When they said "no-frills" I didn't think they meant no water - you even had to pay for water on this flight. Virgin Air from Perth to Sydney was chosen so that we could sneak in a sidetrip to Sydney - "We are traveling that far, and would be so close, it would be a shame to not see Sydney," Nina said, so I booked the cheapest flight I could find. We waited in a dismal terminal for a dismal 6+ hour flight. But we were excited just knowing that we were headed for Sydney. What we didn't know was what wonderful things Judy had in store for us.
When we knew we were going to be able to include Sydney in our trip, I wrote to Michael deMeng to ask him to ask his girlfriend, Judy (who lives in Sydney), for some recommendations on where to stay. (Just in case you don't know, Michael is a US teacher and friend who was invited to teach with us in Perth, so that's how we all ended up there.) So, make a long story short, Judy offered her home to us. And a lovely one it is. We each got our own bedroom, with brand new comfy beds (not for us, they just happened to be new.)
Here's Nina peeking through the gate at Judy's house. Judy was an amazing hostess and had a whole slew of things planned for us. We were expecting to navigate the city on our own, but there was no need. She made sure we saw all the cool places, ate at excellent restaurants and got a feel for the town she calls home. It was the city version of the countryside sightseeing and travels we did in New Zealand. What could be more perfect?
The Aussies were as generous and welcoming as New Zealanders. Judy's brother owns a newly renovated wooden boat, The Poppy, which he lent to us for the day, complete with skipper and mate.
We got a royal tour of the Sydney Harbour, from quiet coves to waterside views of the Opera House. For once, we were the people cruising around on a boat, sipping champagne, and acting like we didn't have a care in the world. And we didn't have a care. Again, we were being treated like royalty - what did we do to deserve this? Dreams do come true.
The threat of rain disappeared. It was sweater weather, but only because the wind blowing from the cruising speed. We made a nice loop around the quiet side of harbour, Luna Park on the right, past the Opera House on the left, under the Sydney Harbour Bridge
The bridge is considered one of the most recognizable symbols of Sydney. It is the world’s largest (but not longest) steel-arch Bridge. If you watch the 1st New Year's celebration while we wait for our clocks to strike 12, or if you saw the 2000 Olympics, you saw that bridge. It is celebrating its 75th year and there are bridge banners all over the city. For $189 AU, you can climb the bridge, $249 on the weekends or for $295, you can take an exclusive climb at dawn the first Saturday of each month.
It's so expensive because it is not your typical stroll. You must first pass a breathalyzer test, wear a bridge suit, safety harness and radio headset, and spend time on the bridge simulator. This is serious business. "Challenging weather conditions add an extra sense of adventure and exhilaration." An extreme sport, and probably a most memorable experience, but not for us. We were content with going under the bridge that day.
We boated to the dock at the Sydney Fish Market. "The Market has more species of seafood on offer than any other market in the world except Japan, with over 100 species of familiar and exotic varieties available on any day to satisfy all tastes and requirements and to cater for Sydney's cultural and culinary diversity." It was a visually stimulating experience. While Judy and Michael shopped for our lunch of lobster, prawns, calamari, oysters and sushi, I strolled a small area nearby (didn't want to get lost, mind you) and took some interesting crustacean and fish photos. I had never seen crabs so large, nor with blue legs. We have our famous blue crabs here in Maryland, but their legs are small and nowhere near as blue.
We stopped and anchored in a quiet cove for a while after our large and satisfying lunch. With Nina, Michael and Judy sprawled out on the stern, I went up to the bow (front) of the boat to lie in the sun and just be quiet and alone so I could absorb the fact that I was here on a boat, in the Sydney harbour, in Australia, on a trip more idyllic that I could have ever imagined. Before I left, someone told me that while I am on the trip, just stop and let it all sink in. I did that often, but to wrap my mind around the afternoon I was experiencing was almost overwhelming. Except for the time I was teaching, for this whole trip I didn't have a care in the world. No one to please but myself, nothing to schedule, no meal to plan, bill to pay, traffic to weave through or child to appease. I have never been so relaxed nor felt so at peace as I was that afternoon ~ a feeling that cannot be shown in a photograph.