Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Day 0-2 Sydney
Days 0 and 2: SFO to Sydney
Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We've golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in Nature's gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history's page, let every stage
Advance Australia fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing,
"Advance Australia fair!"
Pictures: Opera House from our balcony and at ocean level; local birds; the sink in the men’s room of the Opera House (another THB first); surfer on the way to Manly Beach; tourists climbing on the harbor bridge; getting ready for high-speed harbor tour (not for us!).
We have a late flight Tuesday out of SFO and at the last minute (boarding had already started), United calls 7 of us up to the check-in counter and announces they have upgraded us to business class: YAY!!! It is $500/pp (on top of a very inexpensive fare) and 30k United miles, and well worth it. We get to lie down and sleep or, in my case, semi-sleep. I am asleep (okay, I am not always semi-sleeping cuz I have no recollection of the meal service) before they have started the dinner service (at 11pm?). I barely remember taking off. Maybe I don’t remember taking off. I do remember them saying they were closing the doors. Or, maybe not…I definitely got on the plane, that I remember.
We arrive in Sydney at 7:30 in the morning on Thursday which explains why Day 1 is missing above. After the now usual customs and immigration machinations (on our last few international trips, this has been a very uncomfortable experience mostly because a) the lines are too long and/or slow and b) the rooms are not air conditioned, so stuffy and we always have heavy carryon), and ours is the last bag off the plane (first checked?), and then there is a special dog sniffing quarantine review, an inability to find the shuttle bus to the hotel district so we cab to the hotel ($50), and at 9:30am our room is available! Ah, the joys of a shower, unpacking, internet access, and the usual Aussie friendliness, all before lunch time.
The room is great: it is a suite with kitchen, living room and office set-up, $250/night, not bad for a big city. Oh, and a view of the Opera House off our balcony. Not that you can stand on our balcony, it is the 90s and sunny and the balcony is in bright sunshine. It will be better at night when the OH is lit and the sun has set (that’s what makes it nighttime down under, right?). Note: not true, it is now very muggy at night, clammy.
After we shower, we head out for the day, mostly wandering until I decide we should visit the old general post office, converted years ago to a hotel, restaurants and a food court, well before the 2000 Olympics. I think that J&B and I ate here twice, in the basement, for sea food platters. Awesome…and no longer there! So, back we go to Wagamama’s, where blog followers will remember as a spot we ate at in the Tivoli Garden of Copenhagen. It’s too hot for ramen soup, so we have salad and grilled udon noodles. Not as good as in Copenhagen or London, and the prices are definitely at the Scandinavian end: lunch for two with two non-alcoholic drinks is $50. The Australian and US currencies are so close that basically they are near par in value and no translation required.
After lunch we continue to roam around, take a choo-choo train ride through the botanical gardens (we aren’t the only ones without kids on the thing, either…it is too hot to walk it today at this time of day, though plenty of people are strolling or picnicking, they must be Englishmen); $20. Then we decide to take a basic ferry ride on the harbor, to Manly. About half hour each way, great views of the city and the harbor, and even a strong breeze on the way back; $25 round trip for two.
Pop Quiz: name the bird that is using its long beak to feast on fast food leftovers, and bonus points if you can identify the black/white bird also posted.
Rest up at the hotel and start figuring out where to go to dinner. The desk recommends Fish on the Rock, about a 5-7 minute walk from the hotel, moving up the hill. Turns out to be very good: local oysters, tempura prawn salad, whole baked snapper, king salmon on couscous, two glasses of wine and a local beer, $110. Since tax and tip are included in the prices (at least the tip is), dishes seem more expensive. The total though tends to mirror what we would see in the US for a comparable meal.
And, the surprise of the trip occurs early: while researching restaurants THB spots a place called Tetsuya, which he remembers somehow as being highly recommended (in 2000? In 2011? THB is lucky he remembers he got on the plane). Look at a couple of on-line reviews: it is exceptional and very hard to get into, waits of up to a year. No problem, mate: ask the receptionist to see if there are any openings for Friday night or Saturday lunch. Her response: can’t hurt to try (with truly sincere doubt in her voice). A few minutes later: were in for lunch on Saturday. This will be a big ticket, and how appropriate to celebrate THB’s ongoing b’day week (or two). Ahhhhhh, can it really be as good as Keller’s restaurants? We’ll see….