12th June  -  Totton to Sydney

From leaving Totton at 6pm on Wednesday evening, a pretty uneventful and relatively painless journey delivered us to Sydney early on Friday morning. Along the way we'd enjoyed the benefits of the A380 Airbus, which is a world apart from any other plane I've ever been on, and the pleasant & friendly service of the Singapore Airlines cabin crew. Singapore Airport made for a great place to stop for a couple of hours, though our experience was limited to a very rapid four large ones in the Hard Rock Cafe. Ray tried a unique technique to make his drink last longer by continually drawing on his stirrer rather than the straw!

On arrival in Sydney half hour early, we also managed to whizz through customs without drama to find one of the Angells best mates, Mark, had driven up from Melbourne to surprise the boys off the plane. Apart from how stoked they were to hook up with him earlier than expected, this had the added benefit of a lift into the city in Marks trusty Ford Falcon (echoes of New Zealand here) . . . . . . and so the tour begins!

14th June  -  Sydney

We arrived at the Hyde Park Inn at 6:45 on Friday morning to be told that we couldn't get into our room until midday leaving little option but to try to find a pub to pass the time, it was 15:45 back home after all.

The neighbouring streets to the hotel were awash with Asian restaurants and coffee shops, the girl Rob approached in the take-away booth must've been surprised when it wasn't a coffee he wanted but directions to an open pub! Fortunately she was able to point us across the road to Scruffy Murphy's, and so it was we found ourselves at 7am sinking our first pints on Aussie soil.
I have to say that one of the things that concerned me most about the trip was 4 weeks drinking lager. The relief for Ray & myself on finding a couple of pale ales on tap was beyond words, what's more they weren't bad either! After a couple of pints of Lashes we decided a bit of brekkie might be a good idea, which also gave the chance to explore the area further. The added bonus to this was getting away from the irritating Irish lad who'd decided he was everyones friend (he wasn't!)

It therefore seemed a good idea to head in the direction of the tourist area of Circular Quay, from which you could view & access The Harbour Bridge, Opera House and The Rocks, which consists of many of the best pubs in the city. After a decent brekkie and another beer we did the touristy bit of taking photos and absorbing the atmosphere of this iconic hub of activity. Thankfully it was soon midday so we trekked back to the hotel and the comforts of our 15th floor room (and beds!)

Some months earlier, young Totts explorer, Findlay, set off from dear old Blighty bound for the land down under via the backpacker route through South-East Asia. As he'd finally debunked in Sydney we arranged to meet in the aptly named Three Wise Monkeys (Neil's not particularly wise!) two minutes walk from the hotel. So began a cracking night which took in the very swanky Opera Bar, with its great mix of live singer and sax with dance mixtap backing, then finishing off in the polar opposite of The Orient Hotel, where what was left of my voice was written off singing along with virtually every rock anthem ever written. The taxi dropped us back at 3am, 20 hours after that first pint . . . . ouch!

 It'll come as no surprise that there was a slow start to Saturday, we'd been informed that Waverley Rugby Club, who are based near Bondi Beach, had thrown a warm welcome to all Lions fans and were playing back-to-back matches from midday. Unfortunately, in the cold light of day, that was beyond our depleted energy reserves. Another ex-pat from Totton, John Boyle, provided valuable advise on the best pubs in the vicinity of the stadium

So it was that, with Findlay in tow, we headed off to The Bellevue Hotel in good time to watch the New Zealand v France match being shown before the Lions took on the 'Tahs. What a great call that was as it's a good old-fashioned boozer much like you only tend to find in London these days! What's more the staff & locals were really welcoming and happy to chat and enjoy the craic.

It didn't seem long before it was time to make the 15 minute walk to Allianz Stadium for the match, and what a great venue it is to! I'd had some delusional idea to make match time booze free only to find we had people waiting in every queue to optimise beer buying resources. The match, as most of you will have seen, was very entertaining and gave continued hope for a successful series, though occasional defensive lapses served as a reminder for caution to temper the optimism. Afterwards we followed further advise and headed for The London in Oxford Street but it was absolutely heaving, as was every other pub in the area so we decided to head back to the Monkeys, if only to allow a hasty retreat when the full-up signs kicked in. Surprisingly, it was another 3am finish for Ray & I, with the Angells, Mark and Findlay sampling a local club for a further hour.

The plan for Sunday was to take the ferry to Watsons Bay for lunch at the highly rated Doyles fish restaurant. This however proved to be somewhat ambitious so a hasty change of plan would take us to Darling Harbour for a bit of tucker at one of the myriad of eateries the area has to offer. Before this I'd taken the chance to visit the Anzac Memorial which is visible from our balcony overlooking Hyde Park. There I got talking to RSL volunteer Ian who'd, in typical Aussie fashion, offered me a couple of dollars to get some proper trousers as I'd obviously fallen on hard times and couldn't afford anything other than the shorts & tee-shirt I was wearing. I pointed out that sunshine & 20 degrees was summer for us and dressed accordingly. Ian was an enthralling giver of information many us Brits are unaware of regarding the Antipodean contribution to any conflicts in which we'd been involved. He described himself as a "child of the Empire", a wonderful description of a knowledgeable and thoroughly charming man I consider myself lucky to have met.

The visit to Darling Harbour pretty much drained what remained of the energy levels so an evening of jetlagged catnapping and watching telly was all anyone had in them, good thing as it turned out as this gave us the chance to make an early start to the drive down to Canberra the next day.