Sunday, July 25, 2010


This post is a bit of a departure from the norm. On such busy weeks as this was, it’s good to be able to draw on actual travel, where the research has already been done and digital photos lie a-waiting. (All photos on this post are ScheckTrek unless otherwise noted.)

Our dilemma was where to spend the extra couple of days we had in Australia: either Sydney or Melbourne. I voted for the latter, which everyone said had a more European flavor. Besides, I’d already fallen in love with the perfect place to stay there (will have to share that one with you!). But everyone, including assorted Aussie friends, voted for Sydney. The clincher was, “Sydney has one of the most beautiful harbors in the world. If you see that and whatever else you can fit in, even in only two days, you’ll feel you’ve seen Sydney. But you cannot spend the same amount of time in Melbourne and feel that you’ve seen it.” I was outnumbered.

Al and I struck a deal, if we go to Sydney for him, we get a room with a view of the Opera House for me. So the search began which led me to the Shangri-La. It was said to have the best views of any hotel in Sydney, including the Four Seasons next door. It did not disappoint!

This is the room we booked.
(Photo from the Shangri-La website)
It is not, however, the room we stayed in. But more on that later.

In order to bring the Shangri-La down to a price I could get "Left Brain" to agree to, I found that the best deal at the time was to book their Horizon Club level, which included breakfast and, in the evenings, substantial appetizers and premium wines/liquors in the Horizon Club. Of course the price was higher than just a room alone, but it was less than the cost of eating those meals elsewhere.

Considering that this is the Horizon Club lounge, and that when one is actually in it (rather than looking down on it from overhead), the view is of the Harbor – including the bridge and Opera House – I would be quite happy to have breakfast and dinner there for two days. Thrilled, even.

However, another option for Horizon Club guests was to receive two free passes for a full breakfast in the hotel’s café (usually AUS $38 each at the time / US $68 for two).

The café breakfast included cappuccinos.

We arrived at the hotel, and it was lovely.

 There were a number of exotic flower arrangements.

It was the first time we’d ever booked the Club Level in a 5-star hotel, but I could so get used to the treatment! “Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Scheck. We have private check in for you. Would you please come with me?” She took us up the elevator to the 30th floor and introduced us to the receptionist in the Horizon Club. We were early for check-in, but the young woman told us, “Your room is ready, but I could offer you a very good price on an upgrade to one of our Premium Grand Harbor View rooms [one of their renowned #13 rooms]. Would you like to see it?” Yes! It would be one of the best views in Sydney.

First we went to the Opera View room. It was lovely, and just what I expected.

Then we went to the Premier Grand Harbor View room on the 33rd floor, #3313. It was a 645-square foot junior suite with a 270-degree view of Sydney, including the bridge, the Opera House, Luna Park, and the inlets and outlets of Sydney Harbor all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Al hadn’t seen this online, so it made quite an impact. The price they were offering was another US $60 per night (it would add a whopping $120 to the total cost of a trip to Australia). He turned to me and said, “What do you think?” He’d agreed to what I’d asked for -- the Opera House view room -- so I didn’t want to push the envelope: “It’s up to you,” I told him. He turned to the lady and said, “We’ll TAKE it!”

Here are photos of that amazing room:
(Photo from

The bathroom was spacious, with a separate tub and shower.

Within a few minutes, there was a knock at the door for a complimentary tea service.

The most special thing about the room wasn’t inside the hotel. It was definitely the view.

And we really appreciated the “Welcome to Sydney” bonus rainbow. It was a really big rainbow, and once the drops started falling a little harder, it doubled.

We could see the pot of gold down below in The Rocks, but couldn’t get to it fast enough.

The view was mesmerizing, day and night. I spent a lot of time staring out those windows and thinking, “This is what people come to Sydney to see, and we’ve got one of the best views in the whole city.”

A frequent position for me.

It was magical at night.

I liked window-gazing so much that my husband had the bright idea that I could just keep doing that instead of going on the shopping trip I’d planned, but that brainchild was left undeveloped!  I went on the shopping trip, though truth be told, it was more for photos than purchases.

For some positive reinforcement while shopping, I chose to have tea for one at The Tea Room in the Queen Victoria Building.  (Al spent the day in the Blue Mountains with a friend.)

One of my favorite shots. I took the picture so I wouldn’t have to buy the dress.

The shopping trip involved extraneous city-streets sightseeing.
This was another of my favorite shots. Everyone says I should lop off the left part, but it is the juxtaposition of the very busy and the very calm that I think is part of the reason I like it.

And of course there was Darling Harbor to see, this shot looking from there to the 1000-foot-plus Sydney Tower.

Seen from The Rocks, the Shangri-La is the tall building on the right. The Four Seasons is the angled building on the far left.

(Photo from Shangri-La hotel website)

It wouldn’t be right to leave Australia without seeing some kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, and such. We did witness kangaroos in the wild in Bright, Victoria, but the animals below were at Sydney Wildlife World. In several cases I was very thankful for the glass barrier.

The loveable favorites

A kangaroo

Wallaby on the right (it looks like a smaller version of a kangaroo). Wombat on the left.

The venomous Gila monster. An Arizona Dr. Ward has been quoted as saying in 1899, “I think a man who is fool enough to get bitten by a Gila monster ought to die. The creature is so sluggish and slow of movement that the victim of its bite is compelled to help largely in order to get bitten.”

This guy is clearly plotting his escape!

It was our final morning, and everyone had told us we had to take the ferry to Manly Beach, which was very enjoyable and provided additional views of the city while leaving the harbor.

Our next ship was an airborne one. We flew the A380 on its maiden voyage from Sydney to Los Angeles, October 24, 2008.
And, so ended an exciting excursion to Oz!

No comments:

Post a Comment