The nice thing about the flights to Australia is that they leave late in the evening and arrive in the morning "two days later". The flight is long enough to have dinner, sleep awhile and then start the day off and seemingly be on cycle. I could work a full day, go home and then head to the airport, minimizing the days off I would need for the trip.
United flies non-stop to Sydney from SFO. They use a 747, and the plane I was on was recently enhanced in a couple of ways. They have the turn-down service, which is essentially a thin pad that is placed on top of the seat cushions; and satellite wifi. The wifi was priced at $14.99 and $22.99, with the higher price giving you faster speed. I found that the wifi worked pretty well during the first half of the flight, but later on, it would not connect. But while it worked, it was pretty responsive (I was using my iPhone).
Arriving in Sydney, I had expected to use the electronic SmartGate, as Global Entry members were recently granted this privilege. However, the kiosks didn't want to function with my passport. Fortunately, I also received an Express Pass for my class of service, so I was able to use a shorter line to clear immigration.
After picking up my luggage, I had planned to use the train to get to Central Sydney. However, we were informed that the trains were not running due to weekend track work. Instead, they were providing free bus service to Central Station. That would put me within one subway stop of my hotel. However, when I reached Central Station, I thought would just walk it to the hotel (it didn't seem pretty straightforward and not that far). It took a little longer than I thought, but it was good exercise.
The Hilton Sydney did not have my room ready yet. They did let me use the spa to freshen up and the Executive Lounge to wait for a bit. I grabbed a snack, but the room was still not ready, so I left my luggage and met up with my friends who journeyed to my hotel lobby to meet me.
The Hilton assigned me to a very nice upgraded room, called a Relaxation Suite.
The room was spacious and modern. The bathroom had a tub next to a window looking out from the 39th floor. And there were jets in the tub.
My hotel status let me have breakfast in the Executive Lounge or the full buffet in the restaurant. I decided to go with the buffet both mornings, which was very nice and full of choices.
The evening food in the Lounge was fine, with a whole shrimp bar, sushi, samosas, veggies and pea soup. There was almost always a line for the free alcohol, so I did not bother with that. Since I was with friends on this trip, I was going to eat dinner out anyway.
On my arrival day, we took a ferry and toured Sydney Harbour, from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo to Watson's Bay, under the bridge and over to Darling Harbour.
These were a couple of shots as we left port and proceeded to sail out of Sydney Harbour.
|Main train station|
|Chomping on a wallaby leg|
|A joey in pouch|
|Very top of Mt. Wellington|
|Richmond from the other side|
|Russell Falls, Mt. Fields National|
Most of the time, the kangaroos were just lounging around, looking for free food from the visitors (including a free lick of a popsicle!).
After Hobart, it was a full-day "at sea" again back to Sydney. I signed up for a final excursion that would transfer me to the airport with a roundabout tour of the northern suburbs of Sydney, including Manly Beach.
|Harbor side of Manly|
|Ocean side of Manly|
The weather in Australia was great the entire time. It was very difficult to leave summertime behind. And the flight back was relatively very quick (those darn winds), so I didn't get to sleep as much as I would have liked for a morning arrival into SFO. But 10 days of summer in the middle of February is better than none.