Month: April, 2007

One need never leave

Monday, April 30th, 2007 | All Things

If it holds true that comedy is tragedy plus time, then I am due for a good laugh sometime soon. In an uncanny bit of timing, my temperamental T40 chose almost the exact day on which its warranty expired to begin the slow, inevitable march to the laptop graveyard. Things were looking rather bleak on the blogging front, but once we returned to domestic soil, I managed to coax just a bit more life from the old machine.

Perhaps it just missed New York City. I understand. And even if I spend the next few nights holed up at home, in that state of woozy wakefulness that comes from crossing 14 time zones, embroiled in the drudgery of data backup… it’s good to be home.

One Need Never Leave

Happy birthday, Jug.

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Stay tuned…

Sunday, April 29th, 2007 | All Things, Travel

Battling jetlag and technical difficulties, so for the steadfast few who continue to check in: please be patient. Updates to come.

SOH sailing

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On The Rocks

Monday, April 23rd, 2007 | All Things, Eats, Travel

I didn’t mind the 14.5 hour flight from SFO so much, not even coming on the heels of the 6 hour flight from JFK. After a while, the plane feels like your home. And New Yorkers are used to small spaces.

I touched down at dawn, and after a few snags, B (whose redeye from NRT arrived an hour after mine) spotted me wandering around the international terminal. We hailed a cab just outside the gates, and we were off.

Traffic was light this Sunday morning, and we arrived at the CBD – that’s the “Central Business District” – within twenty minutes. Our hotel was housed in a beautiful 19th century sandstone fronted building that once served as the headquarters of the Fairfax newspaper empire and later, the Bank of New South Wales. The location could not have been more convenient – mere minutes’ walk from Circular Quay (pronounced “key”), the hub of Sydney Harbour, and the founding site for Sydney and Australia.

After quick showers to rinse away the grime of a full day’s travels, we set out immediately to explore. After the first of what was to become many trips to the concierge that week, we made our way to the Harbor. Soon, we caught our first glimpse of that iconic Bridge, and the trip suddenly felt real for the first time.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney skies were grey that morning, and intermittent drops from the clouds overhead threatened heavier rains, so we held off on purchasing the tickets for our planned harbor tour cruise until we had a better gauge of the weather for that afternoon. Circular Quay was already abuzz with activity; the landscaped walkways from which we had open views of the harbor were dotted with tourists and street performers, the likes of which I’d never encountered in New York City.

Circular Quay performer

Adjacent to the harbor is The Rocks, the site of Sydney’s original settlement — an area rich in historic structures and cobblestone and brick-paved streets. On weekends, the northern end of main city thoroughfare George Street is the site of a large pedestrian market. Over 150 stalls set up under white canvas sail canopies, hawking everything from food to jewelry to souvenirs, to indigenous arts and crafts.

The Rocks Market

Roasted chestnuts

Stuffed koalas

By noon, or is that 10PM?, we were famished. The historic Glenmore Hotel was rebuilt in its present location in 1921 after being forced to move to accommodate the construction of the Harbour Bridge across the street. The skies had just begun to clear by then, and the hotel’s rooftop beer garden, which touts some of the best views in The Rocks, seemed like just the place for our first meal. We trudged up three flights of narrow, creaky stairs, and were rewarded with a fabulous panorama of the quay, the Harbor and the Sydney Opera House below.

Glenmore Hotel rooftop

The beer garden was just setting up for the day, and our friendly bartender set us up with a couple pints of the local brew while we waited for the kitchen to open. I don’t recall the name of the particular beer we had that afternoon, but as we sat with our plastic cups sweating onto the wooden picnic tables, I vividly recall the sense that there could not have been a more perfect drink for the occasion.

Our first meal, classic Sydney pub fare of steak (not Vegemite) sandwiches and chips:

Steak sandwiches

Since 1998, BridgeClimb Sydney has been offering guided climbs to the top of the Harbour Bridge, 134 meters (440 feet) above the harbor. The 3.5 hour treks are very popular, despite being very pricey: $169 to $295, depending on the day of the week and the time of day. Participants don full-body jumpsuits and are fastened to a safety harness run along a steel cable once they begin their ascent up the steep ladders to the bridge’s arch. The main downside: no personal cameras — or other belongings — allowed, out of safety considerations for the cars and pedestrians below. The guides have the only cameras; their group and individual photos are available for purchase after the climb: $65 for 4 on a CD last I checked, the idea being that after shelling out almost $300 for the climb, another 20% is worth paying for a record of the experience.

On a clearer day, I still might have considering the splurge, which earns consistent raves all around. This group looked pretty excited already, and they’d only just begun.

Harbour Bridge climbers

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