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October 12th, 2007

50th Birthday Vacation in Australia—Day 3

It took just a little while to unload that huge plane. There were 298 passengers flying in the coach section alone. Let's see, at between $1800 and $2000 a ticket, that's just around a half-a-million dollars from coach class alone.



Immigration went smoothly and quickly. We waited way too long for our luggage, and finally they started removing the 10 or so bags that just kept revolving around Baggage Claim 3, and made the announcement that that was all the luggage from United Flight 863 from San Francisco.

We proceeded to the Baggage Customer Service area, where we waited around number 8 or so in a queue that got pretty long behind us. When we were helped, after keying our baggage claim numbers into the computer, the agent said, "Your bags should be over there now, back at Baggage Claim 3."

Back in that area, to our relief, our bags had arrived. We were able to grab them and exit customs immediately as we had already been asked the necessary questions while standing around waiting for our bags earlier and had our form stamped.

They had agents walking around doing that, including one lady that was parading around the most cutest beagle ever, who was sniffing every bag, and receiving little treats after about every sniff. I think s/he helped confiscate what looked like two grapefruits, which evidently had to be quarantined.



Looking for Advantage, the car company with whom I'd rented our car, we asked Hertz if they knew where it was, and he pointed over at one of the agencies that said, "Red Spot" over it. Drawing near, I saw a little sign on the counter that said something like, "A Member of the Advantage Network."

The car was totally bizarre, for reasons that you can see here:


Yes, the steering wheel is over there.

I managed to get used to it fairly quickly, albeit reaching for the gear shift several times and hitting my hand on the door before remembering that it was to my left instead, and turning on the windshield wipers a gazillion times to engage my turn signals, which were on the right hand side.

We had trouble negotiating the roads in terms of routes, mostly because what the Google map directions were telling us matched neither what the car rental guy had told us nor what the lady at the toll booth had told us.

After going from M5 to M7 to M4, whose exit actually referenced "Blue Mtns" on it, we felt good once we saw a sign that said, "Katoomba 44 Kms." (I'm pretty sure the "M" stands for Motorway.)



At the Lilianfels, we were too early to check in, but the lady checking us in was pretty excited that we had room 227, her "favorite room in the entire place," she said.

We rode into the little town of Katoomba, where we walked up and down the main street checking out the stores and cafes. We stopped at Michel's Patisserie, where we had a cappuccino and a latte, along with a mini spinach roll and a cheese, bacon, and sausage roll.



Before heading back we stopped at Liquorland, where we bought a six-pack of Miller's MGD for $13 AUD, which I guess was about $11 USD. We also bought a can of "Bourbon & Cola!" Who knew?




When we got back to Lilianfels our room still wasn't ready, and they suggested we go enjoy the spa area, where we could shower, use the jacuzzi, the steam room, the sauna, and either the indoor or outdoor heated pool.

That was just what the doctor order as a shower was at the top of our list of things we couldn't wait to do. After showering, we relaxed in the jacuzzi, then swam a little in the indoor pool, another stint in the jacuzzi, and a final shower.





We had to wait just a little bit longer for our room, so I obtained a temporary free wireless Internet logon, and posted my blog entry from Wednesday.



The room was indeed exquisite, and the promised view was just like the brochure—only better because we're actually here. A bucket of champagne awaited us with a card from the hotel welcoming us and wishing me a Happy Birthday. I'm not sure if the champagne would have been there regardless of it being my birthday or not, but either way, it was a nice touch.


In addition to the champagne on ice, there was a tic-tac-toe matrix of sweet treats, of which I took a picture with my macro lens on:




We each had two beers and woofed down half the bag of Ruffles Salt & Vinegar chips with them. It was all good.

Lying down for a long-anticipated nap, we called downstairs for a converter for my sound machine, and closed the drapes to make it dark.

The sound machine sounded a little funny when I turned it on, but I wrote it off to the change in, and conversion, of the current. All of a sudden it stopped, and a little bit of smoke was coming out of it. Done with that.



We woke up after four hours of our intended two-hour nap. What deep, luxurious sleep with both had however, so appreciated after 14.5 hours knotted up in a 59B and 59C.



We rode into town and ate at Bacchus, a tapas and wood-fired cooking restaurant, that we saw as we were riding around checking out what was open. It was a little pricey in there, but we loved the atmosphere, and the cute guys running the place.



We had some Baked Bread with Pesto Olive Oil, split a pizza tapas, and a Greek salad. It was all good.



Back at Lilianfels, we decided in the lobby to run back to the room to get a coat, as it was quite cool even with our little jackets on, before walking down to see the famous The Three Sisters rock formation in the valley here.

"You're welcome to borrow those extra coats right there," the gentleman behind the registration desk offered. Here's what they looked like:


The stars were absolutely magnificent out there, where there was an observation area jutting out over the valley just a tad. I too two pictures of The Three Sisters, which were dimly lit. However, they were so dimly lit that my pictures could be one of those postcards of "Sydney at Night."



Back at the room, we had intended to stay up until midnight to toast in the first day of the second half of my first century on the planet, but decided to get a good night's sleep instead and save the champagne for my birthday night out tomorrow night in Sydney with the IBM EAGLE group.

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