Boy and I had cooked hotel breakfast this morning, and it was quite passable, especially cause we ate it in bed! We also discovered that children's TV show presenters in Sydney are even more annoying than those in Melbourne. The forecast for today was 30oC and humid (dammit!) so we were looking for things to do undercover. We went to Paddy's Markets, which is a lot like the Vic Market in Melbourne, except much smaller and crappier. (Later on, I found out that there is a much larger version in Flemington, which I'm assuming is better and may even have actual fruit and vegetables as advertised.)
The market was in the bottom floor of a shopping centre called Market City, and all the ads made it sounds pretty good, so we checked it out. It was very boring, and we saw it all within about 15 minutes. So as we'd already decided that today's motto was Walk As Little As Possible, we thought it was time to break out the cheese and catch the monorail.
Now, the thing that everyone needs to know about the Sydney monorail is that is sucks arse. It's expensive ($4.80 for a single loop or $9 for a day pass), the carriages are too small and its crowded, a lot of the stations are hard to find, it's embarrassingly touristy (there are souvenir shops just outside many of the stations), most of the windows were covered in those overlays with advertising on the outside, which makes it damned hard to take photos from the inside, and worst of all, it's not air-conditioned. At first we thought that the air-conditioning in the carriage we were on had broken down, but when we caught another one later and it was like sitting in a sauna, we realised they actually don't have any at all. I thought it would be just like the City Circle tram at home: you get on, you go round and round in relative comfort and have a good gorp at everything and take some photos and have a nice sit down while you take in the scenery. But no. Unless you get to be slapped with birch twigs by good-looking Swedish people in towels and have a roll around in the snow afterwards, then you wanna get off that damn thing as soon as possible. So we did. We got off at City Central as we'd heard the Lindt Chocolate Cafe was nearby. But first we went to check out Centrepoint Tower and see if we could go up to the observation deck.
It cost $24 each and it included some lame-looking 'Oz trek' presentation, which was compulsory. It looked really stupid and we were very disillusioned. So I said to Boy, "screw this, lets just go to the chocolate cafe!" and he agreed wholeheartedly. So we proceeded two blocks to No. 53 Martin Place, where the Lindt Chocolate Cafe was situated. We were a bit freaked out by how dead Martin Place was, and I was almost relieved when we spotted a posse of skater dudes doing their thing on the steps.
We found the cafe without too much trouble, and it was marvellous. I had a milk iced chocolate and profiteroles, and Boy had a dark iced chocolate and black forest cake. I felt like I was somewhere in Europe. It cost much less than the stupid tower ($33 for us both) and was much more fun. As I said to Boy after we finished, "I'm very happy now!" Mmmmm...chocolate....
Moving on. Next we went for a wander back to the Pitt Street Mall and had a look around the shops at the Strand Arcade and the QVB Building.
I was feeling a bit bad cause there wasn't much for Boy to look at (being a man plus not into shopping), so I suggested we stop off for a coffee. We found a Gloria Jean's in the Mid City Arcade. Normally my preference is for Hudson's, but Sydney doesn't seem to have them. In my time there I saw 3 or 4 Gloria Jean's, but only 1 Starbucks. This is a good thing, in my book. It made me feel a bit cheated when my punchcard was accepted without question - it felt too much like being at home. But then it turned out that my barista was a surly middle-aged man who acted like making coffee was a huge inconvenience to him, and I felt like I was in Sydney again.
While we were drinking the coffee, Boy spied a hobby shop on the level above us and asked if we could go there. I'm sure he'd had more than enough of looking at bags and earrings and necklaces over the last two days, so I said yes.
It turned out to be Hobbyco, the largest hobby shop in the southern hemisphere, and it had enough to look at to keep us busy for over an hour. I finally came away with the coolest thing ever - an unbelievably kitschy paint-by-numbers kit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I wasn't sure at first cause it was $20, but then I thought, "stuff it, I'm on holiday!" Boy couldn't find any art kits he liked, unfortunately, but he did buy me some glow-in-the-dark dinosaurs.
We then went to the International Food Court for lunch. After some time umming and aahing, we decided to get the combination salads from the hot roast meals bar. They were really yummy and the girl who served us was pleasant. Afterwards we shared a Dutch Chocolate Pretzel from Pretzel World. It might all sound very mundane, but it really was a bit freaky overhearing someone saying, "I was on the ferry home the other day when..." There were also a few people wearing outfits that onlookers would have glanced twice at in Melbourne.
Staggering out of the foodcourt and back into the heat, Boy and I decided to give the monorail another go and head back around to Chinatown, as time was getting on and it was close to the hotel. We were unable to find seats on two services in a row, and had to wait, and when we realised that none of them were air-conditioned, this was when the true suckiness of the Sydney monorail sunk in. The sauna effect was twice as bad as before, and just left me thinking, 'please let the next stop be my stop!' It was pretty bad, really.
on the monorail, of the Sydney Convention Centre
We wandered randomly around Chinatown for a while, mostly just trying to stay in the shade. Then we discovered the most amazing shop ever!
It stocked Chinese figurines, feng shui supplies, painting and calligraphy supplies, religious items (Buddhist and Taoist), incense and a whole load more. It was fantastic. We wandered around agog for well over an hour, making sure we saw everything, and grabbing all manner of stuff along the way. We both found it very exciting.
We finally tore ourselves away as it was nearly time to go back to the hotel, and we had one more thing to do before we left. There was a Cold Rock Ice Creamery opposite the markets that we had taken note of earlier in the day. I had a macadamia supreme with a Caramello Koala and cookie dough. We ate them sitting in front of the Sydney Entertainment Centre, with the monorail sailing past overhead. How surreal is that?
how you are supposed to tell just by looking, I don't know.
(No signage at all.)
Then Boy and I headed back to the hotel, tired and looking forward to going home. Little did we know the drama that lay ahead...
Our airport shuttle booking was stuffed up and it came nearly half an hour later than we expected. Then the shuttle was delayed by having to go round and round in circles to get to other hotels, dodging and weaving in between other much larger buses.
our fellow bus-ridin' daredevils
But once it got away from that area, the driver (a tiny Thai man) floored it and drove like some kind of speeding demon. I feared for my life, but I no longer feared missing the plane!
I'd like to take this opportunity to list some of the things I didn't get a chance to take a photo of during this trip, not just on the speedy bus outta hell, but overall:
1. a Vietnamese noodle soup restaurant called 'Pho Pasteur'.
2. A pub called the Cauliflower Hotel which had a 2 metre wide cauliflower on the roof.
3. Various pedestrians in very interesting outfits who I can only assume were heading for the Madri Gras.
4. A street we went down called Mandible Street.
5. The whole suburb of Redfern, which just about everyone in Australia has heard of. It reminded me of Footscray.
We got to the airport in plenty of time, and went through to the shops to have a look around. After about 45 minutes, we heard an announcement about a plane to Melbourne being cancelled, which we really hoped didn't apply to us. But alas, it did. A lady at the gate told us to go back out of the terminal to the Jetstar service desk. We waited there in a queue for about 20 minutes. You'd be surprised how hot it can get in such a large space. Then an announcement said for everyone who didn't live in Sydney to proceed to desk no. 24, causing a stampede to the other side. We were near the end of the first queue, so we ended up near the start of that queue.
We waited there for about another 15 minutes. Then a lady told us they were going to get us on a Qantas flight, wrote our names down on a piece of paper and told us to pick up our luggage and go to Terminal 3. It all seemed very cobbled together and unprofessional, but we did exactly what we were told. It was on the way there that I realised the true genius of the travelator. The signals I was getting from my feet had escalated from resentment to pure hatred. On the way there, we saw some guys picking up their baggage. There were about 20 of them, all in red polo shirts. I wondered what all that was about, and I managed to get a closer look at the logo on on of them. It was the Sydney Swans. I'm sure if I had been someone else (i.e. someone who doesn't detest football with a passion), I might have gotten excited about it. At least it was kind of fitting, cause it made our Sydney experience even more complete.
When we arrived at Terminal 3, it was totally dead. Only one baggage drop desk was open. The lady there very kindly asked if we needed help, and we told her the situation. She hadn't been told anything, so she did a ring-around. Apparently Jetstar weren't ready to tell them anything yet, but the lady told us to wait right there and reassured us that we were in the right place.
After about half an hour, we were getting increasingly worried. The only thing that kept me from total desperation was a guy in a yellow shirt who was on the same flight as us and who had been told the same things we had. He paced up and down, yelled into his mobile, and gave the attendants some impressively filthy looks. Yes, Yellow-Shirt-Guy did all the things that Boy and I wanted to do but were too polite. It was quite gratifying. At one point he even parked his baggage trolley right in front of the desk, plonked himself down on it, crossed his arms and stared pointedly at the attendant until she asked him to move back. (By this point, Kind-Lady and her colleague had been relieved by Rude-Pimply-Woman and I-Really-Wanted-To-Be-A-Pilot-Man, who were having a good old chat while we suffered.) Yellow-Shirt-Guy paused for a moment, but then he must have decided that he didn't want any trouble, because he moved his trolley back about 2 metres before plonking himself back down in it. Then, the tension dissipated, he resumed his wandering up and down the terminal.
After about an hour, the words 'stranded at the airport' started spiralling through my mind. That is a pretty scary thing, I can tell you. We became especially despondent when the 8.15 flight to Melbourne was announced as closed and still no-one from Jetstar had turned up.
Finally, after about 2 hours, Boy spied a trail of tired and pissed off-looking people wending their way through the carpark. It had to be them! And indeed, it was the rest of the passengers from the cancelled flight, being led by a Jetstar representative, like some twisted, perverted version of the Pied Piper of Hamlet. They looked particularly tired and upset under the sickly green fluorescent lighting of the carpark.
The rep told us that there was a flight to Tullamarine Airport but they didn't want to check us in until the Qantas customers had arrived. So we had to wait for about another 20 minutes, still not knowing if we would all get on the flight or even when it was. Boy found out from one of the other passengers that they had been waiting all this time at the baggage carousel at the other Terminal, and had not been told anything either.
Finally we were allowed to approach I-Really-Wanted-To-Be-A-Pilot-Man and give him our luggage. The gate we had to go to was right next to the security check - at least one thing was going right tonight. We sat down to wait some more, but this time with relief. I managed to finish three Sudoku puzzles while a kid ran up and down and up and down and...
It was around this time that I realised it was after 9pm and I hadn't had any dinner - and wasn't likely to for some time yet. There were no food outlets on this side of the check in, and all the ones we had passed on the way were shut. All the ones at the other Terminal had been open, but they were at the other Terminal, and that was two hours ago! And I realised that everybody was in the same boat. This made Boy and I both very sad. Our last hope was that they served dinner on the plane. But with the flight being at 10.20pm, it wasn't very likely.
At about the same time that the kid got sick of running up and down, our plane appeared. It was a beautiful sight. Eventually we were allowed on it. It was full. I'd like to think that we all got a seat. Boy and I took a pair of complementary headphones (you know, the type with the weird plug that can't be used anywhere but on the plane, but you are allowed to keep anyway) and listened to the radio channels while we prepared for take off.
I made Boy take the window seat, but sadly for him there wasn't much to see. If everything had gone to plan he would have seen the sun setting over Sydney. Poor Boy.
We were given some very small breadsticks, spicy dips, juice and an apple during the flight, which everyone scoffed down immediately. I would have made a very inaproppriate offer for a cup of tea, but there were no hot drinks to be had, and the attendants looked stressed enough as it was. For the last flight of the evening to be chock-a-block full is a bit like a queue going out the door and around the corner at closing time, I suppose.
The in-flight entertainment was the Best of Top Gear, featuring a very amusing interview with Michael Gambon (who is a compulsive liar apparently!) and some very pretty cars. Before we knew it, we were descending into Melbourne. Thank goodness for that! But my happiness was tempered by knowing we had to get on a bus for another hour to get to Avalon Airport. Thankfully we were standing around like stunned mullets for only a short time before we were ushered to a really cool double-decker bus. I bags the top level!! A very nervous-looking, very young-looking boy counted us as we got on the bus, and said his butt would be kicked if there were less than 57 people on the bus when it left. I felt it was more like a 'you snooze, you lose' situation. I wanna go home!!
But we didn't have to wait very long before the bus set off. We snoozed while half-listening to a guy in the back telling stories of how he met two hot 16-year-old chicks in bikinis on Bondi Beach, who flirted with him for a while before revealing they were lesbians. He didn't seem too upset by it though. It's all part of the Sydney experience.
When we turned into the Jetstar terminal at Avalon Airport, Lesbian-Guy quipped, "there's our plane!" And he was right, there it was. Bastards.
After everybody's credit card rejected at the parking payment station, we finally got the hell out of there. Boy and I only had to drive back to Geelong (about 10 minutes), but a lot of the poor sods had to drive all the way back to Melbourne (over an hour), or further. Some of them had gotten the 6am plane to Sydney the same day, and so had been up for well over 24 hours. I hope they all got home OK.
After a short detour to Pizza Land for an extra large cheese and garlic turkish bread (all hail Pizza Land, the 24-hour saviours), which we ate in bed, Boy and I went straight to sleep.
Was it all just a dream??