Pittsburgh, PA (PRWEB) September 21, 2005
This is it for the journals, so thanks for hanging in there. We leave tomorrow, Tuesday here, to start our journey home. Much to Dave's annoyance, I insist on stopping over for one night in LA, so we won't get back until Wednesday, U.S. time. By the way, stopping is the best in order to stand upright for 24 hours before the last leg.
Our brother, Eddie Oppenheimer, from Mobile, blew into town right on schedule, on the 13th. Considering that he came in from Hong Kong, he was in great shape. Before napping, he wanted to go to Balmoral beach and run! We never knew that Eddie had taken up running and we were very impressed. He looks great, quite amazing, actually. His room was at the bottom of the Japanese steps which had me worried for weeks. But, he learned to navigate them post haste, even schlepping down one suitcase (the rest were left on level one)! Through circumstance, we had quite a social whirl while Ed was here. More on this later under social life!
Moving Day: We were collected right on schedule by Jens, the Swain (my wholesaler) driver for our move to the city. We settled in to the Quay West Apartments. It is about 3 blocks from Circular Quay, the home of the famous Sydney Ferries and lots of street life. It was fun to be able to walk everywhere and not have to drive and ferry first. So, it was farewell to our much loved Balmoral beach and to the daily ferry rides. The first night, we walked to the Quay and had dinner in a great Chinese restaurant. We listened to a street performer sing John Denver songs and sauntered "home".
We went to the Opera House for a performance of Der Fledermaus. It was done in English and set in New York, not Vienna! Acts I and II were amusing, very cute. ACT III, a bummer! The Opera House has a translation panel above the stage, way above the stage so that you have to crane your neck to read it!! Even though the opera was in English, mostly, you still needed the translation. Aussiespeak demands it! Before the opera, we had dinner in the Opera House Restaurant, the Bennelong. The view is stunning and ever changing, and overlooks the Botanical Garden and the Harbour.
Spectacular Sydney Tour with Jens: we did this tour with the Swain driver at his request. For a first-time Sydney visitor, it would be super. We were with a Brit and an American couple. Jens hits the high points of the city and then drives out through the suburbs. He showed us the statues of the National Bird and the National Animal, the emu and the kangaroo. Why are they the national symbols, you didn't ask. Well, it is because they can only move forward! We drove through the Fox Chapel and Sewickley of Sydney. Being in a prime location in these places means overlooking the water and the sail boats. What could be bad?
Yacht Sail: While Eddie was here, we did this Harbour Sail. It was a glorious day and Colin, the skipper put the jib sail up. I think that he doesn't often put up the mainsail because the tourists would have their bottoms dunked in the sea when the wind is up. Colin sails his 6-8 person boat in among the coves and inlets in the Harbour and then anchors for a wonderful lunch. This is a special day that we finally got to do after getting rave reviews from others.
Royal Sydney Easter Show: What in the heck were Dave and Alece doing here, you might rightly ask. Well, it was Good Friday and we were looking for something that was open! We took a city train, changed at "central" and got off at the Olympic Site for the show. We toured the barns, saw the livestock and then grabbed a seat in the main arena. We were treated to a parade of hundreds of horses and cattle, riders with flags flying, a horse show jumping class. Like most things in Australia, it was great fun and the best part was talking to the people around you.
Bridge Climb: done by moi only! I did try for a "mate" to go with me but the locals had all done it and "the spouse" decided against it for reasons of height panic!! Having been goaded by e-mail by my brother Tim, I went last minute. What can I tell you? First you get with your group (12 people), train like an astronaut, take off your watch, put on a jumpsuit, radio transmitter, belt with a guide-wire clamp, hat, handkerchief and an eye glass holder. All of the aforementioned have straps and clips which one attaches to an O ring at the top back of the jumpsuit. First you walk along a catwalk, then you start to climb, first a series of only slightly tilted ladders, then a great many steps; to be exact 1,400 steps round-trip. My "house steps" training stood me in good stead. Fright did not occur because you are hooked onto a guide wire and you have solid rails to hold on both sides. However, this is serious exertion!! I knew I wasn't dead yet because some of the younger people were suffering more than I! The view from the top, where you see the Aussie flags in pictures, was stupendous and accompanied by an explanation of what we were seeing by Heidi, our guide. One walks up one side, crosses over and walks down the other. For happiness, see the attached photo!
SOCIAL LIFE: We never expected to have a social life at all! However, due to the generosity of our hosts' friends, our old Swain buddies from Philadelphia days now back in Sydney, our cousins Martin and Vivienne from Melbourne coming to Sydney to visit and some acquaintances from many years ago, we have had a ball. Needless to say, all of these people being so nice has added immensely to our fun. Re the couple from the past, their names are Gwen and Keith Singh. We met many years ago on a day tour in the Northern Territories, had dinner together twice, have exchanged holiday cards and notes ever since and really never lost touch. They live in a town called Tamworth about 4 hours away. They called and said they were coming down to see us in Sydney. I recognized them at once while we were still in the taxi outside the restaurant. We had an absolutely wonderful evening. Eddie was here then and will testify to same! We hope they will visit us in the U.S.
AUSTRALIA: Easter takes 4 days!! Good Friday and Easter Monday are national holidays. Except for tourist shops and restaurants, everything is closed up tight. Aussies know how to take holidays, short and long, like no other people on earth!!
There are 2 things that you will find in Sydney and every other city or town big or small: a botanical garden and an ANZAC memorial. The Botanical Garden here is the Central Park of Sydney. It is lush, with old trees, rose gardens, herb gardens, cafes and walking paths. ANZAC memorials celebrate and remember those from Australia and New Zealand who fought together in the World Wars.
Half of the people who live in Australia today were not born here. Like the U.S., it is a country of immigrants, but even more-so. The immigrants here are not only from poor countries but still come from Scotland, England, all over western Europe and even the U.S., for work and for a better life. The politics are strikingly similar to ours but the newspapers make the ones in the U.S. look positively staid!
For those of you who have read this far, thanks for sticking with me! It is with gratitude for our luck at this wonderful opportunity to live here for a bit that we bid farewell to Australia for 2005. The National Anthem is called "Advance Australia Fair", an apt description of this blessed land.
Love to all and see you soon,
Alece and Dave