The trip took me precisely 20 air hours, 6 hours to San Francisco and 14 to Sydney. Traveling from the East Coast, you basically have two connection options, LA or San Francisco. The San Francisco itinerary was a bit less expensive so that's the way I chose. Trying to do right by the company of course! Despite the torture of being on a plane for that long, United Business Class was great. I was pleased to discover that the plane to Sydney was a brand new 747, which had seats that reclined to a completely flat level. The individual TVs were also the largest I've experienced on an American airline. They also had a ton of movies and TV to choose from. On the way over, I watched Grown Ups and Dinner for Schmucks....they were so-so. Here are a few pics I snapped over the US.
I arrived in Sydney and was pleased to discover that the customs line was very reasonable. I was cleared and found an ATM very quickly. I would suggest that you wait to get local currency until you're at the local airport, because you always get a better exchange rate once you're there. Your local bank or the AmEx stations at US airports always charge a less favorable rate so that they can make more money.
I caught a taxi and found out that the fare was ~A$50 to go to the Circular Quay (pronounced "key") area. Also, I should point out that currently the Australian Dollar (AUD) and the US Dollar (USD) are almost on par. The AUD is a pretty volatile currency (tends to be inversely related to the USD and EUR because it is a commodity currency) so you should check to see where it is at before you travel over there. It will have a big impact on what the goodies you purchase will cost you back in USD.
My hotel, the Sydney Harbour Marriott, was excellent. Great location in the Circular Quay. I am personally a big fan of Marriotts. You'll never get unpleasant surprises when you stay with them, only positive ones. I pretty much stick to Marriotts worldwide. Also, their reward program is second to none. You sign up for free and you earn points based on each time you stay (1 pt = $1 spent). Also, once you stay 10 nights in one calendar year, you become a Silver member and you receive additional offers/promotions and upgrades. I've also noticed that the # of points they charge you to redeem a free night is very reasonable.
I was pretty wrecked after the journey. I had left Boston on Saturday at 3pm and I now found myself in Sydney (15 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone) at 7am. Clearly, I decided to sleep for 2 hours. After that, I had to get up and get ready for my afternoon meetings.
While waiting for our attorneys in their lobby, I was pleased to look out the window at their great view of the harbor. The weather was a little stormy that day but it made for an interesting shot.
The next two days were spent working non-stop. I didn't take many photos but I will share a few things I learned from my local colleagues or just from observation or experience:
- Sydney is Australia's largest city (~5 million people), although it is not the Capital (which is Canberra)
- Legal drinking age is 18
- At restaurants, you may be a little confused by the fact that what they call an "entree" is actually a starter or appetizer
- A very typical local drink is is Lemon, Lime and Bitters (LLB). It is considered non-alcoholic but it does have a very low alcohol content. It is made out of "lemonade" (which is really Sprite to them), lime juice and bitters. Over 50 million are consumed each year in Australia, although it hasn't caught on in the US even though we have the ingredients. I had one for lunch one day with my colleagues and it was very good.
- Australia has 3 times zones, but the locals really think the middle zone is a bit ridiculous. It is only a half hour behind the Eastern zone, while an hour and a half ahead of the Western zone. They were telling me it makes for much difficulty in simply setting up conference calls.
- I had two great local brews during the dinners these nights. One was Little Creatures and the other was Lord Nelson's Three Sheets.
I got some advice from my colleagues and, on my day off on Wednesday, I had a plan. I was going to head over to the ferries at Circular Quay and catch a ride over to Manly Beach and walk around. After my return ride back to Circular Quay, I was headed to Darling Harbour to check out the animal habitat, aquarium and anything else I had time for over in that neck of the woods. More to come on the next post (including koalas!).