Grand Tour goes to Sydney: beautiful water, awesome food, iconic architecture.
SYDNEY - Far, far better than I remembered it.
My only time in Sydney, prior to Star Travel's Grand Tour series, was to cover the Olympics in 2000. I stayed at a hotel in King's Cross and got to see a bit of the city on my way to and from work, but most of my days and nights were spent in the main media centre at the Olympic Park in Homebush Bay. We had one night on the rocks and a night in Bondi, but other than that it was all work.
This time I was there to cover Sydney for our Grand Tour (see story in Star Travel), so it was a much more enjoyable visit that allowed me to see the sights. I spent a couple nights madly snapping photos of the Opera House from my room at the Park Hyatt Hotel, a terrific spot perched at the bottom of the Harbour Bridge. I ate some terrific Thai food and Japanese food in the Rocks, took the Manly ferry to remarkable Manly Beach, wandered around the neighborhoods of Paddington, Darlinghurst and King's Cross, and took in the surf at Bondi Beach.
I also had a night at the Shangri-la hotel in the Rocks, which has great views from every room, as well as a terrific cocktail bar. And I got a night at the beach-side Swiss Grand Hotel in Bondi, where I had stayed a night back in 2000.
Bondi was better than I remembered, and that's saying a lot. I caught some waves, thanks to Leo, an excellent surf trainer from Brazil, and wandered along the cliff walk that goes from Bondi to Tamarama Beach. They had a sculpture exhibit on, and there were wonderful sculptures and artworks of all kinds and thousands of people checking out the action.
I spent time in 2000 at Watson's Bay, but this time I wandered over to Manly on the ferry. I got rained out the first two tries, but the third attempt was a glorious Sunday morning in full sun and I got some fun pictures of a surf rescue competition and other good stuff.
It's a remarkable city, and easily one of the top three or four in the world. You can't beat New York's energy, and it's tough to beat the culture and pace of Hong Kong, or the beauty of Vancouver or San Francisco. Let alone Paris, the final stop on our Grand Tour. But Sydney is right up there with all of them; a confident, beautiful and multi-faceted city that truly has something for everyone.
GERMANY AND FRANCE DOINGS
Thanks to the folks at Germany's tourism office for a nice Christmas reception at the ManuLife Centre Wednesday night. There's a lot going on in Germany next year, what with the women's world cup of soccer in June and other events.
Lufthansa helped stage Wednesday's show, and they've got several things happening as well. As Star columnist Bert Archer pointed out in a story we posted the other day, Lufthansa now has wi-fi available on some flights to Europe, so you can surf the web at 35,000 feet. They also are introducing a biofuel mix on some flights, which is apparently much better for the environment than traditional fuels.
Officials said they bring in a new, Michelin-starred chef every two months to work out a new menu for Lufthansa flights, which is pretty impressive.
Meanwhile, all of us in the media are sad to see Caroline Putnoki leave her post as Atout France, based in Montreal. She's a wonderful help, and we wish her the best in her new endeavours in Brazil.
They had a going-away lunch for her Thursday at ICI, a restaurant run by Jean-Pierre Challet at Manning and Harbord. It's a touch out of the regular restaurant loop, but it's a lovely, sunny spot with bright colours and wonderful food. He makes a terrific, savoury lobster bisque and wonderful veal blanquette served in a crepe-like shell.