So it's Saturday 12th January and we arrive at Heathrow Airport only to find out our flight has been delayed by an hour, not great as it means we have to hang around the airport for 3 and half hours, but oh well these things happen, and it just means we don't have to spend as much time at Bangkok airport.
Once in the boarding lounge we hear that there are going to be more delays as they have found a "technical problem" this seems to get people worried and talking about going home or to a hotel. As i'm not the best traveller in the world i decided to get my puzzle book out and try and distract myself, which Stav found amusing seeing as i was so tired i kept messing the answers up. Anyway it didn't take them long to sort it out so our delay was only one and half hours in the end. The flight was smooth and we even managed to make up half an hour due to the wind being on our side. I didn't watch any movies, we only have a central screen (no private tv's) and the films didn't appeal so i read my book, did some puzzles and allegedly slept.
Now for the confusion, we arrived at Bangkok and thought we still had maybe an hour or so until our next flight, but oh no, we read the itiniery wrong, looked at the board for what gate we needed to be at, and it was flashing boarding eeeeek! Off we walk, then followed by running, for 20 minutes, this was the longest airport i have ever seen and got there just in time. So the hour we thought we had was only about 20 mins, but hey at least no hanging around.
This flight we had private tv's so i watched Hairspray, dozed off, read my book, dozed off, spied at what Stav was watching, got bored but had no attention span and then watched the Nanny Diaries, definitely a movie for when you have no concentration.
All in all i was quite impressed with the flights, the landing and take offs were smooth so i didn't freak out too much. The food was lovely and the service good. I have now discovered how tiring travelling is, as i really thought i would have slept more than i did.
Cue next day...........
So we have arrived in Sydney, thankfully met by Wuz at the airport and on went to search for our hotel. George Street is a lot longer than i thought, yes i know i had been warned it was long, but come on!!! After a few wrong turns we found it, a nice small hotel above a little shopping mall (not sure if mall is the right word, there were less than 10 shops there). But surprise surprise we were early and there wasn't going to be a room until 12, and it was somewhere between 9 and 10am at this point. Thankfully Damian and Melissa already had a room at their hotel, the Darling Harbour Holiday Inn, which was really close by so we popped over had quick showers and changed then the 5 of us went to Bondi beach for brunch. Due to not being quite awake at this point i forgot my camera, so no views of the beach i'm afraid. But it was really small.
The afternoon was spent familarising ourselves with the area, getting breakfast bits for our room and settling in, and a quick sleep. I really didn't want to but we were not really awake enough to appreciate anything anyway.
In the evening we went to the Sydney Aquarium and how amazing was this place. Well before we went in we actually bought the discovery pass, which got us into the aquarium, the wildlife park next door (which is only a year or two old) and the sydney tower. I think it was $64 AUS so not too badly priced, although obviously you can only visit each place once and i think you have 3 months before it runs out. Anyway we saw lots of cool fish and sharks as you do in aquariums and surprized ourselves at how long we can look at things for, we spent over 2 hours in the place.
After we finally finshed, Wuz met us for dinner. He took us to Woolomoloo, or however it is spelt, to have a look at the restaurants there but they were a tad pricey, i'm sure very nice, but a bit too expensive for us, so off we trecked to the Surrey Hills (i think) to a nice Indian restaurant for a Thali which was much more in our price range. And they had lovely sweets as well, which we took back to the hotel for late night munchies.
Tuesday was definitely a more relaxed day. It started with a walk down to the opera house via Hyde Park, so we got to see the giant chess board and people playing it and a really cool fountain. The views of the opera house and bridge as you approach are breath taking. The boys kept walking off as Mel and i kept stopping to take photos.
Once at the opera house we had to take pictures of us touching it, to prove we actually did visit it, although we only visited the outside. As we had people to meet we relaxed on the steps. As well as Wuz joining us again, some friends of Stav, Dena and Steve met us too and we got on a ferry to Manly. Now this is a beautiful beach, lovely soft sand, not too busy and lots of surfing going on. The shops from the ferry leading to the beach were very typical beach town shops and we stopped for fish and chips to eat by the beach. There are some pictures of this really cool sandcastle that an Italian guy had been building, and well sandcastle is an understatement really, maybe i should call it a sand sculpture. After seeing that we found a nice spot to relax (minus the beach wear as i don't know what i was thinking that morning) and watch the surfers.
On the way back to the ferry we had a nice relaxing drink or two in a jetty bar. Dena and Steve had to move on as it was their last day in Sydney, they have been travelling and made us all jealous of their wonderful tans and the places they had been to. Luckily the bar was close to where we had to pick the ferry up, so we could see when it came in. I used the ferry ride to get some more pictures of the opera house and bridge and then we returned back to our hotels for a freshen up.
It was just the four of us for dinner and we went to one of the food halls in China Town. Seeing as China Town was directly between both our hotels it made sense to go there at least for one evening. And the food hall was great as we didn't all have to buy from the same kitchen. Whilst most served the same food i found one selling lemon fish which was lovely, and not as greasy as the the lemon chicken i have when in restaurants normally.
Anyway a good cheap evening had by all.
Wednesday was a very early start, luckily we had already visited Central Train Station to get all the train times etc, as today we visited the Blue Mountains. They are called the blue mountains due to the amount of haze given off by the Eucalyptus trees. Stav did not believe me about this until our bus driver told us the same thing.
Anyway, for $48 AUS, we got a return train journey and access to the explorer, hop on and off bus which actually was quite a good deal. We decided to do this rather than an organized tour so we could go and be adventurous. The train ride to Katoomba was just under 2 hours and once out of the train station there is a kiosk/shop where you exchange your explorer bus tickets into your maps and then get going. We got off the bus at Katoomba cascades, had a quick bite to eat and got going. Even though quite small, the waterfall was amazing, lots of photos taken by all. And well for those who know me, you will know how much i like waterfalls. Initally i felt a little gutted for not having my tripod so i could slow the shutter speed down for lots of white watery spray, but i still think i took some good photos and at least i didn't have to carry the thing around with me all day. Well in fact i think it must be hard to take a bad picture of the falls there, as they really are beautiful and easy to capture.
We went off for a little explore around the cascades, and got to see more of this waterfall the higher up the mountains we explored. We started at the bottom, so it was a long climb up. The views are amazing, and it's so peaceful that spending a couple of hours walking aimlessley really isn't a bother. Some of the path we are not convinced was that safe, for some reason we left Stav in charge of reading the map, and whilst he always got us somewhere stunning, we are not sure on his routes (chuckles). After a couple or more hours we found ourselves near the top of the section we wanted to be at. Due to tiredness, heat and us adventurous lot with all our injuries we gave in and decided to take a train ride to the very top so we could meet the bus. This was worse than any rollercoster i had ever been on. You face backwards and go up a really steep hill and there were no seatbelts holding you in. Mel and I were holding onto the cage above our heads and i'm sure the boys were laughing at us but fear makes you remember things in a very strange way.
After an icecream at the shop whilst waiting for the bus we wanted to see the Three Sisters, so we jumped out at Honeymoon Lookout and walked from there to Echo Point. This time there were quite a few other people taking the same route so the poorly laid out signs made things a bit easier as more people were trying to find the same route. At one point along the route we were actually standing on one of the three sisters which was pretty cool, but when it came to going up even closer (and to the bottom) i chickened out. I think seeing rather fit people returning from it with sweat dripping down them and finding it hard to talk even to say how hard the walk was, was enough convincing for me.
Now even though we had seen a cool waterfall, we hadn't seen a great one and we wanted to head off to Wentworth Falls. Our bus didn't go as far as there, and it was on the way back anyway, so we got on the train and stopped off. We had about and hour and 20 until the next train so stopped in a shop and asked how long it would take. We were given a map and told 30 mins tops, and this guy was a large guy. It took 50 mins just to get to the top of the falls, but boy was it worth it! This was an amazing waterfall!!!!! We only made it about half way down but it was something worth seeing. We didn't make it back in time for our train as i just couldn't keep up and it was a long walk back but in the end i think we only waited about 40 mins for the next one.
After a snooze on the train and a run back to the hotel and quick shower and change we were off to meet Sam and Wuz. They had reserved a table at a restaurant called the Waterfront out in The Rocks area, so we could all go out and celebrate Charli's birthday in style. They couldn't hold the booking later than 9pm so Sam and Wuz waited for us as we were a little late but it was a lovely restaurant (a bit pricey) with great views of the opera house. Silly me in the rush didn't pick up my camera so missed out on the great night time shots but nevermind. This is where i'm hoping that Mel took some shots.
After a very good sleep, we were up early and off to Wildlife World, next door to the Aquarium. We got to see lots of animals indigenous to Australia with their habitat recreated. So lots of snakes and other creepy crawlies, i walked passed the spiders as just because they are behind glass, it doesn't make me want to look at them. And we also saw lizards and koalas and kangeroos and birds and butterflies. You could get quite close to the koalas and kangeroos but not that close. People were paying for photos of themselves next to a tree with the koalas in them, but they koalas were quite close. We had already heard about Featherdale Wildlife Park being better for getting close up so decided not to pay for those photos.
That was a very enjoyable morning and of course lots of photos taken, but we had to return as the boys needed to go to the suit shop for their final fitting. Whilst they were out i went for a wander up George Street and found a cool shopping mall, the QVB. A really old building with loads of shops, and i'm pretty sure it said one of the floors was an art gallery or sold art. I'm not sure i didn't go up that far. Anyway i found Lush, which by this point i was starting to miss as i usually walk past it a few times a week and pop in at least once. The staff are just as friendly as back home, but they were dead in there, and the prices were extortinate. This made me decide to look at other products that i knew the prices of such as books, and have discovered how cheap things actually are at home. A paperback that would be £6.99 in the UK was $21 - $26 AUS. Now seeing as the exchange rate was only $2.2 to the £1 that didn't add up. I was expecting prices to be cheaper in Australia as i know the wages aren't that high and was thinking that the rumour of things being dollar for pound was likely to be wrong, but they should have at least been the equivalent price not more. So no shopping for me.
Once Stav was back we went for a wander, the Spanish Quarter was not much more than a street, so a little disappointing and then it rained on us, in we duck to a comic book shop and found some good buys, waited for the rain to die down and bit and headed back off. It started again so we returned back to the hotel. It was a quiet night for me as the boys were at Wuz's stag night.
Before we realized it was raining Stav and i went for a walk to the Royal Botanic Gardens. On route we went through Hyde Park and saw the war memorial. Noticing how chilly it was getting Stav wanted to head back and get his jacket, so at least when it rained he was slightly covered. By the time we got back to the gardens we only got to see the top (palace rose gardens) which was very pretty and relaxing. There were 1700 types of roses so we were told. But then the rain came down really heavily. We ducked into a cafe in the Conservatorium of Music waiting for it to stop. Mel and Damian wanted to meet us at the Chinese Garden of Friendship and by the time the rain had stopped we needed to move on back to there.
Whilst walking back to Darling Harbour i got a message from an old work colleague saying he had finished work (it was lunch time) so i said we were heading to DH and we would meet outside the IMAX. We met up and had a coffee (or tea in mine and Stav's case) and a good old catch up. It seems so much had happened since we last met that it made me realize that keeping in contact even if only by email should be done more regularly. He now has a family and a house with a pool and is about 15 mins away from one of the northen beaches and life sounded good, which i was really pleased about. I remember he had reservations about returning to Sydney, but he has made a good life for himself. He also happened to mention how he got married in the Chinese Gardens so off Stav and I trotted (Damian and Mel decided not to wait for us as we were taking too long) and it was really beautiful. I can really understand why he wanted to get married there, it was so peaceful. And yes lots of photos from there too.
The evening was spent at Wuz's sisters place, his parents had flown over from Brisbane and it was a little pre-wedding get together with great food that his mum had cooked. Shameena (sorry if i have spelt this wrong) had a nice flat overlooking a harbour which was nice to be out of the city centre for a change and luckily it wasn't too far out, just a short drive away. But again an early evening was needed due to the wedding being the next day.
Obviously the boys headed off first, leaving me a good few hours to get myself ready. Once ready myself and Mel met up to get a taxi, which took a lot longer than expected, none were stopping at her hotel so we walked on to George Street and managed to pick one up there. We had a great driver who gave us a little of tour of the place on route.
Anyway the ceremony was at Vaucluse House, the grounds there were beautiful. All the boys looked very dashing in their tails and from where they were sitting we could just about see Sam arrive in her house drawn carriage. It was raining a little so they had to use the covered bit of the grounds, but from the photos you really wouldn't notice, it was still a beautiful afternoon.
From there the party was at The Royal Motor Yacht Club which did have beautiful views but it was raining so not much was picked up in the photos. I'm not too great at describing weddings, but it was very nice, only about 80 people so quite intimate. The food was interesting as not everyone was served the same, there were alternating food. For starters it was either Spatchcock or a pumpkin ravioli (which i had and was delcious) and for mains it was a lamb dish or a fish dish. i had the fish although i have no idea what fish it was, but it was also very yummy. There were then lots of speeches and the cutting of the cake followed by dancing. The couple had their first dance to "Fly me to the moon" and then they got everyone else up. It was a jazz band, and i was very surprized that Stav actually danced with me, he doesn't like dancing or jazz but i got 3 whole dances out of him throughout the evening.
Small desserts were passed out throughout the evening, the one i remember was a white chocolate mousse with pistatioes which was yummy, but i can't remember the other desserts.
The evening ended with everyone dancing to another rendtition of fly me to the moon and myself and Stav driving Wuz's car to his hotel for the night. They were staying in the Shangri-La which looked uber posh and then Sam's mum drove us back to our hotel for a well earned sleep.
Not wanting to waste any of our time left, despite Damian and Mel still being asleep Stav and I headed off to Featherdale Wildlife Park. It was a 40 minute train ride from Sydney and due to it being a Sunday the buses were not frequent so we grabbed a taxi from the station. It was $19.50 AUS to get in and was a lot smaller than Wildlife World, but also a lot older and all the animals were outside.
We got to see lots of birds including Kucoburas and Gollars and then we went to see the koalas and roos. This park was a bit more like a sanctuary than a zoo as the animals were aloud to roam about freely in their sections which was nice to see. You could get right up close to the koalas and kangeroos as they were not caged up. For $1 you could actually feed the roos, which was amusing as the food is in a short icecream cone and the one i fed swiped it out of my hand as it wanted the food on the ground and out of the cone. I also had my photo with a koala, which we did not need to pay for!!!!. You can't actually hold the koalas but the tree that the are on is low down and you can stroke them. They are so incredibly soft, i was expecting their fur to be course but it wasn't. I would have loved to have taken one home with me, but i have been told that's not allowed.
Onto other animals, we saw a 4 meter long croc, luckily he was kind of caged up as he had some teeth on him, and if we squinted we could see a dingo, the others were hiding. And despite all our efforts we could not find the tazmanian devil.
Once we had seen all, we went to visit Sam and Wuz in their hotel as check out was at 4pm, and what a view. Their room was gorgeous, and just their bathroom was the size of our whole room!!! It really was a gorgeous suite and i wouldn't have minded waking up to the site of the opera house and harbour bridge either.
Once we were kicked out, we all went to return to our hotels, the boys insisted on stopping at Hungry Jacks (Burger King) before we got ourselves ready for going out again. We were invited to Sam and Wuz's for a barbeque along with his sister and her room mate. It was quite amusing as at one point whilst the bbq was warming up there was a ring on the bell, Wuz looked over the balcony and it was the fire brigade, someone thought the flat was on fire. This brought much amusement to us. And again a nice evening was had by all.
With Damian and Mel already gone, they had an early flight to Melbourne and with us having to check out before 10am, we got ourselves packed and headed out to Hungry Jacks for a hearty breakfast. Mine consisted of pancakes whilst Stav had some McMuffin type meal. Then with umbrella in hand we walked off to the Sydney Tower and had a look around the observatory deck. Once up there we could hear them asking people to do this skywalk thing, that is usually $40 each but was being discounted due to the weather. Originally we had planned to go to Bondi to find some aborigianal engravings but the rain wasn't getting any better so we enquired about the discount. With a bit of bartering we got it down to $20 each.
It wasn't as scary as i thought it would be, you are harnsessed up and in very sexy jump suits and are given a tour around a glass floored deck. We learned lots of interesting facts and our guide was great, i think it helped having just the two of us as we really appreciated it more. Luckily the rain had stopped but the wind speeds were still quite high, and we had to wait for a bit before we were allowed out but for the majority of the walk you couldn't notice the wind.
Once that was finished we walked back to our hotel to collect our bags, met Sam and Wuz who tool us to Coogie for a fairwell lunch and then headed to the airport.
Just like most airports there was not much to do at Sydney other than wait for our plane. I tried to stay awake for most of the first flight but that didn't work, after 5 hours i gave in and slept. We had about 2 hours stop over at Bangkok and there are some photos of some of the statues and we looked at some expensive watches and were surprized at how much time you can waste in a huge airport. There was a bit of a rush to our gate as 3 planes were taking off at the same time from the same area and we all had to go through security at the same place, but luckily we didn't miss the plane and then i pretty much slept most of that journey too.
I think it must have been maybe 2am UK time that i woke up on the plane and couldn't sleep again, so far my Monday had lasted for what seemed like forever and eventually breakfast was served. Everything went smoothly, there was a slight conveyer belt mishap at heathrow so we were all standing there waiting for them to fix it so we could get going and then we had the lovely tube ride home.
I spend most of the day pottering trying to stay awake and managed it until about 9pm and apart from a couple of wake ups in the middle of the night slept in until 11am which is very unusual for me and have spent most of today (Wednesday) pottering and filling out this blog. So all is back to normal again.