The DougBlog
"Et sans savoir pourquoi, disent toujours: Allons!" —Baudelaire

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Colleen and Doug’s Excellent Outback Adventure, Part 1: Sydney

So I didn’t update the blog for a while…things were crazy (and crappy). But now I’m in Australia and all is right with the world! We also haven’t had good internet access until we arrived here in Melbourne, so lots to catch up on…

The flight was not terrible…but thank God for business class. There’s pretty much nothing to see—most of the 24-hour flight is without sun and over the ocean. I forced myself to stay up for the entire first leg (to LA) and the first few of the second.

Then I slept for about 8 hours! I usually don’t sleep well on planes, but Ambien + Unisom + booze seemed to do the trick. I woke up just in time for breakfast and landing in Sydney. It is very exciting, after all of those hours looking at the back of someone else’s head, to finally see land, and then the famous harbor graced by the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

My view for 24 hours:

Land ho!

First view of Sydney Harbour from the plane...a welcome sight:


Regardless of how much rest you get, the big time difference and crossing the International Date Line makes you woozy. Maybe that’s why, in a near-tragedy, I managed to lose my passport somewhere in the 3 feet between immigration and customs. In a sweat and a tizzy, I sought out some officials and, thankfully, someone had already turned it in.

Colleen, whose flight (like mine) had gotten in over an hour early, found me in line at customs. She was sight for sore (and tired, and bleary) eyes, even if laryngitis made her difficult to understand. Barely any sound came out when she spoke (and those of you who know her know that she can usually speak a lot).

Out in the parking lot we found our Sydney hostess Tisha, a friend of mine who used to work at CDM and moved back to Sydney in 2001. She looked absolutely well and terrific and I was so nice to see her again. She drove Colleen and I (on the wrong side of the road, of course) back to her beautiful home in the Bondi Junction section of town. Tisha has been an unbelievable host. She is just as warm and loving as ever. She offered us everything in her home and the use of her car and even left little chocolate koalas on our pillows!

Some pictures of Tisha's house:





Colleen and I showered and napped and then went into “little town”, the small commercial of Bondi Junction area near Tisha’s home, for provisions. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great. Then we took the train (subway) to Sydney Town Hall for a self-guided walking tour around downtown Sydney.

Archibald fountain in Sydney's Hyde Park:

Colleen doing a dramatic turn in front of the Hyde Park Barracks, where many of Australia's original convict residents were imprisoned:


We ended up at the Opera House and Circular Quay:, where we relaxed until Tisha met us for a wonderful dinner at the Café Sydney.

Panoramic view of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House (as with all photos, click to enlarge; you can also click on any bold text for links):

Colleen trying to bust in:

Yours truly:

Colleen inspecting the premises. Up close, you can see that is is covered in millions of Swedish tiles (not sure if they're from Ikea):

Harbour Bridge by night:


I easily went right to sleep when we got home at 1 AM (which was after NINE AM according to my body!) and slept until noon on Saturday. I woke up to find Tisha and Colleen relaxing in Tisha’s garden where we she served us breakfast. She made us eat Vegemite! I enjoyed it more than Colleen.

Tisha serving us breakfast on her lanai. Not sure why she looks so cranky...I assure you she was NOT:

Vegemite, the popular breakfast yeast spread:

I didn't mind the Vegemite (when it was spread thinly over a thick coat of butter):

Colleen couldn't hide her love for the stuff:


It was after two o’clock by the time we finally motivated. Colleen and Tisha had made a plan for the day that began at the Jewish Museum. Of course, being a couple of shiksas, they didn’t realize that it would be closed on Saturday. So instead we were going to start the day by going to the, which is best reached by a ferry from Circular Quay. Tisha offered to give us a lift there, and then decided that I should drive in order to practice. I have to say I was petrified. Should my first left-hand driving experience REALLY be in DOWNTOWN SYDNEY?!

In the end, it really wasn’t as weird as I thought. The only time you really need to think about it is at an intersection, where you have to stop and think about what lane you’re turning in to. The hardest part was getting used to the bulk of the car being to your left rather than your right, so you need to stay toward the right of your own lane rather than the left. I’ll have plenty of driving opportunities later to get used to it.

When Tisha left us at Circular Quay, we asked the woman at the ferry for two Zoo Passes. She actually said, “No! The zoo closes at 5:00. By the time you get there, you’ll only have an hour, so it’s not worth $27. You’ll go to the zoo tomorrow. Go to the Aquarium today: it’s open until 10:00.”

Who were we to question? So we walked to the aquarium, going under the bridge and through The Rocks (one of the oldest parts of town). At one point, we saw EIGHT different brides taking their wedding photos on the harbor:


The Sydney Aquarium is one of the most famous in the world for many reasons, not the least of which is because it’s on Darling Harbour—home of Nemo.

My favorite creature, the strangely endearing cuttlefish:

Colleen under the spell of a giant ray:

Colleen worshiping some flat fish:

Can YOU find Nemo (and all of his friends) in this tank?:


Afterwards we had dinner and drinks on the water: I had a “schooner of VB” (that’s a glass of Victoria Bitter, the popular local beer) and Colleen had her own brew.

Colleen hitting the bottle (and for once, it doesn't say "gin" on the label):


Our first two days were a bit grey with an occasional sprinkle, but Sunday we finally had a beautiful day here in Sydney. In the morning Tisha took us to the beaches. There is a beautiful walk that connects some of Sydney’s beaches, including Bronte (where Tisha used to live), Tamarama (“Glamarama” to the gay boys who frequent it) and the most famous of all, Bondi. We also happened to be there for the 9th annual “Sculpture by the Sea” exhibition, when the walk is lined with outdoor art.

Tisha at Bronte Beach:

Tisha and Colleen admire a sculpture on Tamarama (I've heard of frying like an egg on the beach, but this is ridiculous):

Tisha haming it up on another giant sculpture:

McKenzie's Bay...note the long walk filled with people all the way:

The famed Bondi Beach:


After lunch at Bondi Beach, Tisha drove us into town for our Bridge Climb. Yes, that’s right—you can actually take tours that climb to the top of the Harbour Bridge. It’s a little scary, but on a beautiful day like this it is certainly rewarding. The rules are very strict. You have to wear special clothes and learn the techniques, and you’re not allowed to bring a camera. But the tour guide has one and takes a few snapshots of you (which you can of course purchase later).

The scarier part is actually at the beginning and the end, when you walk on an open-grated suspended walkway under the bridge. Once you’re on the span, climbing up the hump, it’s easy. Just lots of stairs. You’re tethered to the bridge the entire time, and you hear the guide through your headphones. The whole experience is definitely different and exhilarating!

Climbers on the bridge (not us):

About halfway up (us):

Colleen with our guide (and her future husband), Luke:


Word was that Al Gore was also on the bridge the same day as us, but we didn’t see him. After dinner nearby, we spent a quiet evening at home with Tisha—where I cooled off in her COLD pool before we hit the hay.

Monday—our last day in Sydney—was once again cloudy (but at least it didn’t rain). After a slow start, Colleen and I made our way in a more timely fashion to Circular Quay to catch a ferry to the zoo. The ride across the harbor was beautiful. Taronga Zoo is on a hillside across from Sydney, so these animals have some of the best views in town—especially the giraffes and zebras.

On the ferry to Taronga:
Note the view of Sydney from the Giraffe’s den:



We took a cable car up the hill and worked our way around. We got there just in time for a Koala Encounter. Some folks like to say that koalas are surly creatures. Yes, they do have big claws and can scratch. But they are really just incredibly docile. They have one of the smallest brains among the mammals and are not known for their smarts. They spend 80% of their time sleeping, 10% eating (exclusively eucalyptus), and the other 10% staring into space. (Except for that eucalyptus part, I could be one myself.)

They are soft and cuddly, but koala cuddling is illegal in the state of New South Wales. If you want to cuddle a koala, you’ll have to go up to a zoo in Queensland (where it is legal, though the koalas have very strictly protected working conditions that would make even the AFL-CIO jealous…you just can’t make this stuff up).

So at Taronga you can pay $3.00 AUD (about $2.25 USD) for a private visit inside a koala’s cage where you can get an up-close look and have your pictures taken.

Adori (sleeping):

Felicity (sleeping):

Me and Colleen with Felicity (sleeping):

Caring instructions for Adori and Felicity (when they’re not sleeping, I guess):


It was pretty cool, though they just sleep and sleep. The woman in front of us was tried to bargain with the surly Australian man who worked the place because she didn’t want to pay the $3.00. She said she was a cruise ship worker and wondered if they had any special deals for them. “It’s three dollars, for Chrissakes!” he said. He finally let her in for $2.00, and then said to us, “Do you believe I have to put up with this shit?!” But he was cute and cuddly in his own codgery way:


We continued through the zoo, checking out a cool bird show and seeing many different Australian and non-native animals alike.

“Is this a kangaroo or a wallaby?!”:

“Ho-hum…”:

I guess that red-eye affects kangaroos, too—or this one's got a bit of the Satan in him:

A REAL Tasmanian Devil. Doesn’t seem so hyperactive to me:

In the wombat caves. I’ve always called Tisha “koala” because she is so cute and lovable. She’s always called me “wombat.” I’ll ASSUME that it’s because I share their sleeping proclivities…:


I couldn’t get very close to this dingo because he was busy stalking out a baby:

Not native to Australia, but good pics of lions and a meerkat:

We went to a free-flight bird show that was pretty cool (and offered a pretty view of Sydney):

Hindsleus hamus (Foxy Lady):


After the zoo, we wandered a bit through the nearby town of Mosman and then headed back to Sydney for a Starbucks (you can’t escape). Then it was back to Tisha’s where we too her out for our final dinner together. She took us to the shee-shee neighborhood of Double Bay where we ate outside at a restaurant called Dee Bee’s. I couldn’t help but to order the “Matzo dumpling soup”, which wasn’t half bad—given that this was an Asian-owned restaurant in Australia. But there is actually a decent Jewish population in Sydney, and in this neighborhood in particular.

“Matzo dumpling soup”:

Our last evening together:



Then it was back to Tisha’s to pack up for our Outback adventure...
________

Some random items:



Local snack:

This “happy van” had a bed inside. Hmmm…:

This just sounds wrong:

Colleen at the wall of celebrities who have also climbed the bridge. I’m not sure why “Michael Caine” gets quotes around "his" name. Maybe it was just a guy who really, really looked like "him"?:

We saw several outlets of this funeral chain. Apparently, they won’t bury Black or Asian ladies:

Hungry Jack is a fast food chain down here. Seems to me that Burger King can sue for copyright infringement. Reminiscent of “McDowell’s”:

And finally, an interesting co-promote on Qantas. You can use your barf bag for film processing:

4 Comments:

  • i had a hard time reading this due to flagrant and abundant spelling errors.
    ok fine, maybe i'm only saying that because i'm insanely jealous. but i AM concerned about where you purchased the shirt youre wearing at tisha's breakfast table. are there TRUCKS all over it? what, did health-tex come out with a grown gay men's line?

    By Anonymous MBL, at 1:37 PM  

  • So true, mbl. Too bad doug's such a hack. And, BTW, there were trucks. Loads of them, all over the shirt. But he looks so durn cute in it!

    And, I'm insanely jealous of doug's photoshop skills!

    PS: cmxjrzs: a new type of candy

    By Blogger Colleen, at 1:14 AM  

  • wow! what fun you doug and his pals had down under. i always enjoy his travel musings. and, i can't believe he ran into the fried egg sculpter on the beach. i oddly remember seeing it featured in SF chronicle a few days ago....it must be very HOT.

    By Anonymous vanessa pelletier, at 11:51 AM  

  • so, I've been arguing with my friend re: driving on the left-hand side...

    she believes there's a "general hug" to the "safe side"... I don't argue this... What I do argue is the ability to adapt to the new driving conditions...

    she's tried to show me this as proof - but I'm still skeptical... we'll see how I go in the US in 3 months time... anyways, looks like you had a good time here... Bad call on the Vegemite... It rocks! Two pieces of toast w/butter & vegemite a day keeps the doctor away... We aussies love our vitamin B...

    By Anonymous Carson (Aus), at 5:59 AM  

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