Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sydney 2012, Part 1:Heart in the Sky, Fish on a Plate

Well I suppose I have to start somewhere. I've put off writing this for way too long, now- about a month has passed since my trip to Sydney. Too many other things have popped up- idiotic statements against which I just had to rant on, contests, movies, and maintaining a healthy level of pessimism; all of which can really be compressed in one word: procrastination, which is odd, really, since by composing rather long posts recently I've actually been pretty productive, which is a word you'll rarely see me applying to myself.

Sydney, Australia, was chosen for our trip this August, for no particular reason worth remembering. Melbourne was in the running, but lost out- which might infuriate Melbournians given their alleged rivalry with Sydney-siders for the title of most popular city in Australia. That being said I can safely say that most of us actually preferred laid-back Perth- I guess if I'm going to anger one camp I might as well anger the other side as well, to be fair.
In total, the invasion party consisted of ten persons. A logistical nightmare for me, given that I didn't have much of a clue where to go, and though nominated as de facto tour guide, I obviously didn't have much authority to throw around.

Truth be told, we had trouble from the very beginning: by using the electronic check-in system, we were given random seats. Upon arrival, one aunt was separated from the rest of us when asked by airport security 'did you drink?' She answered yes, not knowing of the connection between drink and alcohol, and was herded off to a different queue.

Then came check-in at the hostel, Base Sydney. More trouble: for some reason they wouldn't accept credit cards. Something to do with the bank, though to be honest that sounded rather fishy. No matter- if we needed more cash we could always use the ATM machine, they said. Great. Except that the only person in our entourage with a credit card had no idea what his password was. No matter.

Into the room, a dorm with 10 beds. Complaints quickly followed- no need for me to repeat them here. I quickly grabbed a lower bunk, for proximity to an electrical point, which come to think of it, makes me sound like a battery powered Energizer bunny.
Lunch was the first on the list of things to do. Stomachs over sights. Still panicking over our perceived shortage of travel funds, we unanimously agreed that we would eat only at places which accepted plastic. We settled on a small Spanish restaurant- the waitress probably wasn't all too happy with the time we took to order, and the complication involved- though of course I had to coordinate the entire thing. I'm not sure what's so Spanish about the dish above, though.
This one screams Spanishity, of course- don't think too much about that word, I made it up. Think too much and you'll draw a connection to another word, one rather unpleasant, and not fitting to be brought up in the context of food. To the Spaniards reading this, I meant no disrespect- blame the English for the inadequacies of their language, I say. But I digress. What you are looking at is a platter of seafood paella.
The food was pretty good, though I must say the chicken was rather hard and dry- interestingly enough, this seemed to be a defining trait of poultry in Sydney. No matter where we went, the chicken was hard and had the appearance of a slab of rock, probably a trait their poultry was bred into so as to force consumers to ignore it and go for seafood instead, all of which was very fresh, and nothing like chicken at all.
After stuffing ourselves silly and leaving plenty of uneaten food on our plates, we headed in the direction of Paddy's Markets, which thankfully was open on that day (this isn't it). Like Perth, Sydney has many pretty old buildings jostling for space with boring new buildings, though the one point both old and new share in common is that their tenants tend to be rather dull.
The lovely Market City, which housed a dull shopping mall on street level, and Paddy's Markets below. We disappointed ourselves immediately by walking straight in instead of down. They had odd stuff like preserved kangaroo testicle key-chains, kangaroo claw back-scratchers... ok, nothing could possibly top the former. Moving on...
One of Sydney's many bridges. Ignoring everything that looks vaguely modern, it almost looks like a scene out of the 17th century. Tilt to either side though and you'll see chubby tourists chowing on french fries while impatiently waiting for the wi-fi equipped ferry to arrive. Ours took us to Manly, a journey of some 30+ minutes.
Our first view of the Sydney Opera House- by night, on a ferry on the open sea... river. Body of water. I'm not exactly sure which, but water it is. At any rate I'm pretty sure the water is fairly salty. However I have to say that the building, while moderately pretty, really isn't as impressive as travel writers make it out to be. Then again why listen to me? I'm in love with ancient old buildings like Neuschwanstein Castle or St. Peter's Basilica... 'modern' buildings just don't cut it for me. I appreciate the plumbing, though.
After some squabbling over where to eat, we decided on the Manly Grill. I'm still laughing at the name Manly. Here's a lobster steak, or whatever they called it. Funnily enough it seemed raw enough to be called lobster sashimi- wet and cold too. Odd, I didn't get food poisoning, so I guess they meant to cook it that way.
Peri-peri roast chicken. This thing is massive- nothing like Nando's. Ths sauce however, wasn't as spicy.
Cajun burger with Angus beef. The steak version costs a bomb elsewhere- here it was pretty cheap. Though maybe burgerizing it has something to do with the lower costs.
Another impressive looking dish- baked baby barrimundi. Supposedly Australia's national fish, unless the menu was just screwing with us.

And because I'm really lazy when it comes to travelogues- here's an end to day one. More drama back at the hostel when we realised that towels weren't provided (standard for hostels), and one of the group didn't bring one. Well. Household drama not worth describing, unless you're into Desperate Housewives without Eva Longoria.

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