Sydney Tourism

Going to the tour office in Sydney is a totally different experience than in Melbourne. It is located by the water, in a rustic area of restaurants and shops, but is on the second floor of a modern small mall type building. About half the size of Melbourne’s tourism office, this would not be a problem. It is the organization that is a problem. Their only system for handling information is for people to form a line, no numbering, just one long line. To add insult to injury, they only had one person dispensing pearls of wisdom to a slew of people waiting, while the only other person acted as a cashier for those making purchases. Ron stood in line for twenty minutes with a list of questions, but then gave up. At one point, the sole attendant asked who just wanted New Year’s Eve information and then passed out brochures of the activities. Bad news all around, we were too impatient to wait and the poor soul that had to deal with the ever growing numbers was losing her patience at a steady rate. For one of the largest cities in the world with a population of 4.1 million, and millions of tourists coming every year, this is ridiculous. At the back of the office, there was indeed a separate booking desk to book tours, cruises, and so forth. There were two people working when we managed to figure out we needed to take a number here. Why would you have the foresight to have a numbering system in one area, but not the other. We were told that one million people come to Sydney for the New Year’s Eve event alone, so they were certainly not caught unaware at the turnout. While waiting for our number to be called, I listened to what others were booking to gather ideas. Hearing the responses from there ‘agent’ have me fodder for making an insightful decision when it was our turn, and in turn cutting down on the time it took us to get out of there. Our number was called by a third ‘agent’ who appeared on the scene. She appeared to be part of our family, so I had hopes of getting some quality service, in spite of the disgruntled look with which she started working. We told her we wanted to book the New Year’s Eve cruise to which she abruptly said “We don’t do that, I will give you the information, but you have to call yourself.” I immediately responded with “Your co-worker just booked a cruise for someone.” She turned to Mark, a nice looking young man who I was hoping would be helping us and asked if it were true. He politely responded that is was, they had the capability of booking the cruises in their computer. Mark had to walk her through the whole thing, but finally she was successful. We choose the Princess Cruises without knowing much about it other than we would be part of the Parade of Boats around the harbor, have dinner, be on the water for both the 9:00 and midnight fireworks displays, and return around 12:30 am. Sounded good! Okay, hand over $495 Aus each for this privilege. We also booked the Blue Mountain tour that included a stop at a wildlife park. Sign the Mastercard slip for one, sign the Mastercard slip for the other. Thank Tammy for her services, and leave after she said the cruise company would fax our vouchers to the hotel by 5:00 pm. She printed out our vouchers for the Blue Mountain tour. We were off wandering around for about an hour when I realized I never did get a credit card receipt for the cruise, only for the tour on January 2nd. In essence, I had charged close to $1,000 Aus and had nothing to show for it until we received the fax at the hotel four hours from now. The only time I frighten easily is when money is concerned. This was one of those times. We walked up George Street to the Circular Quay where we had our first sighting of the Opera House and the famous bridge dubbed “God’s Coat Hangar”, Sydney Harbor Bridge. Both were wow experiences from afar. In the distance, we could see people walking over the bridge. This is something that those who do not have a serious fear of heights do for the fun of it and the amazing views. For me, those views can be found on postcards. I don’t need to climb into the heavens to see them for myself, thank you very much. Finding the Museum of Contemporary Art after being intrigued by the posters around the city, we discovered the exhibit of headless mannequins by Yinka Shonibare MBE. He uses wax to create bodies that he designed clothes using Nigerian folk designs on Dutch fabric, arranging them in different situations. One example was a table of ten supposedly men, sitting around a table playing poker. What one becomes aware of is the amount of information that is perceived through body language alone, without a single facial expression. No pictures were allowed, breaking my heart. I would have loved to be able to share these. Strolling back to Hyde Park, we spent some time looking over the Archibald fountain displaying Greek mythological figures such as Diana and Apollo. On the other side of Hyde Park, there is a lovely garden and different fountain dedicated to Prince Albert, the consort to Queen Victoria. However, it also has the ANZAC memorial remembering the Australian and New Zealand men who lost their life in wars. A young man was sitting on the steps smoking a hookah, at least until the police came and disrupted his peaceful times. By this time, it was 6:00 pm. Anxious to find a fax with our cruise vouchers, we headed back to the hotel to check with reception. No fax was waiting for us. I called the number for the cruise line that Tammy had supplied, reaching someone within three rings, surprising me due to the hour. The cordial woman said they have not sent out the faxes to anyone yet, had not promised it by 5:00 pm, but we would have it by 9:00 pm. This was nerve wracking also since the reception closes at 8:00 pm. Noting it was out of my control, we went to Oxford Street, the gayest street this side of the equator according to the young guy who checked us into the hotel. For dinner, we chose a restaurant called La. The specials looked appealing and the prices were even more so. It was a good choice of places; we needed an extra walk after dinner and a stop at Gloria Jeans coffee before going back to check e-mails. I had to buy time at Gloria Jeans for WiFi access. No one seems to know of any free WiFi spots around the city and even those that advertise it as free, really have a service that you have to sign up with and buy time before going any farther than their own home page.