This year, our families were dispersed such that for the first time since we've been together, it made sense for us to go off and do Christmas and New Year's by ourselves. We decided to go back to Sydney (and fit in a trip to New Zealand to boot). Many things have changed in the intervening 9 years. And yet, many things are the same.
Major things that are the same:
1. The Aussies' own brand of absolute relaxation. Think Italy, but functional -- so amazing.
2. Our address.
3. My car.
4. Our general dislike of shopping (relevant because the airline temporarily lost one of our bags and we decided to tough it out rather than maximize the reimbursement policy).
5. Our general appreciation of the type of stuff we like to enjoy while we travel (the same stuff we liked last time, we like this time, too): The beachfront Greek restaurant in Bondi we'd loved, we were thrilled to find, is still open. And, the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar is still a Circular Quay institution of happiness that we had to enjoy again.
But, of course, things are different, too. It's much warmer and oddly overcast while hot and humid this trip. So far, there's been no need for fleeces or jackets, for sure. Last time, we bargain shopped for hotels, while this time, we went for the ultimate bargain of free and just stayed at the Park Hyatt on points (and, damn, what a perfect location -- at the base of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, one entrance just off George St. in the Rocks and the other on the water in Circular Quay):
While the bar at Hotel Bondi where we'd had sparkling wine to celebrate our engagement with some random Italians is still there and operational and was a fun place to stop for a beer, the hotel where we stayed in Bondi is completely under construction -- and when completed, it will be, in keeping with the theme we see in the bay area -- luxury condos.
The biggest differences we are noticing are technological. This time, we have wifi in our hotel, laptops, and cell phones that automatically do international roaming thanks to all of this year's international travel (btw, how the hell did people manage delayed/lost luggage before cell phones?). Last time, we had no phones that worked in any sense of the word, and we didn't even manage to get to an Internet Cafe (remember those?) to send the email announcing our engagement for 2 full days after its occurrence.
Overall, we're very much enjoying our re-visit and we've made a commitment to come back in 9 more years (or less) to do the Sydney Harbor Bridge walk and to revisit all of our favorite gems that happen to still exist at that time.
Best wishes to all for happy winter holidays (Happy Solstice -- days are now getting longer in the northern hemisphere! Merry Christmas! Happy Belated Hanukkah! Joy to those of you who eschew specific holidays!) and a Happy New Year as well.