Monday, May 29, 2023

Oz Fest 19 in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

We’re readying to fly from Hobart to Sydney as we come to the end of a most enjoyable Oz Fest, our 15th.

This was one of the best events in recent years, with opportunities to visit with folks we’ve known close to 20 years. Here’s a shot of many of us out on a restaurant deck outside of Hobart.

We cruised the nearby River Derwent Saturday and shared à bus excursion Sunday.

We stopped by an old train converted into a tourist attraction on our bus tour.

We dined well.

Our friend Damon took us for a drive around some nearby rural areas Monday. Tasmania definitely has an island feel to it.

All good things must come to an end. We bid farewell to Bill, Sue, Ross, Brendan, Damon, and our other FlyerTalk friends, with hopes of seeing them in Cairns in 2024.

At HOB, the Qantas lounge is modest but uncrowded.

Our Qantas Link Boeing 728-200…

Onward to Sydney…

Friday, May 26, 2023

Tasmanian Devil Sighting in Hobart Australia

Our one-hour Virgin Australia flight MEL-HOB found us relegated toward the back in knee-squishing seats, but we managed.

Such happily rare experiences remind us how fortunate we are on most of our flights.

We took off and landed (hard!) in light rain, and discovered an Uber right to the door of hotel was exactly the same price as the SkyBus at about AUS $40, so Uber it was.

We had some Marriot points available, so we booked five nights at The Tasman, Luxury Collection by Marriott and hit the jackpot with a beautiful room in the old wing.

The curtains open as we enter the rom, quite a dramatic touch. The staff even arranged a small birthday cake for Kathy. That tub is a treat for her too.

Are these high ceilings or what?

After a good sleep, we went for a walk with long-time FlyerTalk friend Brendan and his lovely wife, Nok. We’re close to the waterfront.

The fisherman we asked told us these traps are used to catch crayfish.

Oh, and about that Tasmanian Devil?

The sighting actually took place in the local museum and art gallery.

We topped off the morning with a light lunch at a decent Thai restaurant.

We greatly enjoyed seeing old friends at last night’s opening Oz Fest dinner.

As we look out our window this morning, we spy part of the Saturday market that we and others will visit.

That market is huge, stretching for blocks, and fun for window shopping and gawking,

Later today we’re looking forward to a short cruise before attending a late Oz Fest dinner at The Drunken Admiral. So far the weather is holding, but it can change rapidly in these parts.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

A Short Stroll in Melbourne

We slept well, arose early, and enjoyed breakfast at the Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street.

Since our flight to Hobart doesn’t depart until 4:50PM, we stored our bags and wandered around for a few blocks to take in the sights.

The Hilton itself is housed in the historic Equity Trustees building (anything built as long ago as 1930 in Oz is “historic”).

Quite a bit to enjoy in Australia’s “second city.” Melbourne and Sydney are at least as distinct as, say, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Melbourne certainly has its charms.

“Rugged up” (rugged pronounced in one syllable like the past tense of rug) on this window display means warmly dressed.

There are cute little alleys and arcades within a couple of blocks of the Hilton.

This sign is advising a Melbourne “hook turn” ahead. To make a turn across traffic (our left turn is an Australian right turn), rather than block the outside lane of traffic, you pull to the side near the intersection and turn when it’s clear. It works very well when people drive sensibly, as they generally do in Australia.

Just as we boarded the free tram back the two stops to Southern Cross Station to catch the SkyBus back to MEL, it started to rain. It seems our timing was fortuitous today.

We’re flying MEL-HBA on Virgin Australia with United points. Our UA Gold status gives us access to the VA Lounge, a cavernous but pleasant enough place to while away a couple of hours before flying to Hobart Tasmania.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

It’s No Wonder We’re Happy to Be Down Under

Following up on our previous post, we’re currently relaxing in the SYD Qantas Domestic Business Lounge and reflecting on how pleasant the past 24 hours of travel have been since we took off from YVR.

Our drive from home included a quick and painless NEXUS border crossing into Canada, and quick and uncrowded security and US Immigration pre-clearance for our flight to San Francisco.

We had ample time to visit an Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge that we hadn’t seen in years.

Our YVR-SFO flight was lightly loaded and the middle seat in our exit row happily remained empty.

We navigated the airside walk to SFO’s International Terminal, remembering the days when we had to clear security again.

We found ourselves in a rather crowded United Polaris Lounge that didn’t impress us as much as we had expected.

We arrived around 8 and added our names to the dining room waitlist. A little less than an hour later we were seated and the friendly server told us the kitchen stopped taking orders at 9. We can order quickly when pressed, and the food came out promptly. The quantities were small and the dishes definitely did not blow us away.

Pasta Primavera?

We then proceeded aboard our United 777 Polaris, and enjoyed a great flight to Sydney with a fine cabin crew that reminded us of the good old days on United.

We had two seats in the middle right next to each other.

The pot roast by another name was substantial and nicely presented.

The dessert sundaes with a choice of toppings are a definite treat. After dinner we both managed to sleep for several hours, always easier for us on the ultra-longhaul flights like this 15-hour 7400-mile journey.

We’ve had free Wifi on UA YVR-SFO-SYD, thanks to being  T-Mobile customers. That’s quite a feature.

After a smooth Sydney landing, we went through the E-Pass automated gates without having to talk to a human being.

Another walk across the terminal to the Qantas transfer Skybus allowed us to clear security and be whisked to the Domestic Terminal.

Our OneWorld Emerald status enabled us to enter the QF Business Lounge, even with our QF economy tickets to Melbourne.

Barista-made double-shot Cappuccinos and a breakfast buffet sampler for both of us, coupled with a shower, and we’re ready to board the relatively short hop to Melbourne, where we hope to meet up with two of our best Aussie friends, Bill and Sue, for a reunion celebration at the Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street Executive lounge. That’s one good way to celebrate Kathy’s birthday, especially since Sue’s birthday is just two days earlier.

It’s good to be back in Oz.