G’Day

The internet has been absolutely horrible. The past two weeks, I have had more than enough time to catch you up on all our adventures, but our internet connection just wouldn’t work. Unfortunately, we’ve found poor internet connections to be true for everywhere we’ve visited in New Zealand. Internet here is expensive and limited. For instance, a commercial for a local provider boasts $80 per month for 50GB. And, they can’t even guarantee the speed. One interesting explanation for New Zealand’s poor internet access says that the country lies at the end of the fibre optic lines. The image below shows that and the effects of the two separate incidences that disrupted the cables in 2008.

The Internets Undersea World
The Internet’s Undersea World 

This information is, in fact, outdated. And while I’m sure New Zealand’s internet speed and accessibility have improved over the last few years, they are still not great. As for our experience over the past two weeks, I’m blaming it on the kids who are out of school for fall break.

But, I digress. As far as the blog is concerned, we are still three days away from New Zealand.

Today, we disembarked from the P&O Arcadia. And while it’s nice to be on land, I am going to miss the slow pace of life onboard. The cruise was a great experience, and it was the first time I’ve been on a ship for more than a handful of days. Things moved much more slowly than shorter cruises. There was no reason for the cruise directors to rush the activities, and I didn’t feel like I was pressured to buy something at every turn. There was plenty of time to enjoy everything the ship had to offer. In fact, I usually waddle or roll off a cruise ship thanks to all the tasty, readily available food; but, this time, I took it slow, worked out almost every day at sea, and stepped off the ship feeling quite refreshed. If you ever get the time to take a longer tour, I highly recommend it.

The only thing I would have changed about the trip was our room. Normally, I have no issues with traveling in an inside cabin, since I spend very little time in the room anyway. On this particular trip, I think I really would have enjoyed a room with a balcony. Being at sea five days at a time, I just wanted to be able to sit outside and read a book without the on-deck interruptions. From now on, I think I will purchase a room with a balcony on any cruise longer that a week.

Sydney welcomed us with a cloudy morning. Despite it’s dreariness, it was another beautiful port. The port is surrounded by skyscrapers, historic buildings, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and – of course – the Sydney Opera House.

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia

Disembarkation was quick, since only a small percentage of the boat was leaving. Customs officers had no desire to question 70+ year olds as they pushed and pulled on their suitcases. Having a ton of luggage ourselves, we headed straight for a cab, knowing we’d be back to the port soon. Our B&B was located in a suburb of Sydney called Ashfield. As I was filling out the paperwork for the room, the proprietor explained that Ashfield is an Asian suburb full of excellent ethnic restaurants. He also pointed out the next suburb over is the Italian suburb in case we weren’t fond of Asian food. I thanked him for his advice and didn’t think much of it until later that night. Ben and I, at the proprietor’s suggestion, took a train to Darling Harbour for dinner. We stepped onto the train platform and were amazed by the cars. They were double deckers! Sydney, Australia

The doors opened, we rushed onboard and found a seat. Looking around, I quickly realized that we were the only non-Asians on the train. Aside from the tour groups I’ve sometimes run into in national parks, I have never seen so many Asians in one place! Each day of travel is its own surprise.

As if my amazement with the two-story train and its passengers wasn’t enough, the seats on the train were reversible. That is, you could flip the backrest so that the seat was facing one way or the other. On the deserted ride home that night, the lovely Benjamin demonstrated the outcome of someone’s pure genius…

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia

On our train ride to Darling Harbour, two things caught my attention. First, Australians seemed so unique and carefree in their clothing choices. I didn’t see one fashion trend (i.e. kneehigh boots over jeans or leggings with flats). Everyone had their own style, and nobody seemed to care what the other person was or wasn’t wearing. There was hair of every color, tattoos and piercings in places I wouldn’t dare consider, custom t-shirts, full-length dresses, jorts, overalls, baby doll clothing – you name it. It was fascinating and quite refreshing – as if the choices were very deliberate, but 100 percent carefree.

The second attention-getter somewhat juxtaposed the first. The streets and train stops looked and felt like they could be sets on the Hunger Games. There were stops, now closed, that had the old, brick walls with graffiti here and there. Not enough to cover the walls…just enough to send a message. And while there were small groups of people, the general feel was one of isolation. Though, that can be said for the atmosphere of public transportation in general. Sill, I kept half expecting to see a mocking jay symbol painted along the route.

After a half hour train ride and fifteen minute walk, we arrived at Darling Harbour. It was a cute, trendy area with lots of restaurants and people!
Sydney, Australia

A week after the holiday, they still had their Valentine’s Day decorations up…

Sydney, Australia

We lucked out on timing, because the harbour has fireworks on Saturday nights. Ben and I grabbed some to-go food and sat out on a dock to watch the show. I cannot imagine how much it costs to run the fireworks show. It was longer than any Fourth of July display I’ve ever seen. And, since it was close to Valentine’s Day, they had several heart-shaped fireworks. It was beautiful and impressive.

Sydney, Australia

After the show, we hopped back on the train for Ashfield. The next day was my official birthday celebration. Ben and I made our way back to Sydney Harbour (the port where the cruise docked). We walked around the port…

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia

…then ate a nice dinner before going inside the Sydney Opera House for a caberet-themed show called Club Swizzle.

Sydney, Australia

Club Swizzle was AWESOME. I cannot say enough about how thoroughly entertaining it was. Instead of stuffy seating, we sat on the floor with the actors. There was a working bar in the middle of the theater, and the actors mingled with the crowd and tended the bar before the show and during the intermission.

Sydney, Australia

The show was a variety show that included a full swing band, a vocalist (think lady lying and singing on a piano except she was in a flying swing), two acrobatic dancers (hanging from curtains, balancing and dancing on a disco ball), a comedian (from New York nonetheless) and three acrobatic “comic reliefs” (these guys did everything from jumping through hoops to a full balancing act on a stripper pole).

After the excitement of Club Swizzle we weren’t ready to go back to the B&B, so Ben and I took a long walk around the harbour. We saw a bright, colorful display along the water. From afar, it was tough to tell exactly what was so bright and colorful…

Sydney, Australia

Turns out, it was a paper lantern terra-cotta warrior exhibit celebrating the Chinese New Year…

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia

We continued our walk to through town…

Sydney, Australia

…to the center of the Sydney Harbour Bridge…

Sydney, Australia

From there, I was able to get one last photo of the beautiful Opera House…

Sydney, Australia

We had a marvelous time in Sydney, and now I have the itch to visit the rest of the country. Now, we can officially say that we’ve traveled Down Under and honestly say that we’ll be back.

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