I have been home about a month now, getting back to the USA was certainly a change from being down in the southern hemisphere. Leaving my friends and family was sad, but returning to my friends and family up here was something that was needed. I had to get back to Heidi and DB Cooper and get back to life. Well, the vacation is now officially over today as I go back to work tomorrow. I won’t talk about the new job (you know for getting in trouble sake) but it is a seasonal job that should keep me busy.

The last month has been different, I have had lots of interviews, job offers, applications, thoughts, dreams and I settled on something I thought might keep me going. I have done a lot of work around the house and Heidi and I have done some projects we had put off for a long time (some that included 2 trips to the dump.. ugh).

But the vacation is over and although the job is only seasonal, I am not sure what will happen after the summer. But that is 3 more months away and I am not too worried! Here is to summer in Seattle!

Tuesday 30th April 2024

An early morning wake up in the dark to make sure I can get myself ready to head to the airport early.  Since the folks are unable to take me, it means I need to get a Cab/Uber/DiDi to the airport.  DiDi’s pricing wins so that is what I ordered. I needed to make sure I was at the airport as early as possible as I had to make sure that the passports were linked for my trip. I knew about this ahead of time so wanted to make sure that I had plenty of time for the process to happen so being there right when check in opened would be the best idea.

I got dropped off after an easy journey, and when I got up to the check in desk they were all closed but the kiosks were open, but I knew they would not work for me.  So I just waited because I needed to see an agent.  I was suggested to use the kiosk multiple times and I just said “sorry I need to see an agent, it rejected me”,  Which was not fully a lie because the app rejected me from checking in multiple times.

When check in opened I let someone else go ahead and when I got my turn, I apologized for what was about to happen to the person on the counter and handed over both passports and her face was like…. Dammit.  But she was nice about it and It got checked in eventually.  My bags were tagged with priority and the food suitcase got a fragile sticker.

Once I had my boarding pass in hand, I headed straight for security and immigration.  I wanted to get through so I could take my meds and get some breakfast and there was huge warnings everywhere stating that lines are often considerable.  I used my express pass and was dumped in right behind a large family (which I managed to get around by changing lanes) and security was a non event really.  Outboud immigration was all done via egates, even for non passport holders, so that was new.  But it worked pretty well and once I got through it was time to go through the giant duty free shop maze.  

I made my way up to the Air New Zealand lounge where I scanned my boarding pass and headed in.  Food was pretty good yet there was some strange things (like parsley on the fruit salad as a garnish, or beetroot bircher museli) but the lounge was not too crowded right then (that would change) and it was comfortable.  I sat down to eat some breakfast (toast, banana, coffee) in the same lounge, practically eating the exact same meal that I ate 12 years ago almost to the day when moving to the USA, in the same lounge (not the exact same lounge as it has moved and been rebuilt, the new one is much nicer).

After a while I found my way through the terminal to the gate where I snapped some pictures and sat down to wait.  It was a long wait as they took their time getting everyone sorted.  We had to line up in the boarding zones and the process was quite confusing.  But then I haven’t flown United in a while.

United Airlines – UA97
Brisbane to San Francisco
Boeing 787-9 (N29968)
Business Class (Seat 9L)

Boarding: 0945 (Gate 76)
Push Back: 1027
Take Off Roll: 1044 (Runway 19L)
Top of Descent: 0525
Touch Down: 0555 (Runway 28R)
Shut Down: 0600 (Gate G1)

My zone was called for boarding and when it was my turn I scanned my phone and headed through down the jet bridge.  There was only one door being used at 2L and I stepped onboard, showed my boarding pass again and then stepped over to the right side of the plane and took my seat at 9L (after a few photos of course).  It was time to get myself sorted and get everything situated.  I sent my last few messages on my aussie phone and then switched to airplane mode before departure.  It took a while for everyone to board, just like any other flight on an american airline and they eventually sealed up.  PDB had been handed out (in plastic cups) of either water, sparkling wine, or a mimosa and this was when my mind started comparing against business classes on this trip.

We pushed back and started taxiing towards the 19 holding points.  I was on the wrong side to see the terminal but it meant I had a clear view of things landing and taking off.  We got all the way to the end of 19L and we did not have to hold long at all before it was our turn.  No holding on the runway either, just lining up and then off we go, up into the air.  A big left turn away from the city towards the gold coast (fantastic views down below) and then it was point out towards the ocean and off we go.

Climbing up and up to cruise the crew came around to make sure of orders and then eventually service would begin.  They started off drink service with a cart, after serving all of the front cabin (which means it takes a while to get to our cabin) and we had a small ramekin of warm nuts served with it.  After a while the rest of the meal was delivered with the appetizer (crab) a green salad, roll and my chosen meal, BBQ braised beef.  The food wasn’t bad and tasted ok.  It was nice enough for what I was expecting.

They cleared away my tray, brought me another drink and then I had to wait quite some time for dessert for two reasons.  1. It was brought out on the cart, and the cart had to go to all of the front cabin first.  2. There was two rounds of seat belt signs in the mean time and one of them required even the crew to sit down.  Dessert was a choice of the traditional ice cream sundae (skipped it), Mango Cheesecake (yummm) and a cheese plate (pass).  After all of that was eaten and waiting for the seat belt sign to come off again they cleaned it all away while I was trying to fight to get into the bathroom (three attempts being beaten to the punch and it was right next to my seat!).

I was part way through my second movie at this point, so grabbed down the pillow and doona and settled in to relax.  I finished off the second movie and started working on the trip report after a while.  I was just going to sit back and watch movies and relax before the next service.  I honestly doubt I would be able to get any sleep as my body was still in Australian time and I figured arriving first thing in the morning it would be easier to just stay up on the other end.  I could do an all nighter, haven’t done that in a short while!

As the flight went on I just spent most of my time watching movies and even managed to claim a few cookies as snacks at a couple of different times.  The strange thing was as we got closer and closer to San Francisco, things in the back were waking up, not so much in the front.  It was as if there was not enough crew for the whole plane.  They did announce multiple times there was only 8 crew and maybe that was why service was so slow?  We were getting awfully close to SFO and still nothing.  Inside 90 minutes of arrival I just got myself ready by putting on my shoes etc but the crew were nowhere to be seen.  Around an hour before arrival the crew started coming into our area, but all they did was clean up some stuff.  10 minutes later I got a hot towell and then 5 minutes after that I was asked what breakfast I would like.  We were now well under an hour before arrival and probably 10-15 minutes from top of descent.  Knowing that they will try and clear things away closer to arrival, I guess they wanted us to eat fast.

Low and behold 10 or so minutes after getting breakfast the captain came on and told us all that they were about to start descent and that they would turn on the seatbelt sign for the rest of the flight.  Thankfully they held off for a few minutes before switching it on as the restrooms had a giant line the moment he made that announcement.  Thankfully I had already gone!

We began our descent down into the airport.  It was pretty dark so I couldn’t really tell much, but what I did eventually see was lots of lights of cars and buildings and roads.  We were finally back over land, the first real chunk of land in 12 hours!  I was back in North America, not yet home though.

We came in over the southern bay suburbs and came down on the right side of the dual runways.  Being on the right side, I couldn’t see if it was a dual arrival.  Once on the ground, we taxiied pretty fast over to the G gates and pulled straight into an open G1 where within around 60 seconds the door was open.  No screwing around apparantly.

Once off the plane it was straight into a waiting immigration hall and we looked to be the first arrival of the day!!  We were a good 30 minutes early and that meant things were easy on arrival.  Global entry had me waiting nothing at all and when I presented myself to the waiting customs agent, he just asked if I had anything to declare, when I told him what he just said “welcome” and sent me on my way.  Time from shut down at the gate to walking out of immigration… 6 minutes.  I waited longer for my bags than I did for the rest of the process.  Hell my walk from the G terminal through to the Delta check in took longer than I waited for bags or for immigration (not both combined though).  By this time I was like a walking zombie, I have been awake for quite some time and still more time to come.

I got myself checked in at the Delta counters and then made my way over to Pre Check where I was told I should sign up for clear… no thanks.  Welcome back to America, where security lines are giant, but if you know what you are doing and don’t have anything dangerous, you are not hassled and I was not with my bags.  First time in a while! Through security and grabbing my bags and then off on a walk to the C gates which seem to be part of the older terminal and to wait for my flight.  No lounge on this flight, even if I was flying a paid first class ticket (it was cheaper to buy a first class ticket and get the decent baggage then it would have been to pay for an economy ticket and pay for bags).

Once I got myself situated in the gate area, I found somewhere to type and just sat around and read for a while, trying to not fall asleep, that was the hard part of the morning.  The inbound pulled in and I forgot to go over and ask the Delta pilots if they had any trading cards, would have to wait until I get onboard then.

Delta Air Lines – DL2321
San Francisco to Seattle-Tacoma
Airbus A220-300 (N316DU)
First Class (Seat 2A)

Boarding: 0920 (Gate C5)
Push Back: 1023
Take Off Roll: 1033 (Runway 1R)
Top of Descent: 1146
Touch Down: 1211 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down: 1225 (Gate B5)

Boarding was eventually called pretty calmly and after preboards and active duty military, first class was called.  Everyone seemed to be sitting in the wrong seats onboard and that had to be sorted out.  I took a moment to ask the pilots for a trading card, which they had.  So the first of maybe not many to my collection (thanks to all the instagram reels and tiktoks everyone has been sending me about it).

Once I got situated in my seat, my correct seat mate joined me and then it was just a matter of getting situated with my stuff and waiting…. A LOT.  Not sure why the flight was taking its time, but we ended up delaying our push back by a while.  Some of it may have been traffic in the alley, but something else was up.  The flight attendant came around to ask if anyone wanted PDB and we already had water at the seat and not a single person took him up on his offer, not even me.

He came around to confirm meal options that had been prebooked and also to get beverage orders.  After this was done we eventually began to push back and it was a relatively fast taxi over to the 1s ready for departure.  We did not even have to line up, we were first in line and off we went, they didn’t even need to stop to warm up the engines, they just gave it a quick spurt to make sure all good and then Take Off Power!

We climbed out over Oakland with a good view of San Francisco on my side of the plane.  I could see two cruise ships in San Fran and I could also see Southwest flights departing out of Oakland below us.  We continued our flight north over the California mountains north of San Francisco.  The food arrived and I not only had a full glass of diet coke but also a full can as well…. Unopened.  Strange.

I ate what was on the plate, not really needing food but I ate it anyway to keep my body functioning and fully confused.  It had no idea what was really going on.  I also managed to take the time to watch Expendables 4 while I was on the flight.  This was available before the flight left, so I was almost 45 minutes into it before we even left the gate. 

As we passed over Portland, we began our descent towards Seattle.  I did not use the bathroom, which was the biggest mistake.  There was a big line and people from economy kept coming forward to use the lav and making more of a line.  We descended high over Tacoma and came into SeaTac from over the city.  But this is where my mistake became evident, I was dying to use the bathroom.  So much so that I was in pain trying to hold it.

The rest of the flight really became a blur while I spent most of it trying to figure out how not to pee my pants and to get to a bathroom asap.  We had to hold on the taxiways to cross both 19C and 19L and when we pulled into the gate, I had to be a dick and ask to get up to the restroom.  It was needed, I felt awful, but otherwise it would be bad for everyone!  Once off the aircraft I headed for baggage claim and my bags came out fairly close to the start.  This was good as my ride was moments away.  I made it home pretty soon after getting my  bags.  About 24 hours from door to door….. I am now officially tired.

Well, today is my last day here in Australia. I am pretty much spending the day packing up all of my stuff and trying to squeeze every last little bit of stuff into my two suitcases. I am bringing back a second bag full of Australian food and I should not have any issues at all! I hope 😉

The last few days after my trip to Sydney has been spent arranging all of the food to take home and also make an effort to see people before I go. Some I was not able to see and that does make me sad a little, but there was plenty of time as well for it to happen. There was a few very sad moments saying goodbye and it’s still tough leaving some people (you know who you are).

Tomorrow I fly home via San Francisco and I am excited to see Heidi on the other end! Looking forward to it!

Thursday 25th April 2024

After a long long long day (up at 330am for the Dawn Service) it was time to head out to the airport.  I left the lunch venue which was right next to Wynyard Station and went for the old school York Street entrance.  After taking a photo of the station entrance and then getting abused by some drunk homeless looking person (he thought I was taking photos of him).  I do love the old escalator art in the York Street entrance of the station.  They took the old wooden escalators which I remember from when I was a kid and turned it into a gorgeous piece of sculpture art.

I just missed a train so had about 12 minutes to wait for the next one.  I decided rather than changing at the train station, I would change at the airport, I feel like the bathrooms would be cleaner.  If I didn’t have the spare time, I would just give it up and keep on going.  The train was relatively empty, but filled up at Central and then emptied out some at the first Airport stop.

Once I got into Terminal 3 at the airport, I came all the way up to the departures level and it was eeeeempty!  YAY!  I changed out all my uncomfortable function clothes for some more comfy travel clothes and packed up the suitcase ready to drop off.  Using the Qtag I sent the bag into the machine and then got myself a printed boarding pass as my power bank was having some charging issues and I wasn’t sure if I could keep my phone fully charged.  They happily printed me a boarding pass and confirmed that the seat map is correct… It was quite empty.

I went through security and this time, not as many problems, however my backpack got pulled aside again.  I was so excited to get another secondary screening making it 5 out of 6 flights on this trip in Australia, but they guy reviewed it and then said it is all fine, it timed out because they other guy didn’t look at it properly.  What was the dude doing, playing Minecraft?

Once in the terminal, I took a walk to get in some steps and then found my gate and sat down to read.  I saw the Retro 1 come into the gate next to mine which I was so jealous about that we would not get that one and the crew off that flight headed into mine.  It was at this point I heard the gate agent say “all 20 of them” and I was shocked.  If he was legit talking about how many people we had onboard, that was crazy!

Qantas Airways – QF542
Sydney to Brisbane
Boeing 737-800 (VH-VZB)
Economy Class (Seat 23A)

Boarding: 1702 (Gate 2)
Push Back: 1725
Take Off Roll: 1736 (Runway 16L)
Top of Descent: 1815
Touch Down: 1855 (Runway 19L)
Shut Down: 1859 (Gate 24)

Boarding for Business and Priority was called and not a single person stood up.  It was at this point the gate agent was like “fine you can now all board, general boarding is open” and like 5 people started standing up.  The flight attendant manning the gate had confirmed the amount of people on tonights flight… 22.  I was first onboard the plane so got my pictures of an empty cabin and started heading for the back of the plane.  I had a row of 3 seats to myself but after the plane was fully boarded in less than 5 minutes, i had about 12 rows to myself on one side of the plane.

They confirmed onboard that yes, this is everyone and that due to weight and balance, please do not move about from your seat for safety.  I was ok with this, the one row where they got screwed was a couple who had selected seats with a window and middle next to an already allocated aisle.  Woops!

We pushed back a couple of minutes late, probably due to other planes in the alleyway, but we started heading out as the sun began to set.  I was hoping we would get a quick take off on 16R, we did not.  We had to taxi out all the way to 16L.  It was not too much of a hassle, but it just meant we had to wait longer.

We took off out over the water and turned back to head north.  The two cruise ships in town could be seen heading out to sea, and the sun was going down as well making for a great sunset as we passed the city off to my left.  Once we were up in the air, I put my tablet in the seat back holder and started watching a TV show for our short 1 hour flight up to Brisbane.  The flight attendant came up and rather than bringing a cart, decided to just ask us what we would like and then was back moments later. I went with my usual Qantas order, Ginger Beer and a water.  About 5 minutes later they rolled out a little cart full of a “warm snack” which was a vegie pizza slice.  It wasn’t too bad, but boy was it HOT!

Not a bad offering for free on a flight of an hour.  In the states you would be lucky to get even a drink!  As the flight went on they made multiple times picking up trash and offering water bottles as well.  Right before we started our slow descent we got a little briefing by the pilot letting us know that unfortunately we have a 10 minute delay getting into Brisbane due to being put into a holding pattern.  O well, not to worry too much.

We came in over the gold coast tracking north along the beach and headed up all the way over Moreton Island right up to Tangalooma and then turned for the runway.  Pretty similar to how we flew in on my flight from Adelaide.  We touched down on the runway really roughly and slewed around a bit.  Once we exited the runway (thank god in one piece) we headed off to the gate.  We pulled in and I had a little chat with the crew while waiting for the doors to open.  We were not able to use rear stair deboarding, however with the tiny amount of people, I was not worried.

I headed off into the terminal and figured I would have some time to use the bathroom before going down to get my bag.  I need not have rushed at all, because when I got down there, I watched the last of the bags come out from my flight, and mine was not there.  Off to baggage services I go.  I checked my tile tracker and it’s last update was an hour ago… and still in Sydney…. *Sigh*.  They let me know that my bag is on the next flight hopefully and it should land soon enough.  I should stick around because it will be about 30-45 minutes.  So I sat down and waited.  When the new flight landed, they paged me over because they had my bag.  YAY.  Then it was off to the AirPark shuttle which had to make every stop before making it to where I would get off and then it was a short drive home.  Later than I wanted, but it had been a long and fulfilling day.

Wednesday 24th April 2024

Woke up far too early this morning and while I tried to get back to sleep, it didn’t necessarily work. But with the time to actually get up, I showered and got myself ready to leave. Made sure I had packed everything (short trips are usually when I forget things) and I loaded up the car. I was driving to the airport since this was a short trip and it would cost less than a return Uber trip or taxi. 

I made good time on the road with not too much traffic, even at 6: 30 in the morning and made it to the airport parking lot right when I was aiming for.  The shuttle was rolling in right when I walked up and the next stop was Domestic on the Qantas end.  This was fine, I could get off at either stop and then just walk down to Rex Check In.  Rex bag drop was visible, but it was tough to see the Business Class check in, hidden over behind all the bag drops, right next to the big giant Net Jet Express line and totally not staffed.  I asked a staff member about Business Class check in, expecting him to just tell me to use the kiosk, but he walked me over and checked me in.  This pissed off someone in the NJE line who thought I was jumping the queue.  Sucks to be you buddy!

All checked in with no issues (I was expecting a lot of issues after the schedule change drama I had been through) but it was all great.  Now you would be wondering why I used the Business Class line, well I had bid on an upgrade but made sure to bid the very minimum ($40) and never expected it to clear.  Well it did the day prior.  Craziness!

So I waited in the really big line for security and headed into the terminal.  Since it was just an upgrade, I did not get access to any business lounge (though I am unsure if Rex actually has a lounge in Brisbane).  Instead I walked through the terminal to get my morning walk in, ( a full lap and back of the entire domestic terminal) and found a place to grab a coffee for breakfast.

Eventually the inbound pulled into the gate and I was happy to see that the inbound was an ex Virgin Australia aircraft and it meant I would have a much better experience this time compared to the old.  Once everyone was off, there was a little wait until it was our turn to board.  I did not mind, I was happy reading my book.

Regional Express – ZL325
Brisbane to Sydney
Boeing 737-800 (VH-RQC)
Business Class (Seat 2A)

Boarding: 0902 (Gate 38)
Push Back: 0928
Take Off Roll: 0939 (Runway 19L)
Top of Descent: 1025
Touch Down: 1052 (Runway 34R)
Shut Down: 1100 (Gate 39)

Boarding was called and it did not look like today was going to be a full flight and I was the second person headed down the jet bridge behind another Business Class passenger.  The aircraft was indeed still in a very ex virgin fit out even with the purple divider between business and economy.  I got situated and was quickly offered a glass of sparkling water or orange juice.  We were fully boarded in less than 20 minutes (again putting the USA to shame) and business class was full.  I was seated to what was some sort of Rex pilot as he was greeted by the flight crew who came out to talk to him, maybe chief pilot?  Not sure.

We pushed out of the gate and headed towards the end of 19R and since it was a fairly empty time we did not have to hold and were soon powering down the runway and into the sky.  In true Australian fashion, the seat belt sign went off mere moments off the runway and then the crew started service asking us what we would like to drink and if we would like something to eat today.  Today’s meal had a choice of a “meat pie” or a “healthy bowl”.  I took the pie as I wasn’t sure what the “healthy bowl was”.  I wasn’t all that hungry for a pie at 930 in the morning, but it was fine.  The pie turned out to be more vegetable than meat and was served with a warm carrot cake muffin and a bowl of citrus segments (pretty sure it was grapefruit… maybe).  I just had it with coffee and some sparkling water and I was pretty happy for my second breakfast.

It was a pretty uneventful flight, we started to descend towards Sydney Airport and everything was already cleaned up and tidied up.  We came in over newcastle and the northern part of Sydney and I could see the Brooklyn rail bridge as well as Palm Beach and the Pittwater in the distance, and I was hoping we would get a great flight in over the city towards the runway, but we did not.  We turned to head out to sea.  As we were lining up for a landing from out over the water, a Qantas 787-9 buzzed below us with good separation but it was sooo close looking. It was great.  Thanks to the free wifi I found out the flight was heading to Melbourne as what looked like a repositioning or a charter.

We came in from the ocean side of the airport and landed on the runway out in the middle of nowhere and started taxiing into the gate.  We didn’t really need to stop so it didn’t take too long to make it to the gate.  We pulled into the gate and soon enough we had a jet bridge attached.  I took my time getting stuff out from underneath my seat and getting myself ready to walk out.  I only had my backpack but had to pick up my suitcase from baggage claim (I just didn’t want to deal with it).  I was the last person in the business cabin to walk off but I was soon into Sydney Terminal 2 (essentially the Common user terminal where Virgin, Jetstar, Rex and everyone else live for domestic flights) and the gate area looked almost as bad as SeaTac.  But to be honest, it didn’t look any different since the last time I was there.

Made it down to baggage claim to wait for the bag and it didn’t take too long.  There was clearly no priority baggage that I was meant to have, but it was fine.  I was still in time to hoof it over to the train station and make the next train which was thankfully delayed and I made it by a few minutes.   It was time to head into the city for some Anzac day traditions with the family.

So its been a little bit since my last post, but I have just been doing as much as I possibly can to help out down here. Helping my folks get around when I can take them, but also I have a lot of paperwork stuff that needs to be sorted out. I also have been trying to catch up with as many friends as possible and I need to remember to take more photos with my friends (keep forgetting).

I have had a few chances to get out to the airport and take some photos which has been a lot of fun, gotten a few of the specials that I was hoping for (including the new Qantas A220 Green First Nations Livery).

The time has just been flying by. I now have just 9 more days left and while this is a time I need to really start getting in touch with some people for final goodbyes, it is also a time where I am travelling again. Just a quick overnight trip down to Sydney on Wednesday for ANZAC Day and will be back on Thursday night. Then the real last few days is on.

I also need to start getting the shopping done of stuff that needs to be taken back to the states with lots of different foods that need to be purchased. At least I have a shopping list… Who thinks they know what I will be bringing back 😉

So it has been just over a week now since Heidi left and while it has been fine having us both on other sides of the world again, there is just under 3 weeks left to go until we are back on the same continent.

I have been relatively busy with most of the last week or so spent doing stuff for my folks. I did get one chance to go plane spotting already (had to drop off the rental car at the airport so did some plane spotting at the same time) and have spent some time with some friends as well so that has been great. But most of my time (especially this week) has been spent playing chauffeur to folks.

While it is an easy job driving them around, it does get tiresome at times but I have some time scheduled to see my friends next week and tomorrow, so will spend as much time as I can doing the stuff that I need. In about 2 weeks I will be down in Sydney for Anzac day and then it will be only a matter of days left in Australia before I head back to the USA.

I have started doing a little bit of shopping for stuff that I want to take with me back to the USA food wise, figuring out as well some of the non food items I want to take back (managed to get both of the Queensland Starbucks mugs). At least I already have a suitcase ready to take home! Though the hard part will be figuring out exactly what I can and can’t take back!

So while I have talked about the flights, it has been a really busy couple of weeks so figured I would fill you in on all the stuff that happened while I was away with Heidi.  So many days, so many things!

Monday 18th March 2024

After getting my bags in the airport, I caught the train into the city and got off at Wynard.  Took me a moment on the other end to get my bearings and figure out where I needed to come out, but it wasn’t that hard and I left the station headed to Martin Place and our hotel the Fullerton.  I was checking in the night before to make sure we had a room ready when Heidi arrived the next morning.  This would be easy as rather than just hoping it would be ready, if I fly down and check in the night before, it will be all good and we would also have breakfast as well (if Heidi can make it on time).

I spent the afternoon walking around the city, walked over to Barangaroo and down towards King Street Wharf and over to town hall.  I was looking for a coles and to make sure I could find stuff that Heidi wanted.  When I couldn’t find what I needed, I needed to head over to a different coles and thankfully I found that stuff I needed.  I also picked up some dinner while I was there and walked back to the hotel and stayed in for the night.  It was an easy night!

Tuesday 19th March 2024

Up at my normal time, but had to keep an eye on the flight so had to get moving soon as she was meant to be touching down early.  I was not going to take the train the whole way to the airport, to save $20 I was going to take the train part of the way and finish on the bus and avoid the gate fee.  Heidi was meant to be really early but they got diverted into some holding patterns so had to wait a while for Heidi and eventually she came through immigration.  I had gotten her a coffee so she could be lifelike as we were on the train and then we headed back downtown for some breakfast and some rest time for Heidi.

After a few hours of resting and getting more like a human being, we took the train out to Bondi Junction, a bus down to Bondi Beach and then headed along the coastal walk towards Bronte, where Heidi had a hot chip lunch, I had a fresh squeezed juice and we headed back towards the city.  We got off at Town Hall on the way back and walked through QVB and down towards Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House.  We had a credit at the hotel that we could use for in room dining and this was our plans for dinner so that Heidi could have an easy night in comfort.  We ordered far too much food, but we ate what we could!  Heidi made it to about 730pm before passing out, good enough!

Wednesday 20th March 2024

We woke up and took a gorgeous morning walk.  Heidi wanted to see Barangaroo and along the water there, so that is where we went.  Weather today was looking pretty crap, so we planned to take a tour of the old GPO as part of the hotel (they have tours at like 10 am that you can take) so after breakfast we had that arranged and then we also booked ourselves a tour of the Opera house for the afternoon.  The tour of the GPO was great and was a great look at some of the history of the city.  Then walking down to the Opera House (in the rain mind you) to tour that, something I had never done.  This was a fantastic experience, as the inside of the Opera House is designed and kept the way it was when it first opened, looked amazing still!

After the opera house we headed down on a ferry over towards Pyrmont as the rain had let up and then walked down through Darling Harbor to China Town and picked up some Custard Puffs (they were delicious) our Starbucks mugs and some dinner from some places I had found a few days before (this ended up being a mistake I think).  We retired back to the room tired and saw after a long day.

Thursday 21st March 2024

Today’s plans was to get breakfast going early and then heading on foot down to Circular Quay and get an early ferry over to Taronga Zoo.  We missed the first ferry and had to wait 20 minutes for the next one, but still made it before the zoo opened.  Rather than walk all the way to the top of the zoo, we took the bus to the top.  We spent hours exploring the zoo and had packed our lunch so that we could eat while we are here and not have to pay the horrible captive zoo pricing. 

The zoo was great and while we could have taken the ferry back, we decided to go out back through the top entrance and to catch a bus back towards the city.  We took a bit of a break in the room for a while and then took off towards the Botanic Gardens so we could get our walk in.  We walked all the way out to Mrs Macquaries chair and got rained on in the process.  We then walked our way around towards the navy base and to a dinner stop first for Heidi…. Harrys Cafe de Wheels.  I had not been there in a looong time and I was excited for a good Pie with Potato and Mushy Peas!  Heidi just had a straight up Chicken Pie but she enjoyed it none the less. I picked up a Custard Tart for dessert and we took the bus back to the hotel and settled in for the night.

Friday 22nd March 2024

Another relatively earlyish morning for breakfast as today was the day I was looking forward to the most.  It was opening day of the 2024 Royal Easter Show.  I was excited!  We had been loaned some members guest passes by a family member and it was time to get moving to the show.  We took a train to central and changed trains to head out to Olympic Park and the show.  The show was great, we explored for hours and had a fantastic time.  I gave Heidi a minimum spend on showbags and she got herself a Cadbury Mega Bag all because it had a cooler bag in it.  I got some cadbury bags and of course a Bertie Beetle bag. 

Some of our highlights of the show for Heidi included getting to see all the animals and for me, watching a live Cake judging.  By the end of the day, we were tired, we didn’t want to do much so picked up some dinner to eat on the way back to the hotel.  We were done for the day!

Saturday 23rd March 2024

We woke up this morning and went for a walk up towards the Harbour Bridge and back through the rocks area.  Sunrise this morning was magnificent and there was a few people down by the Cruise Terminal taking photos.  We walked back to the hotel and had some breakfast and then back to the room to pack things up.  We had arranged, after some negotiation, for a late check out to 1230 so we decided with the fantastic weather to go up the Sydney Tower Eye and booked some tickets for an opening time slot.  We went up the eye which I had not done since 2009, and enjoyed showing Heidi so much stuff.

After the eye we returned to the hotel for some “Brunch” and had a Devonshire Tea at the hotel for a discounted price and using up the last of our credit.  From the hotel we took a DiDi to the airport as we had a coupon.  The flight was good (see the real trip report) and in Cairns we collected our car.  The rental car was with SIXT and since I still have status with them thanks to a status match last year, I asked if there was any upgrades and they said “let me see” and got us a Isuzu MU-X.  This was a bit of overkill but still different none the less. 

We drove up to our hotel in Palm Cove which was the Mantra Amphora.  While we had a kitchen and laundry in our hotel room, it was too late to get any groceries on the way to the hotel, so after passing a pub on the way into our hotel, we decided to go there once we got sorted.  Getting the car into the car park was a shit show (confirmed by someone who worked there who walked past saying “Yeah, the parking is the worst”).  We walked around the corner to the pub for some dinner and then walked back and passed out after a long day!

Sunday 24th March 2024

Woke up this morning and went for a walk along the waterfront all the way to the Palm Cove Jetty.  We had taken our wallets so that we could have some breakfast on the way back and sussed out a number of places on the walk and decided on the restaurant right outside the hotel.  I ended up eating some pancakes (that I could not finish) and Heidi had french toast (she picked it purely because it had bacon).  With some fresh coffees, it was our first real Australian style breakfast experience (not counting the hotel breakfasts we had).

After getting some laundry started, we jumped in the car and headed north up to Port Douglas for the markets and to check out the long road up to see the changes.  There was still some road works and lots of one lane only portions on the road after Cyclone Jasper rolled through a few months ago and did massive damage.  We took some time on the way up and enjoyed the road.  The drive back was a bit more rushed to avoid the bad weather that was meant to be coming (it didnt).  We enjoyed the Port Douglas markets and Port Douglas hasn’t changed much in the years since I last saw it (early 2011). 

We couldn’t get all our groceries, but we were able to get some by the time we visited the bigger grocery store in Clifton Beach.  We retired for lunch back at the hotel (picked up some from the Brumbies in Clifton) and Heidi spent some time in the pool and I spent some time writing and reading.  A pretty chill afternoon/evening!

Monday 25th March 2024

Today we woke up and it was an early morning start as we had to get ourselves ready after breakfast and out the door to be picked up by our tour.  We were being picked up by Billy Tea Bush Safaris for a tour up to the Daintree for the day.  This was a great tour and I will be brief but Heidi enjoyed herself.  We got pretty drenched at Mossman Gorge, had some barramundi and steak for lunch and had some really nice ice cream.  There was still massive damage after Jasper and things are far from normal up there, but some stuff is open and if you are thinking of visiting, you should!  We ended up eating some Salad for dinner back at the hotel.  A very busy long day and we were tired by the end of the day.

Tuesday 26th March 2024

Another early morning for a day tour, but this time in the other direction.  We got picked up by a transfer down to Skyrail as we were headed to Kuranda for the day.  I got an email a few days before telling us that due to landslides the Kuranda Scenic Rail was not running, so Heidi was the one who made the decision we would still go (the railway was part of the reason I wanted to go again as I love that part) and so we did.  But it was a pure shit show with the transfer driver dropping us off early and the tour driver who was meant to meet us and take us, had no idea we were meant to be there and in the end we almost missed out on our entire day if we had not opened our mouth.

Shit show aside, the rest of the day was really good and we got to see Baron Falls with so much water going over it and it was amazing!  We got back to the hotel early so Heidi could go for another swim while I handled dinner.

Wednesday 27th March 2024

Today we woke up and went for a walk.  It was our morning before we head out to Brisbane. I talked about most of the morning in the trip report so won’t go to much into it.  Pretty much we went to Cairns and explored a little bit of the downtown/esplenade area and the Botanic gardens.  When we made it to Brisbane we got our bags and headed out to the rental offices for SIXT.  They offered us a Volkswagen Tiguan which was smaller than what I had booked, and would be no good for our adventures as we were to be picking up someone else tomorrow.  So I asked for something bigger, well they offered another Isuzu MU-X.  This was far to big and not really good for what we thought we were going to be doing (foreshadowing) so they offered us a Renault Kolleios, which had to be washed but we could have it. 10 minutes later we had our car and were heading towards home.

We stopped on the way at Aldi to pick up some supplies for dinner and the next few days a little bit as well as a stop at Dan Murphys for some goodies.  We finally made it to the house, unpacked, repacked and had some dinner ready for a fun day tomorrow.

Thursday 28th March 2024.

As usual, up early and on the road early as we headed out towards the sunshine coast.  We stopped on the way to pick up my school friend Jo and we stopped by the Golden Circle outlet to pick up more supplies and random goodies.  We were heading further up into the Sunshine Coast hinterland so that we could enjoy some “mountain” air and some goodies in the dairy country.  We hit up Maleny Dairies and Maleny Cheeses.  We stopped for coffee in Maleny where I decided to cover my shoes in mud sadly (strike 1). We went around down to Kondalila Falls and went for a bit of a hike (where I managed to just entirely fill my foot full of water and more mud probably… Strike 2) and then we decided to head over to Kenilworth for the dairy and the bakery for lunch.

Picked up some of the most delicious donuts in my life at the Kenilworth Bakery and then ended up on some Dirt Roads ( Regrets…. should have taken that MU-X).  We finally made it to our AirBNB and this was my first ever AirBNB and it was probably not worth the money we had paid for it.  It wasn’t as good as the photos had shown and it was quite strangely set up.  Maybe I didn’t read it properly or should have booked elsewhere, but it had a hot tub and this made Heidi and Jo really happy.  All in all a great day!

Friday 29th March 2024

Woke up this morning intending on making pancakes for breakfast but the kitchenware at the AirBNB was shit so we decided to pack up and head out for breakfast to a little cafe in Yandina.  We hit up a place called Gun Cotton Estates and it was really great!  Public holiday surcharges aside, it was well worth it!  We explored Yandina a bit more (Ginger Factory time!) and then drove down into Coolum and drove down the coast.

We pulled into Marcoola beach and parked up so that Heidi and Jo could go play on the sand.  I decided to keep my feet in good condition and sit and read a book in the shade.  It was a fun little stop for us.  We got back in the car and just drove our way down the coast stopping for pies and other fun things at Van Wegen Bakery in Mooloolaba. We headed further down the coast and dropped Jo off at home and then Heidi and I headed to the Confectionary Warehouse as it was the only thing really open on Good Friday.  We headed home after not buying any candy (deciding to get it the next day at BigW or the like) and took a walk later in the afternoon before dinner.  A good end to a fun day.

Saturday 30th March 2024

Did not go for a walk this morning as there would be plenty of walking involved.  Heidi and I took the train into the city later in the morning and then walked through the gardens towards Southbank and then did a full explore of the area.  We stopped for lunch at the Plough Inn and it has totally changed for the good.  It looks fantastic!

We were contemplating taking the citycat up river towards UQ but decided against it and went shopping in the mall for some sale items and maybe some chocolate and the like at BigW.  We left the city heading towards the car at the station and saw some people heading into town for the Queensland Reds games.  We contemplated going and then decided against it.  We had to go back to the shops to get some stuff for mum and dad as requested and picked up some stuff for dinner as well

Sunday 31st March 2024

Today was a very early wake up and out the door with no time to spare.  Heidi wanted to go to Easter Sunday church services and we headed over to the southside to catch up with Ross and his Wife Kathryn who took us to their church.  We then headed over to their place for brunch and after hours of talking away I found out that Ross lives just two streets away from my friend Angela and at the last minute went to visit her too.  We left around 6pm and headed home and got home about 12 hours after leaving the house.  We were soooo tired.

Monday 1st April 2024

Today was Heidi’s last full day and we were determined to take it easy.  We went for a walk before breakfast and then headed over to Chermside around opening time.  We were going to explore and see how much it had changed and for Heidi to really get a good example of a true Australian Shopping Centre (at least a really big one).  We got some of the things we needed to buy and went through numerous stores and still made it out without being charged for parking.  Took Heidi over to a bunnings so she could contemplate lunch of a sausage sizzle but she decided against it (she had one at the show so she didn’t need to).  We then went back home and spent the afternoon chilling out, I fixed my umbrella while Heidi packed and then we ended up on the couch reading.

We were meeting Fiona for dinner at the local pub (The Brook) and Heidi wanted to go down early to play some pokies.  She made me sign up for a members card (yay) and I stayed with her until she kept losing then she told me to go away so she could win (and she did).  Heidi ended up $15 ahead from when she started when it was time to meet Fiona for dinner.  We had a great night catching up and enjoying the pub for dinner.  Such a fun time!

Tuesday 2nd April 2024

It was a very early wake up.  Heidi needed to be at the airport by 7am to check in for her flight and I will too when I take my flight in a months time.  But it was a sad morning as I drove Heidi to the airport and I walked her up to check in and hugged her goodbye before she went down the escalators to immigration.  I spent the day making bread and catching up on stuff while trying not to think of Heidi and closing out the vacation part of our trip.  The remainder of this visit to Australia was going to be the “work part” as it was now time to get a lot of paperwork handled.

Wednesday 27th March 2024

Woke up today at a reasonable time and went for a morning walk.  The hotel was kicking us out well before our flight, but we had plans to go and check out Cairns for a bit since we had not yet done that.  After breakfast and checking out, we drove our way down to Cairns and parked by the Esplenade and walked around for a bit.

The area had changed a lot and we were done walking around in the blazing sun with no breeze at all.  The city was pretty empty (considering everyone is probably on day tours) and we picked up some lunch at a local bakery (including a vanilla slice) before heading to the Cairns Botanic Gardens.  Now I was trying to stay off my foot, and decided to find a spot and just read my book.  Heidi went off to explore for a while and we ended up meeting back at the car after a while.  From the gardens we went to the gas station to refill the car and then it was off to drop off the car at the airport. 

We dropped off the vehicle with the rental company and then we headed into Check in and just before we got to the doors, I got an alert that the flight was delayed.  O well too late now!  And then the double whammy, right in front of the doors on the inside was the Virgin Australia check in, so that was great however check in would not open for almost an hour!  Greaaaaaat!  The landside part of the terminal was crammed full of people waiting to check in and there wasn’t many choices of places to sit.  We found a crowded spot and sat down to eat the lunch we bought and waited it out.

Eventually we were able to check in and we were a few people behind some people we were on tour with the day before and they took our bags and off they went into the baggage check.  We had one seat between us that had been empty until a little earlier in the day and I made a joke about moving the person in that seat to the empty aisle that was showing, of course for their benefit.  But they said they will see what they could do!

We headed for security and my continuation of Australian security being worse than America this time I was fine on my body after the shenanigans in Sydney, but they wanted me to empty out everything that was in my backpack and put it through the xray machine 3 times!  What an adventure!!  I will never complain about security in the USA ever again (though I haven’t had to wait on any occasion really, no more than 5 minutes).

After making it through security, we headed out into the terminal to find a bathroom and a place to sit out the wait.  The Cairns Airport looks much better than it used to and is now quite spacious and has lots of shops, restaurants and cafes.  We found a great seat and just sat down and I pulled out my book and continued to read.  We wiled away the time just letting the airport move around us.  I was staying far away from the lady who was sitting close by continuously coughing.  This made me put on a mask and just stay well away!

Virgin Australia – VA784
Cairns to Brisbane
Boeing 737-700 (VH-VBY)
Economy Class (Seat 18A)

Boarding: 1428 (Gate 18)
Push Back: 1453
Take Off Roll: 1505 (Runway 15)
Top of Descent: 1631
Touch Down: 1656 (Runway 19R)
Shut Down: 1706 (Gate 40B)

Boarding was eventually called for our flight shortly after the delayed inbound had disgorged everyone.  They had already boarded people with assistance and they called business class and priority elites first.  But at the same time they had those in the back of the plane line up so that once they were done, we were ready to go.  Thankfully they use back of the plane boarding so rather than having to go up and down the ramps, we just turned left and went out the door onto the ramp straight out to the back of the plane.  Up the back steps and into the aircraft.  Heidi and I were hoping we could keep the seat free between us, but she took the middle seat just in case, that way the person in the middle can at least have the aisle. 

Boarding continued and the plane filled up and eventually they told us that the doors were shut and boarding was complete.  There were 2 seats left on the plane.  One was in between me and Heidi and the other was on the other aisle in our row.  Heidi moved back to the aisle seat and then the child on the other side of the plane, put their plush toy into the aisle seat and buckled him in.  Good use of the seat 😀

We got the safety briefing as we pushed back and headed for the runway.  We took off to the south and then turned out over the ocean and out the window you had a great view of all the reefs and islands off the coast as we went south.  We tracked over the coast to around Townsville and then went inland from there.  Service onboard started pretty quickly, i mean they are trying to get you to spend money, but I took a water and just sat back and enjoyed the flight south watching a movie from the streaming service onboard.

We eventually began tracking back towards the coast after crossing over the Morayfield area on our descent into the airport.  We were landing from over the bay but we didn’t turn again over Tangalooma and that could have been because we were coming from the North, but as we turned onto final, we seemed to be further north than I thought we would be.  That was strange to my brain as I figured we would be heading to the old runway, but being so much further north, it meant we were coming into the new runway…… Finally!!!

The landing on the new runway was smooth and the facilities looked great.  As we taxied back next to the old spotting loop road (which still existed and I assumed there was a tunnel to get over there now) and we passed a fancy new fire station, the first time I had seen it over on this side of the airport.  We pulled into the Virgin side of the domestic terminal and I checked the tile and thankfully my bag showed in Brisbane, so that was a good start.  We deboarded through the back of the plane this time as they had quickly brought over the steps and gotten it all hooked up, unlike Qantas in Cairns when we arrived.

After making our way across the ramp, up the steps, up the ramp we were finally in Brisbane and I was home for another month.  Heidi was back in Brisbane for the first time since 2016 and we were headed to get our bags, our rental car and then home for a quick night stay.

Saturday 23rd March 2024

Woke up at a normal time this morning and because we had the morning free we took it mainly normal, going for a nice walk in the morning (watched the sun rise behind the Opera House) and then headed back to the hotel for breakfast and time to pack up our stuff.  Since we had arranged for late check out, we ended up spending some time sightseeing by going up the Sydney Tower Eye and have some Devonshire tea.

We checked out and requested a DiDi for the ride to the airport. I had a discount code that would get us there for a good price cheaper than what the two train fares would be!  The ride to the airport in the DiDi probably took as long as what the train probably would but it was slightly more comfortable.

We got dropped off at Terminal 3 (Qantas Domestic) right in front of the doors and the place was desolate!  This made it easy as we got Heidi’s bag tag printed and I got my bag sorted using the QTag and unfortunately it took Heidi’s bag tag a few goes to get picked up but it eventually worked.  Then it was time for security which was empty as well.  Sadly though, my experience today was not that great.  They were adamant I was smuggling something in my crotch and made me go off to a private room for a wanding and a pat down and a scan, which was negative of course.  *sigh*.  It was very embarrassing as they were going to make me do it without my shoes on and I told them that was not advised by my doctor (they don’t recommend I walk barefoot).  With it all sorted out, it was finally time to get my stuff and we could explore the terminal.

The place was pretty deserted and there was some flights heading out around the country, but not that many.  Still proof that even in Australia, Saturday afternoon flights are the best.  Our flight was not full at all and a good portion of the seats in the back of the plane were open, which was fine with us as we would have a good chance of keeping an open seat between us (it stayed open… yay!).

We sat around by the gate and got a sandwich to share and then just waited for our flight reading a book.  I had screwed up the time a little and in a way that wouldn’t affect us in a bad way thankfully.  What our boarding time was, I thought was departure time, so we were ready to go a little early.

Qantas Airways – QF926
Sydney to Cairns
Boeing 737-800 (VH-VZC)
Economy Class (Seat 27A)

Boarding: 1515 (Gate 8)
Push Back: 1532
Take Off Roll: 1537 (Runway 16R)
Top of Descent: 1702
Touch Down: 1723 (Runway 15)
Shut Down: 1727 (Gate 20)

Boarding was called for Business class and Heidi was wondering where the call for people with assistance was.  Well they were already onboard as that is what happens when the airline runs the assistance staff, they are all well known already and all lined up and taken care of well ahead of time.  Once the business class had been called everyone lined up on the Economy side waiting to get onboard.  I had to throw some trash away which was next to the line, so I got in line anyway. 

When boarding for Economy was called, everyone else bum rushed the other line, cutting in front of a lot of other people and it was like being cut off on the road.  Everyone made comments to themselves but never said anything and I was too far back to actually care.  Eventually I scanned my boarding pass (making sure not to scan Heidi’s which has happened before) and then it was down the jet bridge onto the aircraft.  There was no double door boarding today and it didn’t really matter as the flight was just over half full anyway.

Boarding was done within about 10-12 minutes of the process beginning and we closed up early and even left the gate early.  We had a stupid quick taxi straight to the end of 16R which was right outside our gate almost.  With no one in front of us, no waiting for any arriving aircraft, we pulled onto the active and the pilots just blasted us off.  They didn’t even have time to give a small talk until we were already on our way out of Sydney!

We climbed out pretty quickly and I did not even notice the seat belt sign coming off and it was nothing like an American domestic flight where the seat belt sign pretty much stays on the whole flight, this was off with no fanfare at all.  No one really got up at all during the flight, it was strange.  We climbed up to cruising altitude and as we climbed up there was a smell filling the cabin.  It smelt pretty good but I assumed it was drifting down from Business class.  I was wrong!

When the service trolleys started coming out one started from the back and considering there was only a few of us back here we got served pretty quickly.  They offered us mini sausage rolls with our beverage of choice.  They smelt really good, they tasted ok, but they were greasy as hell, so I gave most of mine to Heidi since she loves a good sausage roll.  The Bundaberg Ginger beer went down really well with the rolls.  Add on a bottle of water and we were kept pretty well hydrated for our flight.

The aircraft did not have seat back tv’s like the one I was on flying down to Sydney, but it had streaming entertainment and free WiFi so both of these helped while away the 2 hours and 47 minute flight.  We spent most of the flight above cloud cover, so wasn’t really sure where we were, but Flightradar24 helped with that.  When we started to descend it was still cloud cover and for most of the descent into the Cairns area the clouds were still there and then right as we turned over Yorkeys Knob and heading in on final, did the clouds break.  Not that great of a view, but it did the job.

We touched down in Cairns and had a relatively quick taxi to the gate.  They were trying to walk out the steps so that we could disembark from the back, but all I saw out the window was a Qantas staff member arguing with the Menzies staff member for about 5 or more minutes and by the time the back door was opened, everyone else was off the plane so we just went straight out the front.

We stepped off the jetbridge, walked back and forth down the ramps that Cairns is famous for and then when we stepped into the terminal, it looked WAY different to the last time I was in Cairns (2011 I think it was).  The terminal was full of all new food and shopping outlets and we came out into a small, newer looking baggage claim.  While Heidi got the bags, I got the rental car sorted with SIXT and then it was off in our 4WD (thanks to upgrades) off to Palm Cove.