About to shut it down for the night, but today truly was one of the best birthdays I've ever had. Highlights are as follows:
1) Woke up and hit a long run around the harbor, into the Botanical Gardens and through Hyde Park. Concierge said it would be one of the most scenic runs I'd ever do and he was true to his word.
2) After a quick shower, took the family to meet up with Josh and Amanda Kirton at the Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club in the Double Bay area of town. Josh is a fellow YPOer and his wife Amanda had been kind enough to provide some suggestions on things to do while we were in Australia, one of which was to join them for lunch at PEYC. Given that it was 70 degrees, sunny and our lunch was on the lawn overlooking the harbor, it was pretty tough to beat. Started in on the rose', but had to be a bit measured in my consumption as our next adventure required me to take a breathalazyer first. Kids seemed to have fun as well with Helen playing with their girls and Yates showing the other boys how to play American football on the beach (albeit with a rugby ball). Overall, the Kirton's could not have been more gracious hosts and I look forward to returning the favor some day
3) We left there, stopped by the hotel for a quick wardrobe change and then headed out to do the Harbor Bridge Climb. While construction on the bridge began in 1923 and formally opened in 1932 (after nearly 1400 men spent 8 years building it), it was only in 1998 that people were allowed to climb to the top of the bridge (440 feet high) as part of a tourist experience. The bridge, which connects the CBD of Sydney to the North Shore is the world's largest (not longest) steel arch bridge and provides passage for cars, trains, people and buses between the two locales. As for the process itself, it was thorough if it was anything. In fact, we spent the first hour of our three hour tour going through a meticulous process designed to maximize safety, including:
1) fill out paperwork
2) take breathalyzer - Shea thought mine took longer to register a score than any of the other 13 climbers with us
3) remove anything that could fall off/out - watches, wallets, phones, earrings, etc.
4) put on our climb suits - they look like full body jumpers
5) put on harnesses and attach headlamps, sunglasses, hats, hankies, radios - literally, everything had to be attached to your person
6) practice climbing ladders and walking catwalks in your suits
Finally, after about an hour, we took off on our journey. The climb itself consisted of a series of catwalks, vertical ladders and then a gradual ascent up the span of the bridge itself. Peppered in between were a number of photo ops and WAY too many stories by our guide Steve about Sydney's history and that of the bridge. While I enjoyed what he had to say, it was as if he couldn't walk and talk at the same time - this in large part is why the tour took 3 hours and not two (path down was virtually identical with the same methodical disrobing as well). Nonetheless, it was a great experience with some breathtaking views of Sydney and I could not have been more proud of Shea, Helen and Yates for conquering what could be deemed by many, a very daunting endeavor. I've attached some pics so you can see what the view looked like - background is not superimposed but actual - twilight tour was definitely worth it in that regard.
To continue the theme for the day, we bought our pics, raced back to the hotel for a quick wardrobe change and then headed out to dinner with the Pattisons, a family that lives in Sydney that we met at Bamurru Plains. They could not be nicer and picked a fantastic Italian place in Woolloomooloo Wharf (yes it really has that many "o's" in it) called Otto's. After the nailbiter we had just come from, it was a welcome change of pace to sit outside with other adults and the kids, enjoy a nice Italian meal and drink without fear of another breathalzyer. For future reference, there is a whole string of really great restaurants in the area including Manta, China Doll, Kingsley's, Criniti's - all have outdoor tables overlooking the wharf, the energy is great and the view is quite nice.