Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Radiance Cruise & Sydney April 2015

Hello Blog Readers,
     Currently we are at Star Valley Ranch RV Resort near Thayne, WY, very near the Idaho border.  We arrived last evening and were immediately treated to a nice dinner with our friends Ken & Carolyn Kimpton, and Dave and Brenda Neil.  They have RV lots here and also at Park Sierra.  Our lot belongs to other friends and we are renting it for a month while we work out some RV issues, and catch up on some things.  This is the great view we have from our lot:

On our way here, we stopped in Fremont, to visit Elaine's daughter, Tarra, and also to check on our rentals in the area.  Then we moved up to Ron & Carol Leonard's in Sacramento and had a nice visit with them over the 4th of July, and checked our rentals up there.

Following that, we stopped in the Reno area to visit with my daughter, Laura, and see the new home they are moving into. 

     As you might remember, on March 28 we flew to Sydney, Australia.  After one day there, staying at the downtown youth hostel, and recovering from jet lag, we boarded the Radiance of the Seas for a 12 day cruise to some South Pacific islands.  Just before we arrived there, a big cyclone had hit Vauatu, where we were scheduled to have 4 different ports of call, in addition to other islands
.  So we thought that some of our ports might be changed, and we called it our "mystery cruise".  Finally Royal Caribbean contacted us just before the cruise left, and told us that 2 of the Vanuatu ports were cancelled, replaced by sea days.
     Here we are on the ship just before it departed the port in Sydney:
You can see that our ship was docked right across the harbor from the Opera House.  Looking towards the front of the ship, we could see the docks for the harbor ferries, and some of the tall buildings downtown:
As our ship sailed out of the harbor, we went right past the opera house, and this was the view:
Our first port, on April 3, was the Isle of Pines, New Caledonia.  It is a small island, only 13X15 km. and is about 100 km from Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, which we visited later.  The French took possession of it in 1853 and it has been French ever since.  It was named by Capt. James Cook, because it has lots of very tall pine trees such as these, which can be seen all over these islands:
This was a port where we had to use tenders, and when we got off the tenders we had to walk through an area of very different trees to get to the snorkeling area:
There was a fairly nice beach, and a small island where there were fish and corals nearby which made for some decent snorkeling:
In this picture you can see people in the snorkeling area.  We were glad that we had brought our own snorkel equipment:
The beach was pretty nice and you can see the tall pine trees toward the back of the beach:
The next port of call was Champagne Bay, Vanuatu, which was very good for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing.  It was especially nice because there were lots of areas covered by trees where people could get out of the hot sun, and lay on some grassy areas:
There was a beach bar, which was very popular:
And there were lots of stalls where local goods were for sale:
This is a view from the beach where you can see the ship waiting in the bay for our return:
On April 6, we were in Luganville, Vanuatu.  There were shore excursions, but none that we wanted to do, so we just walked around the town.  This was the view from the ship when we arrived:
You can see that there were lots of stalls set up with people hoping we would buy things.  There was a double row of them, almost all the way into town!  Here are some of the things that were on sale:
We walked through the town and ended up at the local market, where they were selling a lot of really fresh fruits and veggies, also some that we hadn't seen before:
On April 8 we were at Lifou, Loyalty Islands.  Our view from the ship showed a thickly forested island with a small church on the headland:
There wasn't much to do except go snorkeling, and we had done that on the last 2 islands.  Plus, it was pretty windy, which created a lot of waves on the beach near where the tender dropped us off.  So we decided to hike up to the church.  On the way, we passed several of the local huts, which were thatched and looked primitive:
Once we got near the top of the island, we could see a sheltered bay on the other side of the island which was where most of the people from the ship were going to snorkel.  It was a shame that they were charging quite a bit of money to use this beach, and it was very crowded too.
On the hike, we passed a huge spider which had a web in the forest near the hiking path:
Needing a bit more of a walk, we continued down the road to a different church:
The interior was more complete than the much smaller church up on the bluff:
And next to the church was this graveyard:
April 9 we were at Noumea, capital of New Caledonia.  It has a protected, deep water harbor, so we were able to dock here.

A shuttle dropped us off at the local tourist information office, where we bought tickets for a small train which drove us around to see the sights.  While waiting for our tour, we walked over to the local open market stalls.  There were lots of fish for sale, and we were surprised to see some of the colorful ones we had seen while snorkeling in these islands:
They also had some very large crabs:
And of course, you always need to have some good veggies:
This is Elaine with the little train which we boarded to sightsee:
There was a very good view of the marina as we climbed the hills behind the city:
Some of the buildings had very colorful and well done murals on them:
The view from the very top of the island was quite spectacular:
Downtown, not far from the tourist information building, there is a very large park, with lots of lovely trees, and a bandstand, where there was live entertainment:
There were lots of stalls in the park, selling goods to both locals and tourists:
There was a whole group of boys, hanging around, trying acrobatic tricks, and showing off for each other:
Back on the ship, we had 2 days of sailing to get back to Sydney.  This was one of the towel animals which our room attendant made for us one evening:
And we had a very nice lunch with Robert Taggert, the Hotel Director (center), and a couple of the other officers:
Sailing back into Sydney Harbor, we had some great views of the city:
We had 5 days to explore Sydney before our next cruise, so we rented an apartment in the Darlinghurst area, not far from Kings Cross, using  This is the living room:
The bedroom:
The fully equipped kitchen:
There was also a nice big bathroom and shower, with a washer and dryer, but I don't have a picture.  Towards the end of our stay, David & Diane Wilson were staying in a nearby hotel, so we had them over for dinner:
And this entire apartment cost less than a room at their hotel!   Not very far away was a little park with this unique water fountain:
And a mileage sign so people could see how far they had come to see this unique place:
One day we walked into town to join a free walking tour.  We passed this cathedral on the way.  It is huge and magnificent:
The walking tour started at the Town Hall, built of sandstone in the 1880's and is the only building left from that era which retains its original purpose:
Our walking tour guide was very good and we had an excellent tour for about 3 hours.  The only request is for people to tip the guide at the end.  Here she is with one of the art displays near a food court:
One of the most stunning buildings was the Queen Victoria building, built between 1893 and 1898.  Here is the outside:
Our tour walked through the interior, which is now an upscale mall with four levels of trendy shops, restaurants, food stalls, etc.
There is a unique clock suspended from the ceiling in the center, which has moving dioramas on 2 sides of it with 6 scenes of English royalty showing every hour on the hour:
Downtown there is also a tall tower which reminded us of the Space Needle in Seattle.  It is called the Sydney Tower Eye, and is 250 meters tall, with 360 degree views over the city:
The walking tour ended down near the cruise terminal and Circular Quay at an area called The Rocks:
When the convicts were first dumped here by England in 1788, this was the area they settled. Most of the buildings are of sandstone. Over the years the area became a slum, and some houses were demolished. Some of the buildings have been restored and expanded, and are now tourist shops and restaurants.  But there are still Council houses here, and the residents are fighting to keep them because the area is becoming so expensive.

Even though there was talk of building a bridge across from the northern to the southern shore of the harbor as early as 1840, the actual bridge wasn't completed and opened until 1932.  It carries 6 lanes of traffic, 2 rail lines, and has a bike lane on one side and a pedestrian walking lane on the other.
In the 1950's and 1960's there were occasionally people who climbed the bridge pylons illegally.  In 1998 the Bridge Climb was offered to the public.  Climbers wear protective clothing and have wire harnesses attaching them to the bridge.  It takes 3 1/2 hours and costs $225 per person.

Looking under the bridge (across the harbor) you can see an amusement park called Luna Park.

Across Circular Quay from The Rocks, is the most famous building in Sydney, the Opera House:
In 1957 the Australian government had an international competition for the design and a Danish architect named Jorn Uzon won with this design.  It was started in 1958 but had multiple cost over runs and after poor treatment by the government, the architect resigned and went back to Denmark.  In 1973 the building was finished and opened, but the architect never returned to see the building he designed.

If you walk up the steps from Circular Quay, this is what you see.  The building actually has several theaters inside as well as the main opera house.
In this view, you can see the many tiles which make up the shells.

Just past the opera house, there is a huge and beautiful botanical garden, with wonderful trees, plants, water features, etc.

On one of our Alaska cruises, we met a very nice couple from Canberra, named Ron & Jenny Neate.  When they heard that we were coming to Australia, they wanted us to stay with them.  We already had the apartment, so they drove into Sydney to pick us up, and then drove us all the way to the Blue Mountains for a lovely day of sightseeing.  Here we all are with the Blue Mountains behind us:
This is a view across the valley.  They are called the Blue Mountains because lots of the trees are eucalyptus (blue gum trees), and they give off a vapor which makes the air look slightly hazy with blue:
One of the famous formations is called The Three Sisters:
Although it wasn't the rainy season, there was still a small waterfall nearby:
This area is one where aboriginal tribes used to be very prevalent, and there are still some of them nearby.  This is a picture of some of them dressed up the way they did for ceremonies:
They also made and played musical instruments called didgeridoos.  Now they sell them to tourists:
Back in Sydney, we had more time for exploring so we used the fast, extensive and inexpensive ferry system to go to Manley Beach, which is located very close to where the harbor ends and the open sea begins.  This is the Manley ferry, and it takes about 30 minutes to get to Manley Beach from Circular Quay:
From the ferry terminal, there is a walk down a street with tourist shops and restaurants, water fountains, and sculptures with the beach at the end:
This is the beach, which is on the ocean, not the bay:
We did the beach walk trail to Shelley Beach, which went along the shore and looked like this:
There were signs about not bothering a protected and endangered species called water dragons:
We saw quite a few of them, and most were posing in the sun.  We also saw some shore birds:
There were sculptures of various animals usually seen on or near the shore.  Here is Elaine with a penguin sculpture:
We took the Manley Ferry back to Circular Quay, and then caught a different ferry to Watson's Bay.  It made several stops, so we got to go into several of the very picturesque bays on the way:
When we got to Watson's Bay, there were several very nice restaurants, such as Doyle's Seafood, but by walking across the park and the road, we arrived at a national park area called The Gap.  Here there are dramatic cliffs over looking the open sea:

There were several hiking trails along here, and we regretted not having time to do one of them.  There were also some unique rock faces:
The next day we wanted to see some areas of Sydney we hadn't explored before.  They have a small but interesting Chinatown:
Most Chinese seafood restaurants have tanks outside the front with live seafood which patrons can select and then have cooked for them.  Here are some very large crab outside one of them:
We also went to the Currency Museum because on our walking tour we learned that it was free, and they have such beautiful money:
They were the first to develop polymer notes, which are basically very thin, strong plastic.  They also were one of the first countries to have pictures of women on their currency.  They produce polymer notes for lots of other countries too.  Also in the museum was this copy of their national seal.  The animals on it are the emu and the kangaroo, both unique to Australia and both animals which are unable to walk backward.  They are one of the few countries with animals on their national emblem which they EAT!!!
One of the very popular areas for tourists and locals alike to enjoy restaurants, hotels, and bars is Darling Harbor:
It is also where the cruise ships of some other cruise lines embark.  There are nice sculptures and fountains as well:
Overall, it is just a nice place to stroll and enjoy, and it is right near the very busy downtown:
This was the end of our Sydney explorations, except for some poking around with David and Diane Wilson when they arrived from New Zealand.  Then we all boarded the Rhapsody for 56 days.  The next blog posts will be about those cruises.

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