Friday, June 2, 2023

Leaving Sydney on a High Note

On our final full day in Sydney, we took advantage of the beautiful weather to wander from the Hilton down to Circular Quay for a token glimpse of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House in daylight.

We then ambled back to the Westfield Shopping Mall to try out a branch of one our favorite restaurant chains, Din Tai Fung. What a disappointment!

This branch is takeout only. After ordering and paying at a kiosk, you wait for your number to be called.

Everything was served in (and on) cardboard. Even the spoons were cardboard. Everything tasted of cardboard. It made us long for styrofoam.

Our final evening in the Hilton Executive Lounge was a considerable step up. The empanadas were tasty.

The peel-and-eat prawns were excellent.

We also chatted with a friendly young supervisor, Driss, who was helping out on a busy evening. Driss obtained a 1:30 PM checkout for us, a considerable improvement over the standard 11:00 AM deadline. He also recommended a Chinese restaurant, Mr. Wong, for a future stay. We’ll definitely keep that in mind.

We took advantage of the leisurely schedule today to try our luck again with our beloved soup dumplings, Xaio Long Bao, this time at the nearby Lotus The Galeries in the Galeries Mall, a two-minute walk from the Hilton.

Our 12 noon reservation was unnecessary but secured us a nice table in this large restaurant. It’s a winner.

The scallion pancakes were tasty.

The Xaio Long Bao put yesterday’s to shame.

We really liked the stir-fried beef and the roasted Brussels Sprouts, even if the latter didn’t strike us as particularly Asian.

Now that’s a appropriately delicious conclusion to our stay.

From the hotel to the airport didn’t take long. Sydney uses the same software as the London Underground, according to a friendly employee, and in both systems one can now tap on and off with a chip credit card, making Sydney’s Opal Card unnecessary.

We caught one last glimpse of the Coat Hanger from the train as we navigated Circular Quay, and it was onward to the SYD Domestic Terminal 2, where we secure our boarding passes and make our way to the Virgin Australia Lounge.

Oops… this kiosk won’t accept our BPs, so we trundle back down the escalator and climb some stairs to gain admittance in person.

Oh well, the exercise was good for us.

Our 90-minute flight SYD-BNE departs at 5:00 PM, and the plan is to overnight at an airport hotel, the Accor Pullman, before flying UA Polaris BNE-SFO at 10:30 tomorrow morning, and them onward on Alaska in three short hops (SFO-PDX-SEA-YVR), picking up our car at the Vancouver Airport, and driving home.

In an amusing and unsurprising footnote, VA and UA are partners, our flight on UA is listed as SYD-BNE-SFO. The friendly VA rep could not provide the UA boarding pass, and UA can’t provide the VA boarding pass, so it’s one BP at a time.

It’s a pleasure to learn that Virgin Australia’s Business Class seats on this 737-800 offer a lot more room than their economy seats that we experienced earlier in the trip.


We’ll see how our little travel plan holds up over the next 24 hours or so.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Sydney and the Delights of Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour is one of our favorite Sydney destinations and an easy 15-minute walk from the Hilton. Since we’d booked an evening harbour cruise to enjoy the lights of Vivid Sydney, we strolled down in late morning and wandered along the promenade.

We found ourselves The Malaya, a Malaysian restaurant opened in 1963 by an immigrant from Hong Kong  that has become something of an institution here. It proved to be the best meal of our trip, with the help of Amos, our excellent waiter.

We chose a set menu multi-course meal that proved to be a feast of varied flavors, starting with appetizers that included lettuce wrap, spring rolls, and satay.

Next came Prawn Laksa.

As if that weren’t enough, we were served Malaya curried beef, accompanied by a stir-fried noodle dish and fresh vegetables.

Even though we’re members of the “clean plate club,” we couldn’t finish. The food, service, and atmosphere were superb. At AUS $70 per person, the total bill came to just over US $90, plus a couple of glasses of wine, a very price worthy splurge.

After that feast, we pushed ourselves to walk some more before boarding our harbour cruise.

Just after 5 PM we boarded the Australian Cruise Group catamaran that would take us around the bend to Sydney Harbour to enjoy the light displays on the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, the latter known to Aussies as the Coat Hanger.

The vessel was lightly loaded and we sat up on the forward deck with a few other people, taking in the spectacular views on a calm and beautiful night.

What a way to wrap up a day in Sydney!

Previous post- Here and There in Sydney

Here and There in Sydney

Sydney and Melbourne are both among our favorite cities. We visited Melbourne last year, and this year we had the chance to stop in Sydney for a few days, and to take in the Vivid Sydney light shows.

We checked in at the Hilton Sydney, on George Street just across the street in the next block from the Town Hall train station. This Hilton is never quite as good as we expect, yet we return and do enjoy it, including the view of Town Hall from our 38th floor window.

We make do quite nicely for dinner in the Executive Lounge with hot appetizers that included some tasty shrimp.

Australian Hiltons are adding a $10 up charge to Duamonds who opt for a full breakfast, and we contented ourselves with a decent lounge breakfast that included a spectacular morning view of a portion of the city.

We then took a train to Bondi Junction on the invitation of a fellow Oz Fest participant, Patricia. She kindly picked us up at the station and drove us to the famous Bondi Beach, where we once took a beginner’s surfing lesson. We strolled along the beach and talked travel.

Patricia insisted on treating us to lunch at a cute little café at the far end of the beach before driving us back to the train.

It made for an enjoyable outing.