New Year’s Day and Beyond

In the subway visibly tired from our raucous night before.

In the subway visibly tired from our raucous night before.

On New Year’s Day, we gave ourselves the liberty to sleep in, take it easy and get out the door late.  We met Josh at Bondi Beach and by the time we met up around 3 p.m., we were all pretty hungry.  We found a place that had pretty good reviews on TripAdvisor so we took it!  Fishmongers had 4.5 stars and the reviews were all really good with a really high rank among the restaurants.  We got the platter for all to share.  We also got a plate of oysters.  The food looked delicious and our appetites matched.

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The Family Box!

Lindy, in our new adventure, decided that she will be adventurous and try new foods.  She’s not much of a seafood eater, so what better way to ease her into seafood than with a plate of fresh oysters!  Perfect!  This is how it went:

It didn’t go so well.

It turns out the oysters weren’t the freshest.  Josh and I still ate them but they were STRONG.  The Family Box of fun was a bit heavy-handed and I can still feel my nausea that I had after that meal.  As of today, October 26, 2015, I checked the reviews of the restaurant again and sure enough, Fishmongers dropped considerably in its rank and it only has four stars now.  Boooo for Fishmongers!

After that we walked to Bondi Beach and walked over to Tamarama Beach – the perfect detox!  The walk overlooks all of Bondi with amazing views of the coastline.  By the way, the crowds were insane on New Year’s Day.

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The waves would crash and spill over into the swimming pool. The stupidest and coolest placement of a swimming pool ever.

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The view looking south away from Bondi Beach toward Tamarama Beach.

After we walked to Tamarama Beach, we parted ways with Josh and wanted to catch the bus home.  We started walking back to Bondi Beach via the city streets and came to the closest bus stop.  The bus was only coming every 20 minutes or so and it took us several buses completely packed with passengers to realize that the bus is getting full before it even reaches us.  We were not going to get on anytime soon.  So we ended up walking all the way back to Bondi Beach just to get on the bus that would pass by the stop we were waiting at.

We waited an hour and a half total for the bus.  #firstworldproblems  Sometimes I can be a jerk.  I laughed at the people still waiting.  The guy in the video called me out on it.  I tried to make myself feel better and excused it.  Not cool younger me.

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Later that evening, we were looking for another place to eat.  Bondi Harvest came highly recommended by my friend Janet, who is an amazing food blogger/chef.  Check out her food blog, Simply So Good, and try a dish or two.  You won’t be disappointed.  We came, we went, it was closed.  

The next day we hit up Sydney’s own Taronga Zoo.  It was on the opposite side of the Harbour of the Opera House and Bridge, which put the CBD as a perfect backdrop to the zoo.  It had a pretty cool location.  Like everything else, the crowds were insane.  There was a line to get tickets, then another line to get in.  IMG_0700

Eva was a champ all day and had fun spending over an hour going back and forth running around in a kid’s play area.  She loved the dinosaur section.  Did I ever mention she loves dinosaurs???  SHE LOVES DINOSAURS!!!

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Can I just say I love Aussie animals???  They are pretty darn cute and furry and small.  All the animals here are just screaming to take them home and cuddle.

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After the zoo,Josh was kind enough to take Eva to our AirBnb and babysit for the evening. So Lindy and I had the night out!  We took the ferry across the Harbour and found dinner at Jamie’s Italian, which is Jamie Oliver’s restaurant.  It was hard to find but fantastic once we got there.

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Lindy in the streets of Sydney while we were trying to find Jamie’s Italian.

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Artisian bread with balsamic vinegar and dipping oil.

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The open-concept kitchen was great to watch.

After dinner we walked around the CBD and came across a tent that was set up as a memorial for the two victims of an hostage crisis in Sydney just a couple weeks earlier.  I remember hearing anti-Muslim sentiment was heavily countered with the #illridewithyou movement in which people proclaimed their support for Australian Muslims who may feel in danger because of backlash from the hostage.  Pretty cool, pretty classy.

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Rest in peace Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson

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After walking around downtown, we headed to the Cirque du Soleil show “Totem”.  It was fantastic!  I had never been to a Cirque show but it definitely exceeds the hype I’ve heard over the years.  It was really moving at the final act of the show when all the different cultural dancers came on stage and danced together in one dramatic finale.

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The only pic I could sneak in from the Cirque du Soleil show.

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New Year’s in Oz!

I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy, so when this year started out, I thought I’d be all over blogging our adventures and keeping this blog updated very regularly.  It turns out that wasn’t the case and after two blog posts, it died quickly.  Fast forward ten months, I’m back in!  And now I have an urge to catch up from where I left off, all the way back to Sydney.  Here goes!

I’ve always heard that New Year’s celebration in Sydney is pretty spectacular.  Fireworks from the Harbour Bridge against a backdrop of the Sydney Opera House in perfect summer weather…that was exactly what it was.

We woke up at around 6:30 a.m. to get ready and take the 30 minute bus into Sydney.  Josh had already arrived at the Sydney Botanical Gardens where we arranged to meet.  For me it was frustrating to get there as there’s a long row of apartment and commercial buildings separating the Botanical Gardens from Circular Quay and there was security at every corner making sure no one was cutting through the buildings.  We walked all the way to the Opera House but couldn’t get over so we had to walk all the way back to the road and then over.  That’s my sob story of the day.

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Big arrow – that’s where we were. Buildings underneath the big arrow…that’s what frustratingly separated us from getting to the Gardens.

We finally got to Josh and found he claimed a good sized part of the grass for us.  The big downside to the day was that area we were in was fenced off, had security and we couldn’t leave…all day.  They had toilets for us and food stands but it seemed off-putting that there was such a restriction.  We arrived around 10 a.m. which meant a long day in the sun to burn away the time and ring in the new year.

The surroundings were amazing and the novelty of the day was enough for me to not be bothered at all, besides, how on earth could I complain about celebrating the New Year in Sydney, Australia?!

We would take turns throughout the day sitting in the shade in a different area of the prison, er, umm, gardens.  As the evening progressed we finally got some shade where we were from behind the big apartment buildings which was a welcome relief from the sun.  Remember what I said about the sun here in Oz?  It’s brutal.

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Throughout the day, there were stunt planes doing tricks over the Harbour.  It was pretty spectacular.  We could hear thousands of people cheering the planes from all over the harbour.  By the time I got this clip of them, I think the amazement had worn off and people were bored.  Are they not entertained???

The fireworks went off several times.  The first time was at 9:00 p.m.  The word on the street was that it was for the little kids but by this time, Eva had already collapsed into a neck-bending head in her stroller (or pram in Aussie speak).

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This was the 9 p.m. kids show that Eva was asleep for.

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Firework cascades. My favourite!

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Holy Mary Mother of

    

My favourite fireworks was when they had cascading sparkles falling from the Harbour Bridge.  Further on in the evening, there was this lit-up old-fashioned ship that made its way through the Harbour.  Neat!

Throughout the day, we’d find people encroaching on our space which was really annoying.  Most of the people around us weren’t bothered enough to call them out on it and to make them move.  There was this one couple in particular that came in our area and was being super friendly to us but we were really annoyed that we spent all day there just to have people invade our space.  We asked them to leave.  Mean?  Maybe.  Josh was the most defensive though.  It was uncomfortably amusing to see him ask people around to leave.

In the end, it unfortunately didn’t matter much.  I fell asleep and woke up around 11:45 p.m. with a massive throng of people moving in on our stuff.  The crowd was moving forward.  We had to quickly gather our things and move with the crowd.  There was some scary moments when Lindy and I were getting separated through the crowd and it was extra hard to maneuver through because we had Eva asleep in the stroller.  In the end we ended up getting closer to the front but it was along with the hundred of people who waited all day behind us.

The countdown finally happened and the fireworks show that followed was nothing short of spectacular.  Fireworks were coming from the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and several other points around the Harbour and it lasted for quite some time.  The only other time I’ve seen a fireworks show as amazing was the closing ceremonies of the Salt Lake City Olympics.  Yeah, I was there…in the stadium…it was amazing.

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Yam Bros

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Eva’s a party animal.

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Keep it weird.

The walk home was an adventure.  Just imagine tens of thousands of people leaving downtown Sydney (or the CBD as they call it here, which stands for Central Business District).  It was a zoo.  Fortunately busses ran extra late and we finally got home between 1:30 and 2:00 a.m.  Fun times!  Happy 2015 ten months late!!!

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The only thing good was the Vanilla Bean ice cream.

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We were taxiing in after landing in Sydney and I saw this behemoth for the second time: An Airbus A380.

We left Honolulu at 8:45 a.m. on December 26 and arrived in Sydney at 3:30 p.m. on December 27.  The flight was 10 hours long, which means we lost 21 hours.  Lindy said we’re pretty much in the future since everyone we know is a day behind us.  It’ll take us some time getting our heads around the time difference.

Customs in the airport was an unusual experience.  I assumed we needed to fill out only one customs declaration form per household, just like coming into Canada and the US, but we found just before coming into the customs area that each person needed one filled out, even Eva.  So Lindy took on the task of filling them out, as well as an Ebola Virus questionnaire.  While she did that, Eva and I hung out in an empty wing of the airport.

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She pretty much smiles like this 99% of the time.

Lindy and I were stressed out because the Australian High Commission, where we received our Visas, only sent me an email copy of our Visas.  We were worried that customs would demand a certified original.  When we got to customs the only question that was asked was what sort of commercial goods am I bringing into the country: my piano tuning kit.  THAT’S IT!  And that was just from an agent keeping the line flowing.  The agents that looked at our passports and stamped us through didn’t even ask us questions.  NO ONE LOOKED AT OUR VISAS!  It was shockingly the easiest entry into a country I’ve ever experienced.  Did I even need a Visa?

I later found out that it’s electronically attached to our passports.  They saw it, but we didn’t.

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THIS IS COMPLETELY LEGAL!!!

After we gathered all our luggage and hauled them out to the taxi area on two carts, we got into a minivan taxi.  The driver asked how old Eva was, two, and said only children one year old and younger needs a child car seat.  It was cool, humorous, and disconcerting having Eva sit in a regular seat in a car for the first time.

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The actual total for the taxi was more than $120. Do you know how you can increase your blood pressure in one easy step? Ride a taxi and watch the fare counter go up.

We stayed at a lovely studio apartment in Castlecrag, one of the suburbs north of Syndey and crashed for the rest of the day.  The next day on Sunday, December 28, we hit up Church at 10:00 a.m. just outside of Hyde Park in downtown Sydney.  It was the closest ward and it happened to be YSA ward.  Eva made plenty of friends there.

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Eva always worships in style.

We met up with Josh at about 11:45 a.m at Circular Quay.  He had flown in at 6:00 a.m. and I had forgotten that we were to meet him at the Opera House at 10:00 a.m.  Sorry Josh.

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Flying in at 6:00 a.m. and then waiting almost 2 hours for your brother will do this to you.

It was a beautiful day with a nice bit of cloud cover.  A perfect day to stroll around the Opera House and get some pictures.  Josh took some amazing pictures of us and our family.

On the steps of the Opera House facing downtown Sydney

On the grounds of the Opera House

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We stumbled upon this street art walking around downtown.

One of the first to-do items that Lindy and I needed to get done was get a cell phone.  We unlocked her phone in Canada so we could use it in Australia and we heard from Julia, our exchange teacher partner, that Telstra is the best.  So we went to a Telstra store in downtown Sydney.  Josh watched Eva while Lindy and I worked out the nitty gritty details with one of their sales reps.

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Josh and Eva in the Telstra store.

Can I just rant about how much Canadian cell phone companies suck?  We got a plan in Australia where we get 2.5 gigs of data and roughly 700 minutes of minutes all for $55 a month.  There’s no long distance in Australia, just like the USA, but not in Canada.  If I wanted to call a city that was one hour away in Canada, I pay long distance fees.  I tried to find the equivalent to our plan in Canada and it’s somewhere around $80+ a month.  I get it that it’s more expensive to connect all the people in the second largest country in the world, but hey, Australia is pretty similar in density per square mile and their phone plans are CHEAP.  I guess I can’t complain; I get free health care and a $100 cheque each month just for having a child.  Go Canada! Eh.  Oh, did I mention we get 27.5 gigs of data on our phone as a signing bonus with Telstra??  Lindy was always reminding me to make sure I’m going to stay within the data limit this month.

Fun Fact! Canada has the highest cell phone rates out of all the developed countries!

After we went to Telstra and the Apple Store, we walked around downtown and came upon the Strand Arcade, a high end shopping centre.  It was luscious.

The Strand Arcade = $$$$$$

The Strand Arcade = $$$$$$

We all came back to our place in Castlegar and did some grocery shopping for the week.  I was pretty bummed when I saw some of the prices in the grocery store.

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The next day we went out to Bondi Beach.  It took us almost two hours by bus to get there.  Sorry Josh – again.  Boy was it crowded!  We plopped ourselves down and enjoyed the rest of the day at Bondi.  Little did we know that the Australian sun is INTENSE.  Julia had warned us that the Aussie sun is more intense because of the hole in the Ozone.  We didn’t realize just how much more until after our time at the beach.  The sun rays here just have an extra bite.  It’s more radiant, it hurts more, it’s hotter.  Lindy and Josh got the sun really bad and fortunately Eva was okay.  I was fine as well.  We ditched the spray-on sunscreen (we figured that was also part of the problem) and bought a new bottle of sun block in lotion form.

Quick Australian lesson: It’s “Bon-dye Beach”, not “Bondee Beach”.  Who knew???

WEAR SUNSCREEN

WEAR SUNSCREEN

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Selfie at the theatre

After Bondi Beach, we all headed out to the Entertainment Quarter and cooled off by watching Big Hero 6 in the theatre.  It was Eva’s first time in a theatre.  She loved it!  It was so much fun watching her enjoy the movie.

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Eva with her must-have backpack. Lindy with her sun-burned arms 

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With the Opera House

The next day we headed back out to downtown Sydney and walked the Harbour Bridge.  It was hot.  Did I mention the Australian sun is intense???  It was a scorcher.

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On the Harbour Bridge

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The Opera House from the Harbour Bridge

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Josh underneath one of the archways on the Bridge.

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The Special

So after walking the bridge we roamed around downtown and hunger set in.  We went to this cafeteria that looked like it mainly catered to business professionals in the area.  It wasn’t easily seen from the street but it was incredibly nice.  I got steak frites for only $13.  It was amazing.

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Eva playing catch me

We made our way to Hyde Park and the Archibald Fountain.  We all took turns taking naps, walking the grounds and watching Eva.  The walkways were beautifully covered by tall leafy trees.  The trees themselves were enormous and it smelled like eucalyptus.  In fact it seemed like everything smelled like eucalyptus since we got to Australia.

Helllooooo Sydney!

We’re off!

I’ve got a bunch of catch-up to do and seeing that I want to make this blog more like our family journal for all to see, I want to make this as thorough as possible.  ***Warning*** This first post is a long one.

I’ll get into the nitty gritty details as to why we’re on our Australian adventures later and the craziness leading up to the official beginning of our adventure, but for now let’s start on December 23, 2014.  After a long day (and much more) trying to play catch up on all the millions of things I had to do, I finally started packing at about 12:30 a.m.  Yeah, I know.  I started packing for an entire year and had about four hours to do it.  Lindy was a miracle worker in that she had started gathering much of my stuff several weeks before and so it was mostly organizing and gathering all the things that were already assembled.  KT (or Katie Kyle, but is really KT) was amazing as well and helped us pack all through the night.

Making her way with half our ish.

Doesn’t matter that we didn’t get any sleep. It was exciting regardless.

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Gennie, KT, Lindy and #babyyam at YYC

4:00 a.m. came along and that was our deadline to pack the van and head out to Calgary.  We loaded up, picked up Gennie (formally known as Genevieve Kyle, but who says that?) and Eva (also known as #babyyam – the hashtag matters) at Grandma’s house on the westside (Westside of Lethbridge is the mostly friendly other side of town).  We loaded up the van and the valuables and headed out.  I zonked out right away and woke up moments before arriving outside the Calgary Airport.  Gennie did the 2.5 hour drive in 2 hours going 140 kmh most of the way.  Good job Gennie!

It was a very bittersweet goodbye.  Gennie and KT have been and continue to be extraordinary sisters/sister-in-laws.  They’ve literally come to the rescue to Lindy and I as things have come down to the wire.  Details will be forthcoming, just know that these ladies are amazing and I’m completely in their debt for helping us with this big move to Australia.

After I had just packed everything, I forgot about my suit.  KT and Lindy insisted that I wear the suit.

After I had just packed everything, I forgot about my suit. KT and Lindy insisted that I wear the suit.

After getting through customs, we had a lot of time to hang out in the terminal, so Eva and I did a little skateboarding.

Eva cruising through YYC

Eva on a Skateboard

Returning the favor to dad!

Eva pushing daddy

We were lucky to have the Dartons and David Eff come pick us up and hang out during our four hour layover in LA.  We went for some cheap but excellent Mexican food. By the way, Ryan and David Eff are both talented musicians.  Check out Ryan and  David Eff.

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LA Reunion

We’re really lucky that Eva’s a really good traveler.  She’s been on the road ever since she was 6 weeks old.  I do have to admit it’s becoming more challenging as she’s getting older, but all in all she’s still a winner.

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We made our way to Honolulu and landed at about 8:30 p.m.

PRO TIP: If you ever fly to Sydney from Calgary, chances are it’s cheaper to buy two separate tickets, one to Honolulu, Hawaii and a separate one to Sydney.  We saved about $500 per person doing so.

We stayed in Hawaii from Dec. 23 to Dec. 26.  Lindy and I stayed in Oahu four years ago for our Honeymoon over Christmas so it was nice to be back again with #babyyam.

I was super excited about our accommodations in Hawaii.  I’m a huge user and fan of AirBnb.  I’ll post about it more in the future.  Once we booked our flights, I looked for something fun in Oahu and came upon this.  After coaxing Lindy a little, she gave the go ahead and we booked it!  It was amazing!  The owner, Brent, thought of everything when he put this together.

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Our first night on the shores of Kailua Beach Park.

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The kitchen all tucked away in the van. Seriously, everything about this van was beautiful.

Our first night was on Kailua Beach Park, right on the beach!  I was surprised and relieved no one kicked us out.

Breakfast was great!  Scrambled eggs with cooked tomatoes, bread and fresh pineapple!  Eva loved it!

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Tomatoes and Pineapples for the Yamamotoes.

We spent the 24th on the beach and stayed on Kailua until about noon.  We spent the day doing some errands, sending out a package that we accidentally packed with us, buying an extra duffle bag because we could hardly fit all our luggage into our bags and getting some small Christmas goodies along with groceries for a nice Christmas Eve dinner.

Our van had some guidebooks in it and I found a secluded beach called Hidden Beach on the northwest side that we went to, or at least tried to go to.  They put in a gate that closed off access on December 1st.  We missed it by only a few weeks.

So we stayed at a big parking lot just outside of it and Lindy and I cooked up a nice dinner using the van’s kitchen and Hibachi grill.  Teriyaki steak, fried vegetables, salad and rice.  It was fantastic.

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The cook at work!

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The hibachi grill. I want one.


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Christmas Eve dinner.

We parked at night so we had no idea what the view was in the morning.  The stars were amazing and needless to say, our morning view was perfect as well.

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https://www.flickr.com/apps/video/stewart.swf

We celebrated a little Christmas on the beach.  Eva got a sand shovel, Lindy got a bag of wafers, and I got a Jesus candle.  It was a good Christmas. No seriously, it was an awesome Christmas.  #soblessed

After that, we headed back to Kailua and spent the day on the beach.  Our van came stocked with a surf board.  I went out to the surf break and caught a wave, lost the surf board because there was no leash and couple other surfers had to help me.  Only then did I realized it was a bad idea.  Oh well, I have this awesome pic to show how cool I am.

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We had dinner at a Thai restaurant.  The food was okay and the service was humorously awful.  The waitstaff had an extremely short term memory – like our waiter needed to be reminded three times that Eva needed a booster seat and each time it was new information to him.  That night we drove to a parking lot on the east side so we could have a shorter drive to the airport to be there at 5:30 a.m.

Cops woke us up with bright lights shining on us at 4:30 a.m. and said we couldn’t sleep on public property.  Nice to know.  We got to the airport bright and early.

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Eva, along with Lindy and I were thrilled about the early morning wake up and 10 hour flight to Sydney.  We were happy campers the entire time!