19 October 2009
Boy, this vacationing stuff is hard work, but we’re in the home stretch now! We made it to Sydney this evening, our last stop before heading back to the U.S. It’s sad to know our vacation is winding down, and it was sadder still when we left Hayman Island this morning. After another excellent breakfast (though the chocolate doughnuts were a little dry) and saying goodbye to Dame Elizabeth with another slice of multigrain bread (this morning she was close enough to the edge of her pond that she ate right out of my hand), we boarded the catamaran for the ride back to the airport on Hamilton Island. The ride, which left late (you know how that makes me crazy), was smooth and had snacks and the omnipresent champagne. We docked right at the airport and simply had to walk up the ramp to check in.
Sadly, we did not get to experience the marvel that is QANTAS today. We flew an airline called JetStar, which is a QANTAS affiliate or subsidiary (not sure which), but it is a budget airline, I.e. it is similar to what we’re used to in the States. No group check-in (horrors!) so we had to schlep our own bags through the line to the checkin counter (horrors!) where a quite snippy sign informed us that we would be assessed a fee of AU$10 for every kilogram (we’re in Australia--it’s metric) over 20 kg that our baggage weighed (double horrors--I feared I might be on the hook for up to $50). Happily enough, even though my bag weighed 22 kg, the JetStar representative did not charge me anything. I’d read that this airline had open seating, a la Southwest, but I had an assigned aisle seat that I magnanimously traded with a guy in our group so he could sit with his wife. At the gate, I tried my little trick of working my way to the front of the line in order to be first on board, but this flight actually boarded by rows (horrors!).
Due to my altruistic seat trading, I ended up sitting next to a little four-year-old boy named Thomas. He told me he was going home to Sydney after holiday on his poppy’s boat. We had a lovely conversation before he took a nap. Now that’s the kind of munchkin that should be allowed on an airplane, not the ankle biter that screamed the whole flight.
Another non-QANTAS disappointment: no snazzily packaged free lunch. We had to buy our snacks (horrors). At least they had a credit machine on board. Since they were glacially slow with the food cart, it was only about two hours until dinner by the time they got to me, so I got some cheese and crackers. Thomas had chips and Schweppes lemonade, followed by a mint that he promptly spit out into his dad’s hand. That was pretty funny, and I gave the man a tissue to relieve himself of the spat-out mint. Who says American tourists are rude?
We boarded our coach and headed for dinner at the Waterside Restaurant, located right at the base of Wednesday’s nemesis, the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and directly across from the iconic Sydney Opera House. It was completely surreal to actually see the Opera House--it is the most photographed building in all of Australia, and we’re so familiar with it that I almost can’t believe I really saw it!
Dinner was tasty: fish and chips and chocolate cake. Then we boarded up the bus again for the short ride to the Shangri-La, where once again we have that most precious of commodities: free Internet access!
Tomorrow is a big day: koala sanctuary, tour of the Opera House, Bondi Beach, and a harbor cruise. Gotta go rest up for meeting the koalas!