Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Australia: Yes, It Is A Big Deal!!!
¶I was at home on a July 2012 afternoon feeling like I really needed to see at least Sydney immediately. And I convinced myself that I would leave in three days, stay for three nights, and touch the amazing Sydney Opera House.
So, I went online and purchased the required visa for US citizens, which cost about $20. It was all internal. Once the Australian government approved my online application, they emailed me a confirmation. Everything is computerized, so I never had to send or take my passport to the embassy or consulate. When I arrived at LAX on the evening of July 31st for departure, the Delta desk agent was able to see my approved visa (valid for a year with multiple entries) in the computer system upon swiping my passport. What a neat system! I booked a room at a Sofitel: the price for three nights was very reasonable for a 5-star hotel, and its proximity to the Sydney Opera House (with a host of other unexpected delights) is exactly what I needed for such a short trip.
¶As I awaited boarding, I was overcome with excitement and self-amazement that I was really on my way to Australia, which would complete my lifelong goal of touching all six inhabited continents. My flight departed on time, and I was lucky enough to be able to stretch across three seats for the almost 14-hour flight. Keep in mind that this flight left LAX on the evening of July 31st, but it landed at SYD very early in the morning on August 2nd! That's the magic of losing an entire day when crossing the infamous, invisible international dateline.
¶Once on the ground at SYD, I was extremely overjoyed at and anxious about being in a new country. So I focused my energy to exchange US dollars for Australian dollars. Then I found the entrance to the Sydney subway (forgive me, I'm a New Yorker...underground, metro, etc.). All along I was looking at people and listening to the various accents and languages, loving every minute of it. I bought a 7-day unlimited pass since I knew I was going to become quite familiar with the trains and using them to take several random trips at the behest of my active, inquisitive mind. The ride from the airport to my hotel station was not long at all. I found it interesting that all the trains in the system are tri-level people movers.
¶I checked in at the beautiful Sofitel Sydney Wentworth (61-101 Phillip St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia), showered and hit the streets. Although I was tired, I wanted to stay awake with the sun, so that I would sleep like a baby at night. There are plenty shops, eateries, public buildings (nice library with free Internet using huge, state-of-the-art monitors), two different train lines and respective stations, lots of greenery, taxis, and buses.
¶I made my way to the famed Sydney Opera House as if I was going to meet royalty. I laughed to myself, because I knew this structure was the real reason why I made this epic journey. It was awesome. I remember seeing this opera house on PBS when I was an innocent schoolboy. I fell in love immediately. I also became fascinated with Dame Joan Sutherland at that time. So finally I made it! Amazing! While at the opera house, I discovered an amazing fact, i.e, Queen Elizabeth opened the Sydney Opera House on my 7th birthday in 1973. For me, that explained my almost lifelong attraction. Maybe I will get into more details about the opera house experience in a future blog.
¶Besides Sydney Opera House, the harbor area contains several hotels, a nice ferry terminal (all the ferries were included in my 7-day pass), and The Rocks, which I kept hearing about on the hotel TV. The Rocks is the place to be, especially if you like cobblestone streets/alleyways full of people and quaint stores coupled with open markets and nice outdoor cafes. By the way I failed to mention that I took a random ferry ride, and the water in Sydney Harbour is a pristine emerald color...quite pleasing to the senses. I can't wait to return to Australia to explore Sydney even more. I would also like to experience Darwin, Cairns, Melbourne, and Perth. Of course I will plan to stay much longer than three nights.
¶Reminder: Do not forget your Target Up&Up Toddler Wipes (I prefer wipes over toilet paper any day), body spray of a citrus extraction, and something to keep your breath fresh!
Thank God for dreams, desires, goals, and aspirations!