Sunday, July 17, 2016

Australia 2016, Day 1 - Walk from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour, and Vivid!

I was so excited that I was able to fit in one last trip to Australia this summer before Stephanie returned to the USA. In 2014 I literally fell in love with the entire country of Australia - the people, the animals, the wide variety of climates and landscapes, and especially the city of Sydney. So I knew I had to make one more visit while it was still possible. Like last time, I drove to Georgia to leave Brodie with Mom and Dad. Like last time, Mom made me sign a waiver saying I wouldn't hold them accountable if something happened to Brodie while I was away. 
The trip didn't start out so smoothly. My flight from Atlanta to LA was delayed, so I waited and waited at the airport, praying that I would make my connection to Sydney. The good news was that I got an exit row seat, so I was comfortable for those 4.5 hours in the air. I already knew I had an exit row to Sydney, if I could just make it. When we got to LA we sat on the runway for nearly 30 minutes waiting for another plane to leave our gate so we could deboard. At this point, I was nearly panicking because my Sydney flight was almost ready to leave - and there wouldn't be another one until the next night! Thankfully the two gates were literally around the corner from each other. I walked off one plane, around the corner, and up to the boarding agent for the next plane. I told him "I was so afraid I was going to miss this flight!" and he responded, "Oh, we were waiting for you, Miss Isbell." Praise Jesus, I was on the plane and ready to fly for the next 14 hours. Oh my, what a long flight - and my exit row was not nearly as comfortable as expected. My legs didn't quite reach the floor, which put strange pressure on my hips and knees, and I was hurting. Finally, about 9 hours in, I pulled my bag out of overhead storage and propped my feet up on it, and that was much better. I got about 3 hours of sleep. 
Finally I made it to Sydney around 8am. Last time Stephanie sent a car to pick me up at the airport, but I told her this time I could handle the train if she would just point me to the right train station (she was at work, and was supposed to work late that night). I got a little turned around when I left Wynyard Station - I knew basically how to get to Stephanie's place, but wasn't quite certain where I was when I walked out the door. I asked directions from the money changers and headed off pulling my suitcase on what ended up being the most direct, but not the easiest, route. And the more I walked, the more my suitcase seemed to disintegrate - the airline had destroyed the whole wheel and pull-handle mechanism. But even that couldn't lessen my joy at being back in the city! I got to Stephanie's building, took the elevator up to her 17th floor flat, and settled in for a quick bite to eat and a shower before heading out to explore the city.

The city was just like I remembered, and I quickly set out on the walk to Circular Quay -  I knew exactly where to go. On the way, I kept hearing very noisy birds in the trees. I looked up and was greeted by these cute and colorful lorakeets. And then I walked down to the water and saw my Opera House! Oh, I missed that building (that sounds strange, but it really is my favorite building in the whole work - just incredible!). I decided to walk around Circular Quay, under the Harbour Bridge, through Walsh Bay (which I didn't see on my last trip), through the new Barangaroo Park that was under construction in 2014, and into Darling Harbour before making my way back to Stephanie's flat. It was about a 3-hour walk, and it was hot even though it was winter. There was not a cloud in the sky, the sun was shining down, and the sky was as blue as could be imagined! The air smelled of salt water and fish and I LOVED IT!
I think I have this exact same photo from my first day in Sydney in 2014.
First view of my Opera House!
Me and my Opera House - day 1

Barangaroo Park

I got back to Stephanie's apartment, relaxed for a little while, checked into what I needed to do with the airline to make a claim for the damaged suitcase, and watched the sunset over Darling Harbour from her balcony. The view from Stephanie's home is amazing! From one side of the balcony you can see the bridge, and from the other side you can see Darling Harbour - I sat at the window every morning while I ate breakfast and enjoyed the view.
Then, because Stephanie had a work dinner scheduled, I took myself back down to Circular Quay in time for the first Vivid lights. Vivid is a 3-week festival during which many of Sydney's icons are lit up in a number of ways, and other light exhibits are set up around the city. The whole thing is free (except the zoo), and it is truly fantastic. I enjoyed exploring the Vivid lights every opportunity I had. On this night I set myself at the end of Circular Quay, directly across from the Opera House and very close to the bridge. The bridge was illuminated first, so I took several photos of it while waiting for 6pm and the Opera House lights. Unfortunately it was about this time that I realized my camera battery was almost dead! Thankfully I had my cell phone with me, so I could still take pictures. Once I had my fill of pictures, I headed to McDonalds for a quick dinner before walking back through The Rocks to Stephanie's home, where I found that she was home early! We enjoyed catching up for a while, before I practically fell asleep and finally went to bed around 11pm. I was exhausted!
The Opera House was lit up with indigenous designs that were constantly changing - it was beautiful!