Even though we had been up late on Friday night (see below for why), we, and many of the passengers got up early for the dramatic entrance into Sydney Harbor.
The vistas are magnificent as you sail through the very deeply inset Harbor, gradually revealing peninsulas, inlets and green hills. Then, as the ship nears the port itself, the iconic Opera House comes into view, perhaps the most familiar landmark in the South Pacific.
It was cold and windy on deck, but nobody seemed to mind, given this once in a life-time view of a grand city.
Then back to the cabin for a quick nap. We finally disembarked on Saturday mid morning to explore Sydney. We got a bit of a late start due to going to the 11:45 pm Late Comedy Show of one of our favorites, Brad Loekle who is as funny in ordinary conversation as he us on stage.
When I passed him in the ship’s Library/Internet Café earlier on Saturday, I laughingly said to him, “You know, 11:45 pm is way past my bedtime, but we’ll be there just for you!”
He replied without missing a beat: “I understand! I’ll try to be awake too!”
Even if you may not be aware of it, you have probably laughed at his humor: He is a regular on Tru-TV’s “World’s Dumbest…” series, where video clips of crimes, parties, daredevils, etc., are shown in which those on film demonstrate why they should be in the running for The Darwin Awards. The videos are accompanied by satiric commentary by comedians and writers.
It’s not high art, but it is a good reminder of how not to be stupid! Let’s say it’s cathartic!
In any case, we were off the ship by about 10am, and headed to one of Sydney’s Bohemian neighborhoods, Darlinghurst. The “main drag” of Darlinghurst is Oxford Street running from Hyde Park and the Anzac War Memorial to Taylor Square where Oxford meets Flinders St., and the surrounding area, continuing down Flinders for some blocks.
If Melbourne is analogous to San Francisco, then Sydney really does remind me of NYC. Big (4.6 Million) bustling and busy, it has the many ethnic and cultural quarters one would imagine, and then so, amid scenic beauty. Maybe it is an amalgam of SF and NYC…!
We soaked in the sights, sounds and smells of this great district, like Auckland’s K’Rd, but even bigger. Malayasian specialties were next to Pizza, next to Thai, Vietnamese, Burger joints, Kabobs, you name it!
One thing we did discover. Bloody Marys are not universally known here, as they generally are in the States. Here’s a business opportunity: start a Bloody Mary franchise in Australia!
For lunch we settled on a simple looking Vietnamese place with a table right at the door so we could people watch. Our SF neighborhood has great Vietnamese restaurants, and so we have gotten to know the cuisine a bit.
It was all wonderful. Phở is Anthony Bourdain’s favorite soup, and we are looking forward to having the local varieties in Viet Nam in a few weeks. This was a very creditable soup! Hot, spicy, great noodles, peppers, bean sprouts, etc.
Very full, we made our way back to the ship to prepare for our evening adventures.
Rested up, we set out from the ship again at about 6:45 to head to the same neighborhood for the world famous Sydney Mardi Gras! Some 300,000 attend this event celebrating Diversity each year, and this year was its 35th Anniversary. Police, Fire and Rescue personnel and other government figures participate. It is a grand party all-round.
The cab could only get us to Hyde Park, and so we then hoofed it to Oxford Street. We tried to rendezvous with Fratres Tom and Romelio who were also visiting Sydney, but we were trapped on opposite sides of the street with no way to cross, as the crowds were already massive and the streets were blocked off for the whole of the Parade Route.
The parade started at about 7:45 pm, and the atmosphere was electric. Once again, everyone seemed friendly and in a genuine party-mood. One very dear young lady grabbed my hand and said “You look just like Father Christmas!”
We “rented” stools for sitting/standing on to enjoy the festivities. All segments of society seemed to interact very well!
After the main section of the parade had passed, we walked up Oxford to a little hole-in-the-wall, Emilou’s Tapas, for some excellent chorizo, pork’s belly and crab fritters. This small restaurant was booming with mostly young people, happy, well behaved and in a jubilant mood. The walls are covered with Graffiti, and the service was informal, effective and pleasant.
And well behaved they ought to be. In restaurants and pubs, the government regulations are posted: if you get disorderly and refuse the request of the establishment to leave, the police will come and cite you on the spot. Since the current exchange rate is AUS$1.00 = US$1.03, that’s a lot of money, and you must vacate the premises and the neighborhood for a set period of time.
That will tend to keep order. Nothing like hitting them in the pocketbook!
We (very orderly!) got back to the ship, and began the fun of packing. This would be our last day on the ship!
Sunday, Monday and Tuesday will be recuperation and prep days for the long flight home, and seeing the amazing sights of Sydney. I’ll keep you up-to-date!
… Sorry for the brevity and typos: Sent from remote on the phone.