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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Colour me Blue

I love Sydney.


I can’t definitely say that I have always loved Sydney because I don’t remember it too much from when I was last there, all those years ago. Although I have a few photographs from back in the day, I don’t remember the harbour moving as much as it did seeing it now.



Sure… Vancouver and Victoria are stunning cities and I truly love them… along with Capetown, New York (another two of my favourites)… but there is something about Sydney that is so powerful, captivating and mesmerizing.


It evokes all the emotions.

All the feels.


There are a few places in the world that have overpowered me with their hypnotic grandeur ~ the Duomo of Florence, Temple Mountain of Lake Louise, Victoria Falls, the Dunes of Namibia… and yes… the majestic Sydney harbour.


Every day I had the pleasure of being in Sydney, I was drawn to the harbour.

Every. Single. Day.



I couldn’t help it. I just needed to be near that majestic panorama.  It was like an addiction.  Like a magnetic force.


I strolled along to Lady MacQuaries's chair, through the botanical gardens and The Rocks, and took the ferry to Watson’s Bay,… but never ventured far from the harbour. It’s just so beautiful. Highly recommended, if you're in the Australian region!


I made a little video and in it, you can see how overcome with emotion I am.  I cried.

Silly, I know. But nonetheless…


Like really... look at it.

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.


When I was on my way to and from the Sydney Harbour, I was popping in and out of a few shops, ever on the lookout for warm clothing.  My tan was fading and the chill was definitely beginning to set in.  I knew that New Zealand was heading into their winter months and my abundance of tropical dresses were not going to cut the mustard.  Not at all.


I also took a day off of the harbour and headed into the Blue Mountains.


The Blue  Mountains area is the rugged region west of Sydney and is revered for its cliffs, waterfalls, eucalyptus forests and dramatic scenery.


Yes, again, I had been there… but…


Back then, I wasn’t particularly into nature, nor was I much of a hiker.  The same could probably be said about me today, though I’d like to think I’m a little more adventurous.  Not extreme, of course, but slightly more active than I was back then.


It was time to re-experience… and it was so close to the city. I found a one-day tour, so figured I would sign up.


I don’t sign up for a LOT of tours when I’m travelling, but when I do, I do so to meet people, venture to remote places, get a little bit more history and insight into the culture… and take a load off.  It’s a good way to turn your brain off.  When you’ve been travelling for a long time (as I have been on this trip), on your own… it’s nice sometimes to just sit back and let someone else do all the work.


Tours can be odd too… and treacherous.  You have to be prepared to deal with a real plethora of personalities.  Sometimes it's your crowd and sometimes it's not. Sometimes you click with 1 or 2 people. Sometimes, no one. This was a no-one time.  Lately, I find I seem to fall into a middle category. Either everyone is 30 years younger than I am… or 20 years older.  Guaranteed.


The Blue Mountains were glorious and it was a perfect day.  There were a few clouds in the sky,  but the sky was a brilliant blue and the sun peaked out now and then making for great photographs.  Our guide was lovely, informative, and engaging.  While he was driving,  he even played a few fun games to educate us all on Aussie slang.


Our first stop was Lincoln’s Rock viewpoint.

Now this is a crazy story. Check this out.



They thought he DIED!!! He did DIE.


In fact, he was so dead that his friends LEFT HIM UP THERE on the summit.


WTF???


Seriously.  You can’t make this shit up.



We did a 187-metre walk down to Wentworth Falls. I was surprised my knee held up as well as it did.  Going down is always harder on it than going up… but I endured the misery.  It wasn’t that bad at all.  Worth the agony of the step descent because the waterfall was spectacular.

From there, we went to the Three Sisters viewpoint.


Now… this was a story I remembered… somewhat.  It was something about a chief who had his three beautiful daughters turned to stone. That was what I remembered.  Not bad considering the real story.



So ya… some magic man ( or witch doctor) turned them to stone to avoid harm.  As you do, right? After the battle, the last casualty was the magic man… who was the only one with the power to turn the stones back into the three sisters.  Forever stone… in their magnificent rock formation as a reminder of this battle for generations to come.


At least they are visited and photographed daily. Never lonely.

Sad.

The day after the Blue Mountains, I jumped on a northbound train and headed up to see Chuck and his family.  In 1996, I worked with Chuck at Laggans Bakery & Deli in Lake Louise.  I was front staff and he was the prep cook in the back.  It had been a very, very long time since I had seen him, so I was looking forward to the reunion. 


I did have my hesitations about reaching out, as most people do.


Should you make the effort? Shouldn’t you? Do they want to see you?

It had been so long…

After so many years, it’s often difficult to gauge how you’ll be received.


I was feeling all of that… but I decided to bite the bullet and send a message.  Regardless of the amount of time that had passed, I couldn’t fathom the thought of coming all the way to Australia and not at least attempting to see Chuck.  We were a tight crew back in the day… and I like to look back at that time as us all growing up together.  We were technically adults… but we were all still kids.  I was, anyway. We’d gone through a fun time together and I was pretty excited to see him.


Well… as luck should have it, my message was well received and I was heading up to visit for a couple of days.


What a wonderful family he had and what a spectacular part of the world they lived in.

My time with them was nothing short of terrific.  We spent the first evening pouring over thirty years of memories, gossip, catching up and copious amounts of wine, with the Tragically Hip fueling the fire along the way.


There was so much to catch up. Since I’d last seen Chuck, he’d been back and forth to Australia a few times following the snow… he’d been married twice, had two beautiful kids and given up his apron and chef knives for a career in helicopter mechanics.


I adored his family and they went out of their way to make me feel welcome and so much at home.


We explored Newcastle, walked along the beach promenade and checked out the museum.  There was one part of Newcastle we found exceptionally intriguing… and that was the Merewether Beach Tunnel.  This was a little tunnel that was painted as though you might be walking along the bottom of the sea.  Assorted colourful fish were abundant, as well as sharks, lobsters, jellyfish, divers, surfers, dog walkers, shipwrecks, scary monsters… and so much more.



It was exactly the kind of aquarium I liked.


We did encounter one not-so-fabulous incident, though I’m sure that when the shock and horror wear off, it will result in an epic story for years to come.


Their daughter, Neva, had her heart set on going for Japanese while we were out and about in Newcastle.  We ended up at a fairly high-end Japanese restaurant… and much to everyone’s dismay did not serve sushi.  Despite the high prices, we all chose something off the menu that would suffice to tie us over until dinner.


Talei and Neva ordered edamame.


We all love edamame… and when they arrived at the table, Neva and I both grabbed one. I ate mine… and she began to eat hers.  Mine was perfectly fine… very tasty… but unfortunately, Neva took a bite of hers, realized something was off immediately and spat it out onto her plate.

It was a little worm.


A dead worm, of course, but nonetheless, a worm.


Uh-oh…


The little bug had tunnelled its way in and had made a little home inside the pod… and then perished. Poor thing. We can’t really fault the little guy… edamame is a rich source of several essential nutrients. For humans… and worms, apparently.


Floods of tears resulted in a very inexpensive meal for us, so thumbs up for dead worms!



My time spent with this family was wonderful… and much too short, but off I went back to Sydney for my last evening before flying to New Zealand.


I must mention my Sydney accommodation…

It can’t be missed, nor can it be ignored.


The first couple nights I had spent in Sydney had been in an old Victorian-style hotel, in a quiet neighbourhood of the city.  It was called the East Sydney Hotel and despite my initial hesitation about booking, I was pleasantly surprised. The architecture reminded me a lot of the Queensland country style. Very welcoming and very traditional.

I had a lovely big bed but I shared facilities with everyone on the floor, which didn’t prove to be a problem at all. You really never know what you're getting into when you sign up for something like that, but it was phenomenal… and I would highly recommend this location to everyone staying in Sydney.


It was conveniently located for exactly what I wanted and needed.  I could wander down for a glass of wine and chat with the friendly staff…  be in the centre of the city within 10 minutes… or be right at the harbour within 20 minutes. 


Everything about it was perfect.


The second place I stayed… shit.


Pure shit.


This was where I stayed after I'd come back from visiting Chuck and his family. When I first wandered through the front doors, I noticed a woman who seemed very distraught. I didn’t pay much attention to her and I merely stood there, biding my time, waiting to check in.


As I inched my way closer to the front of the line, I noticed this lady was getting more and more agitated. She was up and down and pacing back and forth... and finally, she shoved her way up to the desk and accused the reception girls of ‘wasting her time.


What did that even mean?

Was she trying to check in?

Had someone taken her room?


What was going on? I had no idea.


Once I'd checked in, paid and been given my key, I made my way over to where she was sitting and I asked her what it was that was upsetting her so much.


Well... apparently… and get this… while she'd been out sightseeing in Sydney for the day, someone had gone into her room and cleared out all her toiletries AND two bottles of wine from her fridge.


What???

No.


No wonder she was so upset.


I’ve never even heard of anything so horrendous happening in a hotel room.

Well, it did one thing.  It cemented the certainty that I was taking my computer with me... wherever I went. I wasn’t leaving it in a thievery hotel! 


What was this?

Some kind of hooligan highwayman hotel?


Well... as luck should have it... no one broke into my room and took anything while I was out and about. Guess no one wanted my dirty clothes.


But... something else happened...


I got back to the hotel earlier in the evening, as I needed to get to sleep. I had a 7:50 am flight to Christchurch in the morning and because it was an international flight, I figured I had to get up by 3:00 / 3:30 to get myself ready, packed and to the airport.


Everything was going according to plan.

I was in bed asleep by 10 pm.


SOUND ASLEEP.

(which is unusual for me right now.)


At a little after midnight... a strange man opened my hotel room door... and walked RIGHT into my room.


Can you even imagine my fright?


WTF????

I'm surprised I didn't scream.


Turns out that he had been given MY room. Seriously. I was losing my sh!t. He was equally as confused and disoriented. I was in Room 313 and that’s exactly what he got.


He finally left... spewing apologies... and horrified of walking in on someone in bed.


Just when I was getting over the shock... and calming myself down, my phone started ringing. It was the night duty manager calling to find out WHO I was and WHY I was in that room.


I started looking around for the candid camera. Was this a joke?


Someone must have been playing a joke on me.


There were no apologies for my inconvenience... just an accusatory interrogation... in the middle of the night. WHO was I and WHY was I in that room????


"Oh, ya… I was just wandering around Sydney... got a bit sleepy, so I figured I’d see if the third floor of this hotel had any open rooms."


SERRIOUSY... zero apology. All he did was insist on answers and then inundate me with excuses.

It was awful.


I did write a scathing letter complaint and didn't think I would receive anything back. But ... then I  did. They offered me a discounted rate the next time I stayed with them.


Bwahahahahah... next time???


Brutal.

I told them to suck in... in so many words.


Then they told me that were refunding me my entire amount... but I haven't seen anything yet.

I'm not holding my breath.


I'll keep you posted.



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