July 5th:

I didn't set my alarm this morning, but despite getting to bed late, I still woke up more or less naturally at about 8am. Did my morning stuff, dressed, finished packing, and turned in my room key at about 9am. Shifted my stuff to the McDonald Wing room, which wasn't open yet, so I set up the computer in the vestibule and typed last night's travelog. I shifted things inside once the room was open, and slowly people trickled in.

A couple of dances were done, but mostly people chatted until they felt they had to get going. Several had made arrangements with Del for transport, but I ended up sharing a cab with a couple from Boston and a local to my hotel, which turned out to be pretty close to the Boston couple's new hotel (they had been staying in one of the hotels across Missended - the one attached to the $5 steak pub). The Boston couple picked up my cab fare - very nice of them.

I checked in to the Mercure Sydney, which is "close" to Darlington Harbor (not Sydney Harbor as I had thought). The hotel is nice, fairly modern, and located very centrally, as it is next to a major rail hub and a large bus nexus. After unpacking and settling in a little, which included reading up on the hotel's services (such as the "SmartBar", basically a vending machine by the elevators that you can get things out of that are charged to the room - it replaces the minibar that requires human intervention to get the usages charged). I even set the combination to the room safe (because it won't shut without it, and it was sticking out into the room), but this laptop won't fit into it, and it's the only valuable I've got that won't be traveling with me. By the way, this room, though nice, doesn't have nearly enough storage. Usually there is a full dresser to put clothes in - a drawer for pants, a drawer for shirts, a drawer for undies and socks, etc. The Waikiki hotel had six nice, deep drawers, and I used one to put the computer and other daily-use stuff in, another to put the souveniers and collected-up stuff in, and the other four for clothes. Here, I've got two very shallow drawers below the cabinet the room safe is in, a larger cabinet with only one shelf in it next to those, a wardrobe with some stacking room (that's got my suitcase in it, in position to be opened and gone through if I forgot to unpack something), a cabinet next to the wardrobe that has a coffee service in the drawer, and a fridge in the lower cabinet, and the two drawers in the bedside tables, which are also very shallow. Not enough room for much of anything, really!

I went out to find lunch at about 12:30 pm or so (having arrived at about 11:30ish). I walked around, picked up some brochures at the bus information depot at the bus nexus, wandered some more, and made my way to a nice mall called Market City that has lots of cafes and a food court, plus shops, an arcade, and a cinema. It also has two full restaurants, and after buying a t-shirt and a sweatshirt, plus a painted egg, at a souvenier store, I ate lunch at a place called Mama's Kitchen,which turned out to be more-or-less Italian. The food was good, from the potato wedges to the lemon gellato.

I returned to the room to waste a bit of time watching TV and downloading my pictures from the past four days. I left again at about 4:30 to go look into internet access - they sell you time at the front desk, and you go to the two computers around the corner in the lobby and log in with the user id and password that your timed account was set up with. You log on, and away you go. I read my 219 pieces of email at amazing speed (their broadband really is broadband!), and wrote some replies as well. Then I went looking around on the web for my air-miles (over 31K, which hasn't gotten me anything good yet), and for a replacement hotel in Waikiki - I want to be closer to the beach than the Gateway will be. I think I've found one, but my time ran out on me. I'll get more time tomorrow or the next day and complete that transaction.

Returned to the room for more TV (including a re-run of the original Dr Who series - I found when and where the new series is airing (ABC, 7:30pm on Saturdays), and when I confirmed my Saturday tour I found that it should be back in time for me to watch it!!!), and then at about 6:45 I went to the lobby to catch a taxi to where tonight's tour was to start (even though it wasn't to start until 8pm). I found myself right next to the park where the El Alamein WWII Memorial Fountain was - it's a gorgeous fountain. This is also right next to Darlinghurst Street, which is full of shops and eateries (and sex shops, too). I found a place called Sushi Hero that had a little conveyor belt with plates of sushi going by, and had dinner there.

I returned to what I assumed was the pickup point (the corner of Ward Ave and Elizabeth Bay Road, by the police station, as I was told), but at about 8pm, a man walked over and ushered me across the street and into an alley where the other 6 people for that night's tour had already mysteriously gathered. There were three sets of two - a couple from Melbourne, two women from the Midwest of the US, and two women from the USS Kitty Hawk (one of whom was from Perth). The converted herse-limo seated six people comfortably and (supposedly) 2 passengers in front - fortunately we didn't have to test that bit out as I sat in front and the other six sat in the rear. The tour was nice, narrated (via CD) by our hostess, Morticia (the herse). We were driven around the city, trying to spot the landmarks in the dark, listening to lurid tales of politicians' misdeeds, uppity harlots, a trio of women who were so tough that they managed to take over organized crime in Sydney for a while, and all kinds of celebrities in hotels, some of whom did themselves in while in the hotel.

We drove right by my hotel while being told about the funeral trains that used to take coffins and mourners to the cemetaries before there were reliable roads and/or cars. Turns out that the church-looking thing that I can see looking to the right out my window is Mortuary Station, one of the coffin-loading-on spots. A short while later, we stopped at The Castle, a working S&M dungeon, where tour-goers were welcome to go on in and check out the premises. I stayed in the herse with the driver, and we chatted about the SCA and other reinactments until the other six returned from their trip into the dungeon.

We finished the tour at about 11 with a mini-tour of Darlinghurst Road and the streets around it. Darlinghurst and the entire area of King's Cross is rather racy - prostitution is legal in New South Wales as long as they don't solicit near certain areas. Catching a cab was pretty easy, even if the cabbie wanted to sell me some Herbalife. Interestingly enough, the cab fare back was exactly the same as the cab fare to the tour. Also interesting is that in Australia, they don't tip - every tour in Waikiki, the guide expected gratuities, but there was no solicitation for a hand-out in the hearse, and the cabbies had no problem with me just paying them and leaving. Makes things easier ...

Tomorrow is the zoo stuff, with the tour part starting at 1:15. I think I'm going to get a 3-day SydneyPass, which will allow me on all of the rail, bus, and ferries, plus an explorer bus, plus entry to some attractions. I think I'll only get to use it 2 days, but hopefully the extra admissions and stuff will make up the difference.

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