We moved to the USA back in 1984 and came back to live permanently in Australia in 2020, so we were there for 36 years, or half of my lifetime. I don't regret my time in Maryland at all. We had a great experience and met so many wonderful people. Living in our round house in Chesapeake Isle was amazing, particularly at dinner time when we would sit outside on the deck or inside at the round table and gaze at our surroundings thinking ourselves so lucky to live there.
One of the reasons why it took us so long to return to Australia full-time was because we wanted to live somewhere that we could afford but with the same wow factor that we enjoyed with our round house. We know we have found that in Urangan.
Our flights from BWI to SFO and then on to Sydney went fine with on-time departures and early arrivals. The first plane was fairly full, but we had a spare seat between us. The second was a 787 Dreamliner with less than 50 passengers. Sydney Airport only allows in 9 international flights per day with a total number of passengers of 350 for all 9 planes, down from 450. We each had a row of three seats to ourselves. The food on the planes was not up to regular standards except for the sandwich that United trotted out midway across the Pacific. It was up to the regular slimy standard and makes you wonder why United continues to serve this abomination, The delicacy this time was a very cold bun containing a thin slice of turkey with a slice of some sort of cheese and a dab of mustard. The sliminess comes from the plastic that is wrapped around the bun. It was as revolting as it sounds, but when you are hungry, you eat anything.
It was pouring rain when we arrived in Sydney and United deplaned us in groups starting from the front. Passengers social distanced where possible and the floors in the airport are marked to reinforce the distancing. I've deplaned in Sydney many times and it was quite weird to walk along unfamiliar narrow corridors past the familiar large passageways that are normally packed with arriving passengers but are now closed or empty. We went to a health station where they checked our temperatures with a device that they stuck in your ear. Questions were asked about our health status and any special needs. Everybody was wearing facemasks.
Speaking of facemasks, if you think wearing one for a few minutes is bad, try 24 hours except for when you are eating. The elastic that loops around your ears really irritates after a while.
The next step was with a NSW policeman who took down our details and entered them into a computer. Contacts, email addresses, phone numbers etc. I was able to show him a printout of our United confirmation sheet which showed the date we purchased the ticket (June 18) which was before a July 12 cutoff date which means we will not have to pay AU $4000 for the privilege of sitting in quarantine for 14 days.
Our luggage was already on the carousel so we piled it onto two trolleys and passed through customs and out of the building via a small corridor to an exit where buses awaited. The whole route was supervised by people in uniform so there was no possibility of slipping out of the system.
Soldiers loaded our baggage onto the waiting bus and we climbed on board. After a while, a driver got on board and away we went to downtown Sydney. We still had no idea which hotel we would go to until we pulled up at the front of the Park Royal in Darling Harbour. We were let off the bus in groups of four, handed a packet of papers with our room number and asked to point out which were our bags. A soldier then took care of our bags and after some more welcomes from the hotel staff, we were escorted to our room by the soldier with the bags and then we are to be in quarantine with no more personal contact for 14 days.
The room is fine but with no fresh air. The view is of tall office buildings. Beds are super comfy and there is a rain shower which felt wonderful. We have a small refrigerator, electric kettle and real plates and cutlery. Food (falafel and bulgar) was delivered to us in two paper bags and left for us on the low table that sits right outside the door. I could not find our toothpaste so called up the number they gave us and shortly after there was a knock on the door and there was a decent size tube on the table. The person who delivered it was already out of sight.
Throughout all of our arrival in Sydney, the official staff, soldiers, police and other people were friendly and welcoming as well as efficient. They have their routine down pat and one of the things they presumably emphasize in their training is that arrivals are probably stressed out and friendliness and helpfulness go a long way to reduce that stress. I asked the soldier who looked after our luggage what he normally did in the army and he is an engineer. He did not complain about this duty and was friendly throughout.
Welcome to Australia. It's wonderful.
We decided to get two queens instead of a king because we sometimes have different sleeping needs on arrival in Oz. It is not a large room so I expect to be trudging back and forth from window to door a number of times a day to get exercise. Remember, we are not allowed outside the room.
A most welcome shower. For non-Aussies, shower stalls like this are the norm in Australia. The tub/shower combo common in US hotels is an abomination. Last year when I was having my health problems, I could not manage a combo. I needed a walking shower.
We are having a rain shower head like this installed in our unit in Urangan. They feel utterly luxurious.
View from the window early on the first morning.
No better in the other direction.
Hotel instructions. Click on the image to see it full size.
How to order your care package from Woolies. Naturally, Robin has promised us her own special care package.
So I hope this gives you an idea of what to expect if you go to Oz. We are actually looking forward to the two weeks of sitting around after all the hard work of the past few months.