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Published: January 10th 2016
We were returning to Sydney to recommence our travels on mainland Australia. We had a Jetstar flight, which left Hobart at 12.50 pm and arrived in Sydney at 2.45 pm. Who knows how long that flight was, with any time differences; going backwards and forwards in time was just too confusing. Our flight path took us into Sydney over the top of the Opera House, which still looked yellow, and the bridge, which still looked grey.
When we had first arrived in Sydney a month previously we had been amazed at how small the airport was for such a major transport hub. Well, I don't know which terminal we came in on then but this time round it was as though we were in a completely different airport! It was much bigger, more what you would expect for a city of Sydney's size. Nevertheless, we were quickly able to locate the shuttle bus which was driven by a Jenson Button wannabe on acid and we were rapidly delivered to our hotel, somewhat battered and bruised by the trip and hoping that the luggage carrier attached to the back of the minibus hadn't come unstuck along the way as a result
of taking bumps and corners at racetrack speed.
We could have returned to the hotel we used previously in Sydney but we stuck with our usual policy of not returning to the same place twice on this occasion. Steve is a big fan of Art Deco and when he saw the Regents Court Hotel in the Potts Point/Kings Cross area on the web it immediately got his vote. And what a lovely find! It was full of Art Deco features, including a wonderfully ancient lift that needed at least two pairs of hands to get into and out of without losing digits in the process and our amazing corner room offered views of the Sydney skyline and the streets below. Many of the original features had been preserved and it was much more our sort of hotel, full of quirks and interesting features. The wonderful rooftop garden offered views across to the Opera House and bridge and I never saw anyone else up there making use of it. River in reception greeted us gayly and made us feel at home immediately.
The Potts Point area has long been the favoured locale for Sydney's artistic community, being the home
for actors, authors and composers, as well as local 'characters', eccentrics and hoodlums. Many of its past residents, from the local prostitutes to the doctors serving the community, are remembered by inlaid plaques amongst the stone flags in the streets and I kept doing that really annoying thing that tourists do, stopping without notice to read them. This often involved a 360° pirouette to get myself in the right orientation and led to some near miss collisions with those following behind. It is also the favoured location of Sydney's gay community and I had some wonderful conversations in the small garden area just outside the hotel in the early hours of the morning or late in the evening with passing residents and visitors who were all relaxed and extremely friendly. I had the pleasure of meeting, amongst others, Freddy, Bert, Noely (she arrived one Christmas) and Princess of Potts who were, you've got it, all dogs, mainly of the small, fluffy, pampered variety, being exercised by their owners. Princess was a tiny dachshund owned by an enormous (6' 4" and 20 stone at least!) chef who had finally bought a property in this dog friendly area just so he could
provide a home for Princess! He said it was all about 'commitment'! The area also offered some backpacker hostels and the bars, nightclubs, stripjoints and food outlets were varied, catering to all needs. There was a real, almost tangible vibe and atmosphere set in a cafe culture. Our local bar was The Sugarmill which offered $10 steaks (about £5) alongside (almost) fine dining options. It was a lovely hotel in a fantastic area and my initial impressions of Sydney from our first visit were already improving.
Ultimately, our second visit to Sydney turned out to be a much more positive experience than the first. The improved weather helped, I'm sure. Although not hot, it was no longer grey, wet and cold and the sun made the occasional prolonged visit! We explored areas of Sydney we hadn't managed to get to first time round. We revisited Kippax Street (who would have thought it, a street in Australia with the name of the tiny, unknown village I was born in!) to take a photo for posterity. It's quite close to the train station and I noticed for the first time that the trains were double-deckers! We went down to The Rocks,
a bohemian area once upon a time perhaps but now very touristy, saw the Art Gallery (currently with a Grayson Perry exhibition) and a huge cruise ship in the Harbour. The Opera House colour was still off-white and we climbed the steep cobbled streets up to the Harbour Bridge just so we could say we'd stood on it.
On our way back through the Botanical Gardens we met a guy who was looking for a 'bubbler'. It turns out that's Aussie for a water fountain and he needed to get a drink for his dog. They are usually everywhere, just not when you need one. Sydney is a remarkably clean city and caters well to the needs of its residents. Indeed, throughout our travels here we were constantly impressed with civic amenities and standards. In Sydney and other city environs elsewhere the bin men called every day, the roads were swept by those machines with the brushes at the sides that look like angry monsters with twirly moustaches and men swept the streets with brushes EVERY DAY! It was all spotless. No cutbacks in Australia, it seems, and it showed.
We took a city bus out to Bondi
Beach and it was only a 40 minute journey. We were, I'm afraid, less than impressed and we saw much better and much prettier beaches elsewhere later in our travels. It was quite small and very busy but it serves the city residents well as an easy-to-get-to seashore for a lungful of sea breeze, and water sports including the renowned surfing. It was being well used by 'surfer dudes' and families alike, so how can you knock that?! We only stayed an hour or so and wondered, once again, if it was a victim of being over-hyped and therefore setting itself up for disappointment in the reality.
We were almost halfway through December and I couldn't help but notice how 'absent' Christmas was. There were no street decorations, no endless carols playing in a loop in shops, no TV commercials for any Christmas 'specials' and certainly no pressure to spend, spend, spend. Some of that is a good thing but the fun of Christmas was also sadly lacking. There were no high spirits and no drunken revelry and certainly no evidence of goodwill to all men. We saw some office-types in Santa hats and the city centre bars were
full but I think that's just normal for a Friday night in Sydney. It seemed that civic expenditure didn't stretch to Christmas and I was disappointed that a cluster of undecorated spruce trees in a mall seemed to be the token gesture until we rounded a corner to see a huge tree with a few baubles on it!
We started to investigate the rest of our route. Cars proved too expensive (there was a huge premium to pay for picking it up in one place and dropping it off at another and we were financially penalised for not being Australian!). We reverted to our original plan of using the Greyhound buses only to discover that the timetable Steve had used when checking things out from home before departure had changed and some of the buses no longer ran, or ran at inconvenient times. No matter, we could adapt, bookings were made and we were given online accounts so that we could book/change/cancel things as needed. All good, apart from the middle of the night journey somewhere in our travels where the powers-that-be had changed the time from a 1-something pm time to 1-something am. How could that be a good idea? In the words of Fleetwood Mac, oh well.
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