Trip Start Jan 07, 2011
Trip End Jan 31, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Saturday, January 8, 2011

Well the trip is now officially underway as I've left Perth, have already been on two flights and am enjoying the free food and booze at a Qantas International Business lounge as I type this entry.

Last night's "preparations" consisted of me seeing the rather alternative film Life During Wartime with a few friends at the Perth Festival Films Somerville Auditorium, outdoor at UWA. The film was certainly weird, but still funny and filled the time between work and departure for the airport well. However, seeing a movie meant that my phone was switched off so when I arrived at the airport I was a bit surprised to see that my first flight had been delayed by 90 minutes and that I had missed calls from Qantas, who were trying to sort out my new arrangements. I had to go to a manned counter in the domestic terminal to check in for a change since I was trying to get my checked luggage sent the whole way through to Tokyo without me having to collect it in Sydney. My Perth to Sydney ticket was booked independent of my Sydney to Japan, Europe and back to Perth ticket so my flights weren't connecting or linked in the system, despite me having called Qantas a week earlier to link the bookings.

Luckily I was served by a fantastic (so much so that I submitted an online commendation to Qanttas) agent, Susan, who explained what had happened and ran through the processes that she was undertaking in order to adjust my itinerary to factor for the delay, as well as explaining the policies restricting her ability to check my luggage all the way through. Thankfully a few phone calls on Susan's part granted me my request and soon my bag was tagged and bound for Tokyo, rather than Sydney. Note that I'm not yet in Tokyo so I'm unable to confirm whether my bag actually made it or is lost somewhere in the bowels of Sydney Airport at this time.

Belinda was kind enough to give me a lift to the airport after the movie and when I was farewelling her I realised that I had left my camera at home. She very kindly offered to go and fetch it, which took just as long as it took for my itinerary and checked luggage to be sorted.  Belinda really saved the day on this one so if you see any videos or photos later on, think of Belinda's mercy drive to grab the camera.

Apparently my flight was delayed 90 minutes due to a technical issue with the plane scheduled to operate the service so the plane was changed and this caused the delay. As it turned out the replacement plane was the only other in the fleet with the same seating configuration and amenities, which happens to also be Qantas' newest, an A330-200 delivered only in December 2010 and named Ningaloo Reef. My original connecting flight from Melbourne to Sydney was scheduled to depart around an hour after arrival but since we were due in later than that my booking was changed to put me on a later connection. Although it's only a short flight I was happy with the change as it moved me from an old 737-400 to an also old 767-300. The upshot came from the fact that I was travelling in Business (there was a good deal using frequent flyer points so it made sense, especially considering the high price of economy travel at this time of year) and the 767s have discreet Business class sections with specific seats, whereas the older 737s have seats that can be converted to be sold as Business or Economy to suit demand, making them probably the worst value Business flights in the country.

The flight to Melbourne was fantastic. The new plane was a pleasure to be aboard, the staff were great and I appreciated always being addressed by name. It would be odd if it happened all the time, but it doesn't, making it special. "Mr Pacy, will you be joining us for supper?" was how I was asked what I wanted to do for dinner onboard the plane. Then there's extra space and recline, the better food, the real glasses and cutlery, tablecloths and linen napkins and amenity kits. Overall the experience exceeded my expectations and I'm wary of proving everyone's predictions (that I would never be able to face going back to Economy) to be true, but I could really get used to the experience, especially the most surprising element - disposable face clothes to dry one's hands in the toilet rather than paper towel.

A short break was had between flights at the Melbourne Qantas Club before I had to board the flight to Sydney, which was pretty similar to the flight from Perth, except that the plane was tired, old, creaky and the seats were less comfortable. This flight seemed to fill the Business cabin with off duty hosties and pilots so I recieved some special attention as I was one of the few fare paying passengers.

Without the burden of bag collection and being at the front of the plane I was able to be on the train heading into Central only 12 minutes after we landed. I managed a quick change at Central to make the next train to Bondi Junction, where I managed to track down the Medicare office. Bondi is convenient in that many services seem to open there on Saturday mornings, when they do not open their many CBD branches. I had some rebates to claim and a need to get a new Medicare card for me alone so having some spare time when an office was actually open was a plus. The biggest negative was that they only pay the rebates in person with cash. The last thing I want the day I go overseas is hundreds of dollars in Australian currency. This process didn't take long and therefore it wasn't long before I was on the train to Martin Place.

Although I knew it was a long shot I was hoping to find an ANZ branch that was open on a Saturday (they exist in Melbourne) so that I could deposit my Medicare cash into my account but this came to nothing. If I had a deposit envelope I would've been able to make the deposit at an ATM but, as you may expect, I don't normally carry these with me.

I pressed on and walked across town to Darling Harbour. The time was slowly approaching noon and therefore I had a need to get to the IMAX theatre. I had prebooked my ticket for TRON: Legacy online so after collecting it from the box office I had a short wait with the others wishing to see the same session in the foyer before the late-running previous session was finished. I noted that the make-up of this crowd was distinctly different to normal. It was a mix of older men, who were from the era of the original movie, younger geeky guys and families with young children. There was also a noticeably larger proportion of people seeing the movie on their own, like myself.

For anther time in this entry my expectations were exceeded. Yes, I've seen the movie 3 times previously, in a variety of different cinemas, but IMAX Sydney's great set-up took the movie to another level. I could fully appreciate the grandeur of the almost full aspect ratio IMAX vertically expanded scenes and be immersed in the fantastic picture and sound quality. The sound in particular was better than any other viewing - I picked up more side comments and quips than ever before. I came out of the experience thoroughly satisfied and wanting to purchase tickets to the next session at 6pm. If only it wasn't at a time that could jeopardise my ability to take my next flight!

Although I had not eaten since breakfast on the flight from Melbourne and had the entire afternoon ahead of me I knew that the Qantas Club would be my fate later in the day and thus made a decision to not procure any food. Instead, I started walking, exploring unfamiliar areas of Sydney. From Darling Harbour I proceeded north, walking the entire length of the Barangaroo wharves, which will soon be redeveloped, into The Rocks, under the Harbour Bridge, around into Circular Quay before making my way up into the Botanic Gardens and finding a shaded bench on which to have a rest. What began as a simple sit-down devolved into a series of slumped-over power naps as I struggled against my growing tiredness.

After about half an hour of dozing on and off I mustered up the will to keep going, initially with a plan of making it to the Art Gallery of NSW (also within the gardens), but this quickly fell by the wayside as I got caught up in the commotion of the Sydney Festival openning night celebrations. Many roads were closed and people were out en masse to get ready to enjoy what looks like would be a long and diverse night. The main area for the festivities was between Martin Place and the middle of Hyde Park, which I walked through before eventually boarding a train at Museum.

I was tired but the prospect of the Qantas lounge and particularly its showers and free food and drink kept me motivated as I went through Customs and security. I didn't need to check-in and was soon enjoying the lounge amenities. The Business lounge isn't bad but the view isn't great and the staff are a bit slack, catering for the peak guest times with little regard to when there are not many flights departing. This pretty much brings me to typing this entry, which I must finish as the flight to Tokyo is about to start boarding.
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