Friday, November 16, 2018

Around Australia Cruise - Day 3 in Sydney - The Rocks and Embarkation

Our day to embark was here and we took a taxi to the Overseas Passenger Terminal which is located in The Rocks historical area of Sydney. (Taxis in Sydney are expensive!) We got there early and were very pleased to see that Princess had things set up to take checked pieces of luggage. We dumped our large bags and headed out to explore.

The sign for Argyle Street immediately caught my attention. I had directions for getting to the Sydney Harbor Bridge Pylon Lookout from Argyle Street. I pulled the papers out of my tote and off we went, uphill, upstairs, across the street, and up more stairs. A lot more stairs. (Note: There is a lift that goes from the upper street level to the bridge level. Of course, it was under maintenance when we were there.)

We finally arrived at the car/pedestrian level of the bridge. We walked towards the pylons, cars streaming by us on one side, and a fantastic view that included part of our ship and the opera house on the other side.

Sydney Harbor Bridge pylon

We finally arrived at the Pylon Lookout. I decided I was up for the climb. Jerry stayed at bridge level and guarded our tote bags.  :)  The cost for seniors (me) was AUD$10 (about US$7.20).

You can see part of the staircase in the picture above. It starts out narrow. But then it widened to a steel staircase that was very open. I have to admit it was a hike getting to the top but along the way, there were some very interesting things to read about the design and construction of the bridge. There were also benches.

And the climb was well worth it. Beautiful 360-degree view of Sydney and the harbor.  (Turn on your volume if you'd like to hear my narration.)

We then made our way back down to the passenger terminal. When we got there, check-in had started. Next post will be about the ship.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Around Australia Cruise - Day 2 in Sydney - Touring The Sydney Opera House

As I mentioned in a previous post, we had been to Sydney before. It was a post cruise stay and we did a bunch of touring but never got up close and personal to the opera house. That was a mistake I planned on fixing this trip.

We were up early ... thank you time change ... 14 hrs. ahead of home. We headed out for breakfast at this little cafe, Spring Espresso, right up the street from our hotel. The weather was beautiful, we ate outside, and had a great breakfast.

The Sydney Opera House offers several different types of tours. We decided on the basic Sydney Opera House Tour. I made reservations and paid for the tour from home. The website was very easy to navigate and I had my receipts in hand when we approached the tour counter.

We arrived around 10:45 a.m. for our 11:30 a.m. tour but there was still space in the 11:00 a.m. tour so we moved it up. There were about 20 people on the tour and everyone received headphones and a receiver box.

The tour started with pictures taken of each tour member in front of a green screen. After the tour, these photos showing the tour member in front of the opera house was available for purchase. (We declined so I don't know how much the pictures were.) After this bit of fundraising, the tour started for real.

We learned about the history of the opera house, got to see several of the theaters (we could not take photographs in most of them), and generally enjoyed this quick overview of the building. A heads up to anyone with mobility issues ... there are a LOT of steps on this tour.

One of the main lobbies

One of the sets of stairs between theater levels.

One of the main concert theaters

We had several opportunities to rest between stair climbs.

This was a Saturday and, as mentioned previously, a weekend with a major sporting event. The area around the opera house was mobbed, including its many restaurants. We stopped for ice cream, calling it lunch, and then decided to take the ferry to Manly. Again, we just got on and stayed on, riding it round trip.

On the ferry to/from Manly

On the ferry to/from Manly - Fort Denison in the middle of Sydney harbor

On the ferry to/from Manly



By this time we were pretty wiped again. Headed back to our hotel and dinner this night was at a restaurant across the street, Fratelli Paradiso, a bit overpriced but good food and excellent service.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Around Australia Cruise - Our First Day in Sydney - Riding the Ferries

Of course nothing ever totally goes as planned but that's to be expected when you travel. With a bit of luck it turns out positive and that's the way it worked for us today. 

A very long trip to Sydney with flights to Atlanta, then Los Angeles, and then Sydney. It was easy to find an ATM at the Sydney Airport and also the WH Smith store to buy our Opal cards, the tap on tap off cards used for Sydney public transportation. We took a taxi to our hotel (taxis in Sydney are EXPENSIVE) and we were lucky that our room was ready. Very nice which gave us an opportunity to shower and rest a bit.

We were booked for 2 nights at Hotel Challis located in Potts Point. (This was our second visit to Sydney and previously we had stayed in the Rocks area. This particular weekend was the finals for some major sporting event and hotel prices in the Central Business District (CBD) were very high.) Hotel Challis is a small boutique hotel located in a residential area. It was about a 10-minute walk to the train station, with some of the walk uphill and some downhill. Our room was very comfortable but very small.

Today's plan was to take the Parramatta ferry in the morning (anticipating only being able to drop the luggage at the hotel) to the town of Parramatta, wander around a bit, have lunch, and then take the ferry back to Circular Quay in Sydney proper.

Well with our room ready the morning plan turned into an afternoon plan and it turned out to be perfect. 

We took the train into Sydney proper and then walked to Circular Quay. Fortunately, my husband was not wearing polarized sunglasses like I was and he easily found the destination and time listings for the ferries. Me? I walked right by the updating display and had to take off my sunglasses to see the ferry destinations and times of departure. :(

Our ferry to Parramatta turned out to be simply a ride on the river. We were tired and decided not to get off. We just stayed on the ferry for its return trip to the Circular Quay.

It was a great day to be on the water. Partly cloudy with a nice breeze and temps in the 70s. It was a delightful afternoon. And we got a great view of the Opera House house and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Riding Along the Parramatta River

Riding Along the Parramatta River

Riding Along the Parramatta River

Riding Along the Parramatta River

Time to head back to the hotel. The walk to the train station from the Circular Quay was uphill so this time we grabbed a bus right by the Quay to take us to the station, transferred to the train and made our way back to Potts Point. We stopped for dinner at The Fish Shop just a few steps from our hotel. Excellent dinner. Then time to call it a day.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Using the Sydney Australia Tap On Tap Off OPAL Card

First thing I'm going to do is put the link for the New South Wales transport authority that can be used to plan itineraries on the bus, train, and ferry system. I used it extensively while still home to get an estimate of what our transportation costs would be so I could put the appropriate amount of dollars on our Opal cards.

Once in Sydney, I used the NSW transport authority site to find out the numbers of the trains and buses we would need to get from 'here to there.' Very easy to use and very helpful.

When we arrived at the airport, I bought our Opal cards at the WH Smith store, located after the customs area. For a couple of reasons, I decided to overestimate the amount of AUD$ we would need on the card. Essentially, (not having a smartphone) I didn't want to deal with checking what the balance was and then finding a place to top off the cards if necessary.

Well, it turns out that keeping track of the balance is really easy because every time you tap off when exiting a bus, train or ferry there's a small monitor that tells you what the balance is. And every station had a kiosk for buying or topping off a card. Topping off the card would have been a very simple thing to do and I could have put less money on the cards to start with. 

So we did end up with money left over on the cards but not because I didn't do a good job estimating our pre-cruise transportation costs. We ended up with money left on the cards because of a couple of things I didn't expect. For instance, our plan for the day of arrival (figuring we'd be tired and just want some easy sightseeing) was to take the ferry to Parramatta, wander a bit, then take the ferry back. But instead, we ended up staying on the ferry for the return trip back to Circular Quay. I really thought that when we tapped the Opal card on exiting the pier back at Circular Quay that it would deduct round trip to Parramatta. It didn't. Only one-way was deducted.

Ditto with a ferry ride to Manly. We rode over getting some nice water views of the Sydney Opera House and then rode back. Again, only charged for one way. We didn't realize that there was no tap off on rides to and from Manly because they were nonstop.

And after our ferry ride, we took the bus to the train station and then the train back to our hotel area. Because we got on the bus less than an hour after tapping off the ferry and then tapping on the train less than an hour after tapping off the bus, there was no charge. These were transfers and the ferry fare covered both additional fares. 

OK ... no problem. We'll just hang onto the cards and use them for more train/bus/ferry rides for the day we had post-cruise. That day we rode all over and was surprised that after a small deduction, all the fares were $0.00! Well, what I found out later was that being a Sunday, adult fares were capped at AUD$2.70 for the entire day!

So my recommendation is to start off with the minimum that you think you will need. And then top off as you go along.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

How Dry Is The Air On An Airplane

The answer is very. That's in VERY! And the longer the flight, the worse it is. I've always known it was important to keep myself hydrated while flying but it was only recently that I had a demonstration of how dry the air really is onboard a flight.

On a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney Australia, I managed to spill a full cup of water right into my lap. Not partially on my leg. But squarely in my lap, if you get the picture. My pants got soaked and my underwear got soaked. We were in Delta Comfort + which has non-fabric seats and there was even a puddle of water on the seat when I stood up that need a bunch of napkins to mop up.

Now you can, if you want, picture me heading to the bathroom, stripping down and wringing out my underwear. (And of course, this would be the one time I didn't have a change in my carry on ... lesson learned. ) 

But here's the point of this post. My pants are made of quick dry Supplex nylon and they were dry in minutes. But what amazed me was how fast my cotton underwear dried.  While still on my body!

And now the purpose of the post. Sure, we've heard this before but now I'm really emphasizing it for my readers. Drink lots and lots of water when flying. Use lip balm and lotion to keep your skin moisturized. Consider bringing eye drops to avoid that gritty feeling in your eyes and a saline nasal spray for your nasal membranes. 

But especially drink water. And a lot of it, the longer the flight. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Museum For James Bond Fans in the Austrian Alps

In July 2018, a new James Bond museum opened on the peak of Gaislachkogl Mountain at an altitude of 10,000 feet.

Called 007 Elements, the futuristic-looking building, and its Ice Q restaurant were used for location shooting for the 2015 Bond movie "Spectre." In the museum, you'll find nine galleries, each with a different theme, plus a screening room.

The only way to get to the museum is by taking the 12-minute Gaislachkogl Gondola from Solden. Open daily from 9.a.m to 3:30 p.m., the cost for the gondola and museum admission is 54 euros (about $63).

Tickets can be purchased at the base of the gondola or ahead of time online. It is recommended that you wear warm winter clothing for touring the museum.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Model Aircraft Exhibition at Shannon Airport, Ireland

This exhibition went on permanent display in July 2018. It is the world' largest collection of die-cast model aircraft. The gallery is located off of the Departures lounge. There are 1,500+ models of military, commercial and other aircraft, each at 1:200 scale. The models are on loan from Michael Kelly of County Limerick and reflect his 30+ years of collecting.

Some of the highlights include the Spruce Goose, the Queen of England's personal BAE 146, and every Aer Lingus plane from its beginning to the modern day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

New Czech Glass Museum in Prague

The Museum Portheimka is showing glass art by contemporary Czech artists. Located in a Baroque-era summer palace, in opened in June 2018. There are six themed galleries which hold permanent collections and there will also be temporary exhibits.

It is open Tues through Sun from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the cost is CZK 120 (about $5) for adults and CZK60 for seniors.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Coastal Pacific Train Service To Be Restored in New Zealand

The Coastal Pacific is a train that connects Christchurch and Picton on the northeast coast of New Zealand's South Island. It went out of service because of track damage from the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.

Repairs are almost complete and the route is scheduled to open in December of 2018. The trip from Christchurch to Picton takes about 7 hours, travels along the coast, and stops in Rangiora, Kaikoura, and Blenheim.

A flexible pass can be purchased which allows hop on hop off privileges on one day of travel and costs NZD 159 (about $107). 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

New National Parks in Chile in 2018

On the Corcovado Gulf, in the south-central regions, Parque Pumalin is 715,000 acres of coastal and Andean terrains and includes flora and fauna that are endangered. There are many hiking trails and campsites within the park.

The other park is south of Pumalin, Parque Nacional Milimoyu. It had been a nature preserve and is heavily forested. It gets its name from the 7,800-foot Melimoyu active volcano and the park, which shows very little human activity, includes marine regions that whales and dolphins call home.