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There's more to Sydney than a superb harbor.
If you are planning to visit Australia the chances are that you will be flying into Sydney as there are many flights to Australia from all over the world. But how can you find the very best that this fascinating city has to offer ? Walter Glaser gives you some suggestions that may help to make your trip even more memorable.
Most aircraft arriving from overseas land in Sydney early in the morning, and before touching down it has almost become a tradition for pilots to fly over the harbor, giving passengers their first glimpse of what is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular cities on earth.
The Harbor Bridge straddles the narrow waterway from The Rocks to North Sydney like a giant coathanger, and the white, tile-covered roof of the Sydney Opera House, looking like a set of huge, billowing sails, glistens in the sunlight. Commuter ferries and other small craft leave V-shaped wakes as they speed across the water, and from the Central Business District, modern office towers reach into the sky. No wonder Sydney is rated, along with San Francisco and Hong Kong, as one of the three most beautiful harbor cities on earth.
Years ago I was talking to a friend on the subject of which places we liked and which places we didn't. We came to the conclusion that first impressions were rarely overturned, and how we first felt about a place when we arrived would color our thinking for the rest of the trip. We decided that the biggest influences were:
the weather on arrival,
whether there was any aggravation (with airport procedures, etc.),
the people we met (one rotten apple could easily spoil the barrel),
what the food was like,
and most importantly, whether the place we were staying at was comfortable, user friendly and with efficient, personable staff.
Ever since then I've made sure to check out the hotels in places I plan to visit and try as hard as possible to select good ones. Where you stay on your visit to Sydney will greatly influence your perception of Australia's biggest metropolis.
I've always found that the worst room in the best hotel is infinitely better than the best room in the worst one. Anyway, that's my excuse for wanting to stay at fine hotels. And if its five-star luxury you want, Sydney can certainly hold its own with any city. The hotels I like best are the Regent of Sydney, the Sydney Inter-Continental, the Ritz-Carlton and the Renaissance as far as larger hotels are concerned, and the Park-Hyatt and The Observatory as two small hotels that are absolutely world-class. All of these are within easy walking distance of some of Sydney's top attractions, and would suit even the most fastidious jetsetter.
The Regent of Sydney, belongs to a group that is considered, along with its Four Seasons sister hotels, one of the finest in the business. This hotel is a legend and has a brilliant position within walking distance of the Opera House, The Rocks and the inner city. Fine dining is one of the Regent's strengths also. The hotel's silver-service 'Kables Restaurant' is a perfect place for a romantic dinner. The cuisine has won more awards than one could list on one page, and when you dine here you will know why.
The Sydney Inter-Continental is a hotel of great personality made particularly interesting by the fact that many of its public rooms are housed in the shell of the old colonial Treasury Building. This was home to the Treasury of the Colony of New South Wales and dates back over a century to the period before Federation.
The old Treasury building was -- and is -- one of the loveliest examples of Australian colonial architecture and greatly enhances the ambiance of the hotel. The residential towers are modern, efficient and user-friendly. The Inter-Continental's premier dining room, The Treasury, is now under the culinary baton of Tony Bilson who I rate as one of Australia's greatest chefs. This is where Australia's movers and shakers dine, and it is not unusual to see top corporate honchos and politicians living it up here. They know the best watering holes, especially when their company or the government is paying!
The Ritz-Carlton is smaller than the other two hotels, but has the classic style and personality that is the hallmark of this group. I have never yet stayed at a bad Ritz-Carlton, nor have I so far spoken to anyone who has had a bad experience with this chain. And the Sydney Ritz-Carlton has outstanding management that makes every visitor feel like an honored guest. I can also recommend dining at the Ritz-Carlton. You'll get a splendid meal -- right up to their high standard worldwide.
The Renaissance is one of the newer arrivals on the Sydney hotel scene. It also has a fabulous position, staff for whom nothing is too much trouble, and a level of excellence that puts it in a class with the best. Dining here is fun and quite informal. Their Crayons Restaurant is so named because of the trendy paper tablecloths which come with a set of crayons at each table. While you are waiting for dinner you can doodle, draw cartoons of people you hate, or write love notes. They have a splendid Flambe menu that is not only excellent but also inexpensive (a combination I cannot fault).
The Park-Hyatt is one of the very small, elite hotels that makes up the cream of the world's Hyatts. The views from its harbor-side rooms are stunningly romantic, the service is faultless, the facilities excellent -- in other words it's about as good as a hotel can get. Expensive, but worth the money. Same applies to dining here. The view alone makes the evening memorable, but the food is also delicious, so you get a double advantage. This hotel is truly a gem.
And speaking of gems, the Observatory Hotel falls into that category also. But what would one expect of an establishment that is operated by the Orient Express people, a group that includes the legendary Cipriani in Venice, the Splendido in Portofino, and the Mount Nelson Hotel in Capetown.
Dining at the Observatory is also quite an experience. This hotel prides itself on its fine cuisine, and justifiably so. I've had one of my most memorable meals here when the chef of the Cipriani in Venice was flown in for an Italian food festival. Mamma mia! What's Italian for 'finger-lickin' good?
So there you have my personal preference in Sydney's hotels. Whichever one of these you choose should have you going home starry-eyed about your Sydney accommodation. And you won't be disappointed with the dining at all of these establishments also. By the way, if by a million to one shot you stay at any of them and think that I was wrong, please don't write and tell me about it. I don't like shattered dreams!
So now you know about the best hotels....