Friday, July 25, 2014

Australia Day 2--Flight to Sydney, the Westin Sydney hotel & sightseeing

Australia series

Australia Day 1--Qantas flight 8 DFW-BNE (Dallas to Brisbane)
Australia Day 2--Flight to Sydney, the Westin Sydney hotel & sightseeing
Australia Days 3/4--Hunter Valley & the Blue Mountains
Australia Day 5--Sydney sightseeing and Manly Beach
Australia Day 6--Paddy's Market, Bondi to Coogee Walk & Darling Harbour
Australia Day 7--Sydney to Cairns, Holiday Inn Cairns & the Cairns Esplanade 
Australia Day 8--The Great Barrier Reef  
Australia Day 9--Kuranda Koala Gardens, Skyrail & Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
Australia Day 10--Daintree Rainforest & Cape Tribulation 
Australia Day 11--Going home, Part 1, Cairns to Brisbane 
Australia Day 11--Going home, Part 2, Brisbane to Honolulu 


Qantas flight 505 BNE-SYD (Brisbane to Sydney)

I arrived in Brisbane around 5:20 am, and then I had a short layover. My flight left Dallas on a Sunday night, but since I crossed the International Date Line, it was now Tuesday morning. Flight 8 from Dallas actually continues on to Sydney, unfortunately, the award ticket I booked had me on a regular domestic flight (flight 505) so I had to go through customs and take a bus to change terminals.

After arriving at the domestic terminal and going through security, I went to the Qantas lounge & watched the sun rise while eating pancakes.

Watching the sun rise from the Qantas Club lounge in Brisbane
Then it was soon time to board for the 90-minute flight to Sydney. I was in seat 4A.

Seat 4A
Leg room
It was nice, but nothing particularly special. It was nice that window seat on the left was on its own, so there was no one right next to me.

The business class cabin
Every seat (even in economy) had iPads with preloaded music, movies & TV shows, which I thought was cool. The iPads had some sort of security feature that made sure passengers returned them to the seat back pocket.

iPads for everyone!
 I was served breakfast again (my 3rd breakfast of the day!) I declined the main entree (I think the choices were some sort of granola cereal or an omelet), and opted for just the yogurt and bread.

Another breakfast
Then before I knew it we were landing in Sydney.

Landing in Sydney
Plane-spotting in Sydney
My cousin had flown in from Chicago, so we met at "The Meeting Point" in the international terminal & then we headed into the city. I thought the train to the city from the international airport was quite expensive at $17.40 for a 13-minute ride, so I researched some inexpensive options and came up with a bus & train for about half as much. It took a little longer, but we weren't in a rush.

The Westin Sydney hotel & sightseeing


We exited the train at Martin Place & it was a couple minutes walk to our hotel, The Westin Sydney. The Westin is a category 5 hotel and 12,000 points per night in the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program. One benefit of the program is the fifth night free on award stays. So I took advantage of this benefit and booked 5 nights for 48,000 points, which I obtained by signing up & spending on the SPG American Express card.

Since it was only just before 10 am & check-in wasn't until 3 pm, there was no room ready for us. I don't have gold or platinum status with SPG so I wasn't really expecting them to let us check in early.

The Westin lobby
We left our luggage and walked about 10 minutes to the Circular Quay, home of Sydney's most famous landmarks--the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

Most folks pronounced "Quay" as "key" or "cay"

Circular Quay railway station
I was enthralled to finally be in the place I had seen so many pictures of and always wanted to go. And the sights did not disappoint.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Harbour Bridge (and the Park Hyatt hotel in front)
We went to The Rocks area nearby and checked out the free Discovery Museum, which gave us a brief history of Sydney's oldest neighborhood.

The Rocks Discovery Museum
We were a bit too tired to fully process all the displays and information at the museum. I appreciated the fact that the museum was free. A perfect activity for a frugal traveler!

Museum exhibit

Museum exhibit
We grabbed a quick bite to eat at Hungry Jacks (which is the Australian version of Burger King), then went to the nearby library to use the free wi-fi to book our tour for the next day.

Hungry Jacks at Circular Quay
By this time, it was around 2 pm, so we headed back to the hotel. Our room was ready and they had nicely already delivered our luggage. We took the elevator up to the 6th floor. I found the room very impressive. It was large & comfortable. The Westin "Heavenly Bed" definitely lived up to its name.

The room

No view to brag about
The bathroom was also very large, with a separate toilet room. There was only a glass wall separating the bedroom and bathroom, but there was a shade to pull down for privacy.

We had some laughs at the glass wall in the bathroom
Being that the Westin is mostly a business hotel, everything costs money. For example, the bottle of water in the room was $7. And there was a minibar with lots of pricey drinks and snacks. Unfortunately, my lack of status with SPG meant the wi-fi was not free. Luckily, there were plenty of places around Sydney with free internet, including a McDonald's that was a short walk away.

We kicked back in the room for a couple hours, then went out again around 4:30 pm. I wanted to walk across the Harbour Bridge at sunset, so we went back to the Circular Quay.

Sun setting over the Opera House at the Circular Quay
It was a long walk to the bridge's pedestrian entrance and then across the bridge itself, but it was worth it for the nice views, even though it was mostly dark by that time. For the more adventurous, there is the Bridge Climb for a cost of $248 AUD for a daytime climb. Or there is the lesser known Pylon Lookout for a much more reasonable $13 AUD. However, I was happy with my free walk across the bridge.

The Harbour Bridge pedestrian walkway

Sydney skyline from the bridge

Opera House from the bridge
After crossing the bridge, we went to Luna (amusement) Park because I wanted to see it all lit up. It was 6 pm and just closing for the day, but it was nice to stop and take pictures.

Too bad it was just closing for the night
Then we took some more pictures under the bridge. I had hoped we'd find something reasonably priced to eat in Milsons Point, but we really didn't know where to look.

Milsons Point area under the bridge
We decided to take the train back because it was a long walk and our feet were hurting. It was $3.80 to take the train to Martin Place. We grabbed some cheap food for dinner near the hotel (McDonald's, I think) and we went back to the room to go to bed. It was only 8:30 pm, but we were so tired. Jet-lagged, I suppose. Probably due to that 15-hour time difference.

Sydney transit system was very easy to use

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