Leaving home for two weeks to visit Australia and New Zealand. Did not seem real. Would I really be gone from home that long? Having not been away from home for more than a week at a time.
The flight to LA was relatively painless. I worked on the way and listened to some music. No problem. The LA flight was delayed about an hour. As a result, we did not have a layover and basically went straight onto another flight to Sydney aka the long stretch.
I slept some. But ended up watching movies and listening to music. Between no wifi and a laptop with no battery left, I was unable to get any real work done on this leg.
Finally, we arrived in Sydney. We were greeted by rain which stayed with us our entire time in Sydney.
After checking into the hotel, we decided to do a walkabout and get some lunch. We ended up at Lord Nelson which was a fantastic English style pub. We sampled some local beers and enjoyed fish and chips and beef pie.
After lunch, we returned to the constant rain and continued walking the city. The city was a bit difficult to navigate due to multiple levels of the city. Christopher equated it to San Francisco. I have not spent much time there but that seemed accurate.
We eventually jumped on a bus tour. It was one of those two level buses with an open air top. When not raining, it was very pleasant. Cool and mild. However just when you got comfortable, the rain would return to drench the top. We would then scurry to the bottom of the bus that was not and muggy. Back and forth. Rinse and repeat.
There were some interesting sights along the way. We got our first looks of the Sydney Opera House. But, after a while, we left the bus to walk. We had rain coats and umbrellas. So, we did our best to stay dry.
Eventually, we returned to the hotel to regroup. We headed to dinner at a nearby pizza place. The pizza was ok but as Christopher remarked, it was like a pancake dough. We were beginning to crash, though. So, we finished and headed hack to the room. Christopher and Beth went to sleep. I did.a little bit of work until I could not keep my eyes open any longer. Sleep came quickly.
The next morning I dragged myself out of bed to go workout. I don’t particularly like working out. However, it always give me the energy I need for the day. Arriving at the gym, it was not open yet. I struck up a conversation with another gentleman. He asked where I was from. I told him Atlanta. He said he used to work for the Atlanta Braves. As a baseball fan and coach, this got my attention. Turns out he is a former MLB player and an esteemed hitting coach for multiple World Series team. He worked with the amazing Tony Gwynn and Chipper Jones.
I spent half an hour on the treadmill listening to stories and receiving valuable advice on hitting.  I thanked him for the advice and then it was back to the room for a shower to start the day.
 
Saturday was our one full day in Sydney so we planned to make the most of it. We headed to the Sydney Opera House. We had breakfast at a cafe at the Opera House that overlooked the harbor.  We ordered some toast that included a side of vegemite.  This was our first (and likely last) experience with vegemite.  It was very bitter and tasted like a soy sauce flavored black jelly (yum!).  Christopher drank what he considered one of the best cappuccinos he had ever had.  I would not know as I stuck with my usual staple of Earl Grey tea.
Since we were on free wifi at the Opera House, I took the opportunity to FaceTime the family back home.  FaceTime is a wonderful example of how technology to span the miles (or kilometers in this case) between us and home.  I was able to show them the Opera House and the scenic view of the harbor.
We booked an early tour of the inside of the Opera House. On the tour, we learned about the initial design and the architectural challenges.  A nice example of the marriage between creative design and engineering problem solving.  We did not know that there are actually a few theaters within the facility. We saw the smallest and largest venues while on the tour.  The medium venue was being setup for a matinee of La Boheme (see below).  The scope and realization of the original design was amazing.
After the tour we headed straight to the medium venue for a matinee of the opera, La Boheme. We had seats on the side of the stage. Visibility was somewhat limited. But, for our purposes and price limit, it was perfect.
We visited the concession stand prior to the beginning of the performance.  I decided to embarrass my siblings and ask the attendant for popcorn (apparently popcorn is considered too low brow for such highly cultural events).  The attendant replied with a straight face that popcorn was only sold at the circus!  I replied that I thought La Boheme was a circus performance. 😉
The performance was well done. However, we left at intermission in order to maximize our day.
We then caught a ferry to Manly Beach. The weather was a little rough on the water. We saw a katamaran overturned in the water and several other struggling to navigate the seas.  The riders who braved the outside front of the boat were soaked and eventually had to come inside.  My sister learned later that videos from the ferry ride had gone viral depicting the epic waves and general choppiness of the water.
Manly Beach was an interesting little Beach town. We hit a cheap souvenir shop and then walked the strip. There were a lot of young people surfing and enjoying the freedom from parents. Many appear to take the ferry over with their friends for a day of fun.
After some overly expensive cocktails at a place called Garfish, we decided to return to the mainland. We took the express ferry back that covered the distance in half the time. At first it was a little turbulent on the water. However, it smoothed out eventually.
We headed back to the room to freshen up and then took an Uber to Chinatown for dinner.  We had dinner at a place recommended by the hotel concierge.  The food was ok but it was nice to people watch from our table outside on a busy thoroughfare.  We had a mix of dim sum and other chinese dishes.  If nothing else, it was nice to just relax and discuss the day and our plans for the next.
The next morning my sister and I went to the weekly market in the Rocks.  I went to just tag along with her as I typically don’t care for ‘arts and crafts’ type market booths.  I usually end up feeling sorry for some of the vendors who have set up their wares and have no customers in sight.   However, I was surprised by the quality and diversity of the offerings.  Each booth offered something different and unique.  We picked up some Christmas ornaments and I got some other items primarily for my wife since she loves places like this.
We then met up with my brother and did a little more walking of the city.  But, with all the rainy weather we were experiencing, we decided to head on to the airport to try and get an earlier flight to our next stop Melbourne.
Before leaving we had lunch at a recommended italian restaurant.  I normally like don’t like to eat a lot of carbs, but I went with a meat pasta dish that was good.
One thing about Australia (and New Zealand) is that there is typically no tipping at meals.  The waiters and waitresses are paid a higher wage, but no expected tips. As a result, meals seem to be priced slightly higher.  There are pros and cons to each approach.  The pro is that the wait staff does not rush you to eat since they are getting paid regardless of how long you stay.  The primary con is that the service can be somewhat indifferent for the same reason mentioned above.
After lunch it was back to the hotel to collect our luggage and proceed to our next destination.
Sydney is a beautiful city with some nice destinations nearby via ferry such as Manly Beach.  We did not even make it to Bondi Beach due to the weather.  Will definitely check that out the next time we go there.  It was unfortunate with the weather, but one of our sayings throughout the trip was ‘it is what it is’.  Can’t control the weather, just make the best of it.  And I think we did just that in Sydney.