Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Down Under, Day #1 - Arriving in Australia

In November of 2012, I got a facebook message from my best friend, Stephanie, that read in part, " I will be leaving...this summer and headed to Sydney for three years. I can't imagine going to the opera house with anyone else." And right then and there I started planning a trip to Sydney. I didn't really think it would actually happen because I was still paying doctoral tuition and I don't make great money, but I really wanted to go. It has always been my dream to visit Australia, ever since my aunt and uncle went when I was in 3rd grade. Throw in the Opera House and that amazing accent and I have been smitten with the land of Oz for most of my life

About a year ago I really got serious about trying to figure out a way to go visit Stephanie. I was saving money, including graduation, Christmas, and birthday gifts. I decided to just go for it, and I never looked back.

Once I bought the ticket, the planning started in full force. I checked out every travel book on Australia in our public library and read them cover to cover. Stephanie was going to be working some of the time, so I knew I would be on my own during the days. Friends told me I definitely needed to climb the Harbour Bridge, and I knew I wanted to see a show at the Opera House. In addition to Sydney, we were hoping to plan an excursion out of the city. Stephanie thought I'd want to go to Melbourne, Brisbane, or the Great Barrier Reef. Um, nope... I originally wanted to do some sort of Outback adventure, but then I read about Kangaroo Island in one of my travel books. And I was sold. I had never even heard of Kangaroo Island, but there was no doubt in my mind that if we could make it happen, I wanted to visit there.

Fast-forward to June 14, 2014 - the day finally arrived! I couldn't believe I was about to fly halfway across the world for two weeks in Australia with my best friend. My flight left Atlanta around 6pm, with a 2 hour layover in Dallas (yes, Dallas!) before the 15 hour flight to Brisbane, a short layover, and an hour flight to Sydney. Whew! It was a whirlwind trip, but totally worth it. I had a bulkhead seat for the long overseas flight, so I was able to stretch out and actually got some decent sleep.
In my seat for the long haul - DFW to Brisbane!
The same lady sat in the window seat from DFW to Brisbane and from Brisbane to Sydney. She lives in Sydney, and when she found out this was my first trip, she offered to switch seats with me when we started our descent so I could see the city from the air. I couldn't really see the city, but the views were amazing regardless. We flew over the city, turned back around and flew back over the coastline before landing. What a gorgeous Australian morning!

Because Stephanie was at work when I arrived on Monday morning, so she sent a car to pick me up at the airport. Talk about special treatment! And I was really thankful not to have to take the train or a taxi to her apartment - the driver took me right to the door, the concierge asked "Are you Stephanie's friend?", and next thing I knew I was on the 17th floor walking into a beautiful apartment with an amazing view. 
The view from Stephanie's balcony looking toward Darling Harbour
The view from my bedroom window
The view from Stephanie's balcony toward the CBD (Central Business District)
After some breakfast and emailing home to let the parents know I arrived safely,  I tried to take a nap but with no success. I was too excited! So I took a shower and then headed out to explore. Stephanie knew exactly where I would want to go first - the Opera House - so she left me directions on how to walk there. It was only a 15-minute walk through The Rocks historic district, and then there it was! That building is so impressive, even more so in person. And the day was absolutely gorgeous - the sun reflecting on the harbour was glistening, and it was even warm (it's winter in Australia right now). I walked around Circular Quay and out to Bennalong Point where I was up close and personal with my favorite building in the world! After walking all the way around the Opera House (and taking pictures, of course!), I spent some time in a few little souvenir shops before just sitting on the wall by the harbour and reveling in the view. 

I made my way back to Stephanie's house around 4:30, and she planned to be home around 5, so I sat down on her couch to watch the sunset while I waited for her. I didn't turn on the lights - it was plenty bright in there with the sunset. Well, I dozed off, and when I woke up it was pitch black and I had no clue where I was or what time it was! Turns out Stephanie's meeting went long, and it was almost 6pm. I hadn't slept very long, but I slept hard! She got home about 10 minutes later and we spent our first evening catching up, going out for an Italian dinner, planning for some of the coming days, and turning in early because we were both worn out. It was a great first day in Sydney, and I couldn't wait to see what the next days would bring... 

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