On to the travelogue. In one word, it was WONDERFUL.
The Magpies, the online quilting group I've been part of since 1997, have an in-person meet up every other year. The Australians have come to the U.S. several times and they declared it was our turn to visit them this year. A quilt and craft expo in Perth (May 21-24) provided a focus. There were five U.S. 'Pies, three husbands, and a daughter (plus a sister and brother-in-law who have lived in Australia for many years). Each of us made independent travel plans before and after meeting in Perth.
This was the longest and most involved non-Road Scholar trip we've taken. An Alpha Gam sister is a travel agent in a neighboring town. She was very helpful in getting our flights and arranging for side trips. We decided on three days in Sydney, three days in Melbourne, and five days in Perth.
We understand now why people take three or four weeks to tour Australia. Not only is there a lot to see but it also takes a long time to get there (and return). The LAX to SYD leg is 12-1/2 hours (preceded by 4 hours from ORD to LAX).
In Sydney we stayed at the Sydney Harbour Marriott. It two blocks from Circular Quay (where the ferry boats dock) and in walking distance to the Opera House and other center city attractions.
Thursday, May 15:
*Museum of Sydney, the historical museum, which gave us a refresher about Australian settlement. The special exhibit was about Chinese immigrants. I had forgotten about Australia's 70-year policy of "whites only," which excluded non-Europeans from immigrating. (The Asians already there could stay.)
* Sydney Aquarium -- we went there because it was closer than the Maritime Museum. We had such a wonderful time at the Quebec Aquarium in December and we were not as impressed by this aquarium.
* In the morning we took the ferry to Manly -- the end of the line on the east side. Manly is a beach town. Though May in Australia is November in the U.S., the water was warm enough to wade in!
* In the afternoon we had a bus tour of Sydney provided by AAT Kings (like Grayline). That gave us a good idea of neighborhoods and historic sites.
* Sydney Opera House tour at 10 a.m. They're really good at tours--online booking, two groups per hour, lavalier radio receivers so everyone can hear the guide. The building is distinctive outside and in.
* We took the ferry to Parramatta -- the end of the line on the west side. We had lunch and walked around the downtown. (Parramatta was a small town west of Sydney that is now a suburb.)
* We returned to the Opera House at 8 p.m. to hear the Sydney Symphony Orchestra perform Mendelssohn's Elijah. There were 100 instrumentalists and 200 vocalists. (We purchased discounted tickets after the morning tour.) It was splendid!
|Opera house after the concert|
We had a mid-morning flight from Sydney to Melbourne and arrived at the hotel about 1 p.m. We stayed at the Crown Promenade. The travel agent booked it and I learned a lesson: look it up. The Crown is part of a big casino complex but moreover it is across the river from downtown. We were able to walk downtown, but we'd have preferred staying in one of the downtown hotels.
Monday, May 19:
|Captain Cook's cottage|
We all had dinner in Chinatown with Elizabeth, another Magpie who lives in Melbourne. (With four former librarians (Katie, Elizabeth, Stevens, and me) at the table our conversation turned to wacky reference questions we had fielded.)
Tuesday, May 20:
|I was about 10 feet away|
|commercial image from the webiste (rotated)|
Wednesday, May 20: up early for our flight to Perth. It's two time zones and 2,100 miles from Melbourne to Perth. The flight path is mostly over water (the Great Australian Bight).
Terri was at the airport to meet us and take us to the All-Suites Hotel downtown. All the Magpies gathered that evening: Katie and Monty (Nebraska), Carolyn (Texas), MJ and daughter Rachel (Texas), Jean and Blaine (Virginia), Sylvia and Ray (Monty's sister and brother-in-law, who live in Brisbane), our hosts Terri and Gilly who live outside Perth, and us.
|With Bub the Wombat|
There were exotic and less-exotic birds.
Friday, May 22: the Magpies headed to the Quilt and Craft Fair at the Perth Convention Centre. (The men were on their own for the day. :)) It was very much like the Orginal Sewing and Quilt Expo -- some quilts but also fashion sewing and, in the case of the Perth event, a lot of papercrafts. I will post quilt pictures in the next blog post.
|Anchors outside the museum|
The weather turned squally (brief but intense showers). We were glad to be inside the Shipwreck Museum.
|the Magpie group portrait|
Sunday, May 24: Stevens and I took the ferry from Perth to Rottnest Island . It is 11 miles offshore and has become a popular day trip destination. Only service vehicles, including tour buses, are allowed; no private autos. We took a bus tour from one end of the island to the other. It was a windy day and the scenery was wonderful! Quokkas are Rottnest's indiginous marsupials. The early Dutch explorers (about whom we learned a lot at the shipwreck museum) mistook them for rats, hence the island's name. They are naturally nocturnal but they know that people will feed them!
|They put their tails forward when they sleep|
|Blurry because he wanted the food I offered!|
|Moreton Bay Fig on Rottnes|
|West end of Rottnest|
We returned from Rottnest in time to join the group at Gilly's house for a final dinner. Gilly's husband Bill and Terri's husband Jeff and son Matt joined us. Terri took us to the airport at 9:30 p.m. -- in time for our 12:05 a.m. departure for Sydney. We arrived in Sydney at 7:30 a.m. and departed for Los Angeles at 10:30 a.m. *That* was the grueling flight. We arrived in LA in the morning -- still Monday, since we crossed the dateline. One more flight from LA to O'Hare -- and we walked in our front door at 6 p.m.
|.50, .20, .10, .05 and $2, $1|
* Sydney is like Toronto (British heritage/Queen Victoria) with San Diego climate. Melbourne is like Chicago with San Antonio climate. I haven't figured out what Perth compares to.
* I got used to seeing right-hand drive, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to try it. Australian cars are like U.S. models (same brands).
* So many products were similar or the same, from food to clothing, furniture to books.
* Many chain restraurants were U.S. franchises: KFC, McDonalds, Subway, 7-11. We shopped for groceries at the Perth downtown IGA.
* People were friendly and willing to provide directions.
* There were many white Americans, few black or Hispanic Americans.
There was so much we didn't see. I anticipate a return trip!