Checking Out Sydney.
We flew from Cairns, Australia to Sydney. Sydney is without a doubt the most beautiful city I've ever seen. As a Californian, it reminds me of both San Diego and San Francisco, but hipper. I took great pains to book us a room at the Australian Hotel in a very cool part of the city called the Rocks. Unfortunately, the people at Lonely Planet's new online booking scheme, "Haystack," totally botched our reservation. So we ended up sleeping in a small, smelly room over an English pub called the Glenmore. Bad, bad idea. Why any sober person would want to spend the night over a pub is a mystery, but it seems to be a very popular style of cheap accommodation here.
Accommodation issues aside, we enjoyed a couple of days in the city. We toured the famous Opera House during the day, then returned for a performance of Brahms by the Sydney Symphony at night. Today, we took the ferry to Manly Beach, which is like Santa Monica, except the water is clean and healthy to swim in. We caught an early evening train to a town called Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains region--so named because the eucalyptus trees here give off an ultra-fine oily mist which, seen from a distance, makes the range appear blue.