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I want one.

I want one.

The subject heading is a quote by Sydney J. Harris and I couldn’t agree more. So with that attitude, I started my day, promising myself that I would lighten up on Sydney, Australia, and give it another chance. Hey, y’all need to cut me some slack though – I had just completed a visit of New Zealand, one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen.

I have been at the YHA Railway Square Hostel for two days and I love it! It is perfect for my needs. First and foremost, it is near the Central Station train and bus services, including Inter-country trains, which will take me to Brisbane tomorrow. It’s also relatively inexpensive. Even more so, because I was refunded $50 due to my room (main one) light being burnt out the last 2 days.  Yesterday, the Night Manager attempted to fix it and was unable to do so. He gave me two breakfast vouchers and said it would be taken care of today. It wasn’t and Sylvia, the Assistant Manager at Railway Square, refunded me part of my room rate (the $50) and did it graciously without hesitation, truly concerned that I was inconvenienced by this. Wow!  I was shocked by this, because I had a bad experience with reservations I made for Chill Backpackers in Brisbane. More on that in a bit.

Sylvia is the Asst. Manager at YHA Railway Square Hostel. In my opinion, she should be the CEO and President of YHA.

Sylvia is the Asst. Manager at YHA Railway Square Hostel. In my opinion, she should be the CEO and President of YHA.

Sylvia also has arranged for me to store my back pack tomorrow in a back room while I wait for the train to Brisbane, which doesn’t leave until past 4pm tomorrow. This will allow me to do some more sightseeing and also, I wont have to pay a locker fee. Sylvia is leaving for the United States in a couple of days, visiting Scottsdale, Arizona. I told her to make time for Sedona, a beautiful town (where I have a couple of cousins living), as well as baseball’s Spring Training games. Again, thank you very much Sylvia for the exemplary service! Now settled into my new digs in the center of Sydney, I was able to get an early start touring the city yesterday. Conservatively, I put at least 7-8 miles on my Nikes. These are the areas I hit: Hyde Park; Sydney Quy and Opera House area; Darling Harbour; Wildlife Zoo; Sydney Museum; Theater district; China Town; and Wynard shopping area. Most of this sightseeing was done with two new friends, Christina and Nikki, whom I met by asking directions (I think I was looking for China town).

Nikki and Christina.

Nikki and Christina.

Nikki and Christina are from Cypress and have traveled extensively themselves. I must have taken 225 pictures yesterday. Quite a lot, but no where near as many as they did. They both speak Greek, but I was really amazed at how fluent they were in English. Frankly, they both spoke better English than I do. Seriously.

Nope - not a Kangaroo, but a Wallaby, which is a bit smaller than a Kangaroo.

Nope, not a Kangaroo, but a Wallaby, which is a bit smaller than a Kangaroo.

I had a lot of fun exploring the city with them because they provided two different perspectives on what we were all observing. For example, Christina is trained as an architect and is currently a home and commercial designer. Consequently, she is very observant about things related to these subjects. Similarly, Nikki was taking quite a few videos of things I was missing, e.g., her zoo videos were awesome, especially of the Koala bears. I also was able to ask them some questions about Greece, a country I will be visiting in a couple of months on my RTW journey.

This crocodile was easily 22 feet in length and more likely, 25 feet.

This crocodile was easily 22 feet in length and more likely, 25 feet.

This was the best day I had exploring Sydney. When I enjoy doing something, time seems to pass very quickly and it did on this day . . . I started at 9am in the morning and was still walking at 7pm. I wasn’t even fatigued, so energized by the sights and sounds of Sydney. Obviously, exploring the city with Nikki and Christina enhanced the experience and I am quite appreciative of them allowing me to tag along.

A butterfly on my head In the Butterfly Tropics display.

A butterfly on my head In the Butterfly Tropics display.

Nikki's butterfly hitching a ride on her Iphone.

Nikki’s butterfly hitching a ride on her Iphone.

The Southern Cassowary is a real beauty, with its sleek, black feathered body, bright blue neck, and deep red wattles. They are the third- largest bird in the world, behind their relatives the ostrich and the emu, with some specimens weighing up to 70 kilograms and towering up to 1.5 metres tall!

The Southern Cassowary is a real beauty, with its sleek, black feathered body, bright blue neck, and deep red wattles. They are the third- largest bird in the world, behind their relatives the ostrich and the emu, with some specimens weighing up to 70 kilograms and towering up to 1.5 metres tall!

Although I had a good time yesterday, I had to arrange for accommodations in Brisbane via Booking.com, which had the best price for a youth hostel named Chill Backpackers. I did this late at night and apparently, I was a bit fatigued – despite what I indicated earlier – because I made a mistake on the “check-in” date. I indicated February 14th, forgetting that I would be traveling for approximately 15 hours via train. Consequently, I would be checking in on the 15th.

Westfield Sydney Tower Eye.

Westfield Sydney Tower Eye.

Try to tell that to Booking.com and especially, Chill Backpackers. Unlike my experience with Sylvia, Chill backpackers and at first, Booking.com were inflexible and would not change the date. Initially, I had no luck with the Booking.com customer service associate, who facilitated communication with “CB.”  I went this route because I do not have my cell with me and it was a toll free call to Booking.com. I did write earlier emails to both of them, indicating I would contact my credit card company and have them cancel the entire purchase. At first, this had no effect on these imbeciles. In fact, both did not respond to my email. Consequently, when I spoke with the associate on the phone, I requested that I be transferred to a manager at Booking.com . . . I spoke with “Nate.”

Monorail at Darling Harbour.

Monorail at Darling Harbour.

Finally, someone who was not “penny wise and pound foolish.” Nate quickly grasped what I was saying, i.e., I would contact my credit card company before I even checked into the room and they would cancel the “purchase.” I explained to him that I had done this in the past and it would be no problem. I asked him to convey some “common sense” to the dense person running the show at “CB.” He agreed that it would be idiotic for them to battle my credit card company and lose the entire reservation. Fast forward 5 minutes later, Nate got back on the line with me, essentially saying that he found intelligent life at Chill Backpackers and they would revise my reservation per my request.

Me taking a break at Darling Harbour.

Me taking a break at Darling Harbour.

Whew! I could have spent the almost 2 hours doing something else more productive with my life, such as telling them I wanted those 2 hours of my life back. Instead, I prayed for them and wished them good luck surviving another 5 years with the business acumen they displayed with me. Grin. Anywho, these are more pictures of my day yesterday . . .

Christina smiling as usual.

Christina smiling as usual.

Electric (battery) submarine from the 1960s and a frigate warship in the background.

Electric (battery) submarine from the 1960s and a frigate warship in the background.

Same two ships.

Same two ships.

The famous "State" theater, most important venue for plays. Interesting design features, including art deco and Gothic Renaissance.  Market street is where this theater is located and you intuitively know you are in a very ritzy area. Lots of high end shopping stores.

The famous “State” theater, most important venue for plays. Interesting design features, including art deco and Gothic Renaissance. Market street is where this theater is located and you intuitively know you are in a very ritzy area. Lots of high end shopping stores.

"Greeter" at the State theater. We didn't tour the building, but did take a few photos of the outside.

“Greeter” at the State theater. We didn’t tour the building, but did take a few photos of the outside.

Chinatown entrance. Anyone who has visited San Francisco, will be reminded of the striking resemblance to the San Francisco Chinatown entrance. I certainly was.

Chinatown entrance. Anyone who has visited San Francisco, will be reminded of the striking resemblance to the San Francisco Chinatown entrance. I certainly was.

Cherry blossoms in full bloom.

Cherry blossoms in full bloom.

Nikki and Christina were Skyping and chatting with their Cypress Island friends (in Greek no less) about all the things they were seeing. Too funny.

Nikki and Christina were Skyping and chatting with their Cypress Island friends (in Greek no less) about all the things they were seeing. Too funny.

Posing near a Schooner.

Posing near a Schooner.

St. Mary's Cathedral taken from Hyde Park.

St. Mary’s Cathedral taken from Hyde Park.

St. Mary's Cathedral.

St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Shopping mall on Market St.

Shopping mall on Market St.

Light house at Darling Harbour.

Light house at Darling Harbour.

Christina and Nikki.

Christina and Nikki.

This is one of the weirdest intersections I have ever seen. Pedestrians are allowed to walk diagonally, as well as at all the cross walks, East, West, South and North. Located near the Queen Victoria Building.

This is one of the weirdest intersections I have ever seen. Pedestrians are allowed to walk diagonally, as well as at all the cross walks, East, West, South and North – AT THE SAME TIME. Located near the Queen Victoria Building.

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