When I landed, it was 7 am Thursday local time in Sydney, which was 3 pm Wednesday Indiana time. Wednesday, February 2 never existed for me, time is kinda weird that way. Anyways after customs, baggage, and a shuttle I arrived at my hostel in Kings Cross. I got a bed in an 8 person dorm room, but it's only about half full. The hostel seems to be a good choice, it's clean, gives a free breakfast every morning, and has nightly outings to encourage getting to know the other residents. I spent a large amount of the day laying around reading, trying to recover from the long trip, the jetlag, and lack of sleep, without actually going to sleep and jeopardizing my sleep schedule. I did make an excursion out to explore the strip near the hostel and to find some food. I found that there were a lot of hole in the wall restaurants. I wasn't too hungry though, so I just had a quick slice of pizza.
Late in the afternoon, I finally gathered myself to go exploring, even though it was gray outside and uncharacteristically raining. Kings Cross is just to the east of downtown, which is about a 20-30 min walk to most of the downtown attractions. I decided to take the metro, which I discovered was more complicated then I first expected. I managed to half-guess my way to a station near the aquarium. There were a couple things that made this aquarium stick out from the considerable number that I've visited over the years. First, for no discernable reason, there were large lego creations everywhere. I stopped taking pictures of them, unless they were something other then just lego people. I later discovered that this might have been some way connected to a lego exhibit currently open in Town Hall. Next, they had all of the normal tanks that you see at every aquarium, but they had more large tanks then I've seen anywhere else. The first was a pool featuring dugongs, but had other exciting sea creatures. I had never seen a dugong before, but they seemed similar to sea lions. What was cool about this was that there were tunnels that went around along the floor of the shallow pool, which gave some great views of all the animals. There was a similar setup for a large shark pool. This really gave you a feel for just how big some of these animals are. I had never seen so many sharks, and such large ones in a single tank before, also there were some gigantic sting rays in both pools along with the more normal fish. The other large tank was an enormous Great Barrier Reef exhibit, which was fun to watch.
After the aquarium, I decided to walk to a small, locally favored restaurant on the north side of downtown. I walked down George St., one of the main strips in downtown Sydney. When I finally reached my destination, I found a quaint, little hole in the wall that looked like so many others. I had a focaccia, and a falafel wrap. The focaccia was different then what I've had in America, it was like a heated sandwich, and very good. The falafel was similar to I'd had in Greece and in Israel, needless to say much better then what I've had in the States. After my tasty dinner, I decided to go to a bar and indulge in an Australian beer (since the drinking age is only 18!). I went to the Hero of Waterloo, one of the oldest remaining bars in Sydney. It had a great old fashioned feel to it, with a strange shape to the building, and the Australian lime stone. The Hero has some interesting history to it. It has tunnels running from its cellar to the nearby wharfs. These were used for smuggling, and also for involuntary recruitment of sailors. They would take drunk young men, push them through a trap door, and they'd wake up the next morning at sea. I asked the bartender to give me a suggestion, so he served me a schooner of Boag, a tasty Tasmanian beer. After finishing my drink and talking to the bartender some, I headed back to my hostel, completely worn out. I proceeded to lay down and sleep for 12 hours straight.
Sydney is a very interesting city. I've tried to start getting myself used to the way things run around here. I have all my clocks set to 24 hour time, and I check my weather in celsius to try and get myself more comfortable. Australians drive on the right side of the car, which means the left side of the road. This makes things confusing for me, because, most entrances are on the left instead of the right, when you're walking on a crowded side walk, you stay to the left not the right (I keep on messing that one up). There also some things that I find interesting, most of downtown has dedicated bike lanes, sometimes two in each direction, with a curb separating them from the road or sidewalk. Also many of the main intersections have traffic lights specifically for the bikes. You also hear almost no honking, and cars are very good about yielding to pedestrians.
Their metro system has all double decker cars, they're very clean, and the seat backs can be moved so that you can face either way. Sydney seems to be a cross between an American and European city to me, and I've really enjoyed it so far.
I've decided to split my blogs up, so as not to overwhelm my faithful readers. Friday's entry probably won't be far behind. Also if you want to see all of the pictures I've taken so far (~150 for Thursday & Friday) check out my Flickr page. And no, I don't know what most of the sea animals are unfortunately. I will also plan to be on skype a large portion of Saturday afternoon - evening (in the States), let me know if you want to talk! If there's something you want to hear more about feel free to leave me a comment. Thanks for all of the support so far!
So much seems to have happened since my last blog post. I said my final goodbyes, and on Tuesday afternoon hopped on a plane. I first took a 3 hour flight to Denver, and then immediately went one gate over for a 2 hour flight to LAX. All this wasn't so bad, I remember when getting out to California felt like the longest trip ever. This is when things got... interesting. The terminal that we entered was under heavy construction upon arrival to LA. So some airport workers were there to tell us where to go since there were no signs or monitors. I was incorrectly told to leave my current terminal and go across the airport. Once there I realized I'd been led incorrectly, found a much more informed person, and they sent me right back where I came from. Luckily, it was very nice outside, and I had a 2 and a half hour layover. After grabbing some dinner, I boarded the 14 hour flight to Sydney. I got really lucky on this flight, because it wasn't full. The exit row near where I was seated was completely empty, and due to my excessive height the stewardess asked me if I wanted to move up. So I got the entire row to myself, with more leg room then I knew what to do with! Along with this, the flight took 13 hrs instead of 14 hrs. All of this lead to a pretty comfortable, and painless flight over to Australia.