|Taken when all electronics were supposed to be off.|
Happy plane didn't explode as byproduct.
"You took it. And broke a major rule of engagement."
Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell's defense for firing on another F-14 during a training exercise seemed to be the exact sentiment I felt before absconding to Australia late February. I found myself with some extra time off during the usual no-fly zone sweeps period; so I e-mailed my sister, a quasi-professional world traveler, listed about 10 countries I was interested in visiting, and asked if she knew of any websites for last-minute deals. As it were, the world traveler tells me she's going to practically half the list I provided (which included Australia and Thailand), and if I end up going to Australia, I wouldn't have to pay any lodging.
Done! I didn't (couldn't, shouldn't, whatever) want to take too much time off, so I scheduled a quick 9-day trip (two nights spent on a plane) to Sydney for 4-and-a-half days, then to Cairns (and the Great Barrier Reef) for another two days. The cost of the plane ticket was a couple hundred dollars more than I wanted to pay, but over the course of a week I spent debating this trip, I psyched myself up too much and I knew if I didn't book, I'd regret it. Stupid carpe diem attitude!! It's costly when you've got a travel epidemic.
I flew Virgin Australia (and earned Delta SkyMiles) and it's one of the best airlines I've ever flown. Hip neon colors, roomy seating, incredible on-demand entertainment selection. Unfortunately, I wasted much of the 15-hr flight watching the unfit-for-public-viewing "Cowboys and Aliens" and "Transformers 3." The other bummer was they asked me where I'd like to sit, and I told them window towards the front of the plane. At the check-in counter, the woman told me I'm in luck and there's a seat in the second row in coach. Score. Little did I know, that entire front row is for parents with babies, including changing stations. Damn you, Scuba Steve!!! Eight hours of the flight I felt like I was in the customer service section of Babies-R-Us. #NotReadyToBeADaddy
I got into Sydney around 7:30am, took the light rail to my sister's hotel, the ParkRoyal near Darling Harbour, and after a quick shower, we headed through Hyde Park (which looks like Central Park to me, but don't most big parks tend to look similar?) to the NSW (New South Wales - I kept having this urge to call it North Southwest) Gallery where there was an extensive Picasso exhibit on loan from Paris. For the life of me, I don't understand what I'm looking at with Picassos. Don't get me wrong, I'm crazy impressed and his wide range of artistic endeavors is genius, but when it comes to interpreting some of his surrealistic paintings of women, I can make out boobs and that's about it. And what's with his infatuation with minotaurs? He would've loved "Role Models."
After perusing the museum, my sister headed off to work, while I walked along the gorgeous Sydney Harbor. There's a famous lookout point called Mrs. Macquarie's Chair, which was carved out of a rock. It overlooks the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. As I walked along the trails, I quickly noticed everyone stays on the left side of the road as opposed to the right. Cuckoo!! The bridge and Opera House are in a neighborhood called Circular Quay.
|MacQuarie's Chair... without the chair!|
The Opera House is pretty sweet; I was hoping to catch a show of Carrot Top there, but apparently he's not on the schedule there for the next couple millenia. There are some Aboriginal Australians playing didgeridoos on the street in tourist spots in this area. I wanted to take a picture but felt it might be uncool. Plus, I'd seen these guys in "Crocodile Dundee."
|That guy was tall|
|Not to be confused w/Bridge to Terabithia|
As I passed through a historic part of town called The Rocks on the way to the bridge, I ran into a guy wearing a KTLA hat. We bonded over our LA and TV connections; then he grabbed my bum and I shanked him. (This did not happen.) After walking the bridge, I headed towards the Sydney Aquarium, which I figured could be one of the world's best. If you ever do this, be sure to buy tickets online because it's 50% off. The aquarium is in Darling Harbour, which looks like its 20 miles away according to city maps, but really just 2-3 miles. I challenge anyone to find a Sydney map that's drawn to scale. Impossible.
|People looking at shark|
The aquarium had some good stuff: platypussies (is that not correct?), penguins, long-necked turtles, various sharks, sting rays, and a strange DVD section in the souvenir shop with oceanic classics "Ghostbusters" and "When Harry Met Sally." Honestly, has anyone purchased a non-sea-related movie at an aquarium gift shop??? Who does that? "Hey honey, I loved the penguin exhibit. Now let's buy 'Black Hawk Down'!"
|Xiao long bao|
I took my sister out to a famous Chinese dumping restaurant that night, Din Tai Fun. I guess there's 5 or 6 in the world. They have excellent xiao long bao. I also got some century old egg, apparently not quite as old as the thousand-year-old egg my family normally calls these dark-colored eggs. The eggs may have lead, so they're not particularly healthy, but served on top of cold tofu it's quite refreshing; and an excellent complement to the dumplings and my Cascade Premium Light, an Aussie lager that tastes like butt.
|Not real bird|
|Not in Whistler|
We capped off the night by walking along the Darling Harbour, a nice spot that's been revamped to bring in tourists, but quiet considering it was a Monday night.
|Hyde Park - masculine statue|
|Sydney Botanical Gardens|
|Tiramisu puppy. Made from genuine puppy|