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G'day mate!  Sorry about the delay, but as most of you guessed; I am in the Land Down Under!   I love Australia and I'm excited to be back.  It's going to take a few newsletters to show you around Sydney and where I am now.  Speaking of where I am right now: I'm in a remote place in Australia where they do not have high speed internet access and to get on a slow dial up cost $1.20 a minute.  Ouch!  Therefore most of my pictures, stories, links and tips about Sydney will have to wait till next week.  To give you a little hint where I am now...  I'm on the balcony of our hotel, overlooking a few of the surrounding 74 tropical islands.  The temperature is 28 degrees Celsius (I have no idea what that is in Fahrenheit, but it's HOT!)   There are wild cockatoo's, colorful lorikeet's and big ole' bats flying around the lush green palm trees.  Any ideas where I am?  I'll tell you in due time, right now let me first tell you about our last minute journey that got us to the land they call down under.  

We pulled this 7,490 mile journey off at the very last minute.   It all came about, about a week ago when I emailed my brother, Frank, and wrote in the subject line:  "We fly, you buy".  He knew what I meant, "we get first class tickets and he pays the rest of the way".  Not a bad deal because who wants to sit in coach for 14 hours or pay $14,500.  I was planning on cashing in a bunch of miles because I'm starting to get a bit worried about my “mileage” account, but since they were only willing to give us one first class seat, Amber Airplane suggested we use her very limited and coveted "buddy passes".   A buddy pass is a stand by ticket.  Meaning, if there are seats available, they are ours.  It's a long and complicated process, but basically it's based on seniority.  Unfortunately her airline just recently raised the prices significantly, the only good thing about that is not that many people are flying on buddy passes these days.   These passes are a great deal especially if you can be flexible because you never know for sure if you are going to get on. This was an experience for me, as I have not used them very often, especially overseas.

Frank, as usual never confirmed with us if he was going to accept our offer.  He went M.I.A. the whole weekend, so I couldn't get a hold of him.  Because of his non-committal, I didn't make reservations or definite plans.  Everyone thought I was a little wacky when I said "I might be going to Australia tomorrow", but if they knew my brother or were familiar with buddy passes they would understand.  Tuesday morning rolls around and Frank wakes me at 6:30am to say that he is on his way. On his way to: where? Well to the airport of course, to JFK to come meet us in L.A.  I spent most of the day trying to finish up some last minute work and I monitored to see if the flight we were planning on taking looked good or not for stand by travel.  Frank arrived and was bummed when I told him the flight didn’t look too good for tonight.   We decided to make plans to leave the following day, which meant I would put all my errands off for 24 hours.  When we were just about to go out the door to dinner, I get a phone call at 8pm from a friend of Amber Airplane’s.   Her friend worked at LAX and said, “You should try to fly out tonight because it's your best chance to leave this week".  It's 8pm and neither Amber Airplane nor I had packed.  You should've seen Amber Airplane's face when I said "we needed to leave in 15 minutes to go to LAX".   It takes me 5 minutes to pack, Amber, well she is a perfectionist so it takes her a while.  We run around the house like a tornado, send a couple of quick emails, call a taxi, and do all the normal going away stuff like locking up the house (which we forgot to do).  The taxi driver was 15 minutes late, and when we got close to LAX someone yells out, "Oh my gosh, I forgot my passport at home" (I'm not mentioning any names, but I think you know who).  We tell the taxi to make a quick U-ey, which sends us flying into each other, puts a big smile on the driver's face because not only does he make more money, but he gets to listen to more of Frankie D's taxi cab confessions…

We show up to LAX at 9:15pm for a 10:10pm international departure. The agent, who happened to know me, just gave me a look like "What are you thinking?”  I shrugged my shoulders and shifted my eyes to: you know who and he smiled.  Then he wasn't too happy when he found out we didn't apply for an  electronic visa , so he had to do it, which added another 3 minutes, per passenger!  Our buddy said "First class actually looks good, but there are only 3 seats left and if they call our name and we’re not at the gate, we lose them".  Obviously, we did not want to fly coach, who does?  The plane was already boarding, and they were about to call stand byes any minute.  The one positive thing about showing up to LAX late is there was no security line.  The negative; we had to run all the way through the terminal like a pack of hyena's.  Yelling to each other, FASTER, FASTER!  As we approached the gate we heard our names being called over the PA and we made it just in the knick of time to pick up our seats 1A, 1J , and 2J!  First Class Baby!  We felt like dancing but we were out of breath, had sweat pouring down our heads, and had one more stop; passport control.  We cleared there and then hopped (umm, skipped) on to the plush 747-400 where we were immediately greeted by the coolest captain.  He put Mardi Gras beads around our necks and said welcome aboard.  It was my first time sitting down stairs in the very first seat of a 747.  We were literally in the nose of the plane (the cockpit is upstairs).  We get to our seats.  Sit back, take a peek at our amenity bag (socks, eye patch, ear plugs, tooth brush, lip balm etc.), have a cold glass of water served in a glass, and take a deep sigh. 

A few minutes later the purser gets on the PA and says tonight’s flight time is 15 hours and 58 minutes.   Amber and Frank both look at me and said "you told me it's 14 hours".  I said "it always has been, must be a strong head winds, I don’t know, but at least we are in first".  They all agreed.  The captain becomes even more popular when he gets on the PA and alleviates all the passengers when he corrects the flight attendant.  He says tonight’s flight time is only 13 hours and 58 minutes.  What a great way to make a long flight, look short in a matter of minutes.

When you fly to Australia from the States, you lose a day.  Which means we took off at 10:30pm on March 4 and landed at 7:30am on March 6.  When you think about it... what the heck happened to March 5?  It's crazy, isn’t it?  March 5 did not exist this year for us, we can scratch it off the calendar.  Frank's birthday was March 6th; I said to him "imagine if we left a day later?  You wouldn't have had a birthday, now how weird would that be?"  Sitting up in the shotgun seat has it's advantages and disadvantages.  Obviously, one gets a much better seat, food, and service.  But the disadvantage is on taxiing down the runway.  Those wheels directly below us were making all kinds of weird noises, and freaking me out.  I am sure now they were normal, but they weren't to me then.  Hearing those noises triggered my mind to think crazy thoughts,  which I imagine most passengers get when boarding on one of the longest non-stop flights in the world.  Fourteen hours is a long time to be trapped in a flying tube, but there's a whole list of worse things.  To ease my anxieties I asked a couple of the flight attendants how many times they have done this flight.  Their answers were all the same "I have no idea, maybe a 100?"  A hundred times did the trick.

Being in First Class made the fourteen hours go by like I was at a party at the playboy mansion.  Although, even with a flat bed I didn't sleep much.  I think I was just too excited about going back to Oz

See you next week!

Johnny Jet

P.S.  I ended up getting that picture with Dick Van Dyke .  Pretty cool, eh?

  • WTMY 1280am- Sarasota Florida
  • If you heard about us somewhere else please reply to this email and let us know where!
  • You're obviously Down Under right!  I can't wait to hear if you're in Australia or New Zealand.  I lived in Brisbane for 5 months and traveled extensively throughout Australia, so I hope I get to see some of my favorite sights through your eyes! Christine- Boston 
  • I look forward to all your travels and your wisdom shared.  Bon journée! Karen V. - French Riviera
  • Enjoy your site immensely.  John R.
  • First let me take this time to say what a great site you have. As a former travel industry worker I enjoy the site a lot. I have one question: do you know of any website that would only give flight schedules? The reason I ask is that I have at times assisted people (who know I used to work for airlines) when they get bumped, miss flight etc., and I have to look at different websites for that info. So I was wondering if there was an easier way. Thanks for your help. REPLY: Thanks for the nice email.  We have two sites: One is  Smarterliving's flight search and the other is SkyGuide .
  • We had dinner at the Outback Restaurant last night mate, in honor of your trip.  It was good and I even had a Fosters beer - Dad
  • Love your newsy newsletter and all the great links.  But did you hear about the well-dressed woman shopping on Rodeo Drive and was approached by a homeless man?  He said, "M’am, I haven't eaten in three days." And she replied: "God, I wish I had your willpower."  (I don't think it was Amber or Nancy, was it?)  Ted C. – Perinton, NY

Looking for *UPGRADE STRATEGIES*, 2-for-1s and other *advanced ticketing techniques*. Look no further...these hot deals and more are available at First Class Flyer's Web site SECRETS of First Class air travel are REVEALED to you every month in "Mr. Upgrade's" First Class Flyer newsletter. View a ** **FREE SAMPLE**** issue today:

My husband and I have just come back from our second trip to Europe, and discovered something new we´d like to share with you.
Have tried to limit myself to the essentials!  Explore fascinating Innsbruck and then head towards "Alto Adige", a two hour drive to northern Italy (used to be Austria before WWI) to see the monumental CHURBURG.  This majestic medieval fortress, which was built in the 13th century, houses the world´s most important collection of armour.  It belongs to an ancient Tyrolean family, the Counts Trapp, and is open to the public....see

From Reader Linda Bowman

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Ten Things To Know About Melbourne, Australia (From Bestfares)
Sydney may be the destination of choice, but more travelers might choose Melbourne if they only knew what the city has to offer. Here is a 10-part start.

  • Melbourne used to be Australia's top city, built by the gold rush of the middle 1800s. As a result, it is a beautiful city of trees and Victorian houses.
  • Sydney is more American in its lust to make money. People who live in Melbourne tend to be more the "work to live" sort.
  • Gold rush money gave way to working class values in Melbourne. Its down-to-earth people are friendly and unpretentious. Its recent immigrants have added welcome variety. The ever-fascinating Brunswick Street has become a mecca of Asian shops and restaurants where a great meal will cost you just five or six dollars.
  • Today's Melbourne is the most culture-strong Aussie city with avant garde arts companies, high fashion and a profusion of bookshops and stop-and-talk-a-while cafes.
  • Melbourne is a city of neighborhoods. St. Kilda, at the end of tram lines 96 and 16, a 20-minute ride from city center, is home to Luna Park , an amusement park that includes a 1912 roller coaster, a wealth of friendly cafes and beautiful white sand beaches.
  • Melbourne has recently invested about $7 billion Australian in city improvements, and it shows. Federation Square is a new gathering spot full of shops, museums, restaurants, gardens and other welcoming places to stop and enjoy the passing scene. Efforts also include the Docklands , the largest city waterfront renewal project in the world.
  • The CBD area (eight blocks square) doesn't have any single thing quite as striking as the Sydney Opera House, but it more than makes up for it in classic buildings, walkways along the Yarra River and a bit of ostentation of its own -- the tallest buildings in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • It's easier and cheaper to get around Melbourne with its efficient trams (buy your tickets onboard) and atmosphere maintained in some classy wooden cars from days gone by. An all-day ticket is about $3 USD. If you stick to the City Circle line (it circles the CBD every quarter hour) the ride is free.
  • There's plenty of free things to do in Melbourne. For example, visit the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and enjoy the added attraction of a gratis performance by Chunky Move , an interestingly techo dance company. The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art is another free wonder.
  • The National Gallery of Victoria is, in itself, worth a long plane ride if only for its breathtaking 26 William Blake watercolors that illustrated Dante's Divine Comedy.
  • Airfares to Australia are at their lowest for travel from April to September. If you go, consider lodging at King Boutique where a room with luxury touches )marble bath, down comforter and terrycloth robes) is about $70 per night including a wonderful breakfast.
For more information on Melbourne access


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