So before I shift to our travels to Sydney, couple other points I thought I would share - some with a purpose, others more random:
1) I probably neglected to give the snorkeling in Lizard Island its due - it really is one of the more spectacular experiences I've ever encountered and it is one that is made incredibly easy by the proximity of Lizard to the Reef. As an example, Friday morning before we left, we went to the beach club, put on our wetsuits (wish I'd gotten a pic for you of that one) and had one of the gals run us back out to Watson's Bay in one of their skiffs. In a matter of 5 minutes, we were literally at some of the most desirable reef in the world, swimming with a wide assortment of incredibly colorful fish (parrot fish, zebra surgeonfish, Maori Wrasse), peering into massive clams and zipping in and out of hard and soft coral. I'd also be remiss if I didn't comment on the kids' swimming ability - they more than held their own, swimming just off my left hip, diving deep to see some of the more nuanced part of the reef and then expelling air through their breathing tube without missing a beat.
2) The flight back from Lizard to Cairns was notable if only for the characters that joined us (and one that didn't). First off, check out the stache on the guy who drove us from the resort to the airstrip - didn't have the heart to ask him if it was for real or just part of Australia's version of Mo-vember. More on the mustaches later as they appear to be a phenomenon south of the equator. Second, when they couldn't fit one woman's bag in the plane, they not only told her that her bag couldn't come, neither could she. Fortunately, she seemed non-plussed by the turn of events. Third, as we are boarding the plane, a girl in her early 20s who was working for National Geographic made the strangest series of requests, each one a bit more cavalier than its predecessor. In order they are as follows:
1) Asking the pilot if she could film while we flew - answer "yes"
2) Asking one of the other passengers to give up his seat next to the pilot so she could sit there - answer "uh ok"
3) Asking the pilot to do a special fly-by over the island so she could snap some pics - answer "let me sort out the winds and I'll see what I can do"
4) Asking the pilot for a rag so that she could wipe down the windows so that she could get better pics - answer "hmmph"
5) Asking the pilot to wipe down one of the exterior windows by a passenger sitting in the back so that he could better film the departure - "grrr"
6) Asking the passenger that she booted out of the seat by the pilot to wipe down the interior window next to him and then giving him her phone to film the depature - answer "why not"
Oh yeah, and the best one of all actually came before the plane even got there - she asked Mr. Stache where a bathroom was. When he indicated it was back at the Lodge and he would run her back there, she offered to "just pee in the woods." Needless to say, he demurred and took her back to the 5 star lodge from which she came.
Of course, all I could think about was whether or not any one of these requests was going to f-up my departure from Cairns to Sydney. Fortunately, I can report that we made it to the airport in time for our flight, got through security and boarded our JetStar (think Spirit Airlines but for Aussies) flight to Sydney. I will say that pretty much everyone we've met has said that Sydney offers awe inspiring views - the approach into the city certainly delivered on that promise - what an amazingly beautiful city with the buildings, the water, the lights, etc.
True to form, when we arrived the children secured our bags and we headed to the taxi queue for a 20 minute ride to our hotel. Side note - you know you've been on vacation a bit too long when you completely lose track of which day of the week it is. As we pulled into where our hotel was located (right next to the Sydney Strand Arcade - great shopping for the ladies), I asked the driver why there were so many people out and about at 10 pm - he politely reminded me it was Friday night. Point noted.
As for the Westin, would definitely recommend for anyone looking to stay in Sydney. Rooms are large, hotel is centrally located, everything feels new - fortunate that this will be our home for the next 5 nights.