Sunday, January 27, 2013

Goodbye, Australia!

Here are some of the buildings that we walked past every day.   The Martin Luther Kirche was the first Evangelical Lutheran Church built in Sydney, in 1881.

 Goldsmiths Buildings

Griffith's Teas sat right across the street from our condo and was quite run down, probably unoccupied.  I was trying to find some info about it and came across a blog entry in Past/Lives with some interesting history.  Click here to read more.

Mark Foy's was once a busy department store which boasted having the first escalator in Australia.

Before we went to the Village Bizarre, we explored some more of the area called The Rocks.  The Fortune of War is the oldest pub in Sydney, established in 1828.

I loved all these lamp shades hanging above the street near the Museum of Sydney which stands to the left in the photo.  We spent some time in this historical museum which reminded me somewhat of the story of the Aleutians,  with the white man coming in and displacing the indigenous people, not to mention all of the terrible things that were perpetrated upon the inhabitants of the area.

Being a social worker at heart, I also wanted to visit the Susannah Place Museum but it was closed.  So we walked by and looked around the outside.  :)  Built in 1844 by Irish immigrants and continuously occupied until 1990,  this was home to over 100 different families. 

According to the Historic Houses Trust website, "The story of Susannah Place is of shared history of four houses that existed side by side. Neighbours couldn’t help but hear footsteps on the stairs, the arguments between husbands and wives, the conversations in the yards or the back to back toilets being flushed. Escaping their cramped conditions, locals gossiped as they hung their washing in the back lanes. Kids played outdoor games and street sellers, from milkmen to rabbitohs came past shouting and selling their wares. Everyone knew everyone's business."  I had to look up "rabbitohs," which refers to an itinerant seller of rabbits, and is also now the name of an Australian rugby league football team.

  Out wandering some more...a hotel by the hour....hmmmm

 Asian sailors on the town
This was the steepest escalator I have ever seen!  The steps were wooden and disorienting. I was really afraid I was gonna fall!
We couldn't leave Sydney without riding the monorail!  We really had nowhere in particular to go, so we just made the circuit and rode around for a short while.  I thought we'd be able to see a lot of the city and get some photos but the windows had some sort of pattern on them and it was hard to see. 

Still, hey, we rode the monorail!

We came full circle and ended up at the fancy mall where we started on our very first day in Sydney when we were looking for a SIM card and some internet.  This was the most amazing and gorgeous food court I have ever seen.  SO many places to eat and really nice food, not just fast food take-out type stuff.  After some lunch and a little shopping, we went back to get our luggage and headed for the airport.

When we were looking for plane tickets, oh so many  months ago, we finally settled on Jet Star because the fare was so much cheaper than Qantas or Hawaii or any other airlines we checked.  We needed one way tickets from Sydney to Honolulu so we could get back home (we had round trip tickets from HNL to ANC and on to Unalaska).  I'd done some research on Jet Star and read lots of complaints, so at one point, we decided we'd go on Qantas but when I went to their site, the tickets we wanted had a small asterisk beside them, saying the flights were actually on Jet Star, a Qantas subsidiary.  So we were pretty much stuck.

I bought the tickets and it was suggested that we pay for our luggage in advance, as well as paying extra to choose our seats and reserving a digi-player for the long (10 hour) flight.  At the time, we thought we would just have two suitcases so I paid for 40 kg of luggage.  In actuality, we ended up taking three suitcases and we even thought about going back online and paying for more luggage but we blew it off. I remembered the site saying it was "cheaper" to pay in advance, but we thought it would be a few dollars extra at the airport.

So we arrived at the airport a couple of hours before our flight and got into a very long line to check bags and get boarding passes.  We were literally in line for an hour, and still had to go through security and customs.  When we finally got to the counter, the woman noted that we had paid for 40 kg of luggage and I volunteered that we did have another bag and needed to pay for it.  She had weighed our first two and we were at 39 kg.  She said, "you know that will cost you quite a bit, right?"  We said yes and Rich jokingly said something about it wasn't going to be $5000, was it?  She said no but allowed that it would be high.  We're thinking, okay, maybe a hundred bucks, which didn't please us but we could deal with it. She then weighs the third bag and says it's 17 kg but she will let us slide and call it 15 kg because the price goes up even more after 15 kg.  She then proceeds to tell us it will be $165 and Rich needs to go see another agent and pay for it before she can finish our boarding passes. We were pretty flabbergasted and told her we'd never heard of such a thing, being used to walking into a US airport and plopping down an extra $25 or $50 if we're overweight or have an extra suitcase.  She was apologetic but said there was nothing she could do, and yes, it would have been a lot cheaper had we just gone back online and added the suitcase.  Ugh.

Poor Rich was held up in the other line forever and I had no idea what was going on.  I was finally asked to step aside and let others get checked in since the line was still a mile long.  Eventually,  the other agent came down and conferred with our agent, which led me to believe that oh, hey, maybe they feel sorry for us and our failure to read the small print and are going to let us slide!  I am so naive!  But no, she began telling our agent that  she'd quoted us the wrong price and that the cost would actually be $375.  YES! THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY FIVE DOLLARS! Our agent even tried to argue with her and tell her that seemed exorbitant but she said it was the rule and there was nothing that could be done.  We were basically told that we could pay it or throw our suitcase away. Believe me, if we'd had time, I would have pulled all three bags back and rearranged the necessary items so I could toss one suitcase and some stuff we could have done without. But we were running out of time and the last suitcase was the one with the things we needed to overnight in Honolulu plus some Christmas gifts.  So we sucked it up and pulled out the old credit card.  Man, I felt terrible that I had mistakenly assumed it would be no big deal!

Rich said the agent he dealt with was super snotty and told him "This is a discount airline; if you had wanted to bring so many bags, you should have gone on Qantas or another airline."  The funny thing is that earlier in the day we'd been talking about how Jet Star was probably just fine and those people who'd been complaining were just whiny babies and we'd post a good review after we had our lovely flight back to Honolulu.  LOL

So with a very bad taste in our mouths and a bitter end to a lovely vacation, we made it through security and customs and boarded our Jet Star flight.  We could not get over it!!  On board, everything was decent except you did have to pay for every little thing, including water. Well, there was a small water fountain near the lavatory so you could get some water in a little paper cup if you were desperate and didn't want to spend any money!

Needless to say, we will never fly Jet Star again.  I sent a complaint to their customer service department on their website, which says they will respond within 15 days.  This in itself kinda cracks me up, because don't most businesses usually say they will reply in 48 or 72 hours?  So our 15 days went by with no response and then I got an email saying they'd had some issues over the holidays so they were issuing me a $50 travel voucher to make up for the delay. Woohoo! As if I will ever be able to use that!  I got the feeling that the voucher was just to make up for the fact that they had not responded to the complaint yet, not that it was a response to the complaint. But I could be wrong because I have still not heard anything more.

Here's my advice: Don't fly on Jet Star if you can avoid it!  If you do, be sure you read ALL the fine print on their website.  I understand that this was largely our own fault, but I was appalled at the way we were treated with NO compassion or  understanding by the person making the final decision. AND I also think that these charges are WAY out of line. Seriously, folks, $375 for one suitcase??!!  We definitely had to laugh that we could have flown on one of the more expensive airlines after all!

Still, despite the nasty end to the trip, we had a wonderful vacation, loved our cruise,  enjoyed our new friends, and had a blast in Australia.  I would love to go back and see more of the country and I would not mind taking another long repositioning cruise again.  We just need to learn to pack lighter!

The Village "Bizarre"

We had a treat on our last night in Sydney--a very cool little street fair

Various musicians performed

Information booth with a list of all the happenings

Knights and ladies


Audience participation skits

"Silent Disco"--everyone was listening to different music on headphones and dancing to their own beats.

Street dance

Rabbit masks from the Rabbit Bar--you had to be wearing a mask to get in

Food and other items for sale


Looking down on the action after it got dark

Lots of people out on the street having a good time

The Rabbit Bar
and the G'Day Cafe--can't be in Australia without having a photo of at least one "G'Day!"  What a fun final night!  We still had most of the next day because we had a late flight out, but our trip was winding to a close. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Manly and Newtown

We ate breakfast on the wharf and then took the ferry to Manly Beach

Passed by the Opera House, of course
This is one of the longer ferry rides and is supposed to be a little bumpy at times but not today

Lots of other ferries out on the water

Manly Beach
Chatting through the window of a restaurant

Fun signs

Mailed some postcards!  Postage was really expensive--about $1.90 per postcard for international mail.  That's why you might not have received one from me. I decided I'd sent out enough after the first stamp purchase.  :)

We walked around Manly for awhile and had some fish and chips on the strand.  Unfortunately, the camera setting got switched to something weird and we don't have any photos of the actual beach!

We returned to the harbor and these guys were playing some very cool aboriginal music.  Check out the video below.

We then took a bus to the train station and headed to the neighborhood of Newtown, which is described as bohemian and a little grungy but a cool place to be.  Our kind of spot, right?

   Australians appreciate Dr. King, too
We saw lots of neat old buildings
Had to browse the books and magazines in this shop

More fun signs

Better Read than Dead is a well known book shop
Definitely a more progressive neighborhood!

We sat in a little cafe and had some dessert while people-watching for a bit.
Hanging up flyers
 Mom with baby and expectant mom

After another great day out in the sunshine, we returned to the main train station and then back to our condo for the night.