(Written and posted on Sunday 12/11/2006, but backdated to the day it happened.)
And so our last day in Sydney dawned. Thankfully the weather had improved immeasurably, and after breakfast we checked-out (more about the total bill later), left our luggage in storage at the hotel (I’d checked — Central Station has no luggage lockers) and caught a train down to Circular Quay.
The plan was to ride the “Sky Safari” chairlift up to the top, then walk back down through the zoo. The plan went pear-shaped when they told us the lower part of the zoo is being redeveloped (something major too; it’s opening in 2008), and everyone had to board buses up to the top and enter there. Hokay… But the good news was the chairlift was running, and so once we’d entered, we went on that first, all the way down, then straight back up again, before exploring the zoo on foot.
It’s got plenty to see, and we saw most of it: monkeys (the kids did impersonations that were frighteningly realistic), giraffes, the new Thai elephants in their new enclosure, wombats, snakes… well, all the usual zoo stuff, in fact. One highlight was a sea lion being weighed and given a dental examination — which she seemed more than willing to do, in return for lots of fish.
As we walked around, we mostly managed to avoid the legions of school kids on excursions, who unlike us Victorians, didn’t have the day off.
Most spectacular was an enclosure with mountain goats (of some kind, I don’t recall) positioned so that you were viewing them as if they were roaming a mountain habitat… but the backdrop was the Sydney Opera House, the bridge, and the skyscrapers. Very cool.
After a bite of lunch we retraced our steps, catching the chairlift back to the ferry, and the ferry back to Circular Quay, then the train back to Museum station to head for the hotel and our bag, with a last minute detour to find a mailbox to send a postcard. It might be my imagination, but central Sydney seems to have less mailboxes than central Melbourne. Or maybe it’s just that in central Melbourne I know where the ones I usually use are located.
After picking up our bags we headed to the airport and checked-in. The auto-checkin computermachine decided that putting us in seats that included a window spot was a higher priority than seating us together. Odd — you’d think the latter was more important, particularly where some of the passengers are known to be children. The human who dealt with our bag said she could move us, and Isaac in particular declared (after being “freaked out” on the flight up) he absolutely did not want a window seat, which amused her somewhat. So we ended up between the two aisles, and all together.
It was nearly 3pm, and we settled down in an airport cafe that had TVs, so we could watch the Melbourne Cup. As the horses lined up, I spontaneously decided I liked Maybe Better — just because of the name. Normally I’d choose a few horses I liked the names of, and put a dollar or two on each one… then lose the lot. This time around I’d had no time to organise that.
As the Cup started the airport seemed to stop moving, and quite a few people gathered around the cafe TVs to watch. Maybe Better came in third, a respectable effort.
Eventually it was time to board, and the flight itself was relatively uneventful. More Incredibles kiddy packs were distributed, and despite leaving a little late, we touched down more-or-less on time in Melbourne. Grabbed our bag off the carousel, caught the Skybus back, and then the train — which we just caught, no thanks to Connex’s SMS timetables advising me incorrectly of the time it left Spencer Street. There were a fair number of drunken racegoers on-board. Anyway, home in time for dinner.
It had been a good break away, if not a cheap one. It’s tempting to think of a short trip like that as being relatively cheap, especially when the flights are subsidised by frequent flyer points, but it’s only when you realise you’re visiting the ATM for the second time in one day and the hotel bill — with all the sundries included — has shot up from the cheap rate you saw on the web that you realise it can be an expensive business.
All up, the costs I can recall are:
Flights (on points) taxes and charges $295
Skybus (family return) $30
Sydney airport train (there and back) $41.20
Hotel (3 nights, including most breakfasts) $543
Various meals $31+$10+$30+$21+$43+$11 = $146
Tram museum $31
Monorail $13.50+$22 = $35.50
Powerhouse museum $20
Sydney train fares $8.70+$4.20+$5.80 = $18.70
Sydney bus fares $5.60
Ferry fares $15
So a total of $1254, not including some little things I can’t remember/haven’t counted.
Not that I’m complaining, you understand, but it’s something of a surprise that something that started as “Hey, let’s use up some frequent flyer points to have a cheap weekend away” added up to so much moula.
But of course the main thing was that we had a great time, saw some cool things, and really enjoyed ourselves.