april in sydney - day one

dark lady's sailsevening ferry ride
I'm typing the first part of this post sitting on the balcony of Jamie Oliver's Sydney restaurant, Jamie's Italian.

It seemed like a good use of my time since we have a 90 minute wait for a table.

So clearly, I'm in Sydney, if the photos weren't enough of an indication.

It's been over a year since my last trip here... for Ma it's been over 18 months. And as much as I love travelling and especially coming to Sydney, the thing I hate most is all the preamble before the departure. I always think I've forgotten something (which technically I did, although nothing I couldn't live without), and then the waiting around for the taxi, who are pretty much always nuts in one flavour or another.

comic book girlsqvb figures
But as always we got to the airport, weren't actually the first ones there for a change, so it wasn't long before we were up, up and away into the wide blue yonder.

And I amused myself listening to the Wil Wheaton episode of The Nerdist podcast... which was very amusing.

So I won't say that the time flew by, but it was pleasantly spent for sitting in an overly small seat in a metal tube very high in the sky. And then other than a small delay in getting off the plane (seriously, stop waiting for everyone to wriggle out of the window seats and just move so that everyone standing up can exit), we were on the ground in Sydney.

As I've said to a number of people recently, even though I've never lived in Sydney, every time I come back it weirdly feels like coming home. And today was no exception.

Then after collecting our bags (I decorated mine last night with some Gary Seaman stickers I picked up at his exhibition last year for just that purpose... and it kinda made it easier to spot... Ma's suitcase is hot pink, so that's never hard to find) we descended into The Mines of Moria, also known as the Airport Link train platform. It was a little easier this time given that a) I knew where I was going (even if Ma didn't), and b) we had the big suitcases so we took the elevators rather than the escalators.

And before long we found ourselves at Circular Quay (oh, and can I just say that fact that there's only one really slow elevator from the platform to street level is all kinds of stupid).

The walk up to the hotel was better than I was expecting... a couple of the streets that eventually lead from Circular Quay to George Street are kind of steep, but we came what seems to be the easy way around. The hotel itself is highly swanky, at least as far as the lobby is concerned. But as usual, we were way too early for check-in, so we left our bags like we always do and went a-wandering.

bicentenial manstepped reflections
We didn't have any kind of plan for today... in my head I'd kind of designated it for "wandering around looking at things"... which might not have been particularly helpful, but it's pretty much exactly what we did.

We started off with a visit to The Temple of Shiny (ie the Apple Store) because after a very frustrating session trying to get my iPhone to sync to my laptop last night, I decided that I need a new, fully functional cable. And I didn't even need to go downstairs to pay for it, the lovely young Apple gentleman in a wheelchair took my money right then and there. Noice!

We then kept wandering up George Street, checked out Kinokiniya Bookstore (mostly just for vinyl toys and graphic novels to be honest), and wandered around Westfield Sydney a little bit. Neither Ma nor I are huge shoppers when we travel, so that only kept us occupied for a little while, so we ended up wandering back down Pitt Street to the harbour to take photos, and generally soak up the Sydney Harbor Vibe.

opera house unicyclistsunny sails
One of the things you don't usually see around the Opera House is a dude on a unicycle... of course, this is Sydney, and nothing really, really surprises me here... but even so... it was a little odd.

We hung around down there for a while... enjoyed a tasty fruit iceblock, watched the passing masses, got a phonecall from the hotel to say that one of the rooms was ready and that they'd moved our bags up there (I think that's the first time both of those things have ever happened)... and then headed off to The Rocks to find some lunch. I think we ended up at Dare... in any event, it was the place that sells what I would call yiros, but there they're called kebabs... nice ones too.

After lunch we wandered back to the hotel and by this time both of the rooms were ready.

mantra bedroom... there was also another mirror on the wall facing the bedmantra lounge... on a lower level to the bedroom, complete with balcony and tiny kitchen
They're fairly standard rooms, really... they're not the biggest or the swankiest we've ever stayed in, although we do have balconies (even if the balconies are only about a foot deep, and we are only on the 5th floor and looking out over nothing that interesting).

One thing I'm not sure I like is the fact that there's no way to control the air-conditioning... I do like to keep my room nice and chilled when we're travelling... although leaving the door to the balcony open all day will probably accomplish the same thing (okay, so when I got up during the night, I found said controller... it's inside the wardrobe... because, really, where else would you keep it!).

Cue the unpacking montage... and then cue Ma and I sitting around in her hotel room trying to work out what our next move was going to be. Fortunately that allowed the brief rainstorm that had descended just as we were arriving back at the hotel to wear itself out, so at least sitting around served a purpose.

When I was leaving work yesterday, one of the adjunct members of The Nut House was wishing me a good holiday and said something about sending a postcard... and that got all of the junior members of The Nut House very excited.

During our earlier wanderings I picked up a batch of postcards from one of the souvenir shops, with the intention of sending them either today or tomorrow to that hopefully they'll get there before I do next Wednesday.

But we needed some stamps and I forgot that I actually had pens with me in my backpack, and luckily there's a Post Office more or less within spitting distance of the hotel in one of the little underbuilding arcades.

the rocks windmillon a break
Beyond that we didn't really have a great deal in the way of a plan, so we literally just wandered down Pitt Street, which led us to find Jamie Oliver's new restaurant, Jamie's Italian, which only opened last December (and which I never actually managed to get a photo of).

We made a note of that as a possible dinner location and continued wandering along Martin Place until we got to Macquarie Street and wandered back that way, detouring into the Botanic Gardens until we got back down to the Opera House.

We actually managed to wander past a number of spots we haven't visited before, which was good, like Government House, and the hill that looks out over the Opera House. And I also managed to find a spot to leave a couple of eyeBirds.

We came back around to Circular Quay via the Expressway, then headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

When we got to Jamie's Italian there was a line out the door and along George Street... and then the nice girl giving out some free nibbles told us that there would be about an hour and a quarter wait for a table... the line was only to put your name down on the list for tables.

The part of me that doesn’t like waiting for anything ready just wanted to go and find somewhere else, but I figured that there probably aren't going to be that many opportunities to eat in a Jamie Oliver restaurant, so why the hell not. And there were some spare waiting spots on the outside balcony, so we just hung out there... which brings me back around to the beginning of this post, since that's what I was doing to fill in a little time before my phone battery died.

contemporary cubesdisolve by vhils
The restaurant itself is very cool... very industrial, full of exposed pipes, fantastic industrial lighting fixtures, "graffitied" brickwork and the like. It's something of a weird shape though, being as it's a very long and skinny venue, but the upstairs parts actually sits over the top of the entranceway to the main building, so part of it is double height and the upstairs section looks out over the main area.

The balcony we waited for our table at is also at the front of the upstairs section and looks out over the front door, so Ma and I had fun watching the people in the queue... and the fact that for quite a while there was no visible end to the line, it just disappeared past the front of the restaurant and stayed that way.

Given that it's mostly made up of hard surfaces, they do make for a very noisy venue, especially given that it was absolutely packed during the entire time we were there. I wish I'd payed more attention to the time we got there, but I'd have to say the whole experience, including waiting around for a table took almost three hours.

purple leaves in the greencatching some afternoon rays
The food turned out to be well worth the wait.

I had the braised lamb pasta from the special's menu, which was amazing... the portion wasn't a bad size, but part of me just wanted to eat about a bucket of the stuff. It was just so flavoursome. We also got the polenta fries, which weren't bad, but certainly weren't the high point of the meal.

The high point actually came with dessert. Ma has the warm chocolate brownie and I had the Tutti Fruitti Lemon Meringue Pie.

I love a lemon meringue pie at the best of times, as I have documented on many previous occasions, I love just about anything lemon... but this was something else entirely. I don't even have the words to do it justice.

Just so, so, so, so, so good. Once again, when I finished everything that was on my plate, I just wanted them to bring out the rest of the pie so I could enjoy it all over again.

And that was pretty much our first day in Sydney...

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