Australia

Qantas Updates Their Livery

Qantas has just announced their new livery and I think that while it's not a huge update, I do like the changes. 



The kangaroo logo that has long been a staple of Qantas has not changed much in the history of the airline. New tail paint has a few added accent colors, mainly gray to give the logo and paint a little added depth. The logo has been modified slightly as well, removing the front arms of the kangaroo in favor of a more fluid, and slightly abstract looking shape.

I'm very happy with logo and overall paint updates. More airlines should take a page out of Qantas' book, where they have long had the same logo, but added minor updates over time to keep it current. Qantas excels at that, as you can see below in the historic livery picture.

Aside from the minor logo changes, Qantas has made a pretty large change to the font used for their name on the sides of the plane. It is certainly more modern, and I really like the font choice here.

At the end of the day, this is a great update even if it isn't a huge one. Qantas shows us that a livery update doesn't need to be massive to be effective.

Destination: Sydney, Australia

Sydney is one of those cities I will always suggest people use as they first start out with international travel. It would probably be a close second to London, only because for US citizens, the flights to Australia is quite a long one. If you do brave the 15+ hour flight, then the rewards are well worth it. Australia quickly became a favorite of mine.



Sydney in particular is a stand out for the great food, easy transportation, and lots to do. My trip and likely most first time visitors, will start around Sydney Harbor and Circular Quay. Circular Quay is the major stop for each ferry, a large subway stop, and a big waterfront dining area. I ate at least 1 meal a day at Sydney Harbor and maybe repeated 1 place. Lots and lots of options available.

From Circular Quay, you can grab a ferry over to the Sydney Zoo on the other side of the harbor. There you will grab a bus to the top of the hill and descend through the zoo all the way back to the ferry stop. I've been to quite a few zoos and this was definitely up there in the top ones I've ever visited. The entire walk is full of fun creatures, some very native and some not as much. The entire time, your walk is backdropped by the city across the harbor and the Sydney Opera house which can be seen for almost everywhere in the zoo. 

Back in downtown Sydney, there is no end to activities and sights to see. From Sydney Harbor Bridge, to the iconic Opera House, the waterfront is the logical place to start. Moving inland from there, museums abound and a bustling city emerges. Museum of Natural History to the Science and Technology museum, I found the educational scenes to be good, but not great. As for the art museum, this was quite well done with many famous painters and lots of great art to check out. The art museum is situated in the large downtown park, and is fairly easy to get to.

Looking for an evening dinner location? At the top of the Sydney Tower is a rotating observation deck and a very nice, though slightly expensive, restaurant. Over a meal, you'll get the chance to see the entire city as you slowly rotate around the tower. I found the food to be a little underwhelming for the very high price, but the drinks on offer were very good. It is certainly worth a visit for the amazing view.

While I barely scratched the surface of Sydney, it is a place that certainly warrants a return flight at some point. Award flights tend to be pretty sparse to Australia, but even on a paid ticket the destination is well worth it. Think about making it a top destination on your future travel list.

My Top 3 Destinations

Over the last few years, I've started to travel pretty extensively around the world. My international travels started in London, then blossomed pretty quickly from there. Now I've been to 5 different continents, 11 countries, and by the end of the year will have picked up at least 2 more countries and the last of the 6 main continents (sorry Antarctica, you'll have to wait a little while). In all of my traveling, there have been some pretty big stand outs for me that I cannot wait to return to. Here are my top 3 destinations so far:



 

London, England

London was the first place I ever visited internationally. The trip was short, much like most of my trips, but a memorable one. Since that time, I've been through the airport in London many times, but never made it back into the city. This is something that needs to change and soon. London is an amazing city, and one that mixes the modern and old city feels very well.

London boasts one of the most amazing collections of art, science and historical museums anywhere in the world. From the Tate Modern, to the Globe Theater there is so much to see in London. At night you can climb aboard the Millennium Eye, I say at night because the view is amazing with the city lights.

Getting around in London is as easy as hopping on the tube and riding pretty much anyplace you'd want to be. London is amazing and it'll draw you back.

 

Sydney, Australia

Yes, I am highly recommending you go down under for your next trip. Sydney is one of those places people don't often think about because the trip is so damn long in the air. If you do fly there, make it a business class or better sort of trip. I made it in economy, and 15-16 hours in economy isn't fun... though Qantas makes it slightly better.

People in Australia are some of the most friendly you'll ever meet. The food is very similar to England, lots of fish and chips, but they add in a bit of Vegemite to morning meals to make it their own. While I'm on the topic, keep at least 30 paces from Vegemite... don't say I didn't warn you.

A visit to Circular Quay is a must for any visits. There you can eat, shops, walk around, catch a play at the famous Sydney Opera House (yes I did that), and catch a ferry across the harbor. On the other side of the harbor is the world famous Sydney Zoo, an absolute must see for any visitor.

Sydney is a place which always sticks out in my mind.

 

Seoul, South Korea

I know what your thinking, "really? South Korea?" at least that seems to be the reaction I often get. Here I'm breaking from my trend of choosing English speaking countries. There is a good reason for choosing South Korea and that largely to do with the people. South Korean's are very friendly, fun and happy. While there was a major language barrier everywhere I went, there was no point that I felt uncomfortable in South Korea. 

The city is huge, but worth every second of any visit. Museums, observation towers, old temple grounds, and an amazing market. Despite being sick when I visited last time, the trip was a hit with me and continues to stick out as a highlight of all of my travels. 

If you ever get the chance to visit South Korea, do not think twice about it, Seoul is amazing!

 

Future

These stand out at the big three destinations to date. With Dubai, Cape Town, Honk Kong, Tokyo, Melbourne, Queenstown, and so many many more on my list, this is likely to change in the coming years. Still, these are the 3 places I'd most jump at a chance to revisit if the price is right.

 

New Zealand to France, Long Way Round

While some of us may be more experienced than others at travel, we all have long trips that really stand out as being a nightmare. My nightmare trip was coming back from New Zealand last year. Was it anyone’s fault? Nope, well no one’s but possibly my own and some bad luck, but Qantas was still just as great as I had heard. Possibly a few American Airlines flight attendants could have been better but… well let me get to story of my trip.



After finishing my time in New Zealand, I had an extremely early flight the next day and because the trip from downtown Auckland to the airport takes so long, I opted to stay at the airport hotels. This still demanded a 4am wake up time, as the airport wanted everyone on international flights there at least 2 hours before departure. Yet, security wasn’t open until an hour before the flight, so we got to twiddle our thumbs until they opened security for the day.

Next was a flight to Sydney, it takes roughly 3 hours to fly to Sydney, and everything went smoothly. We arrived and after that, I had to deal with an 8 hour layover in Sydney. I’ve never had the opportunity to attempt to kill 8 hours in an airport, but it is not the best way to spend one’s day. The time went slowly, but eventually the plane began boarding, which was not nearly as smooth as boarding in LAX, despite them being the same plane. Then again, fitting 400-500 people on a single plane cannot be an easy thing to do.

Shortly after everything was closed down and the plane pushed back, we were in the air for our trip from Sydney to Dallas Fort Worth. Now let me explain this flight, the Sydney to Dallas flight, at the time, was the longest flight you could take in the world. In air time for this direction was slightly less than going Dallas to Sydney, but still just short of 16 hours in the air. Now if you’re keeping track, with this flight included, I had been in transit for 27 hours.

This seems a great time to tell you, I can’t sleep in economy class. I’ve tried many many times, the most I can get is maybe 30 minutes at a time. So including when I had gotten up, I was awake for roughly 30 hours at this point. Global Entry didn’t work for me at Dallas for some reason, so I had to wait in a long line at customs. By this point I was hungry, and really wanted a shower, but still had one more flight to Philadelphia… after another 2 hour layover.

We boarded the plane to Philadelphia, an old American MD-88 aircraft if I remember correctly. These planes have the ability for the pilot to open small side windows while on the ground. Apparently the pilots had done so, and they could not get it to close properly. They brought a technician on board and worked to get it fixed. Now I am an Aerospace Engineer, so I know what they are going to have to do on some rudimentary level at least. So after a little while it hits me, we’re going to have to exit the plane, they need to do a pressurization test when they get this fixed. No more than 20 minutes later the announcement was made, “please get off the plane we need to do a pressure test.”

We exit, and wait, and wait… finally 2 hours after scheduled takeoff we get called to reboard. Except, the flight attendants had wandered away and no one could get ahold of them. So we waited some more for them to come back, an additional 20 minutes trying to find them.

We took off, I made it home, was picked up from the airport and went to bed… for a few hours and I do mean a few. Then I was awake again and packing for a work trip. I had to leave that day to France for a week of work meetings. So back to the airport I went. Boarding a plane to Paris, flight time of around 8 hours to France, 2 more hours in the airport, 3 hours on the TGV train, 30 minutes on a bus, and finally in the hotel in Aix En Provence. Immediately I went to sleep and having never wanted to explore a city less than when I arrived in Aix.

My inability to sleep while traveling is a problem, which is part of the reason I have been seeking out all of these points to help me travel more in business and first class cabins where seats are lie flat designs, this is far more likely to allow me to sleep at least enough to keep me from going slightly insane.

So that was my nightmare trip from New Zealand to France, the long way round. Does anyone else have some nightmare trips they want to tell me in the comments?

 

Trip Report: Sydney Australia - 2014

As promised, I am bringing everyone up to date on my travels over the past year. These aren't going to be in any particular order, but I thought I'd start with my big vacation trip of last year, Sydney , Australia. 



Sometime over the summer last year I got the idea that I wanted to go to Australia, and once a travel idea is in my head, well it's pretty hard to get me to back down from that idea. So I booked a trip. Now for those unaware, I am an aerospace engineer, so part of the fun of flying is seeing what new airplanes I can fly on. When given the option of flying through Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) or Los Angeles (LAX), I chose LAX despite the longer flight time. This was for on specific reason, I could catch the Airbus A380 airplane in LAX, and fly back on a 747... They ended up switching the 747 for an A380 on the way back, which was disappointing for me since I had never flown one, but such is the way of the airline industry.

Airbus A380 - My ride from LAX to SYD, my first time on this big beauty

Airbus A380 - My ride from LAX to SYD, my first time on this big beauty

My flight plan took me from Philadelphia (PHL) to LAX to Sydney (SYD). LAX to SYD is an ultra long haul flight... but nothing like the SYD to DFW flight on the way back, distance wise SYD to DFW holds the record for longest commercial route in the world. That is until Emirates beats that later this year by about 10 miles on their new Panama City to Dubai route.

Landing in Sydney, I went through customs... and can I ask, why are all customs agents surprised that I carry on? I use a duffel bag because it's quick, easy, and fits in all overhead compartments. Never fails that they ask where the rest of my baggage is. Anyways, I then caught the Subway/Metro/Train into the city, where I had to hang about for a few hours until I could get into the hotel. Meanwhile I took some pictures...

Landing in Sydney

Landing in Sydney

After getting into the hotel, I laid down for most of the day. I had unfortunately caught a cold before leaving Philadelphia, it was on it's way out but that cold was bond and determined to take me out for a few days. So my trip to Australia was a bit muted and there was far less exploring than I had anticipated.

Wandering past the Sydney Opera House before checking into my hotel

Wandering past the Sydney Opera House before checking into my hotel

Where to go in Sydney:

Now I didn't go everyplace I had wanted to, but I was very happy with all of the places I did explore. So let me break them all down for you.

Eating:

Circular Quay, go to Circular Quay a few times. This area is where many of the ferries dock, where the Opera House is, where you can see Sydney Harbor and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The entire waterfront area is littered with different eating establishments. I was fascinated by how big Fish and Chips were in Sydney. This had always been a favorite of mine, so I tried it more times than I can count... felt like being in London with better weather. If you want a great place to eat, go to Circular Quay without a doubt. I ate there every day and didn't double up on a dinner restaurant.

Circular Quay and Downtown Sydney, my go to place for great restaurants

Circular Quay and Downtown Sydney, my go to place for great restaurants

Second, it's a bit pricey, but go to the observation tower and eat at the rotating restaurant. It's an experience, but that's what it was, an experience only. I was not impressed by the food at all, it was expensive and not really to my taste. However, while I'm not a person who likes alcohol almost ever, I did try the imported Elderflower Cider, and if I could get that in the US, I'd have a case on its way right now.

Entertainment:

Go to the NSW Art Gallery, while art isn't everyone's thing, I've grown to love it and the art gallery in Sydney was great. Not a lot of the impressionism greats, but some pretty awesome Australian artists, and it was a really fun place to visit in the middle of a pretty amazing park.

Walking up the NSW Art Gallery

Walking up the NSW Art Gallery

Second, the zoo, go there without hesitation. The Sydney Zoo is amazing, and has a great view of the harbor an the downtown city area. The zoo is a short ride across the harbor, jump on a bust that takes you to the top of the hill, then descend the hill through the zoo until you end at the bottom where you can catch the ferry back to Circular Quay. This is a good way to spend a day in Sydney, don't skip it.

Sydney Zoo and the amazing view of downtown Sydney across the harbor

Sydney Zoo and the amazing view of downtown Sydney across the harbor

The natural history museum was a great one too, always a place I try to visit while abroad. Who can dislike dinosaurs and geology all mixed in together. The collection of dinos, geology rocks, and native history is great way to spend half a day or so and right in downtown Sydney.

Lastly, I am a huge fan of Science and Technology, so I make it a point to try to get to Science museums if at all possible and this was one of my favorites in Sydney. The Power House Museum is great. The architecture of the building, to the collection of space and air craft, to the first train in Australia... don't miss this one.

Off to New Zealand

After my few days in Australia, I headed back to the airport to catch my next flight to Auckland, New Zealand. That will be covered in my next review.

Waiting for a flight to New Zealand, ran across a 787 which I helped design... always need to stop and stare at my handywork

Waiting for a flight to New Zealand, ran across a 787 which I helped design... always need to stop and stare at my handywork

Overall, Sydney and Australia have quickly jumped to the top of my favored locations to visit. While it is a pricey city, I would jump at a chance to go back and it will probably be a place I visit ever few years going forward, assuming I don't get distracted by another exotic location.

Until next time...