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Featuring the Melbourne Cup
15 Days, 14 Nights (including two en route)
OCTOBER 20 to NOVEMBER 3, 2021
4 nights in Sydney, 2 nights in the Hunter Valley, 6 nights in Melbourne
3 days of racing at Flemington and Randwick
Farm and winery visits in Victoria and the Hunter Valley
Special sightseeing in Melbourne and Sydney
|Depart the U.S. if not joining the trip from Australia or elsewhere.
Please note that your overnight flight from the U.S. to Australia crosses the International Date Line, and you will "lose" a calendar day on the way down. Arrival in Australia will be two calendar days after departure. This "lost" day is made up on your return.
|Arrive in Sydney. You'll be met at the airport and transferred to the Four Seasons Hotel, our accommodation in the center of the city. The remainder of the day day is free for adjustment and your own activities.
We always recommend staying active on your arrival day, and there are a number of things to do in the immediate area of the hotel. One we'd particularly suggest: a 15-minute walk and a ride up to the observation floor of the Sydney Tower, the city's tallest structure, for a birds-eye view that will help orient you to your surroundings.
At about 6PM we'll all meet up for cocktails to get to know one another and to go over the details of our upcoming time together. We'll also organize a no-host group dinner at a nearby restaurant for those that are in the mood for it.
THE FOUR SEASONS: There are more than a couple of luxury properties in this town, but location and views-from-the-rooms were the tiebreakers in settling on our Sydney hotel. The customary Four Seasons top-of-the-line accommodation and service didn't hurt either. Just minutes away from Circular Quay and Sydney's old town known as "The Rocks", the high-rise Four Seasons offers breathtaking panoramas from its Full Harbour View rooms, the category we've selected. There's an excellent spa in-house, a fitness center, and a delightful rooftop/outdoor pool. Have a look at www.fourseasons.com/sydney to learn more about the hotel. A buffet breakfast is included each morning of our stay.
|Today is our racing day in Sydney, and we'll be going out to Royal Randwick Racecourse for the action. Randwick is Sydney's principal course and it hosts many very important events throughout the year, including a big multi-day festival at Easter time. It's also the home of the Australian Derby.
With all the big horses down in Melbourne, today's local meeting is a minor one. We'll enjoy the course on a relatively quiet day. However, the Cox Plate, one of Australia's biggest races, is on at Moonee Valley in Melbourne and we'll catch it by simulcast at Randwick. And since the horses race so frequently in Australia, we'll probably be able to see runners that will be on next week's cards when we get down there in person.
Randwick is a right-turning irregularly-shaped oval course with mini-straights on the turns that make it almost rectangular. It's a bit over 1 3/8 miles around with a homestretch of a quarter-mile that seems shorter than that in a race.
After the races we'll head due east to the Pacific Coast for an hour or two of stunning sightseeing along the shoreline. The beach-and-cliff scenery here is remarkable, and we'll look in at Tamarama, Bondi, Dover Heights, and "The Gap" for a taste of it all. There will be some new and novel views back to the city center, also.
We'll end up in Watson's Bay and have a no-host dinner at the venerable harbour-front institution, Doyles on the Beach. Let's hope for a nice sunset.
We hope all will be on board for this dinner. but any who'd prefer to skip it can go straight back to the hotel and be on their own. For those who do stay, after dinner a ferry will take us back to Circular Quay and the city, and we'll get a chance to see Sydney Harbour by night.
|An OPEN DAY to enjoy Sydney on your own. We thought about scheduling something specific, but there were too many things to choose from, and so we've left this day alone for you to do exactly what you want. Some ideas:
Near our hotel is the historic, re-gentrified neighborhood of The Rocks, which was the original core of Sydney. This area is full of shops and galleries and is interesting to visit on any day, but on weekends it's closed to vehicle traffic and hosts an open-air market.
We'll be having an extensive experience of Sydney Harbour tomorrow, but you can use the charming and frequent ferry services to pop around and explore the shorelines on your own. Boats to everywhere leave from Circular Quay.
Board another kind of vessel and go outside into the ocean for some whale-watching. It's a predictable migration time and whale sighting is guaranteed by the boat operators.
Stroll the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens, walk the perimeter of the harbour, or visit the nearby Opera House for a tour or even a performance if the scheduling is right.
The hardy might want to consider climbing to the top of the Harbour Bridge for still another perspective of the city and the harbour, this one breathtaking in more ways than one. Veterans of this experience swear by it.
At any rate, the above should certainly be enough to get you through the day. There is no shortage of things to do in Sydney.
Mon Oct 25
|A very special treat today: Lunch and a cruise around Sydney Harbor on our own boat.
The Harbour is Sydney's signature visual element and quite possibly the most beautiful urban body of water in the world. Certainly your humble trip organizer has never seen better, and he's been around a bit. If you can picture a more intimately-scaled San Francisco Bay, with the far shores all looking like Tiburon and Sausalito only much closer to the city, with green-blue water in a semi-tropical setting, then you've got a hint of what it's like.
We'll spend a leisurely few hours out in this spectacular setting, poking into many of the little bays, and seeing the city skyline and the famous Opera House and Harbour Bridge from many angles. A nice lunch will be part of it, and even the wine is "on our shout" today.
Nothing specific is planned for tonight, our last in Sydney. You can be on your own or we can organize a no-host group dinner if the demand is there. There are plenty of dining options.
Tues Oct 26
|Time to pull up stakes today and say "until next time" to Sydney. After breakfast and checkout, we'll be off on the 2 1/2 hour drive up to Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley. We'll break up the ride with a simple lunch in a picturesque village along the way.
After settling into our rooms at The Carriages Boutique Hotel, we'll head out for a wine tasting. Following on that we'll have time for a relaxed cocktail hour on the hotel veranda before walking to dinner at a nearby restaurant.
THE CARRIAGES BOUTIQUE HOTEL: Privately situated and unpretentiously luxurious, The Carriages is where we'll be hanging our hat in the Hunter for the third time. A covered wrap-around porch surrounds the main 8-room guest house, and the 2-room Gatehouse is just a minute away on foot. It's quite possible we'll have the whole place to ourselves. There's also a swimming pool to cool off in. The property produces its own excellent wines, and you may want to pick up a bottle to help you with the sunset. Visit www.thecarriages.com.au to see more. A gourmet continental breakfast is provided each morning.
Wed Oct 27
|The Hunter Valley is the heart of Australia's Thoroughbred breeding industry. Dozens of farms are spread out over an area of about 800 square miles to the northwest of our lodging. About a third of the country's stallions are standing here, and about a quarter of the foals are produced. Following breakfast we'll head west to our first stop, the Australia headquarters of Ireland's global Coolmore Stud operation.
Coolmore/Australia occupies over 9,000 acres and during the breeding months may have as many as 20 stallions in residence, many of whom will have been shuttled down from the northern hemisphere for the season. We'll have a good look around.
We'll then head north further into the "Upper Hunter" and have a pub lunch before continuing on to the Scone area and visits to at least one more farm possibly two if time permits.
We're hoping to see a large Australian-owned stallion-standing farm as well as a smaller property that's geared more to mares and foals only. The latter may be the priority if we're squeezed for time.
Because of the wide area we have to cover to see these representative establishments, the farm visits will take up most of the day. We'll get back to our house around the cocktail hour. As the geography makes it difficult to do both, wine will be a secondary consideration today. Those for whom it is more important might want to be on their own today for some no-host vineyard hopping. We can book you a separate vehicle for this if there's sufficient demand.
We have a feeling everybody will be ready to enjoy a quiet evening "at home" tonight. We've arranged for an informal barbecue on the veranda at The Carriages. There will be time for a swim before.
Thu Oct 28
|Reluctantly, we bid farewell to the Hunter and make our way to Melbourne.
After breakfast and checkout, we'll be off mid-morning to Newcastle airport, a little over an hour away. Our flight to Melbourne will also take just a bit over an hour. On arrival we'll transfer to the central city and our lodging at the Langham Hotel.We should be there by mid-afternoon.
THE LANGHAM: Luxurious comfort, elegant ambience, and a perfect location make the Langham the obvious choice for our Melbourne headquarters. Located on the Southbank Promenade, with fine views of the city center just across the river, the Langham is out of the hustle but only a few walking minutes away from everything. In addition to your room with a view, you might also want to spend some time in the fitness center, out on the rooftop deck, or in the beautiful swimming pool. For a serving of heightened well-being, the Chuan Spa is also located within the property. See melbourne.langhamhotels.com.au for more information on the hotel. A full breakfast is included each morning of our stay.
You won't be short of things to do during the rest of an unstructured afternoon. As was the case in Sydney, there is a high-rise viewpoint within a short walk of the hotel. Called the Eureka Tower, it offers a sweeping look at the entire Melbourne region. Very worthwhile and highly recommended is an organized and specialized walking tour of the atmospheric city center and its little side streets and alleyways. One of these walks, focused on shopping and art, is an excellent way to get "inside" Melbourne. They must be booked in advance. You might enjoy an independent look-around just as much.
Tonight we'll also organize a no-host group dinner at a popular Melbourne restaurant for those that are in the mood for it.
Fri Oct 29
|Our local stay kicks off this morning with a "Melbourne 101" coach exploration, taking in all the major sights. Besides the obvious buildings and monuments, we'll cruise some of the neighborhoods and attractions on the periphery of the city center that you might want to come back to later on your own. We'll see the city's great parks and also get down to the shorefront of Port Phillip bay at St. Kilda.
Mid-day we'll be back at the hotel and ready for a special event that will truly help get us in the mood for the upcoming Spring Racing Carnival, the week-long festival of racing that includes the Melbourne Cup. We've been fortunate to have been invited to attend the luncheon of The Carbine Club, held every year on the Friday before the Carnival begins. Named after the legendary racehorse Carbine, winner of the Cup in 1890 under 145 pounds, The Club is one of Australia's most prestigious racing organizations.
Attended by upwards of a thousand members and invited guests, this Friday lunch is lively in the Australian way, lasts well into the afternoon, and usually segues on to the bar downstairs for some follow-through. On past trips we've spread our group out among many tables, to take full advantage of this opportunity to meet and mingle with Australian racing people. You'll make some friends.
There is a modest "pre-Derby" evening of racing at the Moonee Valley course tonight, for those that are more than ready to partake of some action. We've not made any special arrangements at the track, but we can certainly organize transport for those that want to take it in.
Sat Oct 30
|This is one of the biggest racing days of the year in Australia – the opening day of the Spring Carnival, headlined by the mile-and-nine-sixteeths Victoria Derby for 3-year-olds. The Derby is Victoria's oldest race, dating back to 1855, and every race on the card today is a Group-rated event: there are four Group 1s, two Group 2s, and three Group 3s.
If the program tracks with that of 2020, besides the Derby the other Group 1s will be the Cantala for older horses at a flat mile; the Empire Rose for fillies and mares, also at a mile; and the Coolmore Stud for 3-year-olds at six furlongs. (The Empire Rose, by the way, is named for a much-loved New Zealand-bred-and-trained mare. In 1988 she won the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes, then run on the Derby Day Saturday, and followed up by taking the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.)
They race for big money in Australia, and total prize money today will be more than five million U.S. dollars. For racing people, this is a more important day than Melbourne Cup Day itself.
Things start early - first post is usually just before noon. And because upwards of 100,000 fans will be packing Flemington Racecourse, we'll plan to get there early ourselves so that we can learn our way around before the place gets filled up. It's a very large plant, and the paddock is quite a ways from the best seating area where we'll be. It is possible to view the horses in the paddock, make a bet, and still get back to the seats to see a race - but it really helps to know the shortcuts.
Flemington is a left-turning track about 1 3/8 miles around. It's pear-shaped, reminiscent of the old Jamaica course in New York, with a tight first turn and a sweeping stretch turn. All the racing is on grass. The skyline of downtown Melbourne looms in the distance, one of the most distinctive backdrops of any racecourse in the world.
We'll have reserved seating in the best viewing area of the stands. Optional, and expensive, reserved lunch seating is available for those who want it, but it must be booked well in advance. We expect also to be able to obtain entrance to the Members Enclosure; this again is not inexpensive, is not openly available to the public, and we must arrange it well in advance if desired. (Please note your race-viewing won't be improved in the Members' enclosure.)
As to transport, after considering all the options, we'll be doing it the way the locals of all stripes do it - by train. Due to trafffic and the extra walking distance from the parking lots, taking a coach to the course adds quite a chunk of time each way to the journey. The train trip is about twenty minutes, the atmosphere on-board is acceptably civilized, and each of us will have the flexibility of returning to town whenever we want. The station, by the way, is five minutes' walk across the river from our hotel.
Sun Oct 31
| This afternoon we've got in mind to get out of the city and see some of rural Victoria. There is wine country in all directions from Melbourne, with a range of topographic, soil, and climate conditions producing a wide selection of wines and offering a variety of scenic experiences. We'll choose a compass course to take and a program to enjoy. In any case a simple lunch and wine tasting at a couple of the more than 600 Victorian growers will be included. We'll be back in the city by early evening.
Mon Nov 1
| This is an OPEN DAY to use as you please. You might choose to sleep in, relax, maybe spend some time at the pool, or get a spa treatment. Downtown Melbourne is just across the river, and one of the specialized walking tours we recommended earlier would be a good option today if you haven't already done it. A long walk up the riverbank promenade past the rowing-club boathouses to the superb Royal Botanic Gardens would be rewarding, too.
Another possibility is joining in on the traditional pre-Melbourne Cup lunch held annually at a prominent Italian restaurant in downtown Melbourne. We've kindly been invited to again take part, and on our previous Australia trips most of the group attended and it was a great experience. The party gets underway midday and usually winds up taking up a good part of the afternoon. There's music, much hilarity, good food, and the chance to make more new Australian friends. Participation is on a no-host basis, and we do recommend it.
Tue Nov 2
| Melbourne Cup Day. It's a public holiday locally, and everybody wakes up with a plan for where they'll be to watch "The Race That Stops a Nation".
We'll begin our day by pinning on a yellow rose, traditional flower of the Melbourne Cup, and stopping in at the Champagne Reception kindly put on by the Langham for guests headed to the races. First post is even earlier today -- usually about 10:30AM -- but since the overall card is not quite as deep as Saturday's and we already know our way around, we won't need to head out to the course quite as early as we did before. One more glass of Champagne always sets the glow a bit better.
There are a number of Group 3s and Listed races also to be run, but today is really all about the Cup. With its two-mile distance and three minutes-plus run time, a six-million dollar purse, a field limit of 24 with an equal number clamoring to get in, and a humongous betting pool with every big plunger and kindergarten teacher from Perth to Surfer's Paradise down for the action, the Melbourne Cup is one of the world's great races. It's a breathless run every step of the way -- the field jostles down the five-furlong opening straight, the riders negotiate for position around the claustrophobic first turn, energy is conserved in the long run up the back, and all is thrown in on the far turn and into the homestretch. Like the Taj Mahal, even with all the buildup and anticipation, the Melbourne Cup does not disappoint. Five minutes after it's over you'll want to do it again.
Tonight is our last night in Melbourne. We'll make a group booking at an atmospheric restaurant, and everyone is invited to join in on a no-host basis.
Wed Nov 3
| The organized itinerary ends this morning. If you are not staying on at the Langham, following breakfast and checkout we'll provide transport to Melbourne airport for your flight home or onward. Extenders at the Langham will get this service on their checkout day, whenever it is. After an overnight flight home, you'll arrive back in the U.S. on the morning of the same calendar day.
Hoo-roo, and travel safely
TRIP TIMING AND THE BREEDERS' CUP
The calendar and geography are kind to us this year. It's not always the case but in 2021 the dates of the Melbourne Cup and the Breeders' Cup make it possible to experience both. Further, the host track for the Breeders' Cup is Del Mar in California, where almost all of you will be re-entering the U.S. on your way back from Australia. The Wednesday morning return to California gives you plenty of time to get down to Del Mar, get a good night's sleep and an entire day to refresh on Thursday. You'll be primed and ready to go when the BC kicks off on Friday November 5.
TRAVELING TO AUSTRALIA
Something you can't get around: Australia is a long way away. Two things we like to mention here on that score:
First, the overnight flight from California is nowhere near as discomfiting as you'd think. Generally the flight leaves late evening and following drinks and dinner the plane quiets down in a hurry. The flight time is long enough to actually relax and get some sleep, unlike the shorter overnights to Europe where you're shaken awake for breakfast just as you've managed to finally settle in. And you're going with the sun and not against it, which always makes the time change less disruptive.
We do very much recommend that travelers starting from the eastern U.S. time zones spend one night on the west coast before continuing on to Australia the next night. It makes the adjustment significantly easier.
Second, if you're coming all this way - and might never again - you'll want to think about experiencing more of Australia than just the racing-intense part of it we're going to see on our trip. We know some people have limited amounts of time they can be away and that's why we've designed our trip to take up the absolute minimum number of days necessary. If you have more time, we urge you to expand with an earlier arrival in Australia - perhaps for some extra time in Sydney or another excursion elsewhere, maybe up to the Barrrier Reef in Queensland. If you aren't worried about getting back for the Breeders' Cup, you can consider having this bonus activity after our trip.
The best thing about Australia is the people. Nowhere else we've ever been have the residents been more friendly, cheerful, fun-loving, and welcoming. The longer you stay the more of this you'll get. Again, you won't be sorry.
This trip will close on June 30, 2021. Payment in full and all necessary completed paperwork must be received by us no later than this date to insure that you will be able to join the trip.
COME EARLY, STAY LATE:
As mentioned above, this itinerary is designed to be full and busy. We invite you to consider coming even earlier, staying later, or combining our arrangements with other Australian or Asia-Pacific travel.
We'll provide transportation for you from Sydney airport to The Four Seasons Hotel on whichever day you choose to arrive, and from the Langham Hotel to Melbourne airport on whichever day you choose to leave. Additional nights at the Four Seasons and the Langham can be booked either before or after our scheduled stays. Both hotels have promised to accommodate extensions as best they can but the space is not blocked or guaranteed. This is a very busy time of year in both Sydney and Melbourne. Please let us know as soon as possible if you wish to extend your trip.
ITINERARY & PRICES:
The itinerary includes:
The itinerary does not include:
- Twelve(12) nights lodging as indicated: four(4) in Sydney, two(2) in the Hunter Valley, and six(6) in Melbourne.
- Breakfast each morning as indicated.
- Three escorted days of racing at Flemington and Randwick, including transportation to and from the racecourse, course admission, and race card. Reserved seating at Flemington on October 30 and November 2. There is an additional opportunity for racing at Moonee Valley on the evening of October 29.
- Lunch on four(4) days: on Sydney Harbour on October 25; en route to the Hunter Valley on October 26; in the Hunter Valley on October 27; and in Melbourne October 29.
- Dinner on one(1) night: in the Hunter Valley October 27
- Morning sightseeing excursion in Melbourne on October 29.
- Half-day wine excursion out of Melbourne on October 31.
- Full-day excursion in the Hunter Valley with farm visits October 27.
- Private boat excursion on Sydney Harbour on October 25.
- Post-racing sightseeing in Sydney on October 23.
- Transfer from Sydney airport to the Four Seasons Hotel on October 22 or earlier arrival date.
- Group transfer from Sydney to Pokolbun/Hunter Valley on October 26.
- Group transfer from Pokolbin to Newcastle airport on October 28.
- Economy class airfare from Newcastle to Melbourne on October 28.
- Transfer from the Langham Hotel to Melbourne airport on November 3 or later date.
- Welcome cocktails at the Langham Hotel in Melbourne.
- Champagne Reception at the Langham Hotel on Melbourne Cup Day.
- Accompaniment throughout by a knowledgeable American escort.
*We reserve the right to alter the air transfer on October 28 to a Sydney-Melbourne flight, with transfer from the Hunter Valley to Sydney airport, should the final airline schedules make this necessary.
The Cost of the Trip does not include:
- Airfare to and from the U.S.A.
- The cost of dinner or lunch except on days indicated.
- Any charges incurred at hotels other than the basic cost of the room, including but not limited to room service, mini-bar, television or video, restaurant or bar service, laundry or dry-cleaning, business services, golf or other activities, spa treatments, and activities arranged through hotel concierge. (All group members will be required to provide a credit card imprint upon check-in at each hotel to guarantee payment for any individual charges.)
- Excess baggage charges. The per-person baggage limit on the Newcastle-Melbourne flight is two(2) checked bags not to exceed 44 lbs each, and one carry-on not to exceed 15 lbs.
- Costs related to obtaining passports or visas.
- Travel insurance.
- Alcoholic beverages, except where specifically indicated.
- Charges incurred for anything other than what is specified in the "Itinerary Includes" summary above.
- Personal gratuities. As part of our arrangements we will tip our drivers and the hotel staff on behalf of the group. Group members should appropriately tip their incoming and outgoing transfer drivers and anyone else who provides them with personal assistance, including special assistance by hotel staff. Please note your principal tour escort does not expect and will not accept a gratuity.
The Cost of the Trip Is:
We estimate that the cost of this trip will be $5.700 to $6,100 per person based on double occupancy, with a single supplement of approximately $1,700. Final pricing will be posted as soon as we have been able to finalize costs for some of the trip elements, we hope no later than the end of February.
We will attempt to match single travelers wishing to double up and thereby avoid the Single Supplement, however it will always be the single traveler's decision whether or not to accept a roommate.
All trip prices quoted here are in U.S. Dollars. Prices are subject to change up to thirty(30) days prior to trip departure to reflect fluctuations in currency exchange rates between the United States and Australia. U.S. Dollar prices quoted here are based on the following exchange rate:
1 US $ = 1.29 Australian $ // 1 Australian $ = 0.77 US $
- Additional Nights at the Langham Hotel in Melbourne or the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney, if available: please inquire with us.
- Room upgrades at the Four Seasons and/or The Langham: please inquire with us. Consult the hotel websites for room comparisons, then check back with us for pricing.
- Members' Enclosure Admittance at Flemington Racecourse on October 30 and/or November 2: please inquire with us.
- Seated lunch at Flemington Racecourse on October 30 and/or November 2 , if available: please inquire with us.
*This trip is designed for eight(8) to sixteen(16) people. Although we will make every effort to operate the trip, we reserve the right to cancel the trip if it has less than eight subscribers. Should we need to do this, all payments made to Racing-Europe toward the cost of the trip will be fully and promptly refunded.
*You must have a valid passport to enter Australia. A visa is also required for U.S. citizens and can usually be obtained at the time air travel arrangements are purchased. It is the individual traveler's responsibility to obtain the proper passport and visa documentation. Please note as of January 2021 travel to Australia is subject to Covid-19 restrictions. We will be monitoring this and will update the website as conditions change.
*Please note the itinerary begins in Sydney and ends in Melbourne, and travelers should bear this in mind when making their air arrangements.
*Some of the non-racing activities in the itinerary may be shifted from one day to another due to scheduling issues, but all will be included.
Photos courtesy of The Four Seasons/Sydney, Randwick Racecourse, Tourism New South Wales, The Carriages Boutique Hotel, Coolmore Stud, Langham Hotels, Mary Myla Andamon, Flemington Racecourse, and Flemming Christiansen.
View the Itinerary for our other 2021 trips:
For May (Yorkshire), click here
For September (Ireland), click here
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