Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Soaring Return To Sydney

Yesterday, after a whirlwind week of island hopping around Queensland for a press trip, I made my long-awaited return to Sydney.

Breezy, beautiful weather greeted me in the city I was lucky to call home for five months back in ‘02. After a leisurely check-in at my hotel in the heart of Sydney’s CBD that led to a room upgrade and complimentary bottle of sparkling wine, I went for a stroll down George Street.

I was unable to suppress a smile from the joy of being back in one of my most favorite cities, a smile that grew even wider as I caught a glimpse of Sydney’s iconic Opera House and Harbor Bridge.

After a delightful seafood dinner in The Rocks, an artsy neighborhood right near the water, Barb (one of the press trip journalists) and I made our way to the bridge.

Ever since my first visit to Sydney, people have often asked me -- have you done the BridgeClimb? With this trip, I decided it was finally time to change the answer to that question.

Barb and I couldn’t have picked a better night to do the 3.5 hour activity. BridgeClimb is very popular with locals on weekends and sure enough, we were the only non-Aussies in our group of 11.

After getting suited up and prepped by our perky, knowledgeable climb leader Kelly, we began our ascent to the summit.

My heart leapt into my throat as we crossed the first catwalk well above street level, then climbed a couple of very steep ladders. Upon reaching the steps, though, my anxiety was quickly replaced with sheer awe at the view of Sydney before me.

Sydney’s Harbor Bridge: Seven years after my first visit to Australia, I can finally say -- I climbed it!

The summit is 1.5 football fields -- that’s 134 meters, or about 440 feet -- above sea level. Some other fun facts -- BridgeClimb staff members go through six weeks of training and do about 13 climbs per week, and the longest-running staffer has climbed the bridge a whopping 4,000 times.

One very friendly BridgeClimber, Mark (who helped me resist giving into my initial nerves and backing out), told us he's racked up 700 climbs over the course of two years and still loves doing it. He also shared some exciting news -- the company is hoping to launch a similar climb experience on New York’s Brooklyn Bridge.

Sign me up!

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