March 5, 2005

Our visit began with Sydney.

We left home the evening of Wednesday, March 2nd, driving toward LA. Though our flight was not to leave until 10:30 pm the following night, we wanted to get ahead. Stayed the night in Santa Maria and took a short break from the trip the next morning to say "hi" to Michael Jackson in front of the Santa Maria courthouse on his way in to another day in court. Vienna got the best view of him ever. There were very few people there so she and another fan, BJ, were right up front yelling and waving. Michael actually turned, waved and smiled at them. Even with his sunglasses, we could tell he saw Vienna. She was thrilled.

To put it mildly, we arrived to LA early. We spent some spare time photographing motels and driving through Compton - an area quite familiar to Andy and Vienna because of the video game, "Grand Theft Auto, San Andreas." They thought it was quite cool to be driving right near where "CJ" lives.

Six hours in the airport went by fast. Then it was a 14-hour flight. This time was eased by the good food and especially the entertainment that Qantas provided. Each seat had its own monitor with a large variety of choices of movies, TV, music and games. That really helped make the trip easier. Plus, since we left at 10:30 pm Thursday, we were able to sleep a lot. Finally, we arrived in Sydney at about 8:30 am Saturday morning. We spent about an hour and a half clearing customs and getting our rental car. But then, we were off to see a whole new continent.

Most everything seems the same. But, as Pulp Fiction says, it is "the little things." Well, driving on the left hand side of the road is a pretty big thing but that's been the most significant difference. The little things include the differences in candy bars and TV ads, just enough to remind you that you're somewhere new.

Sydney Harbor is just beautiful. Our first stop was Circular Quay (pronounced "key"), to catch a ferry to Toranga zoo. The ferry ride gave us a great introduction to the harbor and Sydney in general. We saw the bridge and the famous opera house from up close. The view was spectacular.

The zoo was also very cool. We saw the neatest animals. We saw koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, dingoes, platypus, meercats, bilbies, owls, and lots of animals I had never heard of. I especially enjoyed the meercats that were so cute and seemed so smart. There was a cable car ride up the hill, which gave us another great view of the city. Toranga zoo is situated in the perfect place to see the harbor. So, during shows and viewings of the animals, you often get a great sight of the harbor right behind. It was just beautiful.

The animals were my favorite, though. I loved seeing the platypus swimming in the water, the wallabies and kangaroos laying in the shade and the meercats standing up on their haunches as if they were posing just for us. There were a lot of African animals as well, but my favorites were all the neat animals from Australia. One was called a bilby and later in a children's bookstore was a story about a bilby. That reminded me that I really was in another country with another culture all its own. They also had penguins and even some of our standards like bears. Andy and Vienna even got to pose as penguins, too.

After the zoo, we drove to our motel in Glebe, a small suburb of Sydney. Now, driving is certainly worth a mention, here. Of course, in Australia, people drive on the left-hand side of the road, sitting in the right-hand side of the car. I haven't driven yet, but by Andy's reaction to it, I can tell it's not as easy as it looks. Turns are completely opposite - left turns are easy while right turns become the problem. Staying far enough away from the left-hand barriers is a constant worry. But, I am sure I will get my chance soon to try it out.

Our hotel in Glebe is nice: the Rooftop Motel. It's right downtown Glebe, which reminds us of Santa Cruz. We went for a stroll down the road and had dinner - we have to be careful to check ingredients because they have some strange tastes. They like eggs on their pizzas and sometimes their burgers. So, we were really careful. It was good, though, and the town is very nice. On top of the Rooftop Motel is a pool. We went up to see it tonight and although it was too cold to enjoy a swim, the view was awesome. We could see the city lights behind the old buildings of Glebe, a really neat sight.

Tomorrow, we explore Sydney a bit more before heading for Canberra, the Aussie Capital. Andy is particularly interested because Canberra was a "planned city." After that, we'll be off to Melbourne and lots more adventures! One of the things that we haven’t planned but Andy is hoping to do is to see a sporting event, such as Australian Rules Football, Rugby or Cricket. Vienna and I are not too hip on the idea but I figure, if he can find a way to do it, we’ll go.