03 July 2008

On to Wollongong

On Friday we checked out of the hotel, dragged our luggage several blocks to a Europcar rental office, and picked up a car. I had chosen Europcar partly because their office was within a block of easy access to the freeway going south... where we wanted to go. We drove south, checking out the beaches south of the airport and then driving through the Royal National Park on our way to Wollongong. I had never visited most of this stretch of coast, despite having lived in the Sydney area for 10 years. The weather was beautiful. I didn’t find many photo opportunities in the National Park (most of the good views required more walking, or more precarious walking—such as on slippery stones over a creek—than I wanted to indulge in). Just south of the park is a great view towards Wollongong. Along this stretch of coast, part of the old road has been replaced with the Seacliff Bridge, which is just visible as a Z-curve in the photo below. The road is on huge pylons. It opened around 2 years ago. The only way to get good photos is by walking along the pedestrian walkway, but as this involved a much longer walk than I felt up to, we didn’t do it. Eventually we reached the Wollongong area and found the Bed-and-Breakfast place where we were staying for 3 nights. It had only been open for 6 weeks in a newly-built house, so some bits weren’t quite finished. Despite that, it was a comfortable place, the food was good, and the proprietors were interesting to talk with. They have only 3 guest rooms. On 2 of the nights, we were the only guests; on Saturday, another couple was staying there, but we didn’t meet them. Wollongong is a small industrial city with a growing university. It’s been reinventing itself as a tourist destin­ation, taking advantage of good beaches and a beautiful sea view, nice for more people than just those wishing to enjoy the surfing. On Monday we drove south aways to look at other parts of the coast, then back to Sydney, dropping off the rental car in the mid-afternoon. More lunch and dinner visits with Sydney friends followed.

Trip to Sydney & visit to Apple Store

In late June, encouraged by my walking progess, I took my first trip by air since my hip operations. The construction noise was driving me nuts, so one Monday morning I announced to Eric that I was going to Sydney for a week; would he like to come with me? Of course he agreed, so I spent an hour or so making plane and hotel bookings and on Wednesday we departed. As expected, I encountered no dramas with the airport security people, either at our local airport or in Sydney on our return. They seemed quite accustomed to dealing with passengers with metal hips and knees. As advised, I mentioned my hips to the attendant before stepping through the detector (which beeped loudly), and was then given a closer going-over with a wand. No big deal, and very little extra delay. We stayed in a different hotel in Sydney this time, for two reasons: we like to try new (to us) hotels whenever one has a good deal on Wotif, and this trip we wanted to do some different things in a slightly different part of the city than usual. The hotel I chose (Park Regis) is only two blocks from Town Hall Station and another block to the specialist SF bookstore, Galaxy. Then a few more blocks to the new Apple store, which had just opened a week or two earlier. We really enjoyed visiting the Apple store. We went early on Thursday morning, when it wasn’t busy, so we had a chance to chat with several of the young, enthusiastic staff and play with all the gadgets that interested us. We entertained one of the staff by listing all the Apple stores we’d been in, in the USA and (in my case) in the UK. This encouraged her to point out that the store has the biggest Apple logo and the longest Genius Bar (the help section) in the world. In overall size, the Sydney store is second only to the London store. Here are some photos. Apologies to those of you who don’t find Apple stores (and their architecture) as exciting as we do. An album of photos is here. Front of Apple store, Sydney. Note 15-metre tall glass panels along the front, and the big Apple logo. Eric and I at the glass staircase The glass staircase has two levels. From the upper level you can see people walking up the lower stairs. The big logo as seen from inside the store. Ground floor has computers (desktop models are at the other end of the room), Top floor is the Genius Bar, where staff diagnose whatever problem customers have with their computers or iPods. There are also 4 tables with computers for kids (featuring software for children), and (not visible in photo) areas for individual and group training—all free.