Chicago is a fantastic city to visit: excellent museums, fantastic restaurants, great shopping, and a terrific public transportation system. One of the best combinations of activities I have found is the Willis Tower, Greektown and a River Architectural Cruise.
Our trip to Sydney was part of a 3 city, 12 night Australia trip. We focused our time in Sydney on the surrounding areas of the Hunter Valley, Manly Beach and Bondi Beach.
Hunter Valley Wine Tour
We booked the Hunter Valley Wine Tour. We boarded our travel van with seven others and set out on the hour and half drive to the Hunter Valley. The Hunter Valley was beautiful – rolling hills of pasture and small vineyards. Due to the nature of the soil, the grape growers find the best patches of land and plant vines. Instead of acres and acres of vines, we saw clusters of vines dot the landscape. Our first vineyard was McGuigan Wines. This is one of the larger wineries in the area. They even have limited distribution in the United States.
The wine that impressed us the most there was the 2010 Late Picked Traminer. It’s their take on an ice wine. Since it doesn’t get cold enough for the grapes to freeze, they freeze the grape juice.The water freezes before the alcohol so you end up with a very sweet, high alcohol wine. We were really impressed with the flavors. We also liked their 2008 Personal Reserve Botrytis Semillon. Semillon is the premier grape of the Hunter Valley. It created a white wine that falls into a similar category with a Sauvignon Blanc. Botrytis is a mold that grows on the grapes. This mold sucks all the moisture out of the grape so you are left with only the sugars.These moldy grapes are then used to make a very sweet dessert wine with a creamy texture and honey notes.
Next stop was First Creek:
First Creek is the private label for a wine maker that produces wine for over thirty labels. The grape growers bring them the grapes and the specifications for the type of wine they want. Then, the wine makers at First Creek make and bottle the wine under their label. The award for most “fun”wine of the day went to their 2011 Raspberry wine. It tasted like candy and would be great in a champagne cocktail.
The third stop was Tempus Two:
This was a beautiful location. The tasting room was gorgeous and the location had two restaurants with outdoor seating. Tempus Two has two lines: Copper and Pewter. The Copper series is wines influenced by European styles. The Pewter line is the single vineyard, premium series of wines. The favorite wine there was the Tempus Two Copper 2011 Gewurztraminer. It had the classic sweet notes of a Gewurztraminer with a slight spice note at the finish.
We had lunch at the Blue Tongue Brewery. We tried the beers there, but none of them were really to our liking. The cider was the best. Next to the Brewery was a little wine shop that offered free tastings. We enjoyed the well balanced, very drinkable Pukka Sparkling Wine. Our favorite Shiraz of the day was the Polin and Polin 2009 Convicts and Catholics Shiraz.
It was well-balanced with nice fruit notes.Another good Shiraz was the 2010 Kiss Shiraz from Thomas.
Our last winery stop was a Boutique winery in the Lovedale sub region of the Hunter Valley. The winery produced under the Tin Solider and Warraroong Estate. We really enjoyed the Tin Solider 2010 Rose. It was one of our favorites because it was refreshing with great flavors without being too sweet.We had the tasting at an outdoor table overlooking some vines. It was a gorgeous way to end the day.
The last stop was a chocolate and cheese shop. We stocked up on some snacks for the road. Overall, it was a great tour. Our tour guide Robert was knowledgeable about the area and very open to taking us where we wanted to go.Back at the hotel, we decided dinner of cheese and crackers would be a perfect way to the end the day.
We really wanted to get out on the water and explore the Harbor. We boarded the ferry to Manly Beach ($14 round trip).It was a great ride that offered fantastic views of the Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House.
Manly Beach was gorgeous. It had a pedestrian mall similar to Lincoln Road in Miami with shops and restaurants.
The beach was filled with surfers, paddle boarders and sunbathers.Along the water was a line of restaurants with outdoor seating. After a great breakfast, we decided to check out theManly Scenic Walkway – a 9.1km walkway along the harbor. We enjoyed the long walk along the Harbor.
We didn’t go the whole way. If you wanted to experience the entire walkway, I recommend taking the bus to Split Bridge, walking to Manley and then taking the ferry back to Sydney. I enjoyed the Manly so much, I would consider booking the hotel stay there and just taking the ferry to Sydney for some of the city activities.
We boarded the Hop On/Hop Off Double Decker Bus tour to Bondi Beach. You can purchase a 24 hour pass that incIudes both the Bondi Beach tour and the City bus Tour. You can also access Bondi Beach on the city bus.Th beach is gorgeous! The water is doted with surfers - both novices and regulars.
Two of the great highlights of Cairns, Australia are the reef and rainforest: May 12th - 16th 2012 in Cairns, Australia
In May 2012, We went on a Quick Silver Cruises snorkeling tour of the Great Barrier Reef out of Port Douglas. We chose Port Douglas because those cruises access the less congested outer reefs. We rode about an hour through the mountains to Port Douglas on narrow windy roads that made us glad we didn't drive. We boarded a large, modern, catamaran yacht.
In May 2012, I travelled to Melbourne, Australia as part of a three city, 12 night tour. Here's my review of the must-see things to do when in Melbourne: - Melbourne Free Tourist Shuttle - Phillip Island Nature Parks - Immigration Museum - Eureka SkyDeck 88 - St. Kilda - Brunswick Street - Melbourne Gaol - Parliament - Fitzroy Gardens - Melbourne Cricket Ground
Consider packing socks and underwear in gallon size ziploc bags. It'll be easy to tell which are clear and which are dirty. Don't forget a Renuzit for the bathroom, a koozie for your Bud Light and some Mardi Gras beads to be the life of the party.
Don't like paying $4 for water at the airport? Bring your own empty water bottle and a powdered drink packet. Fill up at the H2O fountain. You'll be sippin' sweet tea for pennies. Plus the water cups on the cruise are tiny.
Always be sure what time the ship is leaving and if local time is different than ship time.
If you know you'll be bringing back liquids - bring wine skins with you. They are cheaper in bulk and offer great protection.
On your luggage tag - put your cell phone - not your address. Inside put a sheet of paper with dates on where you'll be.
Take a copy of your passport and keep it opposite your passport. Left your passport in your room or cruise cabin safe? Carry the copy with you. Carrying your passport in your purse? Keep the copy in your pocket.