Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sydney Day 2

I had an excellent night's sleep thanks to the ear plugs that I had handy (here's a photo of the view from my room- think sirens and jackhammers 24 hours a day) and I woke up to a line for the shower. After a peek-a-boo game every time I heard a door close, (OK it was more like whenever there was a commercial on my morning show) I got into the shower about a half an hour later. I was all ready to go when I realized that I hadn't charged my camera, so another half hour of morning TV (it gets worse the later you get) and I was definitely ready to get out of the hotel and into the city.

First in my plan for the day: catching the ferry to Manly. Manly is on the northern edge of Port Jackson and is a narrow peninsula with harbour and ocean beaches and reads like a small beach community that welcomes the odd tourist looking for a change from the big city. Since I consider myself just that kind of odd tourist, I was looking forward to the town as much as I was looking forward to the ferry ride.

I headed to Darling Harbor and after wandering around for about half an hour looking for the time table to be posted on one of the wharves, I realized that my ferry to Manly is really at Circular Quay (I'm blaming it on the signage) and not at Darling Harbor, where I was. So, I made my way to the train station and then caught the next boat. They switched the scheduled ferry with a rivercat (speed commuter boat), so the ride took half as long (15 minutes as opposed to 30) and was four times as choppy. I just sat back and enjoyed the ride since I couldn't get any photos.

Turns out that Manly is booming, with lots of luxury apartments, lots of restaurants, and a full four blocks between the wharf and the ocean with touristy surf shops and more restaurants called the Corso (the street, not the restaurants).

The wharf side has a protected swimming area and the ocean side had a beautiful beach full of swimmers and surfers and unfortunately also had at least two sewerage outfalls (bummer). That and the many signs informing of a strong rip tide and I was convinced that I should enjoy this beach from the safety of the sand.

While enjoying the afternoon, I realized that sushi on the beach for lunch (didn't buy it on the beach, I bought it and then took it there for a picnic) was not a good idea as it collects every grain of sand in the air. (Beaches tend to be sandy, and so now my lunch was too.) I abandoned the sushi and found a kebab shop and a civilized picnic table on the street. Soon later, a couple of old folks join me at the table and after 5 minutes of silence, I ask where they are from (I had noticed an accent). The woman was chatty and she tells me that they have been here for over 50 years and this is just a normal day. Then the guy proceeds to yell at me because my president is a warmonger and since I know there is nothing I can say to make him stop, we continue eating in silence. It's the first time in ages that someone had taken offence at my being American, so I guess it could definitely be worse.

After lunch, I wander around town and find Market Street, which is highlighted on the map like the Corso, hoping to find more good shops. Unfortunately, there was nary a surf shop to be found, as Market Street is the home of Manly's porn shops and hair salons and a strangely scary public toilet. It looked like a pay toilet (but it wasn't) so I figured it would be in pretty good shape (but it wasn't). Despite the poor appearance, I needed to go, so I stepped inside. (Don't worry! This is not going where you think. Even I have my limits.) As the door slides shut, a voice comes on and tells me to push the door-lock. When I do, the voice returns and tells me that I have ten minutes and then the speakers fill with the loudest rendition of "What the world needs now, is love, sweet love..." It was surreal. I would have stuck around to see what the crappy DJ had on deck, but I decided my time would be better spent elsewhere.

I caught a proper ferry back to Circular Quay and enjoyed the whole 30 minute ride. (I think if I have extra time here I will just ride ferries all day.) I made my way back to the hotel and decided that I would recharge my camera (take a cat nap). Fully recharged, I headed back out, this time to spend some quality time at the Harbor bridge.

I walked back to the Rocks and found my way to the pedestrian access to the bridge. It was still the end of rush hour and vehicular and pedestrian traffic was high. Joggers and commuters joined us tourists on the bridge and it wasn't too difficult to tell which was which. We tourists actually looked around. If you are looking to spend some extra cash, you can do the "bridge climb", where you strap on climbing gear and walk up the railing to the top of the bridge. You can see the people waiting at the top for the rest of their group. Uh, no thanks.

I walked out to the middle, and knowing that there was little to lure me to North Sydney, (it's mostly office buildings) I turned back to the neighborhoods I knew best.

As the sun set, I decided that I would hang out and get some evening shots of the city and of the opera house. (This puts my count of shots that include the opera house to the teens and I haven't even been there yet.) I really should have had a tripod and probably a bit better camera, but it works for me!

Vocab of the Day
Pensioner: retiree

Manly is crawling with tourists and pensioners since it has a nice beach and is easy to get around.

Zebra crossing: crosswalk that is painted onto the pavement in short, vertical lines

I was surprised to find that cars actually yielded to me as I came upon zebra crossings in Manly. They were even getting impatient because I would wait to make sure they were stopping before I crossed! Sydney has zebra crossings as well, but the drivers are a bit less courteous.

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