Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ga day Sydney!

The train from Katoomba left me off at the City Rail's Central Station platform after a 2 hr train ride through really beauty countryside filled with sandstone cliffs. I had a studio waiting for me in Paddington (Paddo as the locals call it) that I rented online through one of those vacation rentals by owner sites. It was very reasonable and Mindi approved of the neighborhood. A cab ride later and I was at the front door of the building on Oxford St. waiting for the rental agent to let me in. Paddo reminded me of older neighborhoods in Chicago or London with a little New Orleans thrown in. It was considered a slum after WW II until gentrification turned it into one of the wealthiest suburbs of Sydney. My building looked like a 60's glass and metal structure but the apartment was very modern with a great view. I was a little worried as the agent quickly showed me around and I didn't see a bed. It was in the wall, wayyy up high. She just said to pull the lever and left. Well it wasn't that easy and luckily there was a stool I could stand on, balancing the heavy bed, hoping it wouldn't crush me as it popped out of the wall.  Phew. Time for a nice warm shower and glass of Shiraz from the bottle I bought at that deli in Katoomba yesterday. All good except I noticed the water running up over the rim of the shower pan. It surely must go down a drain somewhere, I thought. Nope, flooded the entire apartment, out the bathroom door, under the bed, over to the large wall of windows where it soaked the long drapes. I used most of the thick towels to sop up some of it before remembering there was, conveniently, a bucket and mop outside the front door. So there I was, my first day in Sydney moping up soapy shower water. I call the agency and they said they would send a plumber and thanked me for moping up the water (like I was going to slosh around in it all day).

The agreement was that the agent would meet me "on site" for a $44.AU fee. Since I didn't have a car I agreed. I noticed that I wasn't charged for this.
Looking toward Sydney Harbour
View from 7th floor studio on Oxford Street


Loved this building across the street

Time for a walk around.  Oxford Street was the original Aboriginal Walking Track. Fitting as it is a long street now filled with Bohemian art galleries, upscale clothiers and alot of now empty shops.  The agent recommended the restaurant across the street so I decided to try that for dinner. Nothing to write about. I ordered a lamb burger in pita and that is exactly what I got. Not a vege in sight. I asked for "tomato sauce" = ketchup but actually the lamb was good and moist. Back in the studio I turned on the telly and watched a Cricket match switching between that and reruns of Everyone Loves Raymond. 

I woke up to jack hammers across the street. They were replacing the sidewalk with nice looking pavers. This went on each morning that I was there.  I didn't much care as I wanted to get an early start to explore.  Mindi had given me directions to Sydney, sort of, so I could experience the David Jones' department store. It has an enormous food court that I planned to find a lunch spot in. As I started out I checked with the newsstand across the street, stepping over the dirt-soon to be new pavers, to see how far it was.  The girl said it was about a 20 min walk. I asked in what direction and she said "you need to take the bus" it is too far to walk. She didn't know me. Heck if the Aborigines walked Oxford Street so would I.  It was quite a long walk but so interesting with all of the flowering trees and historical buildings including a school that actually had guards outside. No school shootings over there.  Of course Mindi's directions were meant for locals as I found Hyde Park but didn't know which side of it the store was on. I looked it up online and had the name of several streets which I thought were different locations for David Jones'. Finally I stopped a very fast walking business looking woman who was about to ignore me until she heard me say "David Jones' ". She then abruptly turned on her high heels and informed me I was going the wrong way ( of course) but to follow the street we were on in the opposite direction. She said "it is a long walk".  I wasn't wearing high heels so hoofed it up the busy street, about a 20 min. walk. Come to find out the department store takes up about 5 city blocks with entrances from all of the streets I saw online. It is amazing this David Jones' Department store is.  I carefully noted where I entered the "mall" and the stores I passed as this was so huge I was sure to get lost and did a few times, backtracking and going around in circles before I finally got out of there. The clothes are amazing! I concentrated on Aussie made names which are over the top $$$$$$$. They are unlike any styles I have seen and was sorry I didn't take pictures and of course I didn't buy anything are looking at $500 skirts, jackets and blouses plus more for a whole dress.

The lower level  is foodie heaven! It reminded me of Harrod's in London. Each station is a different cuisine.  Oysters and Champagne, Sushi, Seafood, Italian salumi, pasta and cheeses, Thai noodles, a wine bar, mils of sweets.  I didn't see a vegemite station, however. I walked around for almost an hour trying to decide what to have for lunch.  The few pics I took came out blurry. The oyster and champagne bar won.   Oysters Tetsuya, (check out this link from Nigella Lawson for the recipe) a wonderful little green salad, hearty breads and a glass of Chandon NV sparkling was my choice. The Chef was wonderful and there were a few regulars at the bar eating amazing looking food. Almost every restaurant includes a GST (tip) when they bill you which is usually 10%. That is all they expect too.  Aaron said waiters get paid something like $18/hr. Finally I was David Jones' shopped out.  The walk back to my studio was a pretty long one but I took some interesting pictures along the way. 

Downtown Sydney

Hyde Park

One of the more interesting buildings

Next door to my building was a beautiful shop Dinosaur Designs. I had been admiring their wares for days.  I decided to make a purchase for my friend Vilia's birthday.  Everything is made of resin and some looks like sea glass. The clerk wrapped the little dish and spoon I had picked out in beautiful tissue and put it into a little burlap bag that smelled of eucalyptus. All of Australia smells of eucalyptus and I loved it!

That evenings dinner was a huge success. I walked up and down Oxford St. and around a few blocks checking out the iron fretwork on the homes and apartment buildings aka New Orleans style. Toko, a sushi restaurant looked promising so I gave it a go. The sushi bar has a sushi conveyor track with little plates of various sushi and sashimi. The color of the plate determines the price. After a little bowl of miso soup I started to pick out some plates, Unagi inside out roll, ahi and salmon sashimi, spicy mini salmon roll, Chef's scallops and a weird one that tasted awful. I summoned the waiter and he took it back explaining it was "cooked tuna mini roll". Can you imagine?? It tasted like something a cat would eat. I had to remember these people eat vegemite too. Anyway the Chef sent over a sublime tempura oyster that was absolutely beautiful and delicious. I decided to stop right there. I had a couple of glasses of a really good Sangiovese and left a happy camper. The  Toko link shows pictures of the beautiful sushi BTW.

Iron work on balconies in Paddington

My second to last day in Sydney started out with a leisurely cup of tea and an oversized piece of grainy toast I picked up from the cafe downstairs. All of a sudden the fire alarm starts blaring.  I look around to see if there was any smoke and realized I was on the top floor.  After a short while I decided to collect my cell phone, passport, kindle and make my way downstairs. Several other residents were out on the sidewalk. One woman said this happens all of the time and she had only been there 3 months.  I would move out. That fire alarm could be heard for at least a mile away, I swear. From across the street at the "Blooms the Chemist" drug store I watched as the fire trucks came roaring up. This went on for quite some time. I had enough and hopped on a bus to go sight seeing around Sydney Harbour.
Blooms the Chemist tile from another era
The non fire in my building. I was on the 7th floor

The week before I took a day trip into Sydney via train where I took a Harbour sightseeing cruise out of Circular Quay and wandered around another old neighborhood called "The Rocks".  
The Rocks neighborhood-very cool and artsy
Succulent Xmas tree in The Rocks area

This time I walked around the Royal Garden, went to the Opera House, bought some souvenirs which were quite reasonable for a totally tourist area and had lunch at The Sydney Cove Oyster Bar, a restaurant near the water.  It was delicious! I skipped the expensive oysters and opted instead for an order of Wild Mushrooms with tarragon and truffle oil plus Mixed Leaves (salad) and a glass of Motif Sauvignon Blanc.  The aroma of the mushrooms was amazing and the "leaves" were so fresh and tasty.  No iceberg or romaine lettuces here. I simply spooned some of the warm mushrooms over the leaves and a beautiful salad was created.  On the way back to the bus stop I caught some Aborigines playing  their Digeridoo's for the visitors in Circular Quay. The music that comes out of these long wooden instruments is really a set of haunting sounds rather than musical music. Loved it.
The Opera House

The Royal Garden- it was huge!
The Sydney Harbour Bridge-cost $298AU to do a bridge climb on top of it
Aborigine playing the Digeridoo

Mindi was coming into Sydney to stay overnight with me.  We had a big girls night out planned so I set off to find a bottle of wine to open when she arrived.  Right up the street on Oxford was a place I wanted to check out called
Imperial Hotel Paddington. It had been newly remodeled and was really nice inside. I wish I had found this sooner as the wine list was extensive and the menu looked good in a sports bar kind of way.  It has a "Social Club" people subscribe to and offers Safaris and Expeditions. The website is a little wonky but if you are in that area definitely check it out.  After tasting it I tucked a good bottle of Shiraz blend under my arm and headed back to the studio.