Today was not just Day 15 (Tuesday) but Roger and Vee’s 31st wedding anniversary. Roger gave Vee a card with a list inside headed “31 Reasons Why I Love You” – but Vee had not managed to organise anything. We were leaving Cairns after three nights to fly down to Sydney – our third and last airline journey in Oz – and we were departing the hotel at 10.30 am which meant that there was just time after breakfast to fit in one more bit of sightseeing.
Over the road from our hotel was the Cairns Wildlife Dome situated at the top of the Reef Hotel Casino. In an open and humid naturalistic setting, there are lots of colourful birds on show including parrots and kookaburras plus (not in an open setting) a 4 metre saltwater crocodile called Goliath. Best of all though, you can have a photograph taken holding a koala bear for AU$ 16. Vee had a great picture with a male bear called Harvey and, after the shot, Harvey put an arm on Vee’s shoulder – it was hard to say which of them was the cutest.
Our aircraft was a Boeing 767- 338 and the flight was 1,970 km (1,232 miles) due south which took two and a quarter hours. Since Sydney is an hour ahead of Cairns, we landed at 4 pm local time.
Although Canberra is the political capital of Australia, in every other respect Sydney can be seen as the leading city in the country. It is the largest with a population of 4.5 M and it is the oldest and most diverse with the greatest cultural locations. The city is built around one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world with the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and Bondi Beach providing the most iconic images of Australia. It was a most fitting site for the end of the Oz part of our trip. However, the Economic Intelligence Unit’s worldwide cost of living index for 2013 puts Sydney as the third most expensive city in the world.
From 1965-1968, Vee’s twin sister Mari and brother-in-law Derek spent four years in Sydney before returning to the UK and she was particularly excited to be visiting the city that she heard so much about so many years ago.
The temperature on arrival in Sydney was a good 10C lower than the one we left behind: 23C (73F) as compared to around 33C (91F). Our hotel was another very good one: the Four Points by Sheraton next to Darling Harbour. For dinner, Curtis obtained a recommendation from the concierge and ten of us walked round to “Nick’s Bar and Grill” on King Street Wharf where the other eight sang “Happy anniversary” to Roger & Vee. We both had traditional Australian food: kangaroo (followed by strawberry pancake) for Roger and barramundi fish (followed by sticky date pudding) for Vee.