Australia, Sydney

Sydney: Initial Impressions (Day One)

We landed in Sydney at around 7:30 a.m. There is e-immigration here, which was new to me. It worked for Sal, but not for me, as my picture didn’t match (probably because I had my glasses on). It didn’t matter, because I only had to wait about 2 minutes to get it sorted and go through. Easy peasy. No stamp, though — boo! To top off the good luck, our suitcases were the first and fourth ones off of the belt. That has never happened to us before. Someone was throwing us a bone after the extremely long travel day. Customs just took our forms and waved us through. We’ve never gotten through customs and immigration in a foreign country so quickly. Thanks, Sydney! Points awarded!

We got out cash and decided to get an Uber and save a little money for the company, since this part of the trip is a work trip and they are paying. The Uber app didn’t tell us where to go to meet for pickup, but the airport is well signed and it was easy to find and not far from where we exited Customs.

It was an 8 minute wait for the Uber, which is about normal-ish back home at the airport, I guess. Our driver was a nice man originally from Cambodia. I don’t know if it was the jetlag or his strong accent, but I understood about 62% of what he said. (Those were the mathematically precise numbers my jet-lagged mind determined that I was comprehending.) He would say something and I would wade through the fog that was my brain at that point, and try to translate it. I did a lot of agreeing and saying, ‘ahh!’. Lord only knows what I was agreeing to 38% of the time. I did ask him if he could take us past some kangaroos. I’d like to think if he would have been an Australian native I wouldn’t have asked him that, but I doubt it. I guess we’ll have to wait until we get up north!

The drive into the city wasn’t all that long – less than 30 minutes. There was some traffic. He told us mornings until about 10 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. were the worst. We got to the hotel and it was much bigger than expected. Because we were so early checking in (I think it was about 9 or 9:30 at that point) our room wasn’t available. They kindly gave us a key to the gym area so we could change our clothes from the flight. We discovered on the way to the elevators that one of the suitcases was missing its lock. Of course I was certain something must have been stolen. Sal said TSA must have opened it up. We didn’t find the actual locker rooms, but some bathrooms. We locked ourselves into the small, empty women’s bathroom and opened our luggage to get our change of clothes. We looked inside the luggage that was missing the lock, and at a quick glance saw nothing large had been stolen. Phew. That would have been a bad way to start the trip. After we got changed I decided to check the small outside pocket of the case to see if maybe the lock was there, and it actually was! My 62% of working brain was doing me proud. Seriously, though, it was a relief as I wanted to have locks for all our flights coming up, and didn’t want to deal with shopping for one. There’s nothing worse than mandatory shopping for non-fun stuff when you’re just trying to have fun or relax on vacation. FORESHADOWING.

We decided we needed caffeine, so we hunted for a coffee shop that was on the google customized map I had made after careful research before the trip. It didn’t exist any longer. Like the 38% of my brain that was asleep. But Sydney is a town with tons of places to get coffee. They love their caffeine. It reminded me of all the coffee shops in Dalat. We stopped by a convenience store to get a metro card (they call them Opal cards here), and then we quickly found a small outdoor cafe on the other side of the block from the hotel. I was excited because we finally got to talk to someone who clearly was born here. I was grinning like a loon when I ordered my tea. I’m sure the man thought I was a bit touched. Sal got a flat white and I got tea, and I’m still convinced it’s the best tea I’ve had since arriving here. That might be the jetlag talking, though. We took our drinks to go, and debated what we wanted to do next, while walking a bit.

We needed to keep moving and to wake up! We decided we should check out the Royal Botanic Gardens. We had to wait a while for the bus as we had just missed one. I didn’t want to walk to the gardens because I knew there would be a ton of walking once we got there. The bus arrived, and an interesting thing on these buses is the lack of information re: where you are going or what stop you are at. How is that possible? Everyone has to memorize everything or hope their phones are charged? I don’t understand. Even at 100% I wouldn’t. Minus 1 point for this confusion, Sydney. Now you’re back to even.

We got off at the right stop, despite our (hopefully) temporarily lower IQs, and had a very short walk to the entrance. These birds are called Ibis and were waiting for us outside:

img_20180622_1030108880753568831772766.jpgThey looked like some sort of less-ugly vulture. And they were loose… and not tiny. I snapped this after having a little chat with them to make sure they wouldn’t try to kill me. I was told before coming here that pretty much everything tries to kill you here. MORE FORESHADOWING, but I am not writing this from the grave so don’t get too worried.

There was an information booth by the entrance. The friendly gentleman who ran it informed us that the park was free. Nice! Points awarded! He gave us three maps and we had a nice chat. Sydneysiders (that’s what they call ’em – I’m not making it up) are quite friendly. He suggested we go to The Calyx which had a pollination exhibit, so that’s where we headed. There was a little cafe (of course) outside of it and since it had been almost a whole hour since the last infusion of caffeine, so it was time. Sal got a flat white and I got some local blood orange sparkling drink local to Australia. Very tasty.

The Calyx wasn’t that big, but it again was free (they did encourage donations if possible). So no complaints. There was one whole floral wall spelling out pollination. Check out this video. There were also bees made of flowers and greenery on display.

00000img_00000_burst20180622105841_cover7299256674182838217.jpgAnd other pretty flowers and flowering trees with info on pollination.

It was time to get more sun and steps, so we decided to walk to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. On the way we got our first famous view!

img_20180622_112327319438975973700157.jpgIt was so neat seeing it for the first time. The harbour is so pretty and the views are picturesque. We saw a lot of different birds that we’d never seen before, but no kookaburra. That didn’t stop me from having that dumb song stuck in my head for the rest of the day, though:

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree
Merry, merry king of the bushes he!
Laugh, kookaburra. Laugh, kookaburra
Gay your life must be!

Crikey.

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definitely not kookaburra

We stopped and rested for a few minutes on a bench with a view. There are plenty of benches to rest and enjoy the view, which is nice. I could have stayed for a while, but I could feel my 63% waning, and we had a famous chair to see. Here’s the story about the chair.

We got to it and a man was enjoying some tea from a thermos, while sitting on the infamous ‘chair’. Oh, wait. He was having his pic taken on it while enjoying tea from a thermos. OK. He put the cup back on the thermos and switched places and his wife poured herself a bit and drank it while having her pic taken. I had no idea what was going on. I was probably at about 57% by then. Sal took my pic on the chair, sans thermos tea. Not very satisfying.

img_20180622_1133362141882211249094630.jpgWe decided we needed carbohydrates to wake up, so we headed to lunch. There were some uphill climbs to get to the restaurant, but these steps were ridiculous.

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Sorry, Mom!

Before this trip I’d read about brown snakes, Crocs, spiders, and other nasty wildlife that are trying to kill you in Australia. Nobody warns you about the stairs/hills, though. They must be the silent killer. Some lady was jogging up and down those puppies like it was a walk in the park. OK. We get it, lady. Well done.

Out of breath, we found the restaurant, Chester White Cured Diner. I had read about it on the excellent travel blog Eat Play Love Travel and had read about long waits for tables at night. The good news was that two days a week they served lunch and you could usually get a table immediately. Getting a seat was no problem when we got there, because nobody else was there except the manager/owner and chef. I was slightly worried about the fact that we were literally the only ones there, but it was for naught. A) We were early, and B) The food was a-freaking-mazing. I was proud that my 57% remembered the food recommended on the Eat Play Love Travel. We ordered the truffle Cacio e Pepe and the Carbonara.

Both dishes were prepared tableside. The Cacio e Pepe was prepared with the noodles put directly into a huge wheel of pecorino cheese, and they add black truffles, parsley, and salt and pepper. We were drooling at that point. So very good. I’m awarding a gazillion points to Sydney for this treasure itself. Let’s just call Sydney the winner for the rest of the trip. There’s no way they can screw it up at this point.

I don’t know how they managed it, but the Carbonara was even tastier. There was no cream, but there were crunchy bits of delicious bacon that jolted the score up to an amazing A+! Huzzah!

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And here’s a video of the preparation!

The manager was super friendly and we really enjoyed chatting with him. My plan is to go back every Friday for lunch that we are here (two more Fridays). Sal is out of luck. I’ll eat for two.

After lunch we waddle out and started walking again aiming for the hotel. It was time to check in.  Since we had gone up so many stairs to get to the restaurant we were sure it would be all downhill. Somehow it wasn’t. Oh, Sydney. What exactly is up with the steps? No pun intended.

After checking in (sorry forgot to take room pics – will try to before we leave) I think we decided to go to the park. I don’t really remember. I guess I was being optimistic re: 57%. Anyway, the park is called Hyde park in honor of the real one in London. This is definitely a mini version, but quite nice. Again, there’s a lot of seating there, which is very nice. There are also a lot of those ugly vulture-head birds. As soon as the sun set the mosquitoes came out, which was a surprise. I thought it was too cold. Apparently not. They are made of hearty stuff here! We decided to go find a bar I had read is in the top 20 of the world, and also the same name as some friends of ours. It was down a tiny alley and sort of hidden. I read it could get quite busy, so I was happy that there were available seats when we got there. Yay. We looked at the menus at the bar, deciding what to order. It was then I noticed that this wasn’t the bar I was looking for. Hahaha. I read other people online saying they’d done the same thing. Oh well, the place was still very, very good. We enjoyed the drinks. We were people watching and basically staring into space wondering where in the hell we were. I was definitely under 50% by this time, and poor Sal was into the single digits. This *was* a hidden bar though; you have to go through a working barbershop to get through the ‘front’ of it. We had gone through the back somehow. Talent!

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http://thisisthebarbershop.com/

I decided we needed food to soak up the drinks and wake up, so we headed out to try to find a place. We eventually found this place called Work In Progress that was almost hidden across the street from the hotel. A lot of these places don’t have obvious signage! Also, we were running on fumes at that point. It was like 6 or 6:30 at that point. We ordered a few dishes with the promise that we wouldn’t take up a table for more than an hour. No problem. Also, no pics. Maybe I was down to single digits at the point, too?

The food was surprisingly good. So good that I said I wanted to go back again while we are here. Sal said he enjoyed it, but he spent most of the time sitting there staring into space, dreaming of sleep. He said at one point he was dreaming or imagining conversations, etc. Basically he was hallucinating because he was so tired. Eating helped me wake up a tiny bit, but not Sal. He wasn’t hungry, so he didn’t have very much. He just kept talking about how tired he was. You know what doesn’t help you when you’re trying not to pass out? Hearing someone on a constant loop talking about how they want to pass out. Hahahaha.

We headed back to the room and until an eye-watering 7:30 p.m. or so. I thought the bed would be too hard, but it turned out to be quite comfortable. We slept 9.5 hours.

Good Lord this is a long post. Sorry! I’ll try to be more brief the next few days. Anyway, this was our first full day in Sydney. It was a long one!

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