Saturday, February 28, 2015

Day 3 Australia - Sydney

Tuesday Feb 24 - Sydney Australia
Italics tour company description.

Transfer Type: Seat in Vehicle
Duration: 9.83 hour(s)
Pick up: 7:10am Swissotel Sydney
Drop off: 5:00pm Swissotel Sydney

We were up and out the door at 7 AM despite almost sleeping in. We were met with a small van which took us to our meeting place.
Heading out of the city your first stop this morning is at Featherdale Wildlife Park where you
arrive before any other tourists to meet the native Australian animals here - guests can actually
get up close and personal, stroke a koala and hand feed kangaroos, wallabies and emus...a
great experience.

We are a small group, seventeen in total. No introductions are done.

 There are two guides as the driver/guide is in training. They are both named Peter and have a good Australian sense of humour.
We are at the park before it opens. As we wait they chat with us.

It seems they missed one passenger, a glitch between the two tour companies. She taxis to the park, at tour company's expense, $160.

Once in, the guide mentioned he likes coming into the park, but he doesn't do a tour. We are left to wander but not given a return time. We finally track him down at the coffee shop and he said to be back by 9:30 at the bus.

The koala is taken out for photos but the duration is up to the koala. We are only allowed to pat these behinds. So soft. And I will put to rest the story that they are drunk on the eucalyptus. The reason they sleep so much is due to the absolute lack of nutrition in the tree. 

Feeding the kangaroos.

We are back at the bus by 9:30. But wait another fifteen minutes for some others, who can't be blamed as there was no clear direction given.
Mary, the missed passenger, climbs aboard, disappointed that she didn't have much time at the park. When some others appear she comments "you're late", not appreciated by them.

Departing from Featherdale drive to the Blue Mountains via the highway.

The Australian Light Horse Sculpture Parade is dedicated to the heroic troops who served in the Australian Light Horse and their horses that could never return.

The sculpture has a central mast and four sets of radiating markers representing the Australian Light Horse on parade. The soaring 55m high mast with its reflective crown, located at the centre of the Light Horse Interchange, provides a focus to the sculpture.

The lit mast and crown symbolise a torch in the dark. Red, the colour of the Flanders poppy and poppies that bloomed throughout Palestine, is symbolic of the blood of supreme sacrifice and is the colour chosen for the sculptural group.

The abstract plumage attached to each marker represents the emu plumes attached to the Light Horsemen's slouch hats. The white band is a reference to the departing soldiers' innocence of war.

Travel through the picturesque village of Wentworth Falls, home to a good collection of Victorian and other historic buildings and onto the Wentworth Falls Lookout.
With spectacular views over the Jamison Valley and the magnificent waterfall for which it is named, this beautiful lookout is your first stop. Here enjoy a leisurely 30 minute round trip walk to see the Waterfalls.

Nope, never saw the town or the water fall.

Instead he took us to his secret look out. This was a good spot, but a steep decline. A few didn't come.

Devil plant.

Continuing on you arrive at Eaglehawk Lookout, a remote lookout point away from the crowds for
views of the famous 3 Sisters. The character of the Three Sisters changes throughout the day
and throughout the seasons as the sunlight brings out the magnificent colours. Here your guide
will discuss the legends behind this famous rock formation and time available for you to take
some great photos.

Nope, we don't stop here.
Instead we spend the next hour dropping three couples off at three separate hotels in the Blue Mountains. This was extremely annoying. The guides got off the bus, retrieved their luggage and escorted them into the hotels.

We make a stop along the highway, no signage, at another "secret" lookout. No  markings, no rails, we walked down, but some turned back when you had to bend the trees to get through to see the 3 Sisters. Sorry, Aussies, but these were not that spectacular if you have seen the 3 Sisters in Arches and Monument National Valleys.

Then make your way around the mountain to the village of Blackheath and your lunch. Here you
enjoy a 2 course lunch food only. Beverages can be purchased at your own expense from the Bar.

Lunch was at the Boiler Room, a restaurant set in the original boiler room of the adjacent hotel.
The menu was limited to either a Caesar salad, pizza, or panini. All carbs.
When we commented later to our agent who had set up this trip, she said lunch was supposed to be at the Leura Golf Course and we should have had an option of fish.

The hotel began as the Belgravia Hotel which was completed in 1891.

The Australian retailer Mark Foy purchased the site in 1902 for the purposes of a hydropathic sanatorium under the belief that the land contained mineral springs. At that stage the town was known as "Medlow" and Mark Foy successfully petitioned the New South Wales government to change the name to Medlow Bath, the current name.

By the time the hotel opened in 1904, the mineral springs (if they ever existed) had dried up. Mark Foy had mineral water imported from Germany in large steel containers. After travelling in these containers from Germany to Australia the water reportedly tasted awful, and so it was assumed that it must have been good for a person's health. Guests of the hotel were instructed to drink this water on a regular basis.Fire destroyed the gallery building in 1905, and the original Belgravia wing in 1922.

The afternoon is spent visiting a selection of lookouts. Once you clap your eyes on the view from
Govetts Leap you'll know why it's one of the most famous lookouts in Australia. The magnificent
waterfall drops a whopping 180m to the base of the cliff.

Nope, no selection of lookouts. But we do get a waterfall.

Then drive through the picturesque village of Mount Wilson and stop to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine or orange juice at a beautiful remote lookout location.

We don't stop at this village.

The last stop is at the delightful Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens where you stop to enjoy the sweeping views across to Sydney before travelling down the Bells Line of Road to arrive back at your hotel.

The fog is gathering like a cloak as we head towards the gardens giving them a lovely mysterious appearance.

We have our sparkling wine as we stroll.  It is getting to the end of summer for the flowers.

 Back on the bus for the 1.5 hour drive back to our hotel.

Evening on our own.

It is gone 6 PM when we get back to the hotel so we pack up as we have to be out of here by 9 AM for our 11:40 flight to Cairns.

Then we head out for dinner, and it had actually gotten a little cool and I put on my sweater )John kindly went back to the hotel to get it for me).

The plan was a place I had seen that had gammon steak and mashed potatoes on George St. but when we got there it was a gambling place and the clientele seemed a little strange. So we went to PJ Gallagher's and I had lamb and John had stew.

inSPIREd Sunday - Ho Chi Minh Vietnam Notre Dame

February 2015 - Ho Chi Minh Vietnam

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica (Vietnamese: Vương cung thánh đường Đức Bà Sài Gòn or Nhà thờ Đức Bà Sài Gòn, French:Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saïgon), officially Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception (Vietnamese: Vương cung thánh đường Chính tòa Đức Mẹ Vô nhiễm Nguyên tội).

Established by French colonists, the cathedral was constructed between 1863 and 1880. It has two bell towers, reaching a height of 58 meters (190 feet).

On 7 October 1877, Bishop Isidore Colombert laid the first stone in an inaugural ceremony. The construction of the cathedral took three years. On Easter Day, 11 April 1880, a blessing ceremony and ceremony of completion were solemnly organized in presence of the Governor of Cochinchina Charles Le Myre de Vilers. One can see the granite plate inside the main entry gate commemorating the start and completion dates and designer.

In 1895, two bell towers were added to the cathedral, each 57.6 m high with six bronze bells with the total weight of 28.85 metric tonnes. The crosses were installed on the top of each tower of 3.5 m high, 2 m wide, 600 kg in weight. The total height of the cathedral to the top of the Cross is 60.5 m.

In 1959, Bishop Joseph Pham Van Thien, whose jurisdiction included Saigon parish, attended the Marian Congress held in Vatican and ordered a statue of Our Lady of Peace made with granite in Rome. Cardinal Aganianian came from Rome to chair the closing ceremony of the Marian Congress and solemnly chaired the ceremony for the statue, thus the cathedral was then-on called Notre-Dame Cathedral.

At night!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Day 2 Australia - Sydney

Monday Feb 23 - Sydney Australia

After a long sleep we were out by 9:15 and stopped in the Arcade for a croissant and cappuccino.

Way too big, we should have split one. Most meals here in Australia have been huge. Guess we've gotten used to an Asian diet.

We walked from the hotel to the start of our tour this morning The Rocks Dreaming Aboriginal Heritage Tour.

Duration: 1.50 hour(s)
Pick up: 10:30am Cadmans Cottage, 110 George Street, The Rocks
Drop off: 12:00pm

The Rocks Dreaming Aboriginal Heritage Tour is 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned and was
developed by Aboriginal Elder, Margret Campbell, a Dunghutti - Jerrinjah woman. It is led by
Aboriginal guides who have her permission to share her cultural knowledge. The tour gives you
the opportunity to discover how the ancient Aboriginal DreamTime is still alive within the modern
Sydney landscape and how the billion-year old harbour, marine environment, sandstone strata,
waterways, flora and fauna continue to influence how Aboriginal people live today.

A group of children on a school trip in costume.

Our guide, Fiona, meets us an another woman for the tour. She is a native aboriginal who is passionate about he background and country.
These bricks were cut by convicts and each made their mark so that the bosses would know how much work they did daily.

Cadmans Cottage is the oldest surviving residential building in Sydney, having been built in 1816 for the use of the governmental coxswains and their crews. The building is heavily steeped in the history of Sydney, also claiming the title as the first building to have been built on the shoreline of The Rocks area.

Fiona was full of fascinating information.

Aboriginal spirits exist as passed individuals (ancestors) and are associated with different aspects of the land – mother earth, father sky, grandfather sun and grandmother moon.
The land is the epicentre of their spirituality

We are initiated, at the lowest level!

Fiona explaining about Mother Nature and the healing properties she provides to us. This is tea tree.

Another example of Mother Nature and the amazing colours in the rocks.
This tunnel was dug by the convicts by hand.

Back to the harbour looking across at Luna Park which  was constructed at the foot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge during 1935, and ran for nine-month seasons until 1972, when it was opened year-round. Luna Park was closed in mid-1979, immediately following the Ghost Train fire, which killed six children and one adult. Most of the park was demolished, and a new amusement park was constructed; this originally operated under the name of Harbourside Amusement Park before resuming the Luna Park name.


These Terra Cotta Warrior lanterns were being packed up after the New Year celebrations.

Some sights around the harbour.

Under the bridge.

It is $250 Australian dollars to climb the bridge with a guide.

Time for lunch, ham and cheese croissants.

 We have time to spare before the afternoon tour.

“For over 150 years, Customs House played an active role as the primary trade gateway for goods and people flowing into Sydney and Australia.”

This afternoon we take a sightseeing tour of the bustling city of Sydney. 
Transfer Type: Seat in Coach
Duration: 4 hour(s)
Pick up: 1:45pm
AAT Kings Booth Kings Street Wharf 
Drop off: 5:45pm Swissotel Sydney

We finally start of at The Rocks, a definite favourite area of mine, overlooking the harbour.

Oldest pub in town. The Hero of Waterloo is none other than the Duke of Wellington, best known for defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, bringing an end to the Napoleonic era of European history. He was a conservative military leader who frequently won battles in difficult circumstances and inspired discipline and loyalty in his troops. Wellington became prime minister of Great Britain in 1828.

 St. Mary's Cathedral.

Your tour will also take in views of Mrs. Macquarie's Chair, one of Sydney's most visited and photographed views.

Mrs Macquarie's Chair, otherwise known as Lady Macquarie's Chair, provides one of the best vantage points in Sydney. The historic chair was carved out of a rock ledge for Governor Lachlan Macquarie's wife, Elizabeth, as she was known to visit the area and sit enjoying the panoramic views of the harbour.

We also saw Russell Crowe's condo by the water worth 12.5 million dollars. He spends a lot of time in Sydney as he owns  50% OF A rugby team.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs (often shortened to Souths) is a professional Australian rugby league football team based in Redfern, a suburb of south-central Sydney, New South Wales. They participate in the National Rugby League (NRL) premiership and are one of nine existing teams from the state capital and are the current champions.

The tower that we see from our hotel room.

Chinatown and the golden tree, a meeting place.

See cosmopolitan Kings Cross

The Coca-Cola sign is located above the intersection of William Street and Darlinghurst Road and is attached to the Zenith Apartments, formerly the Kingsgate Hotel. The sign is often referred to as The Gateway to the Cross, because it is prominently visible from all of William Street, which is the principal road leading to Kings Cross from the Sydney CBD: also, one must pass directly in front of the sign when entering Kings Cross from either William Street or Darlinghurst Road, the two main access roads.

The red and white neon billboard was erected in 1974 in its current location whilst the left side of the billboard was a later addition in 1990. In 2004 the billboard for the first time in thirty years advertised a product other than Coca Cola, when the left side of the board advertised the release of Halo 2.

On 31 March 2007 the lights on the billboard were intentionally switched off for the first time, in correlation with the inaugural Earth Hour.

On 23 April 2008, four activists unfurled a banner over the billboard in protest of Coke’s sponsorship of the Olympic torch relay at Kings Cross. The banner read: "Enjoy Compassion. Always Tibet. CHINA - TALK TO THE DALAI LAMA". All four activists were arrested

 Over to the rather fancy side of town, read about house prices here. Everything is in the millions of dollars.

Fancy or not, every student wears a uniform. A hat is also compusarary as skin cancer is highest in Australia.

A convent.

You can walk along the beautiful sands of the world-renowned Bondi Beach

Return to Circular Quay or request a hotel drop off.
There were so many hotels for people to be dropped off and traffic was so bad we asked to get off at the Queen Victoria Building.

Evening on our own.

We then stopped to buy some shorts for John, cotton, he is finding the ones he brought to be too warm in this weather.

Made our way down to The Rocks and the harbour for some night shots.

Luna Park at night.

Time for dinner and me to finally finish this post. Dinner was in the old police station on The Rocks. First the server brought the wrong pizza and then offered it to us free. We declined and our server disappeared forever.