Days 59 & 60: To Tattoo or Not to Tattoo?

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December 12th 2009
Published: January 30th 2010
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That is the question we are debating over lunch in the grungy but hip suburb of Newton, just a few miles outside of central Sydney. It is a topic that we occasionally discuss, perhaps because we may actually - one day - get a tattoo. Or perhaps we just talk about it to entertain ourselves. There's something about travel, and the anonymity that comes with it, that makes you consider doing something that you otherwise would never, ever think about. And when the consequences can be easily hidden from sight, it becomes all the more appealing.

We often discuss macro-level topics that, when we're comfortably ensconced in our normal day-to-day routines at home, we tend not to think about very much. "Should we live outside the U.S. someday?" or "When should we get a dog? What would we name our dog?". The tattoo discussion is one of the smaller branches of this discussion tree. This particular conversation was inspired by our unbearably hip waitress who is wearing black army boots, nose and eyebrow piercings and brilliant tattoos.

About 10 minutes by train from Sydney's center, Newton is very different than the Rocks neighborhood where we are staying. We particularly enjoy the shop that sells only - ONLY - gargoyle statues. In celebration of the season, the owner has decked out his favorite gargoyle statues in little Santa hats embroidered with a cursive "Naughty". We can't tell you how much we like them.

We toyed with the idea of sending a gargoyle home to Angelique's brother, who is a big fan of the monster/fantasy genre. Unfortunately, with yesterday's clothing purchases, our suitcases are filled to capacity and shipping a gargoyle statue to the U.S. would cost many multiples more than the gargoyle itself, so, sorry Chris.

After wandering around for a few hours, we make the call, opting for gelato instead of tattoos (we know that some of you will be disappointed, others relieved, and most not too surprised), and headed back downtown on the train.

And now a minor complaint about Sydney - for such a large city the public transportation is not particularly good. We were amazed at how dirty and expensive the transit system is in comparison to other cities we have visited.

The trains and stations are downright grotty. There is garbage everywhere - on/under the seats in the trains and all over the platforms - wrappers, half-eaten sandwiches, empty bottles, chewing gum. A few garbage bins on the platforms would help!

The pricing structure for the trains is disturbingly variable. For example, tickets for our upcoming 2.5 hour trip to the Blue Mountains cost $12 each (roundtrip) but a ~3-5 minute ride from Circular Quay to Central Station costs $3.50 (one way) - expensive for tourists who want to see different parts of town and don't want to take a cab. The most egregious example, though, is transit to the airport, a mere 5 miles (or, as the train's billboards proudly proclaim, 18 minutes) from the city center. You can either pay $40-$50 for a cab OR take the train for $15 per person (again, one way). However, if you were to disembark at the stop AFTER the airport (Wolli Creek), you only have to pay $4.00. It doesn't make sense.

Ok in fairness the ferry system in Sydney is pretty good....but the rail/subway system needs improving (ferries operate under a completely different system and the relationship between the train people and the ferry people seems strained, at best. When we asked a representative at the Circular Quay's train station information office if the ferries were running on Christmas Day, he hissed "I don't know! They NEVER share information with us!").

After a quick rest at the hotel we dressed up in our new clothes, grabbed a delicious light dinner at nearby restaurant and made our way over to the Opera House to see the symphony "The Creation" written by German composer Joseph Haydn in the late 1700s. The music and singing are wonderful.

The Creation is presented in seven movements. Each movement corresponds to a day of the Biblical first week. There is a chorus and three vocal soloists - a soprano, a tenor and a bass - who take the roles of three angels and provide the narrative (two of them morph into Adam and Eve for a beautiful duet on Day 7). Interestingly, the piece was originally written in English.

Outside the Opera House, Saturday evening holiday festivities are in full swing. It felt like half the city (and a few thousand tourists) were downtown having a great time outdoors as we made our way back to the hotel. Once again we are reminded how lucky we are to be escaping the winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

Sunday was a day of rest, much needed as we're both feeling a bit under the weather (fortunately, still no fever - more of a headcold). We slept in, spent a few hours at an internet cafe researching and arranging the rest of our trip in Australia, and had a delightful picnic in the grass in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art by the harbor. We headed to Surry Hills again for dinner - this time we opted for delicious gourmet pizza at a happening Italian restaurant.

Tomorrow, our outdoor adventure begins in the Blue Mountains.


31st January 2010

Hi There!
Hi Adrian and Angelique - glad to see you're still having great adventures! I don't know if you're actually looking for an answer to the train fare conundrum, but lest you lose any more sleep about it, I just wanted to point out that we have the same situation with the train to Newark Airport and JFK too. Besides the all too true answer that they're hitting up the tourists to subsidize their transit, the extra fare appears to be the traveler fare for the monorail from the train to the terminals, which people who arrive by car pay in their parking ticket. Of course if Sydney Airport has no monorail, then that shoots that theory down......

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