The jet lag is beginning to wear off as Stefan the pilot and I settle down in Sydney as part of Virgin's 'round the world in eight days' tour. The first leg of our adventure took us from London to Sydney, via Hong Kong. Monday and Tuesday also turned out to be full of quirky surprises. Our behind the scenes Virgin press trip diary continues...
Sydney, Australia (Wednesday 25 February - Thursday 26 February)
Our day kicks of with an early morning media event. We're summoned to the top of the Four Seasons Hotel, navigating our way through a maze of pipes and other industrial kit to get to the roof. Despite their late nights, Richard and his son Sam are on hand to promote Virgin's new around the world fares against the backdrop of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House (see above).
Australian reporters and photographers are poised for action as Richard unveils Virgin's new round-the-world tickets, dubbed 'Virgin Global East' and 'Virgin Global West', to coincide with V Australia's launch.
Ticket prices, including tax, come in at A$2,499 from Sydney or £1,239 from London. This covers circular routings in either direction, with stops in London, Hong Kong, Sydney and Los Angeles. The security guard (shown) is seriously twitchy about anyone going anywhere near the railings.
Aviation journalism is a pretty small world and I run in to a former Flight colleague who used to be based in our Sutton office, but is now living in Oz. We catch-up over a quick coffee and for me it's back to the laptop, which is now surrounded by a pool of notes, press releases and business cards. Finally, a few hours to catch up - my first true block of free time since landing on Monday morning.
The time passes quickly and our gang sets off for the harbour for what promises to be a highlight of the trip. Our water taxi sweeps past the Sydney Harbour Bridge - which now feels very familiar following our climb yesterday - and the Opera House.
We're headed for Rose Bay to catch a sea plane which will take us to lunch at Cottage Point Inn; a beautiful secluded location about 15 mins flight time away.
The shot below was taken just after take-off from the bay, which apparently to this day classifies as an international airport. The control tower still stands nearby.
Our flight, performed by a De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver rergistered VH-NOO, takes us over some stunning scenery and beautiful untouched beaches.
We touch down gracefully onto the water. Lunch awaits. Despite not knowing one another before the trip, there's now constant banter among the group and it feels like we've known one another a lot longer than five days. All too soon our sea plane returns and it's time to head back to the hotel.
Another time gap, another chance to file copy and I take the opportunity to upload photos, videos, update my Twitter status and do some blogging. I'm still uploading material as I get ready for dinner, having now become a bit of an expert on multi-tasking between the laptop and the wardrobe.
We're due to eat in the hotel's Kable's restaurant but, as we're led through to the kitchen, I'm guessing we're going to do a tour first. Nope. This is where we're dining; in the engine room of hotel. We enjoy a fabulous meal, punctuated by a look around the remainder of the kitchen and the hotel's chocolate room. Each course is introduced by the executive chef.
Thursday morning breaks a bit too soon; the Queen Mary 2 pulls into Sydney harbour at around six and the reverberations of her whistle can be heard for miles, waking most of our group from their slumbers. A few hours later, this time I'm woken by the more familiar tones of my alarm clock and a few of us head off to Sydney Aquarium to fulfill my long-held ambition of seeing a real-life duck-billed platypus. I capture him swimming on video and, as we wander around, I can't help but chuckle at the aquarium's signage.
Our lunch venue is Cafe Sydney, hosted by Tourism New South Wales. We're shown to a private room with views of the Harbour Bridge. Once again, the Australians deliver an outstanding meal.
When we get back to the hotel, I meet with one of the team to organise some more film footage for Flightglobal.com before heading back to the room to blog and get ready for this evening's V Australia launch party, which has the tricky dress code of black tie with demin and a touch of red.
As we gather in the lobby, it emerges that the ladies have ignored the demin element of the dress code, although an unspoken requriement for model-like looks appears to have taken its place.
The party's being held at Cockatoo Island and, together with Sam Branson and his friends, we walk over to Sydney harbour to catch our ferry. As we're waiting around we run into singer Natalie Imbruglia, who's here for the celebrations, and she greets us all warmly. We pop into a local bar for a pre-party glass of champagne and, as we leave, Natalie is snapped by three members of the paparazzi. "Oh man. How embarrassing," she cringes.
We board the ferry and head over the the island, a buzz in the air. When we arrive the buildings are illuminated by red flood lights. Loud music plays as we walk down the long, red, carpeted, tunnel which looks like a glammed-up mining shaft. As we emerge, there are girls wearing not much more than body paint.
The stage comes alive and speakers blast out 'Let's Get This Party Started', modified to include lots of V Australia mentions. We cut to the James Bond theme and a group of commandos abseil on to the stage, running through the crowd to the dock. A helicopter descends, carrying a waving Richard Branson and a group of young, red sequin-clad ladies. Flash bulbs fire and the crowd parts to reveal Branson, ushered along by Australian drag queen Mitsy.
A quick speech from Branson and the party kicks off with a modified version of Madonna's 'Like a Virgin'...with - yes - young, pretty dancers. The party goes on into the night. This is going to be some take-off.