I am writing this from Sydney, Jen and I having transplanted ourselves for a year(-ish).
The flights were rather good. I was impressed at pretty much everything that they did for us: one of the by-products of being treated tricked like a Ryanair customer in recent years, I suppose. We flew with Etihad (the ‘h’ is pronounced, so I learned) and [sticks tongue out of side of mouth in concentration] I’ll just chop this bit out of Jen’s facebook post to tell you about that…
Anyhoo, the 7 hours flew – really, no pun intended, I just can’t think of another way to say it. When we landed in Abu Dhabi we got off the plane and into a sauna… Oh, I’m sorry, I meant walked to the airport!! 40 degrees (celsius) at 8:30pm? Crazy heat, we couldn’t believe it, especially considering we left Ireland during a heatwave of 18 degrees!
We only had an hour before boarding the next flight so we went straight to the gate and used the free wifi before the gate opened. Chatting to a nice Australian couple, who live in Bahrain, we learned that this 40 degrees was actually not even the hottest it gets – in the height of summer you can expect 50+ in the UAE. We were glad to be going to the “cold” Sydney winter, of 17 degrees.
The flight from Abu Dhabi to Sydney was 14 hours. As we trundled down the aisle to our seats, Jay wondered if he might ask he air steward if he could move to an emergency exit so he could stretch his legs but as we got to our designated seats, lo and behold, they were at an emergency exit door! The pure joy of that moment soon waned as we realised it was also the space for every Tom, Dick and overweight Harry to stretch in during the 14 hours – thank God for eyemasks!
Finally landed in Sydney at 6:30pm, local time (9:30am body clock!) and made our way through customs. On the plane we had to fill in a landing card, asking details about where we were staying, if we were carrying anything illegal in our bags. Thanks to Joanna, who made us watch ‘Border Control’ before we left Ireland, we were suitably paranoid about everything we were carrying, causing me to check ‘yes’ in the ‘carrying prohibited medicines, weapons of any kind or illicit drugs’ box as I had some Ibuprofen in my bag! (hey, they are restricted in Ireland!) The lady at the customs desk just laughed at me when I told her. Welcome to Australia.
Tad was there to greet us, in a winter coat (seriously, 17 degrees out!), and we got a taxi to Surry Hills. Couldn’t see much of the city as we drove through as it was already dark but, as Tad pointed out, it was similar enough to any other city that was only 200 years old – the road signs, layouts and crosswalks are very similar to what you’d see in the States.
Arriving at Tad and Julija’s house was surreal – the familiar paintings (all by Julija’s fair hand), furniture and books was a real treat for us, as it made us feel not too far from home.
We’ve done a bit of exploring – one day we walked down Elizabeth Street into town and to the breathtaking Sydney Opera House, yesterday we walked down Oxford Street to the Centennial Parkland. It’s nice not to have to cram our sightseeing in and to just take time to look around and notice things. I read Alain de Botton’s ‘The Art of Travel’ before we set off and was very impressed by the attractive picture that emerges of a person who travels. One of the characters he talks about is John Ruskin, who advocated drawing as a way of learning to see things, and I bought myself a sketch pad. We’ll see…