Sunday 3/21/2010 – SYDNEY
To quote a line from Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, “We have diem to carpe!” Marcia got up to get coffee and to use the internet around 5:30. I got up by 6:00. Lexie woke up shortly thereafter and went to use the gym for a half hour. With plenty of towels, we were all showered and down to the Carrington Room for a buffet breakfast by 8:30. Unfortunately, Lexie’s hair straightener chose to stop working. So besides her burnt tongue, we also had to hear her complain about her frizzy hair.
After breakfast, we made our way back to Circular Quay. We found a shortcut. We went straight to the Captain Cook Cruise booth and bought tickets for the Zoo Ferry which left at 10:45. With time to waste, we shopped at souvenir stores in the Quay. Marcia found the same sweatshirt she had her eye on at the hotel gift shop for only $20. We realized Pitt Street was just across the way. We had coupons for free gifts from the National Opal Collection On Pitt Street. We started to make our way down the street, but realized we may miss our cruise, so we turned around and went back to wait for the boat to arrive.
We followed all instructions and boarded the boat with no problems. The ferry dropped a number or passengers at Fort Denison – a former military installation and prison – before it took us across the bay to Taronga Zoo, which is situated on the cliffs overlooking the harbor.
The line to take the skyrail up to the top entrance was too long, so we walked three minutes to the lower entrance and saw the most frightening creature before we even entered the zoo – a spider with a body the size of a root beer barrel.
Once inside the zoo, we made our way to the elephants, where we saw 10-day old, Mr. Shuffles, aka Miracle. He was declared dead “in utero” by the veterinarians. A few days later, the zookeepers found the mother elephant with her newborn baby elephant – alive and well. Evidently, elephants can put themselves into a coma.
We watched the seal show. There was a seal named Lexie. Unfortunately, she was not the most talented of seals.
We saw koalas, kangaroos, red pandas, monkeys, and Lexie almost stepped on a lizard. We also saw emus. Lexie told Marcia that she kind of looks like an emu. I laughed, but told Lexie I didn’t that that a very nice thing to say. Marcia said it made sense because she has a long neck and a big (yeah, right) booty! I can’t say I see the resemblance. But, Lexie insists that she has a talent for identifying a person’s spirit animal. She’s done it for all of her friends; and they evidently agree that she has a gift. I asked what her spirit animal is. She said, “wiener dog”. I asked her what mine is. She looked at me for a few seconds, and then said, “I’m not sure. I have to think about it.”
We took the sky tram down the hill to the bottom exit to catch the 1:00 ferry back to Circular Quay and hop a bus to Bondi Beach. Remember this . . . our plan is to catch the 1:00 ferry to Circular Quay and hop a bus to Bondi Beach.
While waiting for the ferry, we saw a few sailboats with Jolly Roger flags carrying people dressed as pirates and having water fights. The ferry finally arrived, we boarded, but quickly realized it wasn’t taking us directly back to Circular Quay. We got a nice view and commentary of several of the beaches (including a nudist beach) east of Circular Quay. This was definitely cutting into Lexie’s sunbathing time on Bondi Beach.
The ferry made a stop at Watson Bay before heading back to – Wait! What? We’re going back to Tarango Zoo? OK, we dropped some people off and picked some people up . . . now we’re leaving the zoo for the second time and going back to Circular Quay. Oh wait . . . just a quick stop at Fort Denison. When we got back to Circular Quay, there was a large boat docked in the slip where we had boarded. The captain made a comment about “size does matter”, and we assumed we were waiting for the large ship to move before we could dock. We got mesmerized by a unicyclist street entertainer on the shore. The next thing we know, the ferry is pushing away from the dock and the captain says, “Next stop Luna Park!” We grabbed our bags and ran to the front of the ferry. The captain, unsympathetically, said, “It’s too late to get off.” Evidently, we were supposed to get off dockside – not from Slip 6 where we got on, and the reference to “size matters” had to do with a tiny boat that was in our spot and moved immediately when it saw us coming. OK, this was definitely going to cut into Lexie’s beachtime. Meanwhile, I was getting quite sunburned sitting on the boat deck.
The ferry crossed the bay to the clownface entrance of Luna Park, a free admission amusement park. From there, we proceeded to Darling Harbor, which looked like a happening spot. I couldn’t convince Lexie to hop off and go shopping or get a bite to eat. The ferry stopped at a small harbor with a Lindt chocolate train across from a Maritime Museum and a Holy Cow vessel. From there, we made another stop at Luna Park to drop a deckhand off, and then, finally, made our way back to Circular Quay.
Lexie, Marcia, and I were ready to jump off the ferry when it got close to Slip 6. Well, we definitely got our money’s worth with that Zoo Ferry ticket!
It was 2:15 when our feet hit the shore. Marcia buzzed into the gift shop and bought her Australia sweatshirt.
Now, how to get to Bondi Beach?
We headed to the bus stop where we had caught the bus to Chinatown the day before. We stopped at the edge of the road. A parade – I must say, the most boring parade I have ever seen – was passing by. Bunches and bunches of uniformed school age children form various Greek Orthodox schools passed by us. Squished between two of the bunches of children was a lone group of bagpipers. We managed to cross the street in front of them.
We got over to the bus stop and found the information for Bondi Beach. Unfortunately, the buses were rerouted/detoured to (some?) Street (my notes don’t include the name of the street, and I can no longer remember the name of it). Of course, even when we knew the name of the street, we had no idea where that street was. Now what? In 2010, we must not have had maps on our phones – or we didn’t have international service. How did we survive?
We headed over to George Street, hoping a bus would come by. Lexie thought we should go a street over because it looked like George Street was still part of the parade route. As we were making our way to the next street, I noticed a Visitor Information Center. Great! They’ll be able to help us. We ducked inside. The young man at the counter thought Bondi Beach was an excellent choice. He suggested we get there by city bus and directed us back to the bus stop that we had just left. When I mentioned the parade, he said proudly, “Yes, we have two parades today – the Greek Orthodox parade and the St. Patrick’s Day parade”. Ah, that explains the bagpipers – they must have gotten mixed up in the wrong parade! When I told the young man about the sign posted at the bus stop, he insisted that the parades were long over. I explained that we had just walked through the parade to get to the visitor center. He tried to give us directions to an alternate bus stop. When I asked about taking a taxi, he really couldn’t help us with that. I must say, he was probably the least helpful visitor information guide I have ever talked to.
I’m not exactly sure anymore what our plan was at that point, but we eventually realized that the parades were over and buses were now stopping at the bus stop. We raced down to Terminal E and waited for Bus 333 or 380 to arrive. Luckily, Peter has told us that morning that we should take one of those two buses to get to Bondi.
We had also asked Peter about the Bondi-Coogee Beachwalk. His eyes lit up and he said it was very nice, but not for old people. I asked him if he thought we were old. He said no, and then proceeded to tell us that he once suggested the walk to some very fit guests. When they arrived back at the hotel, they were cursing his name. The 45 minute walk had taken the group two and a half hours to complete – because, according to Peter, the guests had decided to take their FAT FRIENDS!
Peter also mentioned how much he detests bus rides. I recall that now as we’re standing at the bus stop waiting for 333 or 380 to show up. We looked at the schedule. It’s 2:51. 380 is supposed to be there at 2:52. No show. 333 is supposed to be there at 3:00. No show. 380 is supposed to be there at 3:07. No show. I walk across the street and talk to 4 or 5 city bus workers congregated there and ask about the buses to Bondi. “Oh, we had two parades in town today, so there a little off schedule, but they’ll be there.” Yep, got that. 333 is supposed to be there at 3:15. No show. I walked to the corner and saw Bus 380 parked on the side of the road. Buses came and went. No 333 or 380. Finally 333 showed up. Pre-Pay. What? We had to have bought a ticket or have a bus pass to get on 333. 380 was still parked up the street. I stopped a city bus worker. He was a driver for the free, green 555 bus. He knew nothing about 380. He suggested I walk across the street and talk to Paul – he’s in charge. I crossed the street again and talked to the same group of men I had talked to 20 minutes earlier. “Still no show?” they ask. “Don’t worry, they’ll be there soon. We’ve had two parades in town today.” I know. I know. I joined Lexie and Marcia back at Terminal E. Just in time. Bus 380 arrived. We got on. It was now about 3:45. This had definitely cut into Lexie’s beach time.
When I asked a young man on the bus about Bondi Beach and whether it would be obvious when we were supposed to get off. He informed me that he was going there, too. Throughout the half hour bus ride, he provided comfort that we were on the right track. Somewhere along the bus ride – I think near Hyde Park – a couple ran to catch up with the bus. We realized the man was our cute Italian looking waiter from JET, the night before.
We finally arrived at Bondi, the most famous of Sydney’s 34 ocean beaches at 4:15. Lexie had changed into her bathing suit on the ferry hours earlier. So, she quickly stripped off her street clothes ready to enjoy the day’s final rays.
Marcia and I headed to get a couple of cool drinks and told Lexie we’d be back in 45 minutes. We were quite parched and hadn’t eaten much all day. So, we thought it was wise to stay clear of alcoholic beverages for now. Instead of bottled juice from a beach vendor, I convinced Marcia that we should go to one of the cafes across the parking lot. We waited in line. We were both pretty excited to try the mixed juice concoctions at the place we chose. As soon as we got up to order, the clerk informed us that they had just shut down the juice machines. The next establishment looked a little too fancy, so we passed by. Without realizing it, we were at the end of the shops and cafes. Marcia and I dragged our weary, thirsty bodies back to be umbrella’s beach vendor. She got a vitamin water (Endurance) and I bought a bottle of plain orange juice. We arrived back at the spot where we left Lexie right at 5:00.
It was time to start our Bondi-Coogee Beachwalk. It was very nice. Not exactly what I expected. There were a couple of bars/cafes right by Bondi. We passed by a couple of small beaches below the cliff-top trail. We saw a few surfers and guys playing cricket before we arrived in Bronte around 5:30.
We decided to grab a bite to eat at a café in Bronte. I had Flathead Fish & chips. Lexie had Bruschetta. Marcia ordered Pumpkin Pasta. After first getting a salad, the American waitress with a southern accent finally brought Lexie her correct dish.
We paid our bill and ran across the street to see if the parked bus was heading back to Circular Quay. We had decided during dinner not to go on to Coogee Beach. Peter will be disappointed. Who cares? Marcia’s old and I’m fat! The bus driver told me that none of the buses from Bronte go to Circular Quay. I asked about getting a taxi and he laughed. I asked if taxi was a naughty thing to say to a bus driver. He said, No, but asked if I was rich. He suggested we get on the bus in front of him and get off at “Hard Puck”. “Hard Puck”, I repeated. “Hard Puck” he said again. Finally, Marcia, who had just walked up translated for me, “Hyde Park”. We followed his instructions, got on the bus in front, and rode it to Hyde Park. Ten years later, I still recall seeing from the bus window one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen.
Partway through the busride, I convinced myself that the rail station that the bus was going to was the one directly across from the Menzies – it sure looked that way on the bus map – but when I asked the bus driver, he wasn’t sure where Menzies was – so we followed the first driver’s instructions and got off at Hard Puck, I mean Hyde Park, and walked back to our hotel. The walk back was a litter scarier than the night before. There seemed to be crazy people hanging out on the sidewalks and walking a little too close behind us.
We arrived back at the hotel right as the gift shop was closing. We snuck in before they shut the doors. Lexie and I searched around the shop for the Bondi Beach Lifeguard t-shirt she saw in the window earlier. We asked the clerk. She looked around, but didn’t seem to have any idea what we were talking about. Finally, we pulled her outside and showed her. She said, “Oh, that very old. We have no more”. We asked to see the size of the one in the window. Her male helper got it out for us. The entire time, the female clerk was repeating, “that very old”. It was a size small – perfect for Lexie. “You sure you want it? That very old.” “Do you want to sell it to us for half price?” I asked. “Sure” she responded, “because it very old!”
Once back at the room, Marcia and I decided to get a nightcap. We went to the piano bar in the hotel. It was very quiet; people were dining. We noticed a sign about proper attire. We were not dressed in anything close to proper attire. A waiter came walking quickly in our direction, just as we turned to leave. When he realized we were leaving; he turned and went back to the restaurant. Back at the concierge desk, we were told we should go back up to the piano bar and have a drink; this hotel is for tourists and casual attire is fine. I did not feel comfortable.
Marcia and I went outside and walked clockwise around the block looking for an open bar. We got to the corner of one building and went in. We realized – and the bartender confirmed – sorry, this bar is closed for a private party. He suggested we go back down the street, cross George Street, and go to a bar called Ivy, on the left. We tried to follow his directions, but it looked like he was sending us down a scary alley. We never found Ivy. We walked counter clockwise around the block. We eventually walked into an establishment called the Chocolate Bar. We soon realized, no alcohol was served there. We went back to our hotel and crashed. The Universe does not want us to have a nightcap tonight!
In hindsight, I would recommend a boat tour from Circular Quay to Darling Harbor, immediately after arriving in Sydney to get acquainted with the city. Personally, I would skip the zoo. I wish I had seen a performance or at least taken the “essential” tour at the Sydney Opera House. I think the recommendation for Pylon Lookout (instead of the Bridge Climb) was great, especially with the limited time we had in Sydney.
Click here to read Australia – Day 4.