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Los AngelesThe plan was to leave Solana Beach a day early and stay in Los Angeles so that we did not get caught in traffic or have anything unforeseen make it hard for us to catch the Noon flight the next day. Except that the plane was not scheduled to leave until 11:45 PM (really didn't leave until 12:30). So, we had a free day in LA - a Sunday.
LA is a city that both of us have been to many times so finding something to do for the extra 10 hours was somewhat of a challenge. We ended up in Santa Monica and drove the beach road. Except for a pier, Santa Monica is much like any beach. The pier hasn't changed much in the decades since I saw it last. But Muscle Beach sure has. The Beach used to be populated by body builders. Today, it is peopled by gymnasts, roller bladers, and skateboarders.
The most interesting sight we saw in the stay was in the male equivalent of Toys-R-Us, called Fry's Electronics. Acers of electronics, audio, video, computers, screens, games, software - a selection beyond anything I have ever seen. As mind-bending as the store was, it was a little Japanese girl who captured our interest. She was dancing on a game pad placed on the floor, to music and a video display that showed her what parts of the floor mat to dance on. The pace was very fast and she kept up. In fact, she broke into a sweat. She must have done the dances for 15 minutes to a half hour and never missed a beat or a step. Awesome!
Sydney14 hour is a long time on a plane, first class or not. Slept through most of the time and arrived at Auckland, NZ with a 5 hour lay-over. Checked into a motel for a shower and nap and got back on the plane for Sydney.
Met at the airport and brought to the hotel. Had free-play for an afternoon. Glorious weather. A fantastic city. Reminds me of a mix between Seattle and San Francisco. We had a view of the Opera House right outside the window. It changed ever time of the day, sunrise to sunset to night. The whole harbor area is alive with activity. People pour out of the center city and hop on to ferries for destinations all up and down the harbor. It would take me a long time to get bored walking the waterfront, watching the people, the fishermen, and the harbor activity. The city sprawls all over the coastline and the condos are extremely expensive - millions of dollars each. The weather was beautiful and added to the experience.
We went on a city tour the first morning and then had free play for the rest of the time. Will return to the City on the way back. We toured the Opera House. Although architecturally interesting, it is not enticing as a venue for opera. The rest of the city is hillside and a mix of historical buildings and new high-rise apartments and offices. Not really much different from what one might expect in any two hundred year old Western city.
We were introduced formally to aboriginal art. Interesting but it would not grow on me. Having said that, I have to confess we found a great painting in a touristy art store and, if we could have figured how to mail it home, would likely have bought it. It was white dots (much of their art is made up of dots) on a black background but done in a way that the painting gave the illusion of pulsating.
At each stop, CC has arranged for someone to meet us and give us a tour of the city. It's a great way to get a feel for a place when you haven't a great deal of time to tour. The whole city is built around the harbor and each location has a group of houses situated so that they have a view - one more fabulous than the next. We returned to the Hotel, walked a bit more. We will return, as I said, in a few weeks for a longer stay.
BrisbaneBrisbane is not located directly on a harbor but situated along a serpentine river that again is reminiscent of European river cities. We were again picked up at the airport and driven on a tour of the city. It is also sprawled all over the place but is smaller than Sydney with a smaller center. We took in the Art museum and went for a river walk through a rain-forest park which had a "beach" populated by students from the nearby universities. We returned to the car and were driven to an overlook of the city. A gorgeous view. We returned that evening to have supper there. Because it had rained a couple of days before, the air was crystal clear. The food was not as good, however.
The next day we toured outside the city to the mountains and seashore that the people of Brisbane use for their weekend and summer retreats. These is little air conditioning in private homes so the houses are built with porches, overhands, on stilts - anything to get a breeze and block out the sun. The mountains and the seashore are where they go to beat the heat, just like we did and do.
We toured a zoo-like area to see (and pet) animals and birds from Australia. Then we had lunch at a beach area and were driven to a rain forest-shoreline walking path to see parrots and koala's in the "wild". A lot of activity and a lot of driving but all beautiful - but somehow not strange.
We arrived back at the hotel to have dinner with Cliff and his girl friend. We are about to board the plain to Mackay.
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