found some great books on Aussie Slang and other goodies.

Re-boarding the Explorer Bus we traveled on past the King Street Warf, a new development with lots of bistros and bars, toward the eastern suburbs of Sydney. We rode through Kings Cross, an area of Sydney known for its stylish restaurants and hotels as well as wild mixture of prostitution and crime, before we entered the Royal Botanic Gardens where we saw the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and the Australian Museum. The historic Macquarie Street and the popular lookout point, Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair were so congested with traffic that we weren’t able to see the spectacular views of the Sydney Harbor, Harbor Bridge and the Opera House.


One of the most interesting things that I noticed about Sydney after riding through it’s city streets for several hours was that the streets, sidewalks and parks were amazingly free of trash and other unsightly hazards that one might expect to find in such a large city. Even in the less touristy areas, everything in view appeared neat and clean and inviting. Sydneysiders could really see their tax dollars at work; I wish I could say the same of my hometown.

Mid-afternoon found us back at the hotel for a break from sightseeing. We relaxed in our room for a while and then headed back out for a walk through the Rocks to the DFS Galleria for some duty and tax free shopping. Failing to find anything to our liking at the Galleria, Mom and I headed back down George Street toward the hotel, stopping along the way to buy more souvenirs. After picking up a delicious take away meal from the Harbor Kitchen, we spent our last night in Sydney packing and watching television before turning in for the night.

Day 20- Sydney to Los Angles, California (1/21/05)

Our flight to Los Angeles was scheduled to leave at 1:00pm. We decided to leave early for the airport because we were not familiar with the Sydney Airport and we wanted to have plenty of time to get through airport security and check in for the flight. Mom and I said out goodbyes to the hotel staff, thanking them for the wonderful hospitality, and got a cab to the airport about 9:30am. The drive to the airport took us through downtown, and as we looked around this marvelous city for the last time, I could not believe how quickly the time had passed since we arrived three days earlier. There were so many sights left unseen, so many things left undone. I was very sad to leave such a wondrous place, but at the same time, I was looking forward to going home. Rather than suffer through so many mixed emotions, I simply resolved to return someday to this land that I had come to love. I was leaving, yes, but not forever.

The flight to California was uneventful. We were served a great meal and lots of snacks and wine. I made a new friend of my seatmate, a native Australian who lives in New York. Cynthia and I talked a blue streak for half of the flight before day turned into night as we crossed the International Date Line and we all went to sleep.

Our plane arrived in Los Angeles at 7:00am on a bright and sunny morning. The Embassy Suites hotel shuttle picked us up after we collected our luggage and went through Customs and Immigration. After checking in to the hotel, Mom and I enjoyed the free cooked to order breakfast and went to bed. The rest of the day passed quietly until we went to the lounge for the free Manager’s Reception. We met a married couple in the lounge who were setting sail on a Princess cruise to the Mexican Riviera the next day. We told them how much we enjoyed our Princess cruise and wished them happy sailing before we headed back to our room for the night.

Day 21- Los Angeles to Montgomery (1/22/05)

After 21 days and a few hours, our Delta Airlines flight brought Mom and me home to Montgomery, Alabama. My husband Reginald was at the airport waiting for us and I was glad to see that he and everything else that I loved was OK. It was hard to believe that this incredible, life changing journey was really over. The trip had been more than I could ever have expected or even imagined. This ultimate adventure had truly been a blessing, and for that I have to thank my best friend, role model and mother, Joanne, who dared to think that such a trip was even possible and then make it happen. When Mom booked the cruise over a year earlier, I never really thought that we would actually go, much less that it would be the experience of a lifetime that it was. I had been to a part of the world that I never thought I would ever see, and for that, I am truly grateful. Thanks Mom, for taking your eldest child with you on your journey to the Land Down Under. I owe you one!


Posted by Gerriv 14:36

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Gerri, I am loving this! Your photos and descriptions are amazing! I love that you and your mother are taking this trip together. I've never been to Australia and your blog makes me want to go. So far, so good...

by Amaya Radjani

Thanks so much Amaya! You are such a wonderful writer, I'm glad you like my Blog!

by Gerriv

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