Saturday, February 24, 2007

In the Land Down Under

After a really long Tuesday (up at 6 am, a one-hour afternoon flight to Calgary, a three-hour evening flight to Los Angeles, and a fourteen-hour overnight flight to Sydney), I arrived in beautiful, warm Australia Thursday morning. Craig Bailey was at the airport to pick up me and Rick Schummer, whose flight arrived an hour before mine, and take us to the hotel. After a shower and a change of clothes, the three of us took a train across the Sydney Harbor Bridge to the Central Business District (CBD), Sydney's downtown area. We went to the top of the Sydney Tower for some incredible views of the city and harbor area:

We then walked a bit around the downtown area and made our way to the Circular Quay area, home to ferries (with destinations throughout the harbor), the world-famous Sydney Opera House, and The Rocks, a wonderfully preserved section of the oldest part of Sydney (Craig is on the left and Rick on the right):

The Queen Elizabeth 2, one of the largest passenger ships in the world, was docked in the harbor, and in fact left Sydney while we dined at Doyle's, a fabulous seafood restaurant located right beside where the ship was docked, that evening:

Rick and I were both pretty jet-lagged after dinner, so we called it an early night; I was asleep by 9 pm.

Of course, I was up the next day at 5 am. I spent a few hours catching up on email, then Rick and I caught a train to Circular Quay and book a ferry to Taronga Zoo. We found a great visitor information center, probably the best one I've ever seen, in The Rocks area while waiting for the ferry. Taronga Zoo is an incredible zoo, easily as beautiful as the San Diego Zoo, but with an even better location, as I'm sure you'll agree from this picture taken from the zoo looking back to the Sydney Harbor:

Here's a picture of one of the many koalas:

Here's Rick with a very friendly wallaby (similar to a kangaroo but smaller):

After spending a few hours at the zoo, we caught the ferry back to Circular Quay, but via Watson's Bay, so we got a great view of the entire harbor, including getting caught in the middle of a sailboat race (one sailboat missed us by only a few feet!).

We then caught the train to the Olympic Park, where the 2000 Olympic Games were held. The park is used daily for a wide variety of activities, including concerts, conferences and trade shows, and athletic training. The Aquatic Center was amazing; this picture is of just part of it:

We headed back to the CBD and after a futile search through The Rocks for a Thai restaurant, had dinner at a Chinese restaurant and called it a night.

Saturday we had to get up early, which hasn't been a problem at all so far given the jet lag, and joined a tour group going to the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains are similar to the Grand Canyon, only lush and green (and blue, which comes from vaporized eucalyptus oil from the million of eucalyptus trees). I didn't take a lot of pictures there because I went there after OzFox 2004, but Rick did, and I'm sure he'll post some on his blog. After a hour going down the world's steepest railway, wandering in the rainforest, and back up a cable car, the bus took a long, winding, and somewhat white-knuckle road to Jenolan Caves. After a quick lunch, especially for Rick, whose food seemed to take forever to be served, we join the Lucas Cave tour. It was an amazing 90 minutes lead by a very knowledgeable and fun guide named Ian. Here are a couple of pictures:

After a long ride back to Sydney, Rick and I had some very good Greek food (after yet another fruitless search for Thai!) and headed back to our hotel.
We had three fabulous days of sightseeing, but now it's time to get to work; OzFox starts today (Sunday), so Rick and I went over our keynote this morning and tested our laptops with the projector. I also went over my sessions one last time and now it's time to meet the attendees and start the conference.

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