Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Missed it by That Much

My plan for today was to tour historic houses, but due to a series of barely missed connections, I ran out of time. Still, I really enjoyed what I did get to see.

I started out by taking the train to Kings Cross and walking to the Elizabeth Bay House. This was built during the Australian colonial period, and features a beautiful cantilevered stairway under a domed ceiling. Unfortunately over the years the parkland around the house was sold off and sub divided, so this gorgeous specimen of a stately home is packed in cheek by jowl with apartment buildings.

I walked back toward Kings Cross to get the bus to my next destination, and just barely (by less than five minute) missed it. Then I made a bad decision when a different bus came by -- I should have gotten on it, but I wasn't sure, and so I had to wait about 25 minutes for the next one. Meanwhile, some totally blotto guy was sleeping on the narrow bench in the bush shelter, so I couldn't sit down. At one point he rolled off the bench and didn't even wake up when he smacked into the ground. He just kept sleeping on the sidewalk pavement. It was sad and gross at the same time. I've seen several homeless people in Sydney, and even got panhandled walking around an upscale shopping street, which was a bit surprising because a friend had been explaining to me about how there are basically no homeless people in Australia because anyone in that situation can still get basic health care and other assistance from the government. Maybe this guy was a junkie? Anyway, it was an odd interlude. The bus came and I got on, it was a very nice clean bus, with nice normal people on it.

After about a half hour ride, I arrived in the eastern suburb of Vaucluse, where Vaucluse House is located. The bus conveniently stopped right at the end of the drive. This was another colonial house, built in an oddly gothic style (yet still sporting a characteristic wide and deep shaded veranda). The family who had lived here were well off but were social outcasts due to the fact that the husband and wife only married after they had had two children -- they had ten in all. Also, both the husband and wife had some ancestors who had either gotten on the wrong side of the law or who were actual convicts. Still, they worked hard and built an interesting home, and the family had very nice furnishings and traveled to Europe a lot (where they were more accepted in Society). I wandered the property, where there is a working vegetable garden, and was offered a delicious sample of heirloom cherry tomatoes. After lunch in the on-site tea room, I went to catch the bus, only to find that I had missed it by about five minutes. This means I had another half hour to kill, so I walked through the quite ritzy neighborhood next to the house and stopped by the family's mausoleum.

I took the bus to the end of the line, where I had planned to catch a ferry back to the City. I went down to the pier and found that I had missed the very last ferry of the day by less than ten minutes. This is when I came up with the title for today's post. I went back to the bus stop and hopped on the first bus that I thought was heading back to downtown, but it turned out it was a bus for Bondi Beach. The positive thing about this was that I got to see the beach and people watch as sunbathers and surfers got on and off at the various stops. The negative thing was that it was getting very cloudy so everyone seemed to have decided to leave Bondi at the exact same time, and the bus moved at walking pace for quite some time. After about 40 minutes of this, I got off at the first rail station and took a very fast train back into the City.

My original plan had been to go to Elizabeth Farm in the western suburbs, but it was way too late for that. So, after a spot of shopping for Christmas presents, I stopped in at the Marble Bar, a very beautiful and ornate bar in the basement of the Hilton. The bar was built in 1889, and so has been around long before the Hilton even existed. I had a pink fruity drink called a Love Letter, which was based on raspberry vodka, and then called it a day. I have one more full day in Sydney, although tonight is my last night at the Hilton. I'm moving camp to the Holiday Inn by the airport so as to facilitate me catching a 9am flight on Friday morning. It took me about two hours to completely unpack and then repack, but I got everything situated and I'm hoping that my checked bag still weighs in at under 17kg. It was 16.5kg on the flight from Brisbane, and although I've picked up some things I've also gotten rid of others, so I think it will all work out in the end.

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