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My first view of the city upon exiting the subway (train) at City Centre.

Hello. It’s me again  . . . Dateline Saturday, 12 noon, February 9, 2013, at the Sydney Library.  I got here about 3-4 hours ago and the morning and dusk/early evening is the best time to tour the city. Right now, it is about 31 Celsius – which means HOT in Farenheit. Consequently, your’s truly thought it would be an excellent idea to do the blog post now, before venturing out in the heat again.

Queen Victoria in front of the famous shopping center/mall named for her.  The building is extremely old and there were a few idiots that wanted to raze the building to the ground. However, a few people recognized the historical value of the building and remodeled it. It is quite beautiful and everything is EXPENSIVE. Bring money. Ha.

Queen Victoria in front of the famous shopping center/mall named for her. The building is extremely old and there were a few idiots that wanted to raze the building to the ground. However, a few people recognized the historical value of the building and remodeled it. It is quite beautiful and everything is EXPENSIVE. Bring money. Ha.

My trip from Christchurch to Sydney was relatively short – a bit under 2.5 hours. However, I dropped off the car at the rental agency early and had quite a wait at the Christchurch airport. This was nothing compared to what occurred later though . . . Intuitively, I should have sensed my day was going to get worse when I was watching the most exciting part of the inflight movie and the Flight Attendant indicated that she wanted our tablet movie, music, and game players back because we were landing. She had no sense of humor when I said, “Tell the pilot to circle Sydney for about 10-15 minutes.”  Whatever.

The Convict Barracks, that was built in 1819.

The Convict Barracks, that was built in 1819.

I went to this museaum called the Convict Barracks, a World Heritage Site. Quite an interesting tour. In a barracks built for 750 convicts (which I found appalling), the British government actually slept over 1400 convicts. The hammocks you see here is not an accurate depiction of how many slept in this room.

I went to this museaum called the Convict Barracks, a World Heritage Site. Quite an interesting tour. In a barracks built for 750 convicts (which I found appalling), the British government actually slept over 1400 convicts. The hammocks you see here is not an accurate depiction of how many slept in this room.

I got off the plane and went through immigration and customs without a problem. However, I was a bit under the weather, i.e., tired and dehydrated. The rental agency was easy to find and the lady that helped me at the desk was quite helpful, but I was getting more and more nauseous. I completed the car rental agreement and made my way to the garage, where the car was. It was almost dusk and I couldn’t see the scratches and dents, that were marked up on the inspection sheet I had. Couple that with the car not being clean, I was really questioning why I was renting a car. More important, I was going to attempt to drive in a very, very large city at night. I told myself this was a bad idea. I didn’t have my glasses with me for night driving and I decided to go back to the rental car desk and rescind the deal. Fortunately, they didn’t make a big deal of it and refunded my credit card.

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The convicts ate a type of “gruel,” usually some vegetables and some sort of meat (chicken?) that was cooked inside these large cast iron vats.

It was approaching 8pm and on hindsight, I should have checked into a bus or train to my destination. However, I was exhausted and decided that an expensive cab ride would be much more preferable (especially considering that I was going to drive myself – which could have turned out to be waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more expensive if I got into an accident). The bottom line is that I was willing to pay for a cab, if it meant I would be going to sleep in an hour or so. There were about a dozen cabs and I immediately went to a station wagon, where my driver graciously gave me a discount on the cab fare. Dave (the driver) lowered the price by more than 10% and instead of paying a fare north of $100, he only charged me $90. A big shout out to Dave, who also assisted me with some information about the area and rental cars. Thank you Dave!

Gwenvael, a German, who is on a work Visa to Australia. He is a big Giants fan and has even lived in San Francisco. He goes by "Gwen" for short.

Gwenvael, a German, who is on a work Visa to Australia. He is a big Giants fan and has even lived in San Francisco. He goes by “Gwen” for short.

After arriving at my accomodations – my new digs for the next 4 nights – I took a shower and hit the sack hard. I didn’t wake up until 6am and I tried accessing the internet. No internet. Ok. I ventured outside and went to the reception building, but the sign indicated that they weren’t going to be open until 9am. Hey baby, the kid will be rockin’ and rolling in Sydney hopefully by that time. I tried the emergency button and amazingly someone answered. I should have noted that when I arrived the night before, the security guard drove me to my building and gave me a reception packet. This place is a retirement community, where they have cabins that are owned, with some that they rent out to tourists. Anywho, the person that answered was quite friendly and let me in. I indicated that the internet was down and did she know that I was a world famous travel  blogger that had places to see and deadlines to meet? Actually, I didn’t say that. 🙂

Believe it or not, that "fur ball" is a Wombat. Click on the picture to zoom in.

Believe it or not, that “fur ball” is a Wombat. Click on the picture to zoom in on it.

However, I did ask why the internet was not working and she said they were working on it. Oh well. I would have to find another way to keep in contact with the world.  I also asked about a bus or train to the city and she was helpful with regard to that subject. I went back to my room and put a few things in my day pack and set off of Sydney. At the bus stop, I met this man Juaquin (or Joaquin?), a Cuban, who was a retired and a naturalized citizen of Australia. He provided much more detail about the train and bus schedules, as well as information about catching a train to Brisbane, which I would need to do in a few days.  Juaquin was also quite knowledgeable about the city of Sydney and he was going in the same direction as I was. On Fridays, his routine was to meet several other friends of his, all retired, and they would have lunch together. Juaquin was very intelligent and quite cosmopolitan. I believe he said that he worked in forensic science before retiring.

On the bus with my new friend, Juaquin.

On the bus with my new friend, Juaqui

At Blacktown, we transferred from the bus to the train and fortunately, it was an express train with few stops. This intersects with the title of my post – Sydney is a large city, with many outlying suburbs, some that are quite nice and others that are in abject poverty. Garbage is strewn everywhere and it’s quite rare to see wall space without graffiti. Juaquin told me that it would be a good idea not to stay too late after dark in Sydney and especially, not in any of these outlying suburbs we were passing. I told him not to worry – street smart works everywhere in the world and that’s one thing I am. My point about Sydney being similar to an “onion” is that you really don’t get a definitive view of it by just visiting the tourist sites, although that’s what most visitors want to see anyway. Me? I’m glad I am having an opportunity to go through these areas, if only because I don’t have “rose colored glasses” on and am not blind to this side of Sydney.

Weird looking bird with a sharp thin beak.

Weird looking bird with a sharp thin beak.

It took a little bit over an hour to reach the City Centre of Sydney and we arrived underground, so I was a bit surprised when I saw all the high rise buildings. As long as you stayed in the shadows, you were relatively protected from the sun and heat. I asked Juaquin if I could buy him a cup of coffee before he left to meet his friends and he joined me at the Queen Victoria Building where we found a cafe. He explained the history of the building and a particular clock that was commissioned for Queen Elizabeth.  The Royal clock was beautiful and depicts six scenes of English royalty. There is another clock – The Australian Clock which is quite famous, that depicts several Australian and aboriginal scenes. The building itself was constructed in 1893 and the architecture is “Romanesque Revival.”  Afterwards, I wondered the City Centre and bought a pass for 11 museums (which I wont totally take advantage of – but was worth the price of $30 because each of the 11 museums are around $10 a piece to enter.). I visited the Convicts Barracks and in an hour or so, I will visit the Sydney museum.

Juaquin in front of the Royal Clock.

Juaquin in front of the Royal Clock.

St. James Church, oldest church in Australia.

St. James Church, oldest church in Australia.

My battery is going low, so I will have to close for now. Part II in a couple of days (if I find a WIFI connection). However, I have to mention Tracy and her two sons, Adrian and Cameron who helped me out last night. I will tell their story later . . .

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