Day 50 - Saturday, February 25th - Sydney:  The ship sailed into Sydney Harbour (Port Jackson), the largest natural harbor in the world, around 7:30 and the scenery was spectacular.  Sydney was established in 1788 by a Brit named Arthur Phillip, but the area had been populated by Aboriginals for over 30,000 years.  The Harbour Bridge (the Coathanger) that we sailed under was built in 1932 and is the world's widest bridge.  Both it and the Opera House were not popular when first constructed, but today they are the best known landmarks in Sydney.  We took many pictures of both as we sailed in.  The Amsterdam docked in Darling Harbour and we left the ship about 10:00.  Instead of x-ray machines at customs in the terminal they have dogs that are sniffing bags--mostly for food, seeds, etc. as Australia is very strict about what can come into the country.  A free shuttle took us from the terminal to the Marriott near Circular Quay.  We located the hotel we'll be staying at tomorrow, then spent several hours exploring the Royal Botanic Gardens that border the harbor.  We walked to see Mrs. Macquarie's chair with its great views of the area.  We were lucky to have a sunny day, but were pretty warm after hours of walking around.  We went back to the ship in time to get ready for dinner and had our last meal with Lillian.  We skipped the show, finished packing and went to bed early.

Sunday, February 26th - Sydney:  Disembarkation went smoothly.  Because only about 300 of us were leaving the ship in Sydney we could stay in our cabins as late as 9:30.  We had a nice breakfast in the dining room and left the ship around 9:00.      It was a short cab ride to the Sir Stamford Hotel near Circular Quay where we dropped off our luggage.  We were walking along Alfred St. when we heard someone yelling "Barbara, Barbara!"  It was our trivia teammate Francine from Montreal, who was on the upper level of a Hop On Hop Off tour bus.  We walked over and said goodbye again--we hope we keep in touch with her.  She speaks English, French and Spanish, which was very helpful in answering trivia questions.  We went to the area known as The Rocks. which is the small area where the city of Sydney began (current Sydney's population is about 4.5 million people).  There is a large market area, mostly crafts, where we browsed.  We went to a Starbucks for an iced drink,  went online and watched the video of Anne on the Channel 4 News a few weeks ago--fun!  The internet on the ship was too slow to  watch it.  Today is overcast and cooler than yesterday, but the humidity is still high.  We were able to get in our room a little after noon and relaxed for a few hours.  The room seems huge after seven weeks in the cabin on the ship.  Instead of another four course dinner that we've had for 50 days, we went to an Italian restaurant in The Rocks and had a pepperoni pizza.  Everything is expensive here, so we'll eat less and spend less.  Today we drank the last bottle of wine we bought in South America, a nice Chilean cabernet.

Monday, February 27th - Sydney to Hobart:  We took the Sydney Opera House Tour at 9:00 and learned the interesting story of this iconic building.  The story is that the Danish architect, Jorn Utzon, submitted a rough plan for the 1956 opera house design competition which was put in the trash but later reconsidered.  Other plans submitted were mostly boxy, boring buildings.  Construction was started in 1957 and completed in 1973.  After the tour we returned to the hotel and took a cab to the airport for our flight to Hobart.  The hotel, thankfully, is storing our overweight bag (souvenirs and heavy Tiffany votives from HAL) so we don't have to haul it to Hobart.  Barbara had quite a conversation with a man sitting next to her in the gate area.  He appeared to be in his 80s and made a cell phone call to someone he called his "darling love" and other affectionate names.  After the call, when he found we were making our first visit to Hobart, he offered us the use of his car!  Barbara said thank you, but of course we couldn't, and then as he was suggesting things for us to see in Tasmania, she learned a lot about him.  He said he was born into a life of privilege, had gone to a boarding school in Sydney, then went to Oxford.  He is a professor of history and said he still lectures occasionally.  Before we boarded the plane he gave us his card in case we changed our mind about borrowing his car.  When we're back home we plan to google Dr. David Mitchell of Dynnynre, Tasmania, the most trusting person we've met in some time.  Our Virgin Australia flight left Sydney about an hour late and it was a bumpy ride, but the airport in Hobart is small and it didn't take long to claim our luggage and go by cab to our hotel.

Click here for photos of Sydney.

© Jay Deitch 2015