Category Archives: Travel

Great American Ball Park

JULY 2, 2011 — The second of thirty Major League stadiums on our list was the home of the Cincinnati Reds, Great American Ball Park. About four hours from Murfreesboro, eight hours from Atlanta and nearly 1100 miles round trip, the GABP may be the last of our trips to be accessed entirely by car. The Florida stadiums are a possibility but in no way a certainty.

Great American Ball Park

Great American Ball Park gets a very high grade in my book. It was spacious with plenty of room to move around, yet it didn’t feel like behemoth of a structure. It was friendly and accessible all at the same time. Food was reasonably priced and parking is a breeze. Located right on the Ohio River, very affordable parking garages abound within walking distance in all directions. You could park in Kentucky and walk across one of several bridges without breaking a sweat.

There were very few superfluous annoyances around the park, which enables fans to focus on the game they came to see. There is no grating PA announcer and the mid-inning gimmicks are tasteful and enjoyable. The only real complaint I had was the brutal heat (mid 90s all game) but our seats were directly in the sun, and there were numerous “Cool Zones” with misting fans and water to keep fans cool.

Speaking of fans, the Reds fans impressed me immensely. The crowd was solid, well informed and well behaved. I don’t think I heard a single curse word the whole afternoon which may be a baseball game first for me. Certainly they were more involved than Atlanta fans, more hospitable than Cardinal fans and more numerous than Royal fans.

The baseball experience doesn’t begin and end with the product on the field, but it incorporates many more elements. TJ and I enjoyed a well-played and entertaining game in a venue that was both accommodating and comfortable.

We ended our long weekend trip with by swinging through the Louisville bat factory in Kentucky. A cheap and fascinating way to spend an hour or two, ten bucks gets you into the museum and through the factory where millions of bats are produced each year.

GABP from the Roebling Bridge

Field view from inside

The Great American Scoreboard

View from our seats - Section 141, Row A, Seats 18-19

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30 MLB Stadiums In 20 Years

My friend TJ and I have decided to attempt to travel to all 30 MLB stadiums within the next 20 years. Obstacles will undoubtedly arise, but we hope to address and overcome those if possible. We are currently planning for one short trip every year, combining stadiums when practical.

There are 10 trips that could be worked to logistically include more than one stadium. Cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles each have two teams and a handful of other cities are close enough so that we could catch a Saturday game in one city and a Sunday game in another. If we squeezed as many stadiums into individual trips as possible, this project could be finished in 16 years. But hopefully we’ll have the means and opportunity to stretch them out a little bit, and enjoy the sights that each city has to offer.

Earlier this year, we officially kicked this project off with a trip to Atlanta’s Turner Field. Both of us had been to numerous Braves games before, but thought it would be a good starting point for our project. The Braves won 7-6 in extra innings, so we certainly weren’t cheated out of great baseball during out first leg. The picture to the left is the piece of fence from the late Atlanta Fulton County Stadium that Hank Aaron cleared when he broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. Turner Field is a relatively new stadium, having hosted Braves games since 1997 after it served as the home to the 1996 Summer Olympics. With both of us having lived in Atlanta for a good portion of our adolescent lives, it only made sense to make Turner Field the first stop on our MLB Tour-de-jour.

In two weeks, the two of us will head out on our first actual trip when we make our way to Cincinnati to visit the Great American Ball Park. Another benefit of planning these trips is that they will help me continue to fulfill another personal goal of visiting all 50 states. I have been to 32 states so far and will add several more if we do end up completing our tour of all 30 MLB stadiums, I will add at least six more states (Arizona, Texas, Washington, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Michigan). It’s also possible that during our trip to Boston to see Fenway Park that we take an extra day or two or three to explore a little more of New England.

Green states are ones that I have spent time in, whether it be years, weeks or days.

UPDATE 7/1: Father reminded me about our Plymouth trip which had completely slipped my mind. Driving from New York, we traveled through Connecticut and Rhode Island on our way to Massachusetts. A childhood trip to New Mexico and a college trip to Denison University add two more states to my current total.

15 Places Kids Should See

A friend turned me onto this article of 15 Places Kids Should See Before 15. As it would seem, she assumed that I had visited each place on the list because of my extensive travel experience.

But as I scrolled through the list I realized I had hit only about half of them. This development made me realize that while my international travel itinerary is quite vast, I haven’t really explored a lot of the awesome places that our own country offers.

Officially, I’ve been to 8 of the 15 places on this list, but it’s 9 of 15 if you substitute Yankee Stadium for Fenway Park, which I think any red-blooded American should.

Grand Canyon – Arizona
Definitely a location on my bucket list, as an East Coast and Midwest guy, my western travels haven’t been all that extensive. I’ve definitely witnessed some absolutely breathtaking physical marvels, but the Grand Canyon is not one of them.

Redwood National Park – California
California really isn’t my cup of tea. Been out there a few times, but the furthest north I ever made it was San Francisco. But that certainly doesn’t mean I’ve missed out on enormous trees. Maybe not trees so big that you could drive a car through them, but definitely trees bigger than the pines outside my work.

Monticello – Virginia
The first location on this list that I have been to. Went to Thomas Jefferson’s estate when I was a younger boy and would love to head back at some point.

The Freedom Trail – Massachusetts
Makes it three out of four so far that have yet to play host to a Nathaniel vacation. As someone who has more than just a passing interest in American history, the whole Boston area is one that probably needs a thorough exploring in the next few years.

Niagara Falls – New York
Yes, my first trip to Canada and my first experience in a revolving restaurant. Truly breathtaking, Niagara Falls is something that I’m certainly glad I was able to witness first hand.

The National Mall – Washington, D.C.
All of Washington DC is an excellent place to spend hours and hours just wandering around. The history that is represented in that town is fantastic. From memorials to museums, DC has everything. I was lucky enough to spend a week up in that area for a 300-voice choir conference and performance back in high school and even then, didn’t have nearly enough time to fully explore everything that I wanted to.

Williamsburg – Virginia
It’s really a novel concept that by dressing kids up in 18th century garb, you can get them to enjoy chores. But when they get back home and into their crocs, heaven forbid if dad asks them to set the table for dinner. I was the same way. Churning butter in knickers? So much fun! Taking out the trash in OshKosh? Forget about it.

Walt Disney World Resort – Florida
Been several times, and it got better and better each time. Most recently I was down there for spring break one year in college which was probably the most fun I’ve had in Disney. Certainly pricey, but definitely worth it and I hope someday I can bring my kids there and let them run around collecting autographs from Mickey and Pluto.

Independence Hall – Pennsylvania
Another hot spot for history. But so far as I know, Nicolas Cage only planted National Treasure clues there.

Alcatraz Island – California
Something I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed in my earlier years, when I went in high school I was absolutely fascinated my the prison. I like being to places I’ve seen in movies and Escape From Alcatraz is one of my favorite old movies.

Ellis Island – New York
Imagine a place where people from other countries could immigrate to the United States legally. I don’t want to turn this into a political post, but we could use one of these somewhere along the Mexican border.

Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming, Montana and Idaho
An American classic, but not one that ever really interested me that much. Hot springs and geysers and other geographical workings never really caught on as a subject of fascination with me. I did read a book as a child about a family that took a huge RV to Yellowstone. I don’t remember the name of the book or if they ever made it to Yellowstone or not.

Fenway Park – Massachusetts
Can’t say this is a place that I’d ever want to patronize. Don’t like the on field product and I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t enjoy the 35,000 other people or so that would be joining me. Sure it’s old and historic, but I’m not a fan of cramped run-down facilities. I love watching games on TV from those places, but Wrigley Field was a dump and I’m sure Fenway is too. As for baseball history? I’ve been to the old Yankee Stadium and that has countless more memories and legends.

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve – Idaho
Never even heard of it. And if I haven’t heard of an exotic travel destination with the grandparents I have, it’s probably not a place that a child needs to see by any age, let alone their 15th birthday. I googled it and it’s another one of those geological marvels.

San Diego Zoo – California
I love zoos. I think animals are simply fascinating. But I’ve never been to the San Diego zoo. I’ve been to a handful of American zoos, and probably even more international zoos, most recently the Taronga Zoo in Sydney. It was my first Southern Hemisphere zoo, meaning I got to experience a whole new lineup of exotic creatures.

Australia & New Zealand Trip – Cairns

One of the greatest things about Australia is that by traveling a few hours in any direction you can find yourself in a completely different type of countryside. So after enjoying a few days experiencing the city life of Sydney and a few more out in the wild Australian outback in Uluru, our next stop brought us to the rainforest and beaches of Cairns.

Saturday, June 6

After a busy last day in Uluru, we were able to sleep in to start the weekend before catching a mid-afternoon flight out of the desert to Cairns. We made it into the city by six o’clock and wandered around the streets before grabbing a bite to eat. We finished off the day relaxing in the room before turning in. Not much excitement for the day, but the travel days do help us recharge before hitting the ground running again.

Headed out to sea

Sunday, June 7

Our first full day in Cairns was spent at sea. We were bussed from our hotel to Port Douglas, where we boarded a day-cruise ship and sailed out to the famed Great Barrier Reef. The Barrier Reef is just another one of those “Wow, we’re really here” moments in a country full of them. The boat took us out to, for lack of a better description, a floating, man made island. It included a dock for semi-submarines, a helicopter pad, places to snorkel and dive and a full complimentary buffet. We spent the day out on open waters, enjoying the masterpiece that is the Great Barrier Reef.

We left to head back to the mainland late in the afternoon and made it back nearly ninety minutes later. We enjoyed the drive along the coastline back to our accommodations and turned in early after a long day under the sun.

Oma and her grandsons on the Great Barrier Reef

Monday, June 8

No break for the weary traveller the day after the Barrier Reef as we were off and at it again with an all-day tour taking us to, through and over the Kuranda rainforest. We started the morning on the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway, which was constructed in the late 1800s for tin mining but currently operates as a tourist railway.

Construction of the Cairns-Kuranda Railway was, and still is, an engineering feat of tremendous magnitude. The railway snakes its way up the Macalister Range for over 75 kilometers and was constructed nearly completely by hand. The steep and rocky mountain terrain required that numerous bridges be built and even more tunnels be cut out of solid rock. These necessary measures were extremely dangerous not only because of the terrain on which they were performed but also because workers also dealt with vicious aboriginal tribes and raiders.

The train makes just one brief stop on its way from Cairns to the village of Kuranda, but there is glorious scenery to be witnessed all the way up the mountain. Once we reached the end of the line, we were free to explore the quaint village of Kuranda. We spent a few hours walking around, enjoying the small shops and an ice cream cone from a local homemade ice cream stand. We walked through a bird sanctuary and watched a wood-carving demonstration before meeting up again for our next tour.

***

Amphibious Army duck

We toured the depths of the rainforest in a refurnished Army Duck – an amphibious military vehicle that is capable of traveling comfortably on land and on water. We spent an hour or so in the very loud and very bumpy vehicle learning about the various flora and fauna of the rainforest. We learned which plants can kill you and which ones can heal you. We spotted several small crocodiles and a kookaburra nest.

After returning to the village, we found a place that let you hold koalas and crocodiles and remarkably there was no line and we were able to spend a good amount of time with both animals.

Oma cuddles with a koala bear

Nathaniel clutches a crocodile

After our encounters with crocodiles, we moved into the Koala and Wildlife Park where we were introduced to other Australian wildlife that weren’t quite as well-known as the koala. Included in the tour were kangaroo, wallabies, wombats and dingos. The Wildlife Park had most of their animals well secured in cages, like the crocodiles, dingos and cassowaries, but the kangaroos and wallabies simply lounged around the park, free to interact with the visitors.

Nathaniel and a kangaroo

Zachary and a wallaby

After spending time getting to know the Australian wildlife on a more intimate level, we heaed off for the next part of our all-day adventure, the Dreamtime Walk. This part of the tour introduced us to the aboriginal and Islander culture and history more thoroughly. We began with a demonstration of cultural dances and rituals. Some of us were even volunteered to try our hand at aboriginal dancing!

Nathaniel attempts aboriginal dances

After the dance demonstration we moved on to boomerangs, spears and didgeridoos. All of which are much harder than the natives make them look. Zachary and I impressed our aboriginal guide with our prodigious boomerang skills, but fared far worse with the spears. We probably would have gone without much meat had we been forced to hunt.

After spending a fantastic day within the confines of the rainforest, we had to find our way out and what better way out than up and over? We boarded one of the worlds longest skyrails and were whisked over the canopy of trees and down the mountain. Comprised of thirty-two steel towers, the Skyrail is 7.5 kilometers long and moves you along at 11mph. It is commonly paired with the Kuranda Scenic Railway as a way up and down the mountain.

View from the Skyrail

View from the Skyrail 2

Walking around Cairns

Tuesday, June 9

Tuesday would be only our third day in Cairns, but we had packed so much in our first two days, that today would completely free. We took advantage of our lack of scheduling to sleep in a little and have a leisurely breakfast before wandering out into Cairns to do some exploring. As much as I enjoy the structured tours for their informative purposes, sometimes aimlessly wandering around a city is just as enjoyable, if not more so. Traveling this way allows you to wander off the beaten path if you choose, and what you lose in facts and history you make up for in intimacy and experience.

We found a community pool just off the beach and relaxed in the sun for most of the morning and afternoon. While Zachary sunned himself in the Australian sunshine, I wandered around the town and explored the mudflats, which are simultaneously beautiful and disgusting. We found a small cafe for lunch and took our time with our meal outside on the patio, just a stones throw away from the beach.

Cairns Mudflats

We made our way back to the hotel for one last dinner in Cairns and enjoyed a random fireworks display from outside the hotel as we ate. The next day would be our last in the great country of Australia, as we would board a plane bound for Kiwi Nation, otherwise known as New Zealand. Slightly disappointed about leaving Australia behind, but definitely excited to start exploring New Zealand, we turned in for our last sleep in Aussie Land, having had an immeasurable amount of fun the past two weeks.

A Cairns Esplande sunset

Australia & New Zealand Trip – Uluru

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Wednesday, June 3

Having spent several days in the sprawling metropolis that is Sydney, climbing off the plane in Uluru introduced us to the true Australian Outback. Vast expanses of mostly nothing, sporadically dotted with huge sandstone rock formations and lavish tourist accommodations. Uluru, more commonly known as Ayers Rock and recognized by it’s reddish hue is a sacred spot of the Anangu, the local aboriginal people. Along with Kata Tjuta, Uluru is located within the boundaries of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Uluru is open for climbing, should you choose to try, but there are a few conditions to do so. First, it is only open during certain times of the year, and even when it is accessible, it is a hard climb and has taken the lives of several unprepared tourists. Secondly, the aboriginal people do not prohibit climbing the rock, but do ask you not to out of respect for their culture and traditions.

We arrived in the Northern Territory by the early afternoon and after getting situated, our first tour included a tour around the base of the mountain and through the Cultural Center. We were accompanied by a pair of aboriginal guides and an interpreter. We learned much about the myths and stories that accompany the great rock and a little bit about the culture of the people that are so endeared to it. We learned how Uluru has woven itself into the lives and stories of the Anangu people and how it has helped shaped their history.

Rainwater collects at the base of Uluru

Zachary towers in front of Ayers Rock

***
Thursday, June 4

On Thursday we started the day before sunrise where Uluru is home to an interesting phenomenon. When the sun rises or sets and hits the rock just right, it appears to change color. It goes from the sand-colored rock you see during the day to a vivid red while the sun moves across the sky.

After the sunrise, we headed out on another early-morning tour throughout the bush surrounding Ayers Rock. We were able to enjoy a nice tribal meal with a panoramic view of the rock from the Cultural Center’s breakfast room before heading out with more aboriginal guides who demonstrated skills like making glue and traditional weapons. We also were able to use a Anangu spear-thrower to hunt kangaroo. Not real kangaroos, but a small tree we pretended was one. Hunting as an Anangu is a tough affair.

First off, they hunt kangaroo, which aren’t the easiest animals to catch up with in the first place. Secondly, the method of hunting has a few steps. They first use their spear to wound the animal and they track it as it gets weaker and weaker. When they eventually catch up to the kangaroo, which could take a few miles, they kill it with a swift blow to the back of the head with a club.

Oma with our aboriginal guides

There are also certain places of the rock and surrounding area that do not allow photography. These places are often places of gender-linked rituals that certain sexes are not allowed to see. The photography ban is so that the Anangu people don’t inadvertently see images of the locations in the outside world.

Kata Tjuta from a few miles out

Friday, June 5

Our last day at Uluru had only a Sounds of Silence dinner planned for that evening. So in the morning we hitched a ride over to the other famous rock formation about twenty miles away, Kata Tjuta. Uluru is the more famous and is the sacred ground for aboriginal women. Kata Tjuta is the sacred site for the men, and is comprised of not just one giant sandstone formation, but a cluster of about thirty, 36 to be exact. The tours for Kata Tjuta are less structured, so Zachary and I explored what is known as the Passage of the Winds, a passage between two of the mounds that acts as a natural wind tunnel. Hold onto your hats!

Kata Tjuta is still used to this day for spiritual ceremonies, one of which being for public punishment. While the ritual used to occasionally result in death, it no longer does. Australia has employed a dual-naming system for many of their natural landmarks to preserve the sanctity of the aboriginal origins. Much like Uluru has a secondary, English name (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta is also known as The Olgas, named for Queen Olga of Württemberg.

Road to Kata Tjuta

***

The two of us and Jack, our camel

After our journey out to Kata Tjuta, Zachary and I headed out for a guided camel tour. The two of us loaded ourselves onto a camel and set off with a convoy of about fifteen other camels for a trek around the Australian Outback. On our camel expedition, we learned the history of Australian camels. Originally brought to the country rather than horses because of their superior tolerance for the harsh terrain found in Central Australia, the camels were ordered to be killed after exploration, but the handlers couldn’t bring themselves to kill their friends and simply set them free in the bush. Which is why Australia has the world’s largest wild camel population in the world. Despite that fact, Zachary and I managed to find only one wild camel in our time there.

Wild camel in the national park

Following our camel ride, we returned to our resort and showered up for the Sounds of Silence dinner. We were dropped off in the middle of the bush country and made our way along a path towards a clearing where we enjoyed traditional Australian appetizers while a didgeridoo serenaded us. This was one of the larger events we participated in, with probably close to 100 people taking part in the experience.

Sounds of Silence dinner

After the appetizers we were seated ten to a table. Zachary, Oma and I were to eat dinner with a little old lady originally from England who had recently moved to Australia. Also in our dining party were two Australian couples, probably around their mid-to-late forties. I’ve found that tour guides and travel books can only teach you facts and numbers about a place. If you really want to get to know a region, a country or a people, the best way to do that is to talk with individuals from the place you are visiting. It’s almost impossible to pick a favorite experience from a trip like this, but the Sounds of Silence dinner was definitely up there on my list. Sure, we were able to sample the finest Australian outback cuisine featuring crocodile and kangaroo meat, and we learned a whole lot about the stars and constellations of the Southern Hemisphere. For example, the North Star isn’t visible in the night sky south of the equator. We already knew this, but the German Tourist Conglomerate did not.

We spent over four hours exchanging stories about our experiences and customs with our Australian counterparts. The two Australian couples had children around my and Zachary’s age so we spent awhile comparing the structure of American schooling versus the Australian setup. We compared politics and the impressions we each had of the other’s country, as they had vacationed in California the previous year. We had a laugh at stereotypes that one country has of the other. I learned that Australians assume all Americans smoke marijuana and insisted I teach them every slang term for marijuana I knew.

Oma made a friend too as she and the lady from England compared their German. I also contributed to the conversation, but not much more than schnurrbart. It was well past midnight by the time we made our way back to our resort but I think we all slept well that night, pleased with how our last day at Uluru had ended. The next morning would see us say goodbye to camels, Anangu and the bush and make our way to Cairns, which would be the gateway to some of the best scenery in Australia and the focal point for the Great Barrier Reef!

The majestic Kata Tjuta

Uluru at dusk

Australia & New Zealand Trip – Sydney

This past summer, my brother and I had the incredible privilege to track through the beautiful countryside of both Australia and New Zealand. As he was graduating from high school and I from college, our grandparents put together nearly a month long trip to the Great Down Under. Accompanied by our ever-loving Oma, Zachary and I trekked through Australia and New Zealand, meeting interesting people, seeing fantastic sights and experiencing things that created memories to last a lifetime.

It’s been nearly a year since we went on this trip of a lifetime, and I’m only just now getting around to putting this project together. The trip was simply too full of wonderful experiences and places to cover in one post, so I’m going to break this up into a six-post series, one for each stop along the way. We started in Atlanta and nearly a month later we had covered most of Australia and New Zealand and ready to head back to the states. The following is a retracing of our steps and a retelling of our story. With lots of pictures along the way. I hope you enjoy it!

Our trip began with a five-hour flight from Atlanta to LAX, after which we endured a long layover before embarking on a fourteen-hour flight across the Pacific Ocean to Sydney. I used to be unable to sleep a lick on flights when I was younger, so traveling by plane always seemed interminably long to me. A few years ago, around the time of our trip to Ireland, I learned to sleep on an airplane. So I spent a majority of our flight to Australia fast asleep, wedged in a Qantas coach seat. It was not the most comfortable experience of the trip, but it wasn’t the most uncomfortable one either. Stay tuned.

***
Saturday, May 30

Seeing as our flight left Los Angeles late Thursday night and arrived early in the morning about a week later in Australia time. Not quite, but it seemed like it. We actually got into Sydney early Saturday morning and hit the ground running, checking into the hotel by noon and setting out by ourselves on foot around the city. We had no plans for our first day in Australia so we meandered through the streets and eventually ended up at the Sydney Wildlife Conservation that was situated right on the bay.

We spent a casual afternoon making our way through the conservation, introducing ourselves to some of Australia’s most famous inhabitants. The three most well known animals to the island nation are definitely the koala bear, the kangaroo and the kookaburra, all of which, I’m just noticing now strangely enough begin with the letter “K”. Interesting.

***
Sunday, May 31

Our first full day in Sydney had us on two different tours—a walking tour of the city by morning and a bus tour of the city and surrounding area in the afternoon/evening.

The Rocks

The morning tour took us through the area of town known as The Rocks, which was home to the early convict settlement of native Australia. The precinct has done a fabulous job of integrating the new with the historic, and the old cobbled streets, sandstone steps and small churches are intertwined with new high-rise buildings and modern day luxuries. The tour itself was a most enjoyable way to spend a morning as we went out with in a group no bigger than six or eight people. The guide was superb and the small ratio of tourists made the tour more intimate and informative.

We spent over two hours wandering up and down narrow streets and through the remains of what used to be Sydney’s earliest buildings and homes. We saw the trimorial for Australia’s first prison guards, farmers and convicts. We walked the length of Australia’s first street, George Street and went up and then back down the Argyle Steps. We skirted the Circular Quay, which was much more square than it was round

Mixing the old with the new

Remains of Australia's first housing project

After the walking tour, we boarded a charter bus and off we went, navigating Sydney’s narrow streets in a bus that was over 50 feet long and had the approximate turning radius of the plane we flew into Australia on. For the most part, we stayed on the bus and saw sights like Kings Cross and Double Bay. We stopped for a while to take a walk along the famous Bondi Beach and then again at Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. Which isn’t really a chair, but more of a bench carved into the rock overlooking the bay. Mrs. Macquarie was the wife of an early New South Wales governor, and her bench was carved out of sandstone for her so she could have a view of the harbor.

Me and Oma in Mrs. Macquarie's Chair

The lookout point from Mrs. Macquarie's Chair

The tour bus returned us to our hotel by nightfall and we spent the next hour or so learning that restaurants in Australia are not open into the wee hours of the night like they are in America. We ended up having to grab cold sandwiches from a 24-hour mart across the street from our hotel. But we didn’t mind so much as they made for fast eating, after which we were able to go to bed, after what had seemed like a week’s worth of vacation, when in reality, we’d only been at it for two days.

***
Monday, June 1

Even though we had explored the Wildlife Conservation our first morning here, the premiere collection of Australian wildlife is located at the famed Taronga Zoo. The most convenient way to access the Taronga Zoo from downtown Sydney is to take the water ferry across the harbor. So that’s what we did. We loaded ourselves onto the ferry and made our way across the harbor and up to the Taronga Zoo.

Zachary and me with our koala friend

I’ve been to several zoos – the Bronx Zoo, Zoo Atlanta the St. Louis zoo and a church petting zoo, but Taronga has by far, the most exotic collection of animals of any zoo I’ve been to. You can have your picture taken with a koala, although most any place with koala bears will charge tourists to have their picture taken with the sleepy marsupials. You can walk through the kangaroo habitat and go right up and touch them.

We took in an incredible bird show sometime in the afternoon and watched a few feedings. The zoo is situated overlooking the Sydney Harbor, and the bird show was backdropped by both the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House. After catching the ferry back, we made our way down to the famed Opera House, aptly named for the city in which it resides and the bay it overlooks.

***
Tuesday, June 2

Our last full day is Sydney saw Zachary and I tackle the world-renowned Sydney Bridge Climb, which entails strapping yourself onto the bridge via industrial strength cables and climbing from the base of the bridge all the way to the apex. And then turning around and going back down.

Let me preface our climb to the top of the bridge (134 meters above the bay) by saying I’m not a fan of heights. It’s not so much the actual height, but the assumption that I will fall from that height. So I was tentative going into the climb preparation, but passing up such an incredible opportunity wasn’t an option for me. I was going to do it.

Zachary and I atop the Sydney Harbor Bridge

First they strip you down to your t-shirt and boxers and stuff you into a jumpsuit tailored specifically for this type of climb. It’s fitted with the harness to lock onto the cables to keep the climber secured to the bridge. This helped somewhat in assuaging my fear of falling. Then they outfit you with a hat, sunglasses and an earpiece with a headset, to communicate with the guide and other climbers on the way up. In what was to be the start of perfect travel luck, we had an absolutely gorgeous day for our ascent to the top of the Harbor Bridge. It was warm and sunny with just enough of a breeze to keep us cool.

Our group of climbers consisted of myself, Zachary, our guide and eleven other people. At the front of the group were six American girls, studying abroad for a semester. They were very noisy, chattering away about nothing in particular and swooning over our stereotypical ruggedly handsome Australian tour guide. Behind them was a family of three from France, who also chatted away in rapid French the entire way up and down. Next in line was an American businessman, then me and Zachary and a man from Western Australia brought up the rear.

The first portion of the climb was the most difficult, as we wound our way through metalworks, from beam to beam and over scaffolding. We went up some steep ladders and crisscrossed our way until we reached the base of the structural arches. Once we reached those, it was a straight and easy climb up the hill. We made it to the top in about an hour and a half, as the process was slow when done with fourteen people all attached to each other and the bridge.

The view from the top of the bridge was amazing, and something that I will see again someday. The way that the harbor and the city unfolded in front of your eyes was breathtaking. After spending about twenty minutes identifying different landmarks around the area, we started our descent and arrived back in the lounge three and a half hours after embarking. The lobby contained signed pictures of celebrities that had made their way to the top of the bridge just like we did. The thought that I might have been wearing the same jumpsuit that NCIS’ Tony DiNozzo wore makes the trip a little more exciting.

Michael Weatherly, star of NCIS

Cast of FOX's hit show, Glee

After the bridge climb, we had a relaxing dinner in a small Chinese restaurant, making Australia the closest I’ve been to China while eating Chinese food. We retired back to our hotel and packed our bags. We had an early morning flight out of Sydney the next day. And by midday, we’d be further west, ready to explore the aboriginal grounds of Uluru.