Sydney, day 2, 29th September 2008
We woke up some time that was early – everything was early by this point. After hanging around getting dressed and watching morning news TV shows, we headed downstairs for breakfast. We were staying at Big Hostel, and they include a free breakfast in their room rates. It was a serve yourself of bread, milk & cereal.
After eating, we made our way up through the city to the Opera House, where we’d booked an early tour. We were a little early, so took the opportunity to take photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the Sydney Ferries. The tour was really awesome. The information about the construction of it was a little boring (too extensive for my tastes, anyway), but the stuff about the theatres and the acoustics and how customisable the stages are was just so cool. You don’t realised what a marvel it is until you hear all the details of what you can do with the theatre spaces. The tour went for about an hour and 10 mins. Our guide was really knowledgeable and had no trouble answering anyones questions. He even invited people to sing at one point in the tour – so that you could say that you’ve sung at the Sydney Opera House!
After the tour, we were in the gift shop and noticed a sign to a room dedicated to the architect. The door was open, so we wandered in there. There were a few other people in there, but we ignored them. The second we left, a woman was behind us, shutting the door and locking it. I think she was giving a tour to some people who wanted a function or show there! Though why there wasn’t a sign for privacy, I have no idea. It was a nice little room, small space but good views of the harbour.
We then headed to the front of the Opera House and took a lot of photos and videos. What you don’t often realise until you’re there is that the ‘sails’ are actually different buildings. It was a beautiful clear day so we headed up the stairs near the Opera House to a small part of the Sydney Botanical Gardens, where we sat on a grassy hill and enjoyed the views of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and the ferries.
My friend’s work has offices in Sydney, so she decided to go find them and meet her colleagues in person. Her sister & I decided to go shopping in Pitt Street. The next few hours were hell. I am not much of a shopper. I don’t mind a bit of a wander, but I like to find what I want and get out. I wish I’d had a pedometer, because I swear we walked so many kilometres through a maze of different shops. I ended up grumpy because my feet hurt and I got bored.
We ended up with free tickets for all of us to Sydney Aquarium, Centrepoint Tower, Taronga Zoo and one free Jet Boat ride for her. That was a huge saving. Taronga Zoo alone is expensive, let alone the more normal priced Aquarium and Tower. By this time I was about 1.30pm, so we headed through the city towards the Aquarium, at Darling Harbour. The Sydney Aquarium is absolutely worth every dollar. It was such a relaxing place to be.
We spent ages looking at the seals from above, and at one point we saw a shape beneath the water. We figured it was someone swimming with the animals, feeding them or something like that. Then we realised it looked like they had a backpack on (rather than an oxygen tank). Then we realised it was an underwater tunnel where we could go walking. We felt rather stupid. Once again, I blame this on the amour of walking we were doing! When your feet are sore, then you don’t think very well. I took a lot of photos in both of the underwater tunnels but I didn’t want to use my flash (even though others were, I don’t know what the rules were there but I just don’t think it’s right to use a flash around animals, especially ones who would have that a lot in one day), so the photos were pretty blurry and bad.
One of the most amazing things, and an absolute must-see, is the underwater viewing wall. There’s a quiet, dim space where you can sit and look at a two storey glass wall into a huge tank. The tank has sh arks, brightly coloured fish, everything. Very beautiful. We looked around a lot, but once again we were running out of energy pretty fast. Apart from the massive underwater viewing area, there’s very little seating at the Aquarium. We made sure we’d been around the entire aquarium, and been into all the underwater tunnels and cool things like that, we left at about 2.45pm, about an hour after we arrived. You could easily spend many more hours there.
We made our way over to the Maritime Museum after that, as it was just “next door” (across the bridge over Darling Harbour). This was something we had to pay for entry, but I was really looking forward to since I used to volunteer at Queensland Maritime Museum. Plus they have a submarine, and while I’m used to climbing over ships, I’d never been in a sub. Now, my tiredness and sore feet may have contributed to my opinion, but I really wasn’t that impressed with the museum. I wish I hadn’t been so tired, maybe I would have been able to appreciate the exhibits more (there were a lot of them) but the staff ruined it for me. At the Queensland Maritime Museum, we were always so careful about being nice to people, joking with them, making sure they were happy. Hardly anyone could speak a different language but we always seemed to get through to people and make them feel welcome. I found the Sydney Maritime Museum very cold in comparison. Maybe it’s because they are funded by the government, so they have employees, whereas the Queensland one has about 2 paid employees and the entire rest of the staff are volunteers.
Having said that (sorry, I had to get it off my chest because it really did ruin it for me) I loved the submarine. There is no way to appreciate just how small they are until you’re in one! The tour took you through the entire length of the sub, so you could see the different living and working areas. Once again though, the guide was a bit rude and said something that really made me mad (a comment to us three women on the tour that it’s good that women weren’t allowed on submarines when this one was in action because men don’t gossip like women do) and I told him off for being sexist. “Small things” like staff can really ruin your impression of a place.
When we’d finished on the submarine, we did give an honest attempt to go through the internal displays of the museum, but this amounted to me walking around as quickly as possible with a few seating stops on the way!
Unfortunately at this point I was starting to feel really bad, not just tired from walking but headachey and just really not feeling good all over. There was a shopping centre nearby that we’d wanted to check out anyway, so we decided to head over there so I could find a chemist and get some painkillers & a fresh bottle of water. Thankfully the pharmacy was still open and I got some painkillers, which took hold pretty fast and I was able to cheer up a lot for the walk back to the main part of Sydney. (It’s amazing how easy it is to walk when you’re no longer in pain!)
The next stop along the way was one of our freebies – Centrepoint tower. We were really excited to go there, and happy at the time we’d finished everything else for the day because it meant we could go up the tower while it was daylight, stay there while the sun set, and come down after dark. On the way up, they take your photo and say they’ll have it ready for you on the way down. I thought it was a little weird, cos we were just inside a building at this time, so sort of boring! We got the lift up, up, up and yet more up until we reached the observation deck. I was really surprised that I was disorientated for the first few minutes we were up there. I felt like I was being dragged towards the “edge”. (In hindsight, this may have been a side effect of the strong painkillers in my system.) Anyway, I did get used to the height and started snapping away like the bad & cheesy tourist I was. It had started raining when we got up there, it looks darker in the photos than it was.
We spent quite a bit of time up there, wandering around, sitting down (naturally) and looking through the gift shop. We thought it would be really cool to eat up there, but although there was a cafe it didn’t really serve much, what it did have didn’t look very nice and it wasn’t worth what they were charging. It was nearly 6pm by now, so we decided to go back down and make our next goal dinner.
However, getting down is not as easy as it seems. For some reason, tall buildings and elevators attract the truly appalling tourists. We’d had some on the way up but were happy so we were able to ignore them. On the way down there were seats in a queue line up to the lifts, and a few staff to organise people getting on the lifts. We, like most of the other people in the short queue, were happy to sit down and wait for a lift to come back up (they’re quite small). As my group and some other normal tourists were getting in the lift, a family came pushing through the line and trying to get in. One of the other girls in our lift was whispering things under her breath like “Nooo, let us leave” but unfortunately we had enough space for them so the entire pushy rude family came in our lift. We were all dead silent the whole way down. They were chattering and pushing and being really irritating. Thankfully the lifts don’t take very long.
When we got to the bottom we found the guy who’d taken our photo on the way up ready to sell them to us. Apparently what they do is take the plain photo of us, and superimpose some crappy backgrounds on us. And then charge us $30 for a few shots. I don’t think so! Anyway, we did end up chatting to the guy, and he asked us what else we were doing on our trip. So we told him we’d booked a jet boat ride for tomorrow. He asked us which company, we told him, and then said he’d see us tomorrow. He apparently does the same photo job in both places! And would be working when we’d booked. So that was a weird coincidence.
After we’d convinced him we really had no interest in the photos but that we’d say hi to him tomorrow, we noticed the other parts of the attraction that we’d skipped on the way up, so we tagged onto the “tour” that was about to start. This stuff was really aimed at the international tourists, but we figured it was included, so why not! So we listened to the spiel, and started on the tour. (It’s not really a tour, I just don’t know what to call it.) First stop was a room where we were to find a seat and put on the headset, then select our language. This was the part where they said you may get separated but not to worry. There was a large, annoying family in our group who kept running from room to room until they all were sitting in the same room, which caused havoc for the rest of us who just wanted to sit. They also talked through the entire presentation thing. Not sure which language but any language is annoying when you’re trying to listen to something. Anyway, there are four short presentations on Australian life, but between each one, the room rotates. As in, the chairs are on a moveable floor, so you end up doing nearly a 360 by the time you’ve viewed them all.
Then it was onto the next portion. As usual, people were running around and pushing and it was hard to keep together. They explained it was an interactive video thing where the chairs moved, kind of like a ride, and that was why they asked everyone to leave their bags at the front of the room. Of course it took ages for people to put bags down, people kept stealing other’s seats, and one grandmotherly-aged-woman only put her bag down at the front at the last second when she realised it wasn’t possible to have it on her lap and that it wasn’t a plot to steal from her. Anyway, once everyone was seated, it was a cool little ride thing, with screens on most sides of you. And once again, it was really themed for the international tourists, but I really enjoyed it.
When we made it away from the tourists and out into the mall again, we wanted food! In the end we decided to walk down a street parallel to our hostel and see what was there. We quite liked the idea of a cheap pub meal, but seeing as we had a 16 year old with us, we weren’t sure where we were allowed to eat (it’s 18 to get into a pub here). We found a menu that we like the look of (and that fitted our budget) so we thought we’d try to do the right thing and go into the pub and ask if we were allowed eat and not drink there. The guy at the bar didn’t know and said he’d be happy to ask his boss. He had to serve a couple of people first, so we were fine to wait. However, there was this girl sitting at the bar who clearly worked there but wasn’t on her shift, and she started getting really bitchy at us, telling us that underage people were only allowed in the pub with her legal guardians (as in her parents). I told her that my friend was her sister and over 18, but she didn’t care, so we gave up and kept walking. In the end, we found a different pub with interesting but indescribable themeing but it had decent enough food and it was an acceptable price to us. By this time it was nearly 7.30pm, so we were happy that the food was prepared fast. I had my first experience of carrying over a huge (and I mean HUGE) tray of food back to our table when they buzzed us. It was really heavy! Good thing I’ve never been a waitress. I have no skills!
We hung out and ate for about an hour, until we started getting tired, then went back to our hostel for an evening of resting our weary feet.