Friday, August 30, 2002

So, let’s see… Saturday we headed out pretty early to have one last breakfast at our favorite waterfront café Karve. We had done a pretty good job of being packed up the day before. We still had a couple of hours of tossing food out and cleaning up for the realtor to give us the all clear. Pete was nice enough to drive out to the airport with us although we also had to go in a Shuttle as we had so many people and bags. Quantas said we had 125 kg of checked bags (and thank goodness they didn’t check our carryons!). They allow 25 per person and she gave Quincy (who didn’t have a seat, just paid taxes) 10 kg – then they charged us $10 per kg over. So $150 later… Of course you can’t pay at the check-in counter like any normal airline… We also had to cart off 2 bags to the “fragile” area (although they came off the plane onto the carousel like any other bags) which was at the far end (thank you Pete). And Phyllis had to go pay for a Visa into Australia despite having verified with Quantas previously via phone that there was nothing she would need to do. My ticket was under Webster and passport is under Thompson – I hadn’t noticed the discrepancy. They did but it didn’t matter too much. They couldn’t locate the kids’ frequent flyer numbers and we were supposed to have physical cards (do I even have one?). The woman was very nice but… They also had no record of all the rigmarole that I had gone through to get Aidan’s carseat approved to take on for his seat but they did approve it no problem for a change (at the special paying counter). So by the time we paid them our extra $ then headed next door to pay a bank for our special NZ departure tax of $22 each (and why this isn’t added to your ticket I’ll never understand) and cleared customs etc… we were ALMOST the last people to load on the plane. We made it. Too bad we forgot the stroller at the other end… Quantas lets you gate check them, but won’t give them back until baggage claim – and you have to go to the oversized area (excuse me?) to pick it up. When I returned the following day I must have seen at least 2 dozen strollers in their lost baggage area – so I didn’t feel quite so lame about having left it. We left at around 4 p.m., had a 3 hour flight, gained 2 hours, and still ended up taking our taxi ride to the hotel in the dark – despite being further north than Auckland, Sidney must be much further east in the time zone as it gets dark earlier here and light much earlier in the morning.

We got the rate of $200 Australian ($108 US) for our hotel apartment per night for a 2 bedroom place but it is only serviced weekly. Therefore we have to dump our own trash at the end of the hall etc. The rooms are quite small but nicely appointed and we have our combo clothes washer/dryer and 2 bathrooms and a full kitchen. All countertops have granite or marble and there are a lot of expensive architectural details like reveals at ceiling (that I am probably the only one in our party to notice let alone appreciate) and we have velvet trimmed chenille bedspread etc. Too bad there isn’t anywhere to store our clothes or suitcases! We do have a closet in each room but I think Phyllis said theirs doesn’t even have a top shelf in it. Just about the only service in the hotel is breakfast for $9.50 AU which P, D & A have taken advantage of a few mornings. I tend to head out with Quincy in the stroller and have him take his morning nap away from his brother as I check out the neighborhood and grab some toast or croissant or something along the way. I like walking along the quiet city streets in the morning. By 10 or so they are bustling.

We are situated smack dab in the middle of Chinatown. So we have had some good Asian food – I think 3 evenings I have either done take-away or eaten at a restaurant a few doors down. Across the street is Starbucks, there are 2 or 3 banks a building or 2 away, there is a church on our block, and a major bus stop (our building fronts on a major road and backs on Chinatown). The Central Railstation is about 3 blocks away as I discovered the first morning as I headed back to the airport to pick up our stroller. Turns out I had to take a bus as they were working on the tracks or something that day – but it was essentially a free trip for that. On our corner we have a curious fountain – it is a dead tree trunk that the artist found somewhere and partially painted gold and ran a dripping waterline up and out it then “planted” it in the sidewalk (with a drain). There is some Feng Shui (sp?) significance and it is rather interesting and a decent landmark. Catty corner to that is a very large mall that hosts a huge market Thurs – Sun and has 3 levels of shops, restaurants and movie theatres above. We are a couple blocks to the start of Darling Harbor development around the waterfront. And a monorail stop. Aidan likes all the forms of transportation available to us here.

Day #1 we hopped on an Explorer bus to get an orientation to the city. We rode the whole loop straight thru (1 hr 45+). I had squeezed into a seat with both kids and the stroller. I felt bad as the window was too high for Aidan and he had to kneel to see out. He got tired and a bit bored and hungry as it was well past lunchtime before we finished. Fortunately Phyllis had a snack bar and water she let him have. We then checked out the Powerhouse – a museum quite close to our hotel as it turns out (although I didn’t realize it at the time). I walked with Quincy from the railstation stop where we had gotten off the bus and bought a week transit pass and had a snack. I ended up on roads that didn’t really let you get there so it was a much longer journey than it should have been. I was quite disappointed in the museum. I think it would have been fun by myself – an eclectic collection focusing on Australia I think, but there was sadly little hands on (as promised) or child oriented. Brisbane’s tech museum was not nearly as attractively put together, but much more fun. Then I hopped on the monorail with the kids and rode the loop back to the same stop (which is closest our hotel) and then grabbed some Taiwanese take-away to share with the kids. I think Phyllis and Dave headed down to Opera building and had dinner along the waterfront there. Quincy has been getting treated to a lot of different foods lately! He has enjoyed the innards of dumplings, Chinese noodles, macaroni & cheese, this morning I came in to find a chocolate croissant in his hand (he had very sweet breath!). He has also been taking chunks out of mandarin orange peels (which I remove from him as soon as I realize he has them) and has had a couple mandarin sections. Sometime during our South Island trip he developed reasonable pincher grip ability. We didn’t practice any at the time, but he couldn’t really get small food into mouth before we went, and was pretty good at it when he got home. Bottled babyfood is OK but only in conjunction with something else he finds more interesting.

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