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14 to 16 days, 13 to 15 nights (including two en-route)
OCTOBER 26/28 to NOVEMBER 10, 2008
6 to 8 nights in Melbourne, 2 nights in the Hunter Valley, 3 nights in Sydney
3 days of racing at Flemington and Randwick
Farm and wine visits in Victoria and the Hunter Valley
Sightseeing in Melbourne and Sydney
Sun Oct 26
Mon Oct 27
Tue Oct 28
Earliest departure date from the U.S.
Optional departure date from the U.S.
Latest departure date from the U.S.
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. For example, a Sunday night departure from the U.S. will arrive in Australia on Tuesday morning. This "lost" day is made up on your return.
Tue Oct 28
Wed Oct 29
Thur Oct 30
Earliest arrival day in Melbourne
Optional arrival day in Melbourne
Latest arrival day in Melbourne
On your arrival day you will be met at the airport and delivered to the Langham Hotel, our accommodation in downtown Melbourne. The remainder of your arrival 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. These include a trip up to the observation floor of the Eureka Tower, Melbourne's tallest building, for a birds-eye view that will help orient you to your geographical surroundings. Another option just blocks away is the Australian Racing Museum and Hall of Fame.
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.
There is much to see in Melbourne and the immediate surrounding areas of the state of Victoria, and we won't have time to cover it all once the trip proper has started. An early arrival won't be wasted. We'll be on hand beginning the 28th to work with you to organize your independent explorations, but it would be a very good idea to do advance thinking and planning about what you'd like to do.
Some suggestions: a wine excursion to the Yarra Valley east of the city, which could include a stop at the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary for closeup viewing of its unparalleled collection of Australian animals; a boat cruise through the city and beyond on the Yarra River; or a long days' trip along the Great Ocean Road, considered one of the finest seashore drives in the world. 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 well in advance.
By Thursday the 30th everybody will be in town. At about 6PM that day we'll all meet up for cocktails at the hotel to get to know one another and go over the details of our upcoming time together. The 30th's arrivers will probably want to make it an early night, but we'll organize a no-host group restaurant booking for those that are in the mood for it.
Fri Oct 31
Our trip "officially" kicks off this morning with a "Melbourne 101" coach exploration, taking in all the major sights. Even if you've been here a day or two already there will be a lot to see. 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, an area that has its own particular atmosphere.
Mid-day we'll be back at the hotel and ready for a special event that will help get us truly 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. Hopefully we'll be able to spread our group out among many tables, to take full advantage of this opportunity to meet and mingle with Australian racing people.
There is a modest "pre-Derby" evening of racing at the Moonee Valley course tonight, for those that are more than ready to partake. We've not made any arrangements to attend, but we can certainly organize transport for those that want to. We'll put together a no-host dinner at a nice downtown restaurant, too.
Sat Nov 1
This is one of the biggest racing days of the year in Australia - the opening day of the Spring Racing Carnival, headlined by the 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 four Group 3s. Besides the Derby, one of the other Group 1s is the important Mackinnon Stakes, which will have its 140th running in 2008. This ten-furlong weight-for-ager is widely used as a prep for the Melbourne Cup coming up just three days later. Australians are not afraid to run their horses.
They race for big money in Australia, and total prize money today is about 4 1/2 million U.S. dollars. For racing people, this is a more important day than Melbourne Cup Day itself.
The racing starts early - first post is 10:20AM. 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.
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 traffic and the extra walking 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 Nov 2
We'll be heading out into rural Victoria today to see some countryside, visit a couple of farms, and sample a little wine. Our destination is the Goulburn Valley, about an hour and a half north of the city.
The Goulburn is one part of what is generally considered to be Australia's second-largest concentration of Thoroughbred breeding after the Hunter Valley in the state of New South Wales. Darley, the Maktoum organization, is establishing a new base here and we'll make them our first stop to see how their characteristic standard of excellence is being put to work in this new environment. We'll also visit at least one other farm, hopefully a modest and locally-owned operation for contrast.
The Valley's warm climate and its topography of small lakes, creeks, and wetlands have made it a wine producing region since the 1860s. It's known for full-bodied wines such as Marsanne, Rousanne, and Shiraz. One of the oldest wineries in Australia is located here, and it will be one of our stops. We'll also look in on a more modern establishment, and in addition to a tasting, have lunch.
If the group is enthusiastic about the idea, we'll take a slightly longer route home to get a look at more of this distinctive Australian landscape. In any event we'll be back in Melbourne early evening at the latest.
Mon Nov 3
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 for the early arrivers 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.
Tue Nov 4
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 again at 10:20AM, 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 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 five-million dollar purse, a field limit of 24 with an equal number clamoring to get in, and its humongous betting pool with every big plunger and kindergarten teacher in Australia down for the action, the Melbourne Cup is one of the world's great racing spectacles. It's a breathless run every step of the way as 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 the Cup does not disappoint. 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 5
Time to pull up stakes today and say goodbye to Melbourne. After breakfast and checkout, we'll be off to the airport mid-morning for our just-over-one-hour flight up to Newcastle on the Pacific Coast of New South Wales, north of Sydney. We'll be met there and driven over to Pokolbin, our base in the Hunter Valley for the next two nights. Assuming an on-time flight arrival, we'll make a visit to a winery on the way to our lodging.
After settling into our rooms at The Carriages Country House, we'll have time for a relaxed cocktail hour on the veranda or around the pool before heading out to dinner at a nearby restaurant.
THE CARRIAGES GUEST HOUSE: Private and unpretentiously luxurious, The Carriages is where we'll be hanging our hat in the Hunter. 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 may have the whole place to ourselves. There's also the 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.
Thur Nov 6
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, most 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 simple pub lunch before continuing on to the Scone area and visits to a couple of more farms. We're planning to see a large Australian-owned stallion-standing farm as well as a smaller property that's geared more to mares and foals only.
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, we'll have a separate vehicle available today to cater to those that might wish to concentrate more on the wine aspects of the Hunter. It can either pick up those interested following the Coolmore visit, or simply make a whole day of it starting in the morning.
We have a feeling everybody might be ready to enjoy a quiet evening "at home" tonight. We've arranged for an informal barbecue around the pool at The Carriages.
Fri Nov 7
Off to Sydney today, about a 2 ½- hour drive south. The plan is to get out of Pokolbin before mid-morning and arrive in Sydney around noon. We'll check in briefly at our hotel, then make the short walk down to bustling Circular Quay (pronounced "key"), the principal come-and-go-from point on Sydney Harbor.
The harbor is Sydney's signature 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 few hours out in this spectacular setting on our own boat this afternoon, 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.
By late afternoon it will be time to settle in properly at the Sir Stamford Hotel and make plans for a quiet or an active evening. Sydney is at the doorstep. We can again organize a group dinner booking if the demand is there.
THE SIR STAMFORD: This quiet and refined boutique-sized hotel is just the kind of place we like to park at in a big city. The rooms are large, the public areas are of traditional design and decoration, the service is excellent, and it's walking distance to everywhere. There's also a fitness center and a rooftop pool if you can find time to use them. You can learn more about the hotel at www.stamford.com.au/sscq. A buffet breakfast is included each morning.
Sat Nov 8
Today is our racing day in Sydney, and we'll be going out to Randwick Racecourse for the action. Randwick is Sydney's principal course and hosts many very important events throughout the calendar, including a big festival at Easter time. It is the home of the Australian Derby.
With all the big horses still down in Melbourne , today's local meeting is a minor one. We'll enjoy the course on a relatively quiet day, although as it's the last day of the Spring Carnival back at Flemington, there will be some major races to watch via simulcast. (And since the horses race so frequently down here, probably some familiar names from last week.)
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 an early dinner at the venerable harbor-front institution, Doyles on the Beach. Let's hope for a nice sunset.
After dinner a private water taxi will take us back to Circular Quay and the city, and we'll get a chance to see the harbor again, this time by night.
Sun Nov 9
An OPEN DAY to enjoy Sydney on your own. We thought about scheduling something specific, but there were too many things to choose from. Some of the group may need to head back home tomorrow, so we've left this day alone for you to do just what you want. Some ideas:
At the other end of Circular Quay from our hotel is an historic, re-gentrified neighborhood called 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.
If any of the shorefronts drew your attention during our times out on the harbor, you can use the charming and frequent ferry services to pop over and check things out firsthand. 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 Royal Botanic Gardens (just across the street from the Sir Stamford), walk the perimeter of the harbor, 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 harbor, 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 are no shortage of things to do in Sydney, one of the most vital cities on the planet, and we've barely scratched the surface. Because we wanted to make this trip manageable for those with limited time, and because there is no major racing here at this time of year, we've done a "short Sydney" and left it up to you to stay on if you want. You should consider a longer visit.
Since tonight is likely to be the last night we're together as a group, we'll make a restaurant booking and those of us not off doing something elsewhere can join in on a no-host basis.
|Day 13 & 14
Mon Nov 10
The organized itinerary ends this morning. If you are not staying on at the Sir Stamford, following breakfast and checkout we'll provide transport to Sydney airport for your flight home or onward. Extenders at the Sir Stamford 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 SCHEDULING AND STRUCTURE:
The Breeders Cup is scheduled for October 24 and 25 at Santa Anita in California. We feel confident that most of our potential travelers for this trip will not want to miss it, whether they choose to attend in person or watch it on television. The timing of the Melbourne Cup (November 4) and its companion feature the Victoria Derby (November 1) have presented us with a scheduling puzzle from the time we first started planning this trip.
We quizzed a number of potential travelers, many of them Racing-Europe "vets", regarding the ideal departure time from the U.S. following the Breeders Cup. We got input from California residents, people intending to travel to California for the Cup from elsewhere in the U.S., and those intending to watch the Cup from their home areas. Responses were all over the board; there was no clear consensus about how much of a break, if any, to have after the Breeders Cup and before departing for Australia.
A factor also is that the overnight flight down to Australia uses up two calendar days, due to the crossing of the International Date Line. Thus a Sunday night departure from the U.S., for example, results in a Tuesday morning arrival. This is another part of the scheduling dilemma, as there's not quite enough time for a good segment in another part of Australia before we need to be in Melbourne for the best days of the Spring Racing Carnival. We also always like to limit the number of transfers in any trip.
Thus the flexible start date. We think some of the travelers on this trip will have come to California for the Breeders Cup, and we wanted to offer them the option of leaving soon thereafter for Australia rather than waiting in California if they didn't want to. For people not coming to California specifically for the Breeders Cup this is less of an issue, but we wanted them to have some flexibility too. We've therefore decided to offer the option of leaving the U.S. as early as Sunday night and as late as Tuesday night following the Breeders Cup. And in keeping with our policy of minimizing transfers, the trip will begin in Melbourne and end in Sydney. These are also the two places we think people might want more time before and after our organized itinerary, and this gives them the opportunity to easily do this.
This trip will close on June 30, 2008. 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:
The itinerary is designed to be full and busy. We're offering a choice of start dates to provide flexibility, but for those preferring a more leisurely experience, we invite you to consider coming even earlier, staying later, or combining our arrangements with other Asia-Pacific travel.
We will provide transportation for you from Melbourne airport to The Langham Hotel on whichever day you choose to arrive, and from the Sir Stamford Hotel to Sydney airport on whichever day you choose to leave. Additional nights at the Langham and the Sir Stamford can be booked either before or after our scheduled stay. Both hotels have promised to accommodate extensions as best they can but, except for the nights of October 28 and 29 at the Langham in Melbourne, the space is not blocked or guaranteed.
This is a very busy time of year for both Melbourne and Sydney. Please let us know as soon as possible if you wish to extend your trip.
ITINERARY & PRICES:
The itinerary includes:
- Eleven(11) nights lodging as indicated: six(6) in Melbourne, two(2) in the Hunter Valley, and three(3) in Sydney. Extra nights (including October 28 and 29 in Melbourne) can be booked but are not included in the basic itinerary or price.
- 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 November 1 and November 4.
- Lunch on four(4) days: October 31 in Melbourne, November 2 in rural Victoria, November 6 in the Hunter Valley, and November 9 on Sydney Harbor.
- Dinner on three(3) nights: November 5 & 6 in the Hunter Valley, and November 8 in Sydney.
- Morning sightseeing excursion in Melbourne on October 31.
- Full-day farm and wine excursion out of Melbourne on November 2.
- Wine-tasting in the Hunter Valley on November 5.
- Full-day excursion in the Hunter Valley with farm visits on November 6.
- Transportation provided for optional wine tasting in the Hunter Valley on November 6 (tastings this day are at individual expense).
- Afternoon boat excursion on Sydney Harbor on November 7.
- Post-racing sightseeing in Sydney on November 8.
- Transfer from Melbourne airport to Langham Hotel.
- Transfer from Langham Hotel to Melbourne airport on November 5.
- Economy class airfare from Melbourne to Newcastle on November 5.
- Transfer from Newcastle airport to Pokolbin on November 5.
- Transfer from Pokolbin to Sydney on November 7.
- Transfer from Sir Stamford Hotel to Sydney airport.
- 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 November 5 to a Melbourne-Sydney flight, with transfer to the Hunter Valley from Sydney airport, should the final airline schedules make this necessary.
The itinerary does not include:
- Airfare to and from the U.S.A.
- The cost of dinner or lunch except on days indicated.
The Cost of the Trip does not include:
- 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 Melbourne-Newcastle 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 anyone 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:
Assuming Arrival October 30 (six hotel nights in Melbourne)
$5,275 per person, based on double occupancy (twelve or more travelers)
$5,425 per person, based on double occupancy (ten or eleven travelers)
$5,575 per person, based on double occupancy (eight or nine travelers)
$1,765 single supplement, regardless of group size.
*Please note we have still not received final pricing for some elements of this trip, and the trip price is therefore subject to minor adjustment until we do.
Single travelers will be accommodated in the same class of double room as the double-occupancy members of the group.
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. Because of the limited number of rooms that we have been able to reserve at this very busy time for the hotel, we regret we must reserve the right to limit the number of single travelers on the trip.
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 $ = 1.124 Australian $ // 1 Australian $ = .89 US $
- Additional Nights at the Langham Hotel, Melbourne for October 28 and 29, and earlier nights if available: $145 per night, per person, based on double occupancy. Single supplement $115 per night.
- Additional Nights at the Sir Stamford Hotel if available: $150 per night, per person, based on double occupancy. Single supplement $130 per night.
- Lunch at Flemington Racecourse on November 1, if available: Estimated to begin at $495 per person, not including alcohol.
- Lunch at Flemington Racecourse on November 4, if available: Estimated to begin at $785 per person, not including alcohol.
- Members Enclosure admission at Flemington Racecourse on November 1 and 4: To be determined.
*This trip is designed for eight(8) to eighteen(18) 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 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 often 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 the itinerary begins in Melbourne and ends in Sydney, and travelers should bear this in mind when making their air arrangements.
View the itineraries for our other 2008 trips:
For June, click here For August, click here
For August-September, click here
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