sydneytrip2010: day one

montage: the city of sydneyHey, guess what... I'm in Sydney!

I'm currently sitting about 250m from Circular Quay listening to the buses go up and down the street along the side of the hotel. Fortunately that's only because I have the windows open... when the windows are closed it's actually very quiet. Buses and the rain. The rain is nicer.

I am a very tired little bunny though!

But then that always tends to happen on the first day... partly because I was up at 4:30. That's very early. And once I was awake, I was AWAKE. Changing my bedding so that I could come home to clean sheets helped with that too.

Anyway, I got myself organised, packed the last of my things and actually had time to read my book for ten minutes before Ma arrived.

The taxi was a little ahead of schedule (that's twice that the same company has been early for an pre-booked morning pickup, I like that), and we got a driver who wasn't all chatty, which is nice.

We must have just hit the airport at the wrong time though, maybe because it's a Monday, or the day before Melbourne Cup or we just hit the conjunction of three or four flights... but it was a big long line. Pffffft.

Fortunately it didn't take too long, and then we were off through Airport Security.

Now, normally I remember to take my itty bitty teeny tiny folding scissors off my key-ring and put them in my toiletries bag... but I totally forgot about my keys until just before we were heading out the door... so I forgot about the scissors. And of course the x-ray scanner picked them up right away. So I didn't get very much of a choice... I had to hand them in (which is code for "throw them away", since what are they going to do with them?).

And my first reaction after it happened was to tweet my frustration, but then I stopped and thought... airport, tweeting, complaining about security measures... yeah, let's not!

But it still sucks monkeynuts. Firstly, I have no desire whatsoever to take over a plane or hijack it in any way shape or form. Secondly, is there REALLY any possibility of me being able to do that, or anything particularly diabolical with a pair of scissors with a inch long blade? Really?

Moving on...

I'm sure that previously we've gotten on the planes via the back door... although as I'm saying that, I'm not sure whether or not it's true... but since our seats were three rows from the very back we went in through the front door and had to worm our way all the way down the plane.

And I have to say that for a change I really didn't feel particularly nauseous once we got up in the air. I'm not exactly sure why this time... whether it was because I didn't spend most of my time staring out of the window and taking photos and instead settled back to listen to D&D Podcasts on my iPhone... but other than a little moment of blerk once we were coming in for a landing (it was a little turbulent what with the wind and all) I was actually fine. I think I actually felt worse once we'd touched down than I did when we were up in the air. So yay me!

After we made it off the plane and made it down to the baggage claim, we were met by our tiny little gnome of a driver who went off to fetch the car while I pulled the bags off the conveyor belt (and I'm not terribly impressed with the fact that Ma's suitcase particularly looked as though it had been attacked by general bits of machinery... big unattractive black marks on the front... and both suitcases were slightly scratched on their faces. But that's the downside to hardcase luggage I guess. I think I would have been more annoyed if we'd paid full price though.

Thankfully the trip from the airport to the CBD was much more picturesque this time than it was last time... we drove along the industrial back streets that time I think, whereas this time we just came straight up the highway.

Other than the obvious icons like the Bridge and the Opera House, the one thing that says Sydney to me more than any other are the massive (I'm guessing) limestone cliff-faces that seem to pop up everywhere... we went past a number of them on the way in, and I don't know that they really exist quite the same anywhere else.

The trip into the city didn't seem to take all that long, and thanks to Google Maps, I recognised the street the hotel was on (AEA Bridgeport Apartments on Bridge Street) as soon as I saw it.

If there's one thing I didn't miss about Sydney though, it's the fact that nothing seems to be flat... it's all sloping in some direction or another... usually in the general direction of the water.

Anyway, after a brief moment of fumbling around with the hotel door (it's a secure building which is kind of nice) we dropped out bags off with the clerk since we were incredibly early and went off in search of adventures.

Our first stop, what with it only being 250m away, was Circular Quay! And then it we were officially in Sydney, because I saw the Harbour Bridge! Like last time, it never feels quite real until I've seen either the Opera House or the Bridge.

Because the weather was grey and humid, we got to see the Bridge in a totally different light (literally and figuratively) than we did last time we were here. And I have to say... I kinda like Sydney Harbour wearing it's grey party dress... very atmospheric.

We wandered down the Circular Quay forecourt (the Opera Quay bit)... and wow... so many possibilities for both breakfast and dinner all pretty much on our doorstep! And then, since we'd said hello to the Iron General (the Bridge), we had to go and pay our respects to the Grand Dame (the Opera House, naturally) also (yeah, I know... I'm waxing all poetic, so sue me).

I don't know what it is about the Opera House, but I still have this compulsion to touch it... I know this is only my second visit and all, and the novelty might wear off... but there's just something about putting your hand on a building that is so completely iconic and which sums up, for better or for worse, both a city and a country that is hard to resist.

I did notice that I wasn't the only one giving in to the particular compulsion this time... there were actually a ton of tourists milling around the place, taking photos and generally taking up space.

And just as a quick sidebar... did somebody not get the memo that I was coming? What is up with seemingly half of the city being under some kind of construction. They were building "stuff" at the Opera House (is that for a performance or the Melbourne Cup or some sort of Aria like event?), and repairing parts of it... and everywhere we seemed to go there was something being built or demolished or somewhere in between.

Anyway...

We hung around the Opera House feeling her up for a bit, then wandered back in the general direction of the city in search of a refreshing beverage of some sort... actually neither of us drunk enough water at all today... we both ended up feeling a bit lurgy and headachey at different times.

Once we got our drinks we sat on one of the benches looking at the rather imposing and view-blocking Circular Quay Station and planned out our next move. And the upshot of that was pretty much wandering up in the general direction of The Rocks since we weren't that far away.

And wander we did.

While I know we did The Rocks last time we were here, we must not have done a particularly thorough exploration, because it felt like there was a lot of stuff we hadn't seen. We still haven't made it into the Contemporary Museum of Art though, which I'd like to do, at least to be able to say we've done it.

Anyway, wandering around a few streets in The Rocks was an enjoyable distraction, and it did let us revisit The Rocks Information Centre and pick up some more maps (you really don't want to know how many maps we now have between the two of us) and other general touristy information.

I also had two rainbow lorikeets nearly smash into my head... we were in a little back street (Nurse Alley or something, I can't actually find it on any of the maps) and suddenly these two green streaks of lightning flew past my face so close that I could actually feel the wind from their wings against my face. Little buggers.

By this point it was around lunchtime, and we were definitely in need of both food and drink (we got half of it right... we were so stupid on the water thing) so headed back to Circular Quay and the general area of the hotel and stopped off at a food court off Young Street, not sure what the name of it was, but we went to a place that does savoury crepes (amongst other things). They turned out to be quite tasty, although I think it was more fun watching him make them than it was actually eating it.

We only had about an hour to kill before we were due back at the hotel, so we decided to do a little exploring of the streets around the hotel, just to see what was around. Our first stop was Customs House... which I didn't know was actually the library. That's one very funky library, complete with a underfloor map of the city you can walk all over (as freaky as that may feel while you're doing it). Then we headed up into the city proper... we ended up making it about as far up as Martin Place, which was probably about the time that the rain set in. The weather had actually gone from being quite warm to a little chilly (and yet, oddly, still humid) while we were having lunch, and as forecast, the heavens opened up (a bit anyway, the worst was yet to come) while we were wandering.

And if anything says "that's quite enough wandering for now", it's rain.

You would think that if you knew you had people coming back to check into two particular rooms, then you might have their paperwork and their keys all ready to go, right? Not so much it would seem, so we took up space in the fairly nice lobby while he sorted himself out.

Even though there's a whole easy access plastic tag thing that lets you into the building and makes the elevator work for you, the room itself has a key... it's so quaint!

This time around, Ma got the bigger room... actually I think that she has technically gotten the "bigger" room the last couple of times we've been away... although mine seems to make up for being a little bit pokey by having more "stuff".

bridgeport apartment roomBut all in all, the room was better than I was expecting. Other than a couple of bits and pieces, the furniture isn't too shabby, the bed seems reasonable (if a little soft, but then my bed at home is probably classified as a "hard" bed). And I don't quite know that it is, but as soon as I'm in a hotel I turn into some sort of exhibitionist, one of the first things I do is throw open the curtains and let the world see in and me see out. Once I'd unpacked (and discovered that whatever aging plumbing is installed in this place takes forever to pump the water all the way up from wherever... my shower tomorrow is going to be an adventure), I finally got to sit down for a few minutes and relax.

It was only a few minutes though, since I figured I should drag my butt over to Ma's room so we could make plans for the rest of the day...

I have to say, having her on the same floor (although thankfully not in side by side rooms) is helpful... much less distance to go to have those What's The Plan conversations.

What we ended up deciding on was wandering up George Street to both QVB and TGV (I love a good acronym). We totally missed out on QVB the last time, but I'm not sure about TGV.

Another quick sidebar... even in the rain and with umbrellas and what-have-you, Sydney men are still by and large a hot bunch. The "definitely gay" quotient does seem to be down this time though, but it was very close to Mardi Gras last time we were here, and it is only the first day...

The walk up George Street was fairly uneventful, although we did stop off at The Strand Arcade briefly (and it reminds me both of Adelaide Arcade at home, but also Royal Arcade in Melbourne). Not least of all because all three of them have a Haighs Store at one end.

And yes, we bought some Haighs chocolate... because you have to keep the SA Icons in business in other states! I don't know what we're going to do when we go to Brisbane next time... I don't think they HAVE a Haighs Store!

We also took a quick look in the JB HiFi store in the basement... I always like to see what they have in the Queer Cinema section, and more importantly if anything is on special. And they had the second season of Rick and Steve, so I had to pick that up.

I also saw the Sydney Apple store... purdy! All glass and shiny, and surprisingly full of people for a Monday afternoon! I probably would have taken a picture of the giant Apple logo, but what with the rain and all, it was a little difficult.

Then we reached out destination... Kinokuniya in TGV. Oh! My! Goddess! So many, many, many book. So many, many, many cute little toy things... and did I mention the number of books. They also had lots and lots and lots and lots of graphic novels. I had myself a big ol nerdgasm, especially because they had the latest Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 graphic novel... and I didn't even know it was out yet. So I had to get that... squeeeeeee! And a skeleton Domokun Qee... yes please. I could probably have gone a little more nuts on the toy front, but I stopped myself at one since I'm not supposed to be buying more tchotchka.

And if I had a nerdgasm in Kinokuniya, then I think I had a big old designgasm when we went into QVB.

I've heard tell from other bloggers about the QVB Christmas tree, taking up most of the height of the building and studded with Swarovski crystals and the like, but I hadn't actually expected to see it on this trip. Turns out that the gods were watching out for me and there it was, in it's four story flesh.

It's a bit special really...

The whole of QVB is actually pretty damn awesome! Especially considering it was only refurbished in 1986... when I'm back to a fully functioning internet connection I'd be interested to see exactly what it looked like before it was refurbished.

Initially we just started off trying to get better shots of the tree, but that turned into wandering around the top level, and me wanting to steal the giant toy soldiers in the window of the toy store... and I nearly bought a drumming toy soldier bear, but it was expensive and the red was a little insipid, and I pretty much talked myself out of it.

Which turned out to be a good thing when Ma pointed out the following store sign...

peter nathan toy soldiersHow could I NOT go and have a look!

Interestingly though, the store itself is actually called "Elite Military Miniatures" which doesn't have anywhere near as compelling a ring to it, although their website address is www.toysoldiers.com.au

They definitely had military miniatures... a whole shop of nothing but military miniatures! And in amongst all of them they had a whole bunch of "Coldstream Guards", which turns out to be pretty much the kind of toy soldier I like, give or take. The only problem was that I was completely spoiled for choice. Do I get the drummer, or the officer at attention or the one with the flag or the other one with the flag. The one I ended up getting (well, Ma ended up getting it for me for Christmas, because that's what we do) was "Standing to Repel" I think... I just need to make sure that this doesn't become the beginnings of a new habit...

We were both pretty thirsty by this point (unsurprisingly), so we stopped off at Yama Japanese Cafe and both had coffee milkshakes. Nice, but they always disappear too quickly. As nice as the coffee was, it was even nicer to sit down and relax for a bit!

But there's no rest for the wicked, so we went off again and pretty much did the rounds of all the levels.

Of course, while we'd been enjoying the sites, the weather had turned particularly bad and it was also getting around to knocking off time for most of the city workforce, so by the time we reached the ground floor there seemed to be an influx of wet rushing people... in fact once guy fell right on his butt just in front of us... his feet slipped on the wet tiles and down he went like a sack full of the proverbial. Poor dude.

With all of that, I wasn't really in a great rush to throw myself back into the mass of humanity outside QVB, so in the end we wandered around and down and under and through I think. Actually I'm not sure what the hell we did, but I know that we ended up coming up in a whole other building that fronted onto Pitt Street Mall after going in search of cupcakes. And even when we were about to go and brave the elements I noticed once of those places that sells the cheap little bottles of juice. I like juice.

Eventually though there was no putting it off any longer and we headed out into the wet and down Pitt Street Mall.

The whole of Pitt Street Mall reminds me incredibly strongly of Melbourne (Bourke Street Mall)... possibly because we've spent a bit of time in and around Bourke Street Mall since we were last in Sydney. Or maybe it was just the wet weather that did it.

We didn't manage to stay completely dry on our way back, but fortunately my bag bore the main brunt of it... my jacket and my teeshirt to a lesser degree. Oh and my socks.

Even with that, I wasn't unhappy... I mean, the weather is going to do what the weather is going to do and nothing is going to change that. But even wet and humid and what-have-you, Sydney is still pretty damn awesome.

The usual "getting ourselves sorted out" was followed by more "what do we do next" in Ma's room. And since the answer to that was pretty much "Go to dinner at the Indian restaurant on the corner", Ma got herself organised, then we came down to my room so I could do the same before we headed on out.

This "first night Indian dinner" thing is becoming somewhere between a habit, a compulsion and a ritual. Every trip we've ever taken together has had us sitting down for Indian food at the end of the first day. And three out of the last four times the restaurant has either been attached to the building or at least on the same block (the last Melbourne trip it was actually across the road).

Karma was actually a great choice (the restaurant, not the law of mortal causation). But as also seems to be usual when we do this whole Indian dinner thing, the restaurant was pretty damn empty. Not a bad thing, just a little bit strange, especially since the noodle place on the other corner is doing great guns.

We had an appetiser, which we don't normally do... the Vegetable Sampler (Paneer Tikka, Makai Tikki and Hara Bhara Kebab) then Gosht Roganjosh (lamb), Rajasthani Bhindi (baby okra), Roomali Roti (which was paper thin and exquisite!) and Keema Naan, plus a serve of rice and it was all beautiful. And because there was hardly anybody else in there, we got great service. But by the time we were done we were pretty much ready to pop. It really was damn tasty though, especially the okra dish.

On the way back to the hotel (you know, three doors away essentially) we stopped off to get big bottles of water from the convenience store next door to the hotel... mmmm... water.

And that was that... other than watching some Good Game and trying desperately to work out how to get rid of the subtitles from the teevee... that is, after I'd worked out how to turn all the regular teevee over to digital.

I'm also glad that writing out these journal entries makes life easier when I get home again, because they do eat up a big whack of time out of my holiday.

Tomorrow we're off to Darling Harbour, and if the weather is okay in the morning we might head over to the Botanical Gardens to see the bats...

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