|Sydney, Australia: Surely Sydney was never intended to be a winner of hearts, especially since it was originally designated by the British for a penal colony in 1788. Two hundred years later and no one, least of all the English, could have imagined Sydney's stratospheric rise in stature.
Call it what you want - hoopla over the spectacular Olympics or numbingly attractive architecture, Sydney is suddenly one of the hottest travel destinations of the new millennium. Even Sydneysiders recognize that no other city in this vast country rivals their harbor, beaches, contemporary skyline, or cosmopolitan feel.
But don't feel left out if water sports isn't your thing. Perhaps climbing the rigorous 200-steps for a breathtaking view on top the Sydney Harbour Bridge will be more thrilling. Of course, less strenuous activities include perusing the art galleries, cafes and boutiques on The Rocks, or taking in Darling Harbour, a complex featuring the National Maritime Museum and Sydney Aquarium.
Still, those inspired by architecture will never forget their first glimpse of The Opera House. Say what you want about the famed site that resembles the Flying Nun morphing into soaring sails, but it's this peculiar looking monument that has revamped Sydney's dull image into an international symbol of respect.
Largest of all cities in Australia, Sydney's population is nearly four million with prime real estate found in the suburbs of Double Bay, Point Piper, and Elizabeth Bay. All have a posh aura, while towns like Paddington and Darlinghurst are busy developing their upscale properties.
The Ritz-Carlton Double Bay - Refining Elegance
The good news is that you can visit any of these spots via water taxi and thus avoid all the congestion on land. Quite a unique way to travel, you're instantly made part of the 12.5 mile Sydney Harbour with close up views of all the sites, including the spectacular Opera House. Yet the first time we took the water taxi, my teenage daughter didn't want to get in as she thought she'd get sick riding the waves. However, once we got going, she relaxed as it moved smoothly over the water and was just plain fun. After twenty minutes, we got out and walked a few blocks to our destination, The Ritz-Carlton Double Bay.
How opulent is this hideaway? Well, there's the old song "There's Nothing Like A Dame," but as for me, there's nothing like a five star hotel where you're surrounded by antique vases, original watercolors, chandeliers, and rich tapestry that give the feeling of being in someone's very elegant country estate.
"Princess Diana stayed here," my daughter confided, and then explained that during the filming of "Mission Impossible II," Tom Cruise practically lived at The Ritz. "I bet he went everywhere in a limo," she added, and in what seemed like moments later, she introduced me to the owner of the hotel's limousine service, a charming Irishman named Brendan Ryan.
To answer your question, we paid Brendan $30.00 for an unforgettable tour of the city and environs (Airport cost is $28.00). Providing us tidbits that we wouldn't have found in a guidebook, he recited amusing commentary of what life was like in the ever-popular city. At this point my youngster announced that she was ready to move to Australia.
Before we could talk more about her new plans, we headed out to the exclusive Club Lounge, where we treated ourselves to champagne, fresh fruit, Danish, and assorted finger sandwiches. "I don't ever want to leave!" my daughter told me.
But a few days later, after feeling that we firmly belonged in Sydney, we found ourselves packing up for Melbourne. Still, with a night left on the town, we caught the popular "Buddy Holly Story" at the Star City Showroom. At first, my teenager reacted with veiled hostility. "The fifties? Oh no! Is Britney Spears playing anywhere?"
At this point there was little use in explaining that Holly was one of the pioneers of rock 'n' roll. Fortunately once the show began, the powerful yet sad story gripped her. Instead of dreading the night, she became one of the most enthusiastic members of the audience, for the music had reached her the way it had reached her mom as an adolescent.
On the way back to Double Bay, we opted for another water taxi ride and were fortunate to be the only two passengers on board. This exclusivity made us feel as though we were traveling on our own yacht skimming along Sydney Harbour past the Opera House, skyscrapers, and dazzling waterfront.
The next morning Brendan took us to the airport. He carried our bags into the terminal and we parted company, that is, until my daughter ran after him and gave him a hug. When she returned, she had tears in her eyes. Not an unusual feeling leaving Sydney.
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If You Go:
Where to stay:
The Ritz-Carlton Double Bay
33 Cross Street
Double Bay, Sydney NSW 2028, Australia
Phone: 011-61-2-9362-4455. Or, 800-241-3333
Set against the backdrop of The Sydney Harbour, this five-star offers 140 luxury rooms, 14 suites. Through December 30, 2000, rates begin at $175/day with suites averaging $300/night. The exclusive Club Lounge offers complimentary food and beverage, and costs an extra $15/day.
Airport shuttle is $28. Per hour cost is $30.
Harbour Taxi Boats offers smooth service and comparable rates.
Tops is "The Buddy Holly Story," a high energy, foot stomping tribute to the man that pioneered rock 'n' roll. Star City Showroom. Prices begin at $20.00.
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"The LIVEWIRE" for Travel
Watch. Former President of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association, and created the national writers conference, "The Days of Wine &
She is a travel and entertainment reporter living in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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