Sydney on Friday

Our plane trip from Melbourne to Sydney went smoothly… if you blinked, you would have missed it – about 10 minutes after finishing the ascent, the captain announced we were beginning our descent!  An hour trip overall.

The first thing we noticed about Sydney was that the city’s drivers aren’t quite as laid back as Melbourne’s – our taxi driver managed to beep and abuse before we had even left the airport.  He was quite engaging, however, even if he did have a disturbing habit of constantly creeping at red lights, ensuring we were regularly in the middle of the intersection before the light went green.
Our hotel was a step up in class from our Melbourne one.  We had booked into an executive suite on Albion St in Surry Hills – king-size bed, living area and huge flat-screen TV.  What a shame we will spend most of our time exploring, not hiding in our room!
A good 90 seconds after arriving in our new room, we were out again, ready to explore.  Walking out, we quickly discovered we were in the middle of Chinatown.  We stumbled across Paddy’s Markets, and being around lunchtime, chose a little curry place.  I had a simple (and mild) lamb curry with naan bread, and Em had a vegetable curry.  Both were fabulous.
Having left the hotel room so quickly, we had no idea where we actually were.   Using the mobile WhereIs, we were pleasantly surprised to discover we were only about 2 minutes from Darling Harbour.  Darling Harbour is interesting – initially, it appears there is plenty to do, but there is that real contrived “touristy” thing happening here.  The idea of having an Australian Wildlife Park crammed onto a pier seemed to smack of inappropriateness.  The Aquarium next door was more at home in the area, but the advertising of “joint-pass” tickets for “only” $68 per person sent us packing.
Instead, we shot across the harbour, walking underneath the monorail, and visited the National Maritime Museum.  We began with the submarine and destroyer walks – HMAS Onslow and HMAS Vampire respectively.  The submarine was surreal.  So small, so thoughtfully designed to contain so many people, it really would take a special person to serve on one.  In the main control room, nine of us crammed in tight as a tour guide informed us that on a normal operations day, 22 men would man the same space.  The HMAS Onslow spent its life listening and following Russian submarines around the Arctic Ice, obviously listening for either the grumblings of a Cold War or the first grunts of Anna Kournikova.  Like Anna Kournikova, the HMAS Onslow never fired a shot in anger during its career.
HMAS Vampire was also a stunning walk.  Built in the 1950’s and decommissioned in 1998 (I think), there are still remnants of the last crew’s activities, like sports rosters, and graffiti in the mess.
The main part of the Maritime Museum was also full of interesting history – the obvious things like Sydney to Hobart memorabilia, First Fleet information and famous passengers cruiseliners were on display, but the highlight for us was the Summers of Australia exhibition, which was walls upon walls of colour photos from the 1950s to 1970s, highlighting Australians affinity with water.  There were images from all around Australia – including 1960s golf in Port Hedland!
We finished off our day hanging around the habour until Simon finished work.  We met up with him and his workmates at a bar called The Watershed, which had a stunning view of the city skyline – and Little Creatures on tap!  Simon’s workmates seemed cool, although they spent most of the time trying to extract embarrassing “family secrets” out of Emma.  As always, Emma was able to put up the brick wall and maintain a code of silence.  I think this will only encourage Andrew, Simon’s boss, to just make up embarrassing stories instead.
We finished off at a charming little restaurant near our hotel called Mint.  Simon recommended it highly, and he wasn’t wrong.  With Moroccan themes, Emma and I both tackled a lamb dish which was brilliant, while Simon’s dish also looked yum.  Dessert was probably the highlight, with all of us ordering pistachio and orange icecream, with a little baklava on the side.
A good start for Sydney!