We made it to Sydney after a smooth 9-hour flight. Our hotel (the Park Hyatt) is practically under the harbour bridge and our rooms face the opera house. As soon as we checked in, Georgina ran some water in the tub then let it drain -- it swirled counterclockwise (just so you know).
Sydney DST is currently 16 hours ahead of NJ and 10 hours ahead of GMT (due to daylight time). So if it's 7am in NJ, it's 11pm of the same day here (and the late 1980's in England).
The weather was in the 80's and clear, and we saw the southern cross for the first time ("and understand why we came this way...").
Everyone speaks English ("More or less", according to Georgina), they have a lot of seafood, steaks and nearly-British quality sausages. They also have British style bitter here. We might not be coming back.
We napped (didn't sleep much overnight on the plane) and explored the local area, checking out the opera house and the area by the harbour known as The Rocks. We'll be seeing "Carmen" friday night (we also tried in vain to get tickets for "Madame Butterfly").
With all the wandering today, we still haven't seen any marsupials.
I was expecting kangaroos hopping down every side street, wombats
frisking in the grass and koala bears munching eucalyptus at the
other tables in resturants. We'll keep our eyes open, they're
here somewhere. We did see a huge bat with over a 20 inch wingspan
so Georgie won't be coming outdoors for the rest of the trip.
We went to the zoo and finally saw some marsupials up close, including kangaroos and wallabies. Unfortunately, Koala bears are skittish so you can't get too close to them. We also saw a Komodo Dragon the size of a large alligator.
They had a display of "Flying Foxes", which are bats local to this area with bodies as big as cats and 2-3 foot wingspans. They look like bad special effects of B-movie vampires (but they stick to sucking fruit). These are apparently what Georgie keeps seeing everywhere (she and Raquel ran under trees full of them in the botannical gardens).
While we were eating lunch at the zoo's outdoor cafe, a woman and her daughter
sat down at a table across from us. Another table-full had just departed leaving a few
bits of burger and fries and some black scavenger-type birds (magpies?) flew in and started
picking over the scraps. The woman complained loudly about it, then decided to take action.
She left her barely-touched food, went to the empty table and shoo-ed away the birds,
then called her daughter over to help her carry the trash to the bin. Rather predictably,
as she was emptying the trash into the bins the birds swept back in to her table and started
scarfing down her lunch. She seemed genuinely surprised when she saw what was happening.
Of course, by now we were secretly rooting for the birds.
The QE II sailed into port the morning of the 9th and docked across from the opera house. We watched her sail out again at midnight the next night from our balcony.
Billy Connelly is a Scottish comedian Georgie and I enjoy. One of his videos intersperses a performance at the Sydney Opera House with scenes from around town. We've been using the video as a sort of travel guide while we're here. Who do we see in a resturant tonight but Mr. Connelly himself, back for another show next week (unfortunately, all his shows here and in Melbourne are sold out).
Raquel got a book on scenic walks, and has been going out hiking each day before Georgina and I struggle into daylight.
Today we took a helicopter trip over Sydney harbour, out to the 2000 Olympic stadium, then out to a homestead in the Blue Mountains. We were fed steaks cooked on the BBQ (I am NOT going to use the phrase you're all thinking of) then climbed into a 4 wheel drive vehicle for a spin around the mountains. We were hoping to see a group of kangaroos that live near the homestead, but all we saw were some lizards (and some great views of the valleys). We hopped back in our 'copter and flew over the Three Sisters (rock formation) and back to Sydney. We were accompanied through all this by a British couple from Teddington.
For dinner tonight, Raquel and I (Georgie was feeling a bit sick, but she's better now) took a water taxi (a big speedboat with a meter) across to a nearby harbour for a fantastic seafood meal overlooking the entire Sydney skyline. I had shrimps cooked on the BBQ (I still won't say it) and Bug tails. "Bugs" are a local crayfish resembling (and tasting just like) lobster. On the way back we shared a cab with a British couple from Bristol. We're beginning to think that there aren't any Australians here, just British ex-pats. I guess that's true, more-or-less...
We finally got to the opera house to see a show. "Carmen" was very good, the acoustics were great and we had pretty nice seats. The stage has an LCD display above it and "surtitles" appear during the performance to translate the lyrics line by line. You quickly get used to it and it's no more distracting than reading subtitles while watching a foreign film -- you get a good understanding of everything that's happening while getting the flavor of the original language.
To finish our time in Sydney, we had a couple nice beach days. On the advice of a local we
went to the Manly beaches instead of the more famous Bondi beach. The water was clear and
warm and lovely.