Pacifica (autumnwinds) wrote,

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We arrived in Sydney just before dawn. After flying over the ocean for so long, it was cool to see all the little pinpricks of light along the Australian coast. I danced around with customs for awhile because I had some food in my carry-on that I wanted to declare, but they wouldn’t let me through unless I had all my luggage with me, and the luggage was with someone else on a cart. Catherine’s parents met us at the airport, and so Catherine and her family went with them, while the rest of us split up to go to our respective lodgings. It was pleasantly chilly outside, especially having come from so many months of heat in New Mexico and Arizona. We took a shuttle bus to our hotel, the Marriott on Circular Quay. It was a really, really nice new hotel, although they were still putting the finishing touches on some of its construction, so occasionally there’d be loud machinery in the lobby, or the elevators would start acting up*(1).

We had three rooms in the hotel: Tyler and I shared one, Jeni and Devon had another, and Tim shared Bob and Dee’s room. The rooms were all very nice—we had views of the Sydney Opera House—and we had plenty of space. The bathrooms had really large tubs and glassed-in showered, and the beds had down comforters*(2).

We were all tired, but knew that we had to stay up if we wanted to beat jet lag. We all wandered down to Circular Quay to see about getting some breakfast. Circular Quay is one of the zillions of inlets that pocket Sydney Harbor, which is enormous. It’s vaguely U-shaped. The bottom of the U has about 5 or 6 docking areas for the passenger ferries that constantly come in and out, picking up and dropping off commuters into Sydney’s most commercial district. One long side of the U is a pretty harbourside walk that ends near one end of the Harbour Bridge. The other side of the U is lined with shops and ends at the Sydney Opera House. The SOH is on a peninsula, then, which swoops down into another inlet just adjacent to Circular Quay. This is Farm Cove, which is slightly smaller, but surrounded by acres and acres and acres of Sydney’s huge botanical gardens. If you keep going past that cove, you come to Woolloomooloo Bay. If you cross Sydney in the opposite direction, past the Harbour Bridge you reach Darling Harbour, which is where most of the other crowd were staying.

We had breakfast at Café Extra, a little restaurant right on the Quay in front of the ferry docks that had both indoor and outdoor seating, which made for excellent people-watching. Tim and Bob brought their little traveling chess set and played over breakfast. This actually ended up becoming something of a morning ritual. We’d all trickle down to the restaurant in the morning, have our respective coffees, teas, and cocoas*(3), Tim and Bob would play chess, we’d have breakfast, and everybody would leave when they felt like it. It was very pleasant. The other part of that ritual was the pumpkin soup I had for breakfast every morning—a thick, alarmingly yellow brew served with a little sour cream, a hot crumbly wheat roll, and a pat of butter you could skate on (I usually handed the butter off to Tim, who made pancake-butter sandwiches).

Tim and Bob are both quite good at chess, and I am decidedly NOT, so it was probably one of the proudest moments in my life when I was able to point out to Bob that he was in check, and neither one of them had noticed.

This was the first picture I took with my new camera, and I think it's almost everyone's favorite. It captures Bob and Tim really well. Note Dee laughing and the Harbour Bridge in the window reflection.

We all took a long walk along the waterside together after breakfast. Jeni and Devon split off early, Tim went his own way, and Bob, Dee, and Tyler and I walked up and across the huge Harbour Bridge*(4). It was really noisy and jolting with all the traffic. We split up there, and Bob and I walked back to the hotel, while Tyler and Dee continued across to try and reach a pretty park on a little peninsula opposite Circular Quay, although they didn’t reach it*(5).

I read back at the hotel for a bit, and eventually got so tired that I went to sleep in late-afternoon and didn’t want to get up for dinner. The consequence of this was that it set a trend where, for the rest of the trip, I went to bed around 9:30 and would wake up every morning at 5:00 AM and get up at 6. It was actually very pleasant.

1. We had several interesting elevator encounters. Some of us got temporarily stuck. I got in at the lobby one day with 5 other people, and the elevator stopped exactly one floor ABOVE the floor for which we’d pushed the buttons. We all kind of orbited around our floors until the elevator just stopped and refused to go anywhere, so we got out and took the stairs. Bob was coming down to the lobby at one point and the elevator opened the doors about 2 or 3 feet below the actual lobby floor, so he had to climb up.

2. Each room had three telephones: one next to the bed, one on the desk, and one in the bathroom, on the wall next to the toilet. I scorned this toilet-phone until came back to the hotel at the end of our trip, and for some reason, the toilet-phone was the only operating phone in our room.

3. Australian cocoa is not sweet. You have to ask them to put sugar in it.

4. You can constantly see tiny groups of people, roped together, walking up the top supports of the bridge to stand on the very top. It’s called the Bridge Climb. We would have done it, until we found out it costs around A$140 (about $100, US).

5. They got to the park, but couldn’t get IN the park. We found out later that this was because the “park” was actually part of the Australian Prime Minister’s yard, at his Sydney residence.

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