BLOGGER’S NOTE: I am having a technical difficulty with the blog, so this will be an experiment. If it works, I will continue. If it doesn’t, I’ll put down the blog. I haven’t had much time for anything recently, certainly not for blogging. I found to my dismay just now that my favored blogging application, Blogsy, is no longer working and playing well with the latest IOS system on my iPad. Aren’t upgrades fun? Anyway, I’m going to try to use the WordPress application. I’m going to write a little less than I usually do so that I won’t get completely down in the dumps if the time is wasted. If it works, I’ll keep going. If not, perhaps I will just give the blog a break.
Friday, July 22, 2016
G’day, mates! We are off to the land Down Under. We planned this trip months ago, before Dad died. Then Greg’s mom fell and broke her shoulder. My mom had to reschedule a heart ablation procedure that was originally planned for May (when Dad passed), and the rescheduled procedure was just this week. In other words, we have had a lot of worries about our families. This trip has been in peril, and we have not had much time to be excited about it. We thought about cancelling this trip a hundred times, and I wasn’t completely sure we were going until Wednesday of this week. It’s been a rough year. I am hoping the vacation has its usual recharging effect on me.
Enough pity talk! We made it!
We left very early for the airport today at 2:30 PM. We like to hire a driver so that we can just relax and let him figure out the hideous Houston traffic. Our Action Limo arrived on time and got us to the airport with loads of time to spare. Prontosaurus (Greg) strikes again. Because we have Global Entry, we are supposed to get designated as TSA Pre Check, but something went wrong with that today so we had to go through regular security, which meant taking off half our clothes and getting a body scan. No big deal. I hope they enjoyed the view.
I had two margaritas at the Chili’s inside the airport, and we were feeling in a festive vacation mood by boarding time. The flight to Dallas was HOT and short and packed. We arrived with three hour layover and nothing to do, so naturally we sought more food and drink. We found a little restaurant serving Mediterranean tapas and red wine. I was starting to get into the mood. They were playing ESPN on their large screen TV, and ESPN was playing 25 best games of 2015. We got to see Arkansas beat Auburn again in five overtimes. I considered that to be a good trip omen.
Boarding was easy and we settled into our Qantas airbus. After we all got squeezed in, the captain announced a delay. Engine 4 was having a “minor mechanical issue.” I really wished he had just told us a white lie on that one. He assured us that at Qantas they value safety before schedule and they would not go in the air until they knew everything was okay. We were 40 minutes late taking off. The plane sat on the tarmac in Dallas, and it was hot. After we got into the air, it took a long time to get the plane down to a reasonable temperature.
Gone are the days when we have to entertain Genene. We all disappeared into our movies. I watched “Muriel’s Wedding.” I had seen it years ago but thought it would get me in the mood for Australia. “You’re terrible, Muriel!” We had a little bit of bad luck in the screaming baby department. Some poor woman behind us had two kids who were having a contest to see who could caterwaul the loudest. No worries, mate. I put in my earplugs, and they didn’t bother me anymore. I felt so sorry for that woman. When I saw her last, the toddler was in the floor (still screaming) at the baggage carousel.
The plane was the largest I’ve ever flown in. It was an Airbus 380-800, 72.7 meters long with a 79.8 meter wingspan and a cruising speed of 920 km (552 miles) per hour. She carries up to 484 souls.
I thought Qantas did a good job, though I will say that Korean Air is a bit more service oriented. All in all, I can’t complain. We all got some sleep, though it’s hard to really get a good rest while curled up like a pretzel.
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Lost in transit as we crossed the international date line. We will get our day back on the way back!
Sunday, July 24, 2016
We arrived at Sydney at 6:45 AM or so after over 16 hours in the air. We couldn’t use the ePassport line because Genene was under 16. The regular line wasn’t too long, and we had nothing to declare. Our bags were very slow to come off the carousel. I teased Greg, telling him that when you arrive at airport as early as we do, your bags go all the way up into the bowels of the plane and then come out last. Well, at least our bags are with us.
We went through a long, tiresome line in customs because we had nothing to declare. We got all the way to the front and the guy told us we were in the wrong line and needed to be in the declare line. I argued with him, thinking there had been some mistake. I told him we had nothing to declare. He said, “It’s stamped with a red stamp so you have to go to the other line.” I told him that this did not make sense. Then he said, “It makes sense to us. You’ve been selected to go through the declarations line.” The light came on for me then. It didn’t matter that we had nothing to declare. They were going to put us through the inspection line anyway. I wish they had told us that instead of leaving it as a mystery. So we shuffled over to the other line, where we and a lot of other unfortunate people got sniffed by a dog. I didn’t see the dog find anything.
Our driver was waiting and admitted that he was starting to get worried about how long it took us to get our bags. It was a short 20 minute trip to our hotel at Pier One in the heart of Sydney. The hotel literally sits in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s a redone warehouse and it’s very historic and very hip and trendy. We fit right in with our matted down bed hair. We had arranged for an early check-in. We were greeted with fresh squeezed juice and got through all our preliminaries with ease. We headed straight to our room and took hot showers and then went off to explore.
We spent the morning at Market Day in the historic Rocks neighborhood of Sydney. The wharf and dock area used to be very rough, but gentrification has come. All of the old brick buildings have been repurposed as apartments and shops. The atmosphere is lively and fun.
A view of the Sydney Harbour bridge.
First view of the Opera House. I can tell she’s a diva and will call on me to take many photos of her.
We spent some more time strolling when suddenly Genene looked at me with panic in her eyes and said that she need to go to bathroom RIGHT NOW. We had been commenting about how wonderful it was that there were so many public toilets available, but at that moment we couldn’t find a single one. We started running through the crowd. We finally found one at the top of a hill and dashed inside, only to find a long queue and only two toilets. Then a lady came out of one of them and helpfully told us there was no toilet paper. Genene took one look at me, shook her head and wheeled out of there. Clearly this was a big job in progress. We made a mad dash back to our hotel. I’ll bet we looked just lovely. I was holding my camera up in one hand so that if I fell, I wouldn’t shatter it. Genene and Greg were flying down the street ahead of me. All’s well that ends well. She made it. I was waiting for her to come out of the bathroom and told her, “That schnitzel made you shitznel.” She groaned. I was pretty proud of that clinker.
We took a long afternoon nap from 2:00 PM to 4:00 Pm and woke up refreshed and ready to see more of Sydney. At our driver’s suggestion, we took the evening ferry to Darling Harbour. The ferry is public transportation, and the views from it were stunning.
On our last night in Sydney, we are supposed to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge at sunset. Can you see the people in this photo?
The views of the bridge and the Opera House from the ferry were stunning, just as our driver had promised. It always pays to listen to the driver!
We strolled along at Darling Harbour. It seemed pretty quiet, but this is Sunday night. We were getting very tired and settled for an okay meal at Italian place. The best part of the evening was riding the ferry. It is quite brisk at night, and being cold wears you out. Genene was very tired on way home. She leaned on me and went to sleep on my shoulder as we rode the ferry. She’s getting to be a young lady now, and she wants always to be independent. It feels good to me when she turns to me for comfort when she is tired. It reminds me of the little girl I used to have. That girl is mostly in the rear view mirror now, but I get glimpses. And I remember….
We were all in bed by 9:30 PM. I can hear music downstairs but it is not too loud. It’s a pleasant happy sound. It has been a good first day!