Thursday, May 01, 2008

What I Did On My Australian Vacation: Day One

OK, I know multiple people have told me they're looking forward to hearing all about the Australia trip, and I'm finally starting to get a bit caught up with my life after getting back from said trip, so I might as well actually start talking about it. It was a very full two weeks, and I kind of like the idea of blogging about it in detail, so I think I'm going to offer up a day-by-day report here, as I find the time. Which probably means it'll take longer for me to blog about than it took to live, but hopefully it'll be sufficiently interesting. (And, hey, if it's not, you can always skip the travel reports and just read the Doctor Who posts.)

So, here we go, the first entry in the retrospective Aussie travelog!

Day One:

Well, this would really be something like "Day One-and-a-Half" or maybe "Days One, Two, and Three"; it's hard to know exactly what to call it, what with all the weird, disrupted sleeping patterns and the crossing of a zillion time zones and all. Day One will do, and it's probably the least interesting part of the trip, because most of it was spent on planes.

I've already bitched about the long plane trips here before, and I won't do that rant again. I will say that at least the flight out was better than the flight back, despite being longer, because a) I was fresh, headed for adventure and rarin' to go, and b) It was a late flight and I actually managed to get some sleep, once someone lent me a neck pillow. That turned out to be an absolute necessity, as there is no comfortable position in an airplane seat. You keep thinking that perhaps if you just turned your head or your body or rearranged your arms just a little, that might make it endurable and you might be able to finally get some sleep, but this always turns out to be an illusion. Like I said, it is the transport to Hell. (And I'm not even going to get into how a certain member of my family refused the ticket agent's offer to move her to a window seat because then she'd be away from the group, and then insisted that I trade my window seat for her middle one because if she didn't have a window she'd get motion sick... and then spent the entire flight staring at the television screen, anyway. Ahem.)

Anyway, we landed in Melbourne at something like 6AM and took forever to clear customs and get our bags and stuff, which turned out to be not really a bad thing, because by the time we got to the hotel, our room was ready and we were allowed to check in early and take badly, badly, badly needed showers and naps. (I have been grungier than I was after that plane flight, but only once, at the tail end of a five-day backpacking trip.)

Speaking of hotels, this tour package thing was expensive as hell, but I have to say that they gave us our money's worth, as the hotels they had us booked in were nice. Especially by my standards, because I'm generally a serious tightwad when it comes to hotels, and I tend to consider anyplace where they provide shampoo as upscale. Here's a picture of the room we had later, in Cairns, by way of illustration:

After the napping and showering, we met for a drink with our tour director, Linda, who was great. I admit to having some doubts about how happy I was going to be with the whole package tour thing -- more about that when I get to Day Two, probably -- but my feeling now is that how well this sort of thing works must depend a lot on the tour director: how helpful they are, how on the ball they are, how well they connect with people... And this woman was great. Fun, friendly, helpful... She arranged for smoking rooms for my mother after her travel agent failed to put the request through, located my friend's wallet for her when she accidentally left it in an airport, and a whole host of other things. It was kind of like being a little kid again and having a parent to take care of you, but a parent whose only concern is to make sure that you have fun, rather than bugging you to eat your vegetables. Which is something that might wear thin after a while, but as a two-week vacation from reality, especially one coming hard on the heels of a period where I was feeling overwhelmed by adult responsibilities, it was marvelous. And my friend, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and walks with a cane, was particularly grateful to her. Because she gets around OK, for the most part, but sometimes needs a little extra assistance and time. Apparently it's sadly rare for her to encounter someone who is able to help make things easier for her in a situation like this without being patronizing or discouraging her from doing things she's actually capable of doing. And Linda was a star on both fronts.

After the meeting and the drinking and the discussing of the itinerary, we went to bed very, very early. In fact, this was a case in which jet lag worked in our favor. Neither my roomie-for-the-duration nor I are normally anything remotely like morning people, but we were easily waking up at disgustingly early hours the entire time. And, wow, being a morning person is nice when you're traveling. I had no idea! Usually on vacation trips, either people are dragging my sorry ass out of bed in the morning and I'm stumbling around being blearily miserable for hours or else all the interesting attractions are closed before I've had enough time awake to see everything I'd like. This realization, of course, only makes me resent morning people all the more, but it was good to find myself among their ranks just this once, anyway.

And that was Day One! Not very interesting yet, I know. But stay tuned. Eventually there will be koalas.


  1. Thanks for the interesting report. I hadn't realised till now that you had at least one other family member travelling with you.

    You are obviously a trendsetter, since earlier today I read in Neil Gaiman's blog that he's visiting Melbourne.

    Unfortunately your picture link seems to be broken.

  2. Ah, yeah, I forgot to specify exactly who I went with, didn't I? It was me, my mother, my aunt, my aunt's friend, and my friend.

    Neil Gaiman takes all his cues from me! :)

    The picture is showing up fine for me... Try reloading, maybe? Sometimes Blogger randomly glitches on the images, I think.

  3. The picture is OK now. For a hotel room, that looks enormous!

  4. Eventually there will be koalas.
    Sounds like a good title for a Doctor Who episode.

  5. John: That one was the best of the hotel rooms, really. It was huge! But they were all really nice. (Well, the one in Sydney didn't quite live up to the standard of the others, but it made up for it in location.)

    Captain C: I think that would be something like "Invasion of the Koalas." And I think there should be a Who episode set in Australia! It's ridiculous that the Doctor's never been there. Never mind the location costs! :)

  6. It's been over twenty years, but I remember the hotels we stayed at as very nice, too, though I only remember two by name.
    Did you use taxicabs, by chance? We were terrified of traffic in Melbourne and Sydney, but somehow our drivers never quite hit the vehicles they aimed for so speedily.
    The trip to Australia was so exciting - it was my first flight, and I spent a good portion of the plane ride taking pictures of clouds. *g*

  7. We didn't use any taxicabs, but got around in buses or on foot. (And, in Sydney, on the monorail. Oooh, futuristic!) The Sydney traffic was pretty intimidating; I was fairly impressed with the bus driver's ability to negotiate it.

    I wish I could still get that excited about plane flights. It would make traveling so much more enjoyable. :)