BootsnAll Travel Network

Heaven, by way of the skyway of Hell

I’ve been in Sydney, Australia for almost three days now. I can say without a doubt it is a wonderful city. Getting here, however, was not so wonderful. It was what can only be described as hell in the sky. My first flight was from Chicago to San Francisco. It was about 4 1/2 hours. Normally, planes are so cold that you need a sweater or blanket or something. This flight, not so much. It was sweltering and the little air blowy thing was blowing warm air. I was so hot and miserable, crammed into the window seat. I couldn’t wait to get off that plane. It was uneventful as far as flights go. They showed the The Polar Express, which I’d always wanted to see, but now I know why I never did. Maybe because I was so uncomfortable, but I just couldn’t enjoy it.

After we landed, we had to go through security again, and go right onto the next flight. I managed to sneak into the duty free for a bottle of vodka, but people were already boarding when I got to the gate. Boarding the torture chamber that is a Boeing 747-400. I don’t know if it’s just United configuration or if they are all like that, but I have never seen such little leg room in coach class before. My knees almost touched without the person in front of me reclining. Imagine this for 14 1/2 hours. I sat next to this old, sort of heavy Hindu man who either didn’t speak alot of English or was deaf, one of the two or maybe a little of both. Luckily I had an aisle seat or I think I would’ve tried to open the plane door. I had asked when I checked in to be upgraded to Economy Plus, but she said I had to check in SF, which I didn’t have time for. So I suffered in coach, not realizing until I went on my first walk through the plane that almost all the middle seats in Econ Plus were empty. But it was too late to switch, people were already sprawled out sleeping in their nice extra seat. I don’t get why United would do that? Why not bump people up from coach? I managed to sleep about 3 hours but that was it. They also fed us THREE times, once at 11pm, once at like 4am and again for breakfast at 7 before we landed. I was also surprised that we didn’t have our own movie screens. All the flights I’ve take to Europe, you get your own movie screen in front of you and much more leg room. They just had one of those old big screens in front. We watched The Island (2 stars), Must Love Dogs (slept through most of it), Ice Age (seen it already) and Beautiful Mind (seen it already). By the time we landed, I was so ill and then it was so hot in the airport. Customs and Immigration were suprisingly easy, I declared some food but they only confiscated my banana. They are very worried about invasive species here and you get huge fines if they find something that you didn’t declare, even if it can’t actually seed, it’s good to be on the safe side and declare it. My Robinson’s rib sauce for Denika’s parents made it through safely.

When I got to Sydney, I was going to be good and take a shuttle for AUS$9 (about US$7) but splurged and got a taxi for about US$30. I tried to sleep when I got to my apartment,aka The Hole, which is the size of my parents dining room including two beds, a love seat, bathroom and little kitchen. But my mind was racing, so I went for about a two hour walk in the morning and proceded to get two blisters. But I went to Mrs. Macqueries chair, which is out on this little peninsula on the harbor and give you a view of the Opera house and bridge. I stopped at Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, this famous little pie shack where all the construction workers eat. Pies here are savory, so I had chicken and mushroom. The heat and humidity finally got me, and I went back to the apartment and crashed. I got up and had Thai food for dinner and then went back and slept again. I wasn’t over jet lag yet and woke up about 6am. It was already 27C, which is about 84 degrees. It is really hot here. *An easy calculation conversion is to take the Celsius, times 2 and then plus 30. It works about about the same as the real equation, which is C times 9/5 + 32. *

That day I decided to be really touristy. I went up the big tower, where you go on this “motion ride” through Australia and then up to the observation deck. It was clear enough, but a little too hazy to see the Blue Mountains. But we will probably drive through those on the way to Melbourne later. They are called the Blue Mountains because all the eucylyptus trees give off a blue haze. Anyway, you can also climb to the top of this big tower on the outside, but giving that my fear of heights hasn’t abated in three days, I gave that a pass. It was also about AUS$300. (The conversion is US1= AUS 1.3) Then I went to the aquarium where I got to see the platypus. I can see why people in Britain thought it was a hoax the first time they sent a specimen back. What a freaky animal. Did you know it’s poisonous? Also walked under sharks and sting rays, it was pretty cool. I then decided to take a ferry to Manly, which is a suburb across the harbour. It was a beautiful sunny day and the ferry ride is about half an hour. In the time it took me to walk from the Aquarium and take the ferry ride, about an hour total, I got completely fried because I forgot to put suncreen on. Now I understand how 1 in 4 Aussies get skin cancer. It happened so fast. The big thing to do in Manly is hit the beach, but I was unprepared for that, so I sat out in the shade and ate some fish and chips. I went back home after that, about 6 or so, and crashed, completely “knackered.” I woke up at 9, decided I was too tired and lazy to get up, so I watched TV for bit and then fell back asleep. The crap television they get here is hilarious.

In the span of about 3 hours, I watched Blind Justice (about the blind cop, alread cancelled), Threshhold (decent but cancelled) Smallville, the Bold and the Beautiful, and some really weird movie with Tim Robbins and Patricia Arquette. She is this nature scientist who has that condition that makes you really hairy, and he’s the weird scientist guy who tries to teach mice table manners, and they find this wild man in the woods (Rhys Ifans from Knotting Hill) and try and train him. Rosie Perez is also in it. It’s really bizarre. Charlie Kaufman wrote the screenplay. Now I just want you to know I am not sitting in my room watching TV. I was just exhausted and couldn’t go out in the heat again. They also showed Lost, the first season episode and I fell asleep to that. They are about 6 months behind us in TV, an ad for the second season of Desperate Housewives said it is set to start in February.

This morning, Friday morning, Sydney is 17 hours ahead of Chicago, Denika’s friend Jane flew up from Melbourne and we went to the famous Bondi Beach for a few hours. It was beautiful day, very hot and sunny, and I wore 45 and a long sleeved shirt and still got more burned. Tomorrow we are going to be out in the sun all day too, waiting for the fireworks at the harbour, so I’m going to have to bring an umbrella ala Marcie at Lollapalooza. Denika called today, she missed her connection from Germany in Hong Kong due to a weather delay in Frankfurt, so instead of getting her tonight, she won’t arrive until noon tomorrow. But it should be fine. Jane and I went grocery shopping today for our picnic stuff and their other friend Melissa arrives tonight at 10pm. We will probably be ready for a few drinks tonight, I haven’t been out at night yet. The area we are in is very nice, called Elizabeth Bay, but the main street a few blocks aways is in Kings Cross. Kings Cross has a very bad reputation with hookers and strip clubs and heroin addicts, so it is recommended to not walk late at night by yourself around there. I was there about 8pm, and I have to say it creeped me out a bit. It’s a weird area, tons of bars and restaurants, and it’s also the big backpacker area, but at night it gets kind of shady with pasty white guys standing around.

We are looking forward to tomorrow, but don’t know exactly what we are doing. Since no one is from Sydney that I’m with, we’ll just have to follow the crowds I guess. It is sort of like the Chicago Air and Water show. You go and find your spot early, bring food and drinks and just wait for something to happen. They have fireworks at 9pm for the families and then again at midnight. It is supposed to be even hotter tomorrow, high of 38C. But it’s better than below freezing Chicago. My first impression of Sydney is sort of like a cross between San Diego with its laid-back beach culture and San Fran, with hilly streets, older neighborhoods, business areaa, the water and everything. Everyone is on vacation here, so there are no people in suits or anything, not that they probably would be anyway. Tons of tourists, specifically I’ve heard alot of German, Dutch and Scandinavian, and Brazilian Portugese. Hopefully tomorrow will be worth the hype, though New Years Eve never is. How bad could it be, outside, sunny, drinking gin and tonics, sun bleached blond Australian boys? Even a bad New Years down here is probably pretty good.

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One response to “Heaven, by way of the skyway of Hell”

  1. K. Bruns says:

    Glad to hear you got there safe and sound, and sounds like you have done a lot in the past few days…I will tell my dad about the UAL story…always interesting with that company and he will enjoy the nightmare travel story!

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