Spectacular Sydney

Hi all (we're actually in NZ where we haven't heard a single G'day). It is Saturday afternoon, December 22, 2007... our wedding anniversary.

I promised our next note would be about spectacular Sydney...actually we're in the south island of New Zealand now and had I only known I would have saved the adjective "spectacular" for the South island.  Who knew... so I will come up with another superlative later...but in the meantime.

We loved Sydney.  We started off with dinner with two friends from our Japan Tauck trip, Robyn and Warren Hillman, Aussies who live in Mossman (right outside of Sydney). We ate on the harbor where Robyn proclaimed that Sydney is by far the most beautiful city in the world (and they are VERY well traveled). Our cynical selves didn't believe her until we spent the next 3 days walking and boating around...but she was right.  What a spectacular city.  Situated around the harbor and accented by the Opera House and Bridge it is a breath-taking place.  And our experiences there were unforgettable.

After picking up Em from the airport, we walked around the Botanic Gardens (lovely), had lunch in the Central Business District, then ambled over to the Queen Victoria Building (a beautiful 19th century building restored into a Westfield--as in Old Orchard--mall).  We are doing our share of shopping on the trip but what stuck with us here was the architecture.  Amazing.  After QVB, we mono-railed around the city, then went back to the hotel to prepare for our next adventure--the Syndey Opera House--where we had a private tour, dinner in the chi-chi restaurant, and great seats for the Nutcracker.  The SOH is amazing... so beautiful and our guide had such interesting stories.  The dinner was splendid and the Nutcracker, though familiar, was special. I must report that Emily was an extraordinary good sport and was actually awake for a good portion of the performance!

The next morning, Andrew & Wendy left for a harbor tour (great photo ops), then Em and Wayne joined us for a spin at the Taronga Zoo. This is a beautiful zoo set on the harbor with astonishing views.  We focused on the wild Australia exhibits...actually had platypus and Tasmanian Devil sightings, saw some jumping kangaroos, and had our picture taken (up close and personal) with a koala. 

There seem to be conflicting opinions as to the docility of koalas.  One of our waiters told us that they seem docile but because they snack on eucalyptus leaves, they really exist in a constant state of being stoned.  hmmm .  We finished up the day with a visit to Bondi Beach to check out the surfers and do some of our own wading (watch out for the tides--Em and I ended up getting drenched at least 8 inches up!).  Our dinner was at Iceberg's on the beach...  this is a contemporary, all glass room overlooking the beach with awesome views.  Em & Wayne shared pasta with clams and zucchini flowers, Wendy had a bone-in flounder, and Andrew had sting ray in parchment (which is what we would call skate).

As you can read, I began to run out of superlatives to describe Sydney after 3 days... so good thing we didn't stay any longer!  Actually, we will end our trip there on January 1.

In the meantime, I'll sign off for now.  If we don't get back to you before then, "happy Christmas," as they say here.  Next email will be on the South Island of New Zealand, followed by one for the North Island.  As a preview, please know that we arrived in NZ on Thursday afternoon (it's Saturday), and I will need to get out a thesaurus for more adjectives.  The beauty here is indescribable.  But more on that later... time for a hike.   

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