Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Upside Down - Episode 7

Day 28 - April 8:

The morning drive from Port Stevens to Sydney was probably the last one for the Ottawa traveling four to be confined to a rental car.  As we neared Sydney it was evident the construction of the freeway must have been very costly.  A lot of rocks had to be blasted away to make way for the road.

The way into Sydney was by means of a tunnel that had a $3.00 toll which did not seem unreasonable.  If you were a guest to the city paying the toll was another matter.  The toll had to be paid within three days. The web site did not help and phoning was not an option until Monday, the third and last day.  The call on Monday started getting the toll paid but including the account set-up fee, the video fee and the toll fee the cost just about tripled.  So a reasonable toll fee no longer seemed the case.

We arrived in Sydney a little after mid-day and managed to return another rental car undamaged.  For Graham the drive into the heart of the city was reminiscent of driving into the centre of London. The accommodation for the last days in Australia would be at the Holiday Inn, Potts Point, and very handy to the Kings Cross Train Station.  Indeed, the hotel appeared to be a very good location from which to explore the city on foot or by public transit. The voice in the hotel elevator had an instruction to "hold your card  and push G".  As you can imagine, Graham will be returning to Canada with a few extra bruises!

After checking into the hotel and a brief lunch at a nearby "take-away", it was a nice sunny afternoon and a chance to explore the neighbourhood.  An interesting older area with lots of interesting buildings, restaurants, and bars.  The area had a decidedly British flavour in style and in the street names.

During the afternoon, Michel had to use the facilities of an Italian restaurant and the menu looked good.  When M and G returned for dinner later on in the evening, it turned out to be a good choice as the owner recognized that Michel had come back and provided a caesar salad and two glasses of wine.  C and D took in dinner and a show that turned out to be "odd" and they left halfway through.  After dinner it was time for each to explore Sydney's Friday Nightlife.

Day 29 - April 9:

It was a glorious sunny day for the first full day visiting Sydney. Apparently we were very lucky as this was the first really nice day in over three weeks and the temperature tipped 27 celsius by the afternoon.

After investigating the options for transit passes, the best deal was a seven day pass for unlimited bus, train and ferry travel.

Chad and Dino took off to spend the morning visiting Paddington Market.  The market had a good selection of stalls for local crafts.  After some bartering they got a good deal for a native wood bowl.  They then used their transit passes to take the bus to Darling Harbour.

Michel and Graham got transit passes, took the train to Sydney's CBD (Central Business District), walked to Circular Quay and caught a ferry to Darling Harbour.  The ferry ride gave a first look at the Sydney Bridge and the Opera House.  The cameras were very busy with views of these major attractions and Sydney's skyline.  Sydney is a very clean city with some amazing views.  From the ferry one could see people tackling the Sydney Bridge climb.



Once off the ferry M and G explored the Darlington Harbour dockside.  The harbour was very impressive with some monuments/objects left from when Sydney hosted the Olympic Games in 2000.

At 1:30 p.m. it was time to meet C and D and grab lunch at a food court alongside the harbour.  Once lunch was over and the four got outside, four buskers were getting ready for a performance.  The main performer was from New York and joined by three other "locals".  They put on a very good show and Graham thought he had seen the New York performer some years earlier at Battery Park while waiting for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.

With the show over, the four took the Pyrmont Bridge, a large pedestrian bridge, to the other side of the harbour. It was decided not to pay the admission fee to visit the Chinese Friendship Garden and so all headed back to the hotel to check emails and prepare for the second night in Sydney.  If you had your own computer, the hotel provided 20 minutes free internet which was enough for a short email fix!

On the Pyrmont Bridge, Chad spotted an announcement for a free fireworks show that night.  Without hesitation, plans were made to return to Darling Harbour for dinner and to watch the fireworks.  We could not find a place for dinner at one of the dockside restaurants, so all settled for take-out and sat on the steps for the fireworks to begin.

It seemed a great way to have an early celebration for Michel's birthday.  With so many years to celebrate, there would not be enough room on the cake for all the candles and a firework display would do the trick!  Once the fireworks were over it was time for drinks at one of the bars.  The host was into "planking", some new facebook experience.  Chad and Dino were pulled out to help "plank".  Another new experience downunder!  Also, Dr. Kaos was in fine form christening Dino with a glass of red wine.

Day 30 - April 10:

Michel and Graham were up early to catch live third round action from the Masters.  With the time difference, the TV coverage started very early and was over by 9:00 a.m Sunday (7:00 p.m. Saturday back in Atlanta).  The Holiday Inn hotel was very close to Kings Cross, one of the real action areas for Sydney's nightly party crowd.  After watching the golf, a short walk to a nearby outdoor cafe for breakfast found some Saturday night party goers still in some of the bars.  Those Aussies certainly do like to drink.

Sunday was the Sydney Triathlon, a sunny and not too hot morning for big event.  As we neared the Circular Quay to catch a  ferry to Manly, some roads were closed for the final running leg.  The runners we saw seemed to be the amateur contestants.

Manly Beach,  about 30 minutes by ferry from Sydney, is a very popular place for both locals and tourists.  Indeed many consider Manly to be much nicer than the famous Bondi Beach.  After embarking and a short walk, we reached the beach.  Clearly many had got to Manly much earlier.  Many were already surfing, playing volleyball or just taking some sun.

By mid-day the skies began to cloud over and the temperatures dropped.  Rather then take to the beach, the four opted to walk along the board-walk, take in the sites, and grab some lunch.  After a walk through a little market and a look at some of Manly's shops, the rain looked eminent so we headed to the wharf to catch the ferry for the return trip.  By the time the ferry neared the Circular Quay, the rain and wind forced many to take cover inside the boat..

Back at the hotel, the earlier than anticipated end to the Manly day left time to take care of some washing and other tasks.  It also left time to discuss options for the last few days of the trip.  The rain was forecast to end overnight and then sunny and warm for the final days in Sydney.  It should be a great last days to a remarkable five weeks.

Day 31 - April 11:

For Michel and Graham, another early start to watch the final holes of The Masters.  It certainly was a close finish and, for the Aussies, a disappointing one with three Australian players just losing out to the South African.  As non-golfers, Chad and Dino took the opportunity for a later start to the day.

The rain had ended overnight and it was another glorious day in Sydney.  The four headed to Milsons Point, a train stop on the north side of the Sydney Bridge so that they could walk back over the Sydney Bridge.  The four opted for the free walk rather than pay the $250.00 to go over the top.  Even though this walk was not as high as those overhead, the views were still magnificent.

With the bridge walk completed it was a chance to visit an area known as "The Rocks".  From the Rocks the walk wound round Circular Quay and then to the Sydney Opera House.  This provided the first close-up look.  What an architectural symbol and a Sydney icon.  You can guess how many pictures were taken from the many viewpoints?

Chad and Dino booked an afternoon tour of the Opera House and, as Michel and Graham had booked for the evening performance of Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto, they picked up their tickets. The performance would take place in the Concert Hall - the largest of the Opera House venues.  A quick stop in the souvenir shop and it was time for lunch in the Opera Bar.

After lunch, C and D left for the Opera tour and followed this by a walk through Sydney's CBD, a pedestrian precinct and a look at Government House and the Botanic Gardens.  Michel and Graham walked from the Opera House to the Domains (a park space for public use).  They would also see Government House, the Sydney Botanic Garden, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Sydney Hospital and the NSW Parliament Building - not a building you would imagine as the "seat of power" for NSW.

Ready for their night at the Concert Hall, Michel and Graham made their way back to the Opera House for dinner and pictures of Sydney as the sun went down.  What a great venue and an excellent performance.  Once the concerto was over they made their way to the Opera Bar to meet C and D.  A relaxing drink and then the final event for the day.  A night-time ferry ride from Circular Quay and back.  It had been recommended to see the harbour by night and this was certainly not something to miss.  On this ride the four were the only ones on the ferry for a personal night-time ride.

C and D have three more days before they head back but M and G only have a full day on Tuesday.  These last days are rushing by.

Day 32 - April 12:

The good weather continued for Day 32.

Michel uttered the banned word "work" and decided to stay close to the hotel.  He would only have a week back in Ottawa before heading to China and wanted to get a heads start on things with little time before his next trip. So the three musketeers. C. D and G headed out into the sun.

A two-stop train ride to Bondi Junction and a 15 minute bus ride on the 380 got the three to Bondi Beach.  The sea was a bright turquoise colour and with some schools out for the Easter break, the beach was quite busy.  Before trying out the water it was a cliff walk to get views of Tamarama and Bronte Beaches.  The views were very nice and the cliffs had been carved by many centuries of sea, wind and rain.  There were many on the cliff walk for their daily run and exercise routine.

Once back at Bondi, Dino relaxed on the broad-walk and Chad and Graham took to the water.  One surfer did a run around Chad and one strong wave tossed both of them into the surf. Luckily they found their way to the surface and survived. Comments had been that Bondi beach was overrated and Manly was much better.  We were not as lucky with the weather on Sunday when we visited Manly Beach trip but we enjoyed Manly and all three really liked Bondi.  We would very much like to visit Bondi again.

After a short wait for another 380 bus it was on to Watsons Bay.  Watsons Bay had some amazing views of the Sydney skyline in the distance.  As recommended by almost everyone, lunch would be at Doyles Fish Restaurant.

There were two places to get food, one for take-out and one a sit down restaurant.  C D and G opted for the sit down option.  We got  seated and the waiter kindly took a group picture.  We opened the menu and yes there was fish and chips but the price almost knocked us off our seats - over $40.00 for fish and chips.  We did not stay to check why it was so costly and quickly left to line-up at the take out.  From what we were told the food was the same and the take-out price was only $11.80.  The food came in boxes and we still managed to find a table for lunch!

A short walk from Doyles, was the "Gap Bluff", a cliff area with some great views.  At one of the high points some other tourists walked by and commented, "sea and cliffs and more sea and cliffs".  At the next stop the same comment was made and this prompted a short discussion.  Two of them were from Kanata! - these Ottawa tourists are everywhere.
At 3:50 p.m. it was all aboard the ferry to Circular Quay.  We were not sure what was going to happen in Watsons Bay as American and Australian military personnel also got on the ferry.  This was a high speed ferry which showered of of us in back as we left Watsons Bay Wharf.  Including two stops it only took 20 minutes to get to Circular Quay which is not that short a ride.  The ride gave more great views of the Sydney Bridge, the Opera House and the skyline.

The train system throughout Sydney uses two decker trains, a very efficient system.  On the train ride back to Kings Cross Graham tried to get a picture of Chad and Dino on the lower level.

Once back at the hotel it was time to find out how Michel had spent his day - very boring! - and to let him know what he had missed.  For the Graham's last night, and having had a large fish and chip lunch, he offered to skip dinner and let the other three get their fix of Indian food - what a trooper.  A little later, Graham joined the other three for a drinks and to celebrate the final night for Ottawa's four.

For Michel and Graham there would be one more chance to look around Sydney on Wednesday morning before beginning the flight back to Ottawa with a night's stop-over in Auckland.  Chad an Dino had two more days before heading back on April 15.

The Upside Down Final Episode will wrap up an amazing five weeks.


  1. Do any of the readers of this blog know how to remove red wine stains from brand new hiking shoes? Dr Kaos has struck again! (the stains came out of the socks and shorts)

  2. Hi Graham,

    The office has received your postcards from London Bridge and Wai-O-Tapu. We're all enjoying keeping up with your adventures (and as you can imagine, we are all insanely jealous).