(The Australian continent approaches. The bay center-right is Sydney Harbor / Port Jackson. The bigger bay far left is Botany Bay, where the airport is.)
This is my first visit to Australia. Actually, it's my first time South of the equator (our visit to the island of Grenada last winter got us fairly close, but we're well South of that latitude now).
I see why people are so glowing about this place: it's fantastically beautiful, perched on a rugged coastline with craggy cliffs and inlets and coves all about. The architecture is interesting and beautiful, and everyone is friendly and chatty. It helps that they're speaking a version of a language I purport to know, though I often need to hear things twice to get them, and likewise for my listeners. The money, while looking very different from ours, is similar in denomination and value, so that one's intuition is largely functional. Five dollars is pretty much five dollars.
Except that things are quite expensive. The breakfast buffet at the hotel this morning was $32. My chicken sandwich and fries for lunch today was $10. I took out $40 when I got here 24 hours ago, and it's all gone and I've virtually nothing to show for it (except for a 1-litre Diet Coke for the long flight up to China). This kind of travel is expensive, and Sydney continues in that vein.
We used to stay downtown, not far from the famous bridge and the iconic opera house on the bay. We've recently changed hotels, and we're now a good :30 minutes from downtown, so that will have to wait for another, longer layover. The new hotel is in the Coogee Beach section of town, which is a lovely residential area surrounding one of Sydney's many beaches. I got what must take the prize as the nicest hotel room I've ever had in 15 years of doing this job. I'm on an upper floor of the hotel, which is perched on a hill overlooking the beach. It's a corner room, with two big balconies, and the pounding surf can be heard 24/7. It's really spectacular.
But apart from walking around the neighborhood and keeping well-nourished, there's not much to do in this particular part of town. I took a bit of a stroll last night, finding a fabulous old seaside cemetery, and I took a good three hour walk this morning, heading randomly away from the sea toward the University of New South Wales and hither and yon until wending my way back here.
I will definitely look forward to more visits here, and especially hope for a long weekend to explore the place more thoroughly. I'd love to rent a car or motorcycle and explore, and perhaps I will, but the opposite-side driving always throws me for a loop, even as a pedestrian; I can't imagine all the trouble I could get in behind the wheel. In fact, I ought to rule out the motorcycle right now. I had the same sense in London, which had begun to ease after five days there. I can see if I'm here long enough I'd figure it out, but any time I fell back on my intuition I'd be driving on the wrong side of the road or turning into oncoming traffic or failing to look where I need to look. (As a motorcyclist I'm accustomed to making eye contact with drivers to be sure I'm seen, and here in Australia I find myself looking at the driver and being shocked that they all seem not to be paying attention. And they're not! I'm looking at the passenger seat!)
For now, here are some photos:
(These are everywhere, in numerous variants and from several manufacturers. The Carck. The Truar. Whatever.)
(How to kneel in life and scrape in death. And He let her die just the same. Oh, and by the way: thanks.)