Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Australia Trip (Days 1 & 2)

Day 1: Saturday, December 24
SMF > SFO > …???
Our original itinerary was from Sacramento to San Francisco to Los Angeles to Melbourne. However, upon arrival at SFO, we learned that our connecting flight to LAX was delayed. We thought at first that we’d still be able to keep the original schedule until I overhead a French couple mention the updated delay time, which would result in an arrival time at LAX at least 1 hour too late for our flight to Melbourne.

I grabbed both bags and headed back to the United Customer Service counter I’d noticed on our way to the gate, wrangling Mr. E along the way as he finished his purchase at Klein’s Deli. I then eavesdropped on a conversation with a service agent and a couple who were in the same situation as we were and was relieved to hear the option of a flight to Sydney with a Qantas connector to Melbourne, which would still get us to our destination as planned on Dec. 26th, just a few hours late. Phew!

After we got our new travel plans, we headed to the United Club for a couple of hours until our 10:30pm flight (good thing I put those Club passes into my bag at the last minute), and we ended up celebrating Xmas Eve in the same United Club as we had during our first trip to Australia three years ago. And this time around, we got to celebrate the first night of Chanukah as well, since the holidays aligned this year. We set up our multi-denominational decorations on the window sill near our table in the Club and enhanced the display with the battery-powered mini-drop lights: 

Our new flight departed on time, and we had Exit row seats with lots of extra leg room and little personal entertainment display screens tucked into the armrests. Surprisingly, the in-flight service included dinner even for such a late departure time, and we both also took advantage of the complimentary wine offerings during international flights.

Lost Day: Sunday, December 25
Happy Christmas! We spent the holiday somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, eventually crossing the International Date Line and “losing” Xmas day along the way. Both of us managed to get a bit of sleep, and I also watched three films – two in French, one in Spanish – during the 14-hour flight.

Day 2: Monday, December 26
Upon arrival in Sydney, we breezed through Customs thanks to the e-passport kiosks and set out to find the Qantas check-in area. After a false start waiting in the wrong Qantas line (oops!), we found our way to the domestic check-in terminal and managed to get seats on an earlier flight, saving us about 30 minutes of travel time. That was particularly useful since we had to check our roller boards and wait to reclaim them in Melbourne.

We decided to just pay for a taxi to the hotel to save time instead of taking a public transportation option, and we got a bit stuck in all of the Boxing Day traffic. Our hotel, the Hilton South Wharf, is right next to a Direct Factory Outlet (DFO) center, which was crazy-busy with people taking advantage of the major Boxing Day sales. Thankfully, our room was available when we checked in, so we could unpack and settle in a bit.

Mr. E suggested going for a run, since we both were feeling pretty energetic despite the long trip. We set out at a leisurely pace along the Southbank Promenade, which was a great way to get oriented to our surroundings and help plan out some future activities. Our 35-minute round-trip route took us past several of the many bridges – both multi-modal and pedestrian-only – that connect the north and south banks of the Yarra River. Along the way, we passed the ginormous Crown Casino complex on the south, Flinders Street Station on the north, and Eureka Tower and the Botanical Gardens on the south. Once we crossed the river near the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) and other sports stadiums, we continued along the north bank, passing through Birrarung Mar and near Federation Square. We opted to traverse the pedestrian bridge near the Immigration Museum to get back to the south bank and return to the hotel.

We had timed our run perfectly, not only to coincide with the beginning of afternoon Tea Time in the Executive Lounge but also to miss the rain that rolled in for the remainder of the day. The Lounge is on the 4thfloor with large windows on three sides looking out over the Yarra River with a great view of the downtown skyline across the way. We staked out a table near a window in the Lounge and stayed there for a few hours, consulting our Lonely Planet Guide and map to plan out some activities for the next few days and also taking advantage of the Happy Hour reception in the evening. Mr. E quickly discovered the seafood bounty once the food was set up, and we both consumed quite a few prawns and clams in addition to the other “heavy” hors d’oeuvres. Yum! Definitely no need for any other dinner! We also enjoyed the self-serve wine and beer offerings.

Once the Happy Hour wrapped up for the evening, I headed back to the room to go to bed while Mr. E explored the hotel restaurant and the nearby Plus 5 restaurant for some cocktails.


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