Some holidays and venues just become nightmares; others just get better and better. Thankfully, this holiday to Sydney was the latter.
International travel can be tricky these days, with delays, security queues and long waits in cluttered airports. This was totally the opposite.
I booked in at Christchurch International Airport almost two hours before departure and was absolutely blown away by the stunning Emirates service. They upgraded me to business class and with a lovely smile, I was ushered into the business class lounge. It was cool, clean, quiet, lots of yummy nibble food and I was so at ease before boarding.
Once seated on flight EK419 to Sydney, I was offered a chilled glass of Moet and Chandon; I lay back against the cream leather and listened to Brahms. I had heard Emirates were the best, but this was as close as I could get to paradise in the air.
I was waited on and foot by my air hostess Natalie Cuneen. She said Emirates are such a brilliant carrier to work for and she loved meeting interesting new people all the time. I was like a kid in a toy shop in my plush seat: with a choice of hundreds of different songs to listen to and the latest movies to watch. I just wish next time I could spend a whole day on an Emirates A380, soaking up their top of the world service. Emirates operate 28 return flights per week from New Zealand to Dubai and beyond. They are easily the best airline flying out of New Zealand.
Without a shadow of a lie, from the time I said my goodbyes to the friendly flight crew, to the time I stepped out of Sydney Airport it took no less than 15 minutes: That must be some sort of record too. So thanks again to Emirates express departure process.
I blattered away in my Jucy rental car away to the five star luxury hotel The Grand Harbourside Medina – right by the Darling Harbour waterfront. This was A1 location.
The apartment was super: a view of glistening Darling Harbour and so close to the city skyline and night-time amenities. The location was absolutely superb within a few hundred metres of all the restaurants and bars on Darling Harbour and easy access on foot or by monorail into the city center.
My fifth floor suite was extremely spacious and immaculately clean. Despite the hustle and bustle of party-goers at night, the room was totally quiet because of double-hush ranch-sliding door to my balcony. I walked to the Sydney fish markets one day, which is a slice of Australia that everyone must see; and some great characters there.
By the time I walked 20 minutes back to the hotel it was hot and I plunged into the hotel pool and lay on the loungers, wondering if heaven could be any better. For more than $400 including Lime Cafe breakfast you would be hard pressed to get a better anywhere is Sydney. My apartment was cleaned, with beds made, every day and dirty dishes washed. I could even do my own laundry. I found the staff so friendly: people like Nicole (manager), Priteeka, Paulina, Ben and Amil they helped lift the reputation of the place. I so appreciated being able to do our laundry and later enjoyed a quiet drink on the balcony at night. The hotel is right adjacent to the bustling Darling Harbour area with lots of cheerful places to eat, and it is an easy walk or ferry ride to the Circular Quay where the Opera House is located and ferries to the Zoo, Manly, etc. Being in such close proximity to everything is one of the best features of the Medina. It's right next door to the Sydney Aquarium, pubs, restaurants, China Town, CBD shopping, Fish Market (20 min's walk) and other sightseeing. I discovered the staggeringly-good Arthouse Hotel on Pitt Street which showed some of the best of Australian art in perfect surroundings.
The Grand Harbourside is owned by the Toga Group, one of Australia's largest accommodation providers, in Australia, New Zealand and Europe. The Toga Group was founded by Ervin Vidor.
The CEO is Rachel Argaman who was named NSW Business Woman of the year in 2008.
After four nights of serviced-apartment luxury, I had to head back to home, tinged with fleeting sadness having to farewell my haven apartment. But I was buoyed with knowledge I was heading to the Sydney airport Emirates first-class lounge - my e-ticket and seating arriving by email the day before - where I could take stock of a most wonderful week, sip a final glass of Moet in the grand Emirates lounge and enjoy superb service all the way back to New Zealand. I make a mental note of doing this again next year!
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