Moving day! We packed up early and spent the morning cleaning the last minute details: mopping the floor, vacuuming, washing the sinks. I had remembered a few things I hadn't told the renters so I actually went around filming short videos I can send them later. I'm crazy like that. Friends stopped by to say goodbye. I melted to tears when I saw this, knowing it would be the last time for these two for quite a while.
Karly snapped a picture of me saying goodbye to my window well for a year. It really is my favorite spot and I will miss it.
Left the house about 1pm Utah time. Arrived and checked in and none of our bags were overweight. Woo hoo! We were able to drive our own car up to the airport with my brother bringing the luggage in his truck. Then my sister-in-law drove the van back to our friends who will sell it for us. That worked out so well.
We moved our flight out of Salt Lake up so we could have more time in LA to make the connecting flight to Sydney. We only had 40 minutes originally and felt it was risky to switch terminals in such a short time. Turned out we only were one gate over from our arrival gate, so it would have been fine. We had about 3+ hours in LAX. I had some thank you notes I wanted to mail and wrote them during the layover. Tried to find a post box with no luck. So I had to stand near the security exit and beg a stranger to take them to the outside and mail them for me. I felt like a panhandler because so many people wouldn't even look me in the eye worried they'd get asked for their loose change. One kind woman was willing to listen to me and realized it was no big deal at all. We'll see if they make it to their recipients.
Henry loved the plane flights. He is all about every kind of moving vehicle and truck. But I wasn't sure how he'd respond to the sensation of actually being on a plane moving so fast and lifting off the ground. He seemed to be an old pro. During the landing when his ears started to feel the pressure he just grimaced and said, "my ears feel weird." As soon as we landed in LA he shouted, "We did it!" and asked if we could do it again. "Go up high!" He entertained himself quite happily in the terminal and made some friends.
We boarded the flight to Sydney late because of some mechanical issues. Then we didn't leave until over an hour late because they were waiting on some people with connecting flights. (Why don't flights ever wait for ME?) Each seat on the plane had pillows, blankets, eyeshades, earplugs, and a TV screen with free movies, music, and games. Henry had fun with a game and watched Sesame Street and Happy Feet. Everyone else was happy with a movie but I knew Henry would never let me pay attention to a movie for the entire time. And if he slept I tried to sleep. At some point when I couldn't fall asleep (I also didn't feel I could take the ZZZQuil because I didn't want to be so zonked that I didn't hear Henry if he needed something) I watched a couple of TEDTalks. I'll share more about one of them on another post.
The flight was long but not unbearable. Henry only got sick of it in the last hour. My ankles actually got swollen. I looked like I was pregnant. I tried to walk around occasionally. It didn't really make a difference.
Maximum speed I noticed during the trip was 578mph!
Here are our first views of Aussie land. It looks like a movie!
So we arrived in Sydney late. We only had 40 minutes to make our connecting flight to Melbourne. We thought this would be fine until we realized we had to go through customs here and not at our final destination. That was a big hassle because we had to retrieve ALL of our checked bags from baggage claim, and then cart them through customs. Allen and I were frantically filling out the customs forms as we were landing, which is probably the real reason why Henry was less happy because I couldn't pay attention to his needs. They also didn't bring the stroller I had gate-checked to the gate, so I had to carry Henry along with some carry-on luggage that doesn't roll. I wasn't so happy about that.
The flight attendants seemed unaware of what the procedure for customs was. They felt there was a minor process we had to go through here and then a more stringent one in Melbourne. Still I was nervous about it because I had several items I was unsure about. And they were in multiple pieces of luggage. I had spices I had mixed myself, spices I had dehydrated myself, some peppers I had dehydrated myself, peanut butter, and trail mix (with nuts and dried fruit). Everyone was telling me they would reject everything. I was pretty sure they were going to reject all but the peanut butter. And I was worried about forgetting to declare something and getting fined $300. Turns out we wait through long lines, pushing carts with our luggage that are nearly impossible to steer, and then we stand patiently while a dog sniffs our luggage. Then she says, "you're good." And that was it. They didn't like the fresh grapes and snow peas THAT I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT in Millie's bag. Thankfully, we had declared enough already because of the trail mix so we didn't get fined. And seriously, they had just served us things on the plane that would have been against the rules. You'd think they might say something like, "This is your flight attendant, please don't try to smuggle any leftovers out of the plane or you'll get a whopping fine that will take the fun out of your stay."
But, we were "good."
Then we realized, we were DONE with customs because we were directed to the domestic transfer to Virgin Airlines. I was so happy I got to bring my spices!
But we only had 12 minutes to make our connecting flight. Didn't happen.
We found a nice woman at the check-in at Virgin Airlines that realized we couldn't all get on the next flight together so we had to wait until 4pm for the next flight. It was 8am. So, we thought we'd rent a car and go see the sights in Sydney. But she told us to take the train up to the Opera House. Allen really wanted to see it so I was thrilled to get it checked off the list right away. She gave us $300 in meal vouches for the day. AND she knew we didn't want to haul all our carry-on luggage around the city so she offered to check ALL of our carry-ons, including the two guitars, for no charge. She was an angel! The kids were pretty happy to sit calmly and order anything they wanted.
We headed down to the train to buy tickets. The guy at the ticket counter rang me up and asked for $92.80. I swallowed hard, thought about getting this checked off the list and not having to spend a load of money to come back to Sydney and paid the fare. Then he said he accidentally only gave me one-way tickets so he corrected it and asked for another $78.20. I was in shock. Shock. This was not a long train ride. It took about 15 minutes and was probably not more than 5-10 miles away.
Welcome to Australia.
I had a pleasant conversation ("convo") the entire trip with a woman on the train who helped me get off on the right stop. We felt like friends in no time.
I've been warned that the ozone is very thin over Australia and we need to be sure to wear sunscreen and hats. It was a very nice warm day, considering they are in winter, and it was lunch hour. Here I was on my first day in Australia and I have no sunscreen on my face except for what I put on in moisturizer and makeup over 24 hours ago.
Also, Karly realized at some point that we were walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk. We defaulted to walking on the right side, but we had to switch to the left to keep the flow. Silly me. I didn't even think of that.
We got to see the Opera House! We also so the hugest cruise ship I've ever seen. There were several planes flying over the bay and helicopters about every 90 seconds. Henry was loving it.
But were were all tired so we didn't spend long on our $150 train excursion. We headed back to finish off those $300 meal vouchers and just rest for a bit.
We had to go through security again. But it's more relaxed than the States. You don't need a boarding pass to go through. And the security people were actually nice. They saw me with a stroller and right away took me to the front of the line. When they could see I had a family in other parts of the line they retrieved the rest of them and brought them up too. They helped us get bins for our carryons and laptops and weren't in a rush at all. And all the other people whom we zipped ahead of didn't get upset either.
There are some ways the Aussies are different in their demeanor. I think so far I would sum it up as "conscientious." They pay attention and treat you like a person, not a job or a chore or someone to pretend to be nice to because they are supposed to. They see your need and willingly fill it. They couldn't be more kind and I love them.
Our last flight from Sydney to Melbourne was a smaller plane. We boarded it from the tarmac. Henry got to walk on the tarmac and actually SEE the plane we would be flying on! I was so thrilled for him! He was SO excited. And it was only 71 minutes flight. He again told me his ears felt weird but we soon survived it. Again they didn't return my stroller to the gate so I had to carry Henry. Which made me slower than the rest. Allen walked with us and our kids, who have never flown before and have never been to Australia before, just zoomed ahead and followed the signs to find baggage claim. Allen and I were impressed with their courage! I'm always nervous about going the wrong way! By the time we got there they had already retrieved several pieces of luggage. GO KIDS!
Allen headed off to get the rental van. We sat patiently knowing it was going to take a couple of trips to get all the luggage to our hotel. But the van is amazing. It has so much space. It was tight but we actually got it all in ONE TRIP. Which is such a blessing because driving on the left side of the road is very unnerving. Allen hated it. It's a good thing it was at night and there was less traffic. Leo was helping in navigate in the front. Allen told him to remind him every now and then what the speed limit was and to "stay left." It really is hard.
Girls were giggly in the back for awhile. I had to tell them not to talk so Allen could hear GPS. It was hard to understand the pronunciation. And he didn't need any distraction. After about 5 minutes I noticed there were very quiet. I checked to make sure they weren't too stressed. They were completely asleep. I couldn't even see their heads.
We finally arrived at this adorable cottage. We tried to find shampoo so we could wash up. Tomorrow was Sunday so we had to head to a grocery store to get some basics. Again, nerve-wracking and very unpleasant. Many stores we were led to by the GPS were closed. Finally found one. I had been wearing shoes for 43 hours in a row. It was terrible.
Retired to bed at about 11pm local time, 7am Orem time. I was up at 4am unable to sleep. So I typed this!