July 8th:

I got up in my own time this morning, and got my small suitcase posted home, as well as purchasing some Sydney postcards and mailing them and the Waikiki postcards home. Then I set out to get on the SydneyExplorer bus.

I wandered through the lower levels of Central Station, spending some time in the bookstore down there and deciding not to buy the new series Dr Who books ($18.90 each for hardcovers, which are marked to be about $12 in the US - maybe Between Books has them, or will by the time I get back). I found stop 15 of the SydneyExplorer line, and had to wait for almost 15 minutes for the next one to come. I got on and took it to the Aquarium, which ended my use of the $62 card I had purchased two days before - I guess I wasted some money on that purchase. I had intended to do more riding around, but it just didn't happen - days seem so short down here!

The aquarium was good. I bought a combination pass to the monorail, the Sydney Centerpoint Tower, and the Aquarium. I spent about 2 hours in there, taking pictures of fish and such that were pretty interesting (except for the couple of exhibits that seemed to be mis- or un-labeled). They have two "walk through" tanks, one for seals and one for sharks. There were some very large sharks, and very large manta rays in the shark tank, but I couldn't get pictures of either unfortunately.

After the aquarium, I walked along Cockle Wharf to a nice Italian restaurant that had Caprese Salad,which I ordered along with a mushroom pizza with ham and proschutio. I thought about going to the Imax theater, but decided to get on the monorail for a little ride. I took the monorail to Victoria Center, where I went into another bookstore (buying nothing), before seeking out the Sydney Tower. Along the way, I took a look at some of the opal stores, and decided not to buy any - they're expensive (though they are really beautiful).

The entrance fee to the Sydney Tower includes the OzTrek "ride", which, frankly, needs some refurbishment. It starts with a little diorama show that uses TV screens reflecting off of angled glass to project moving objects into the set piece. The arena is divided into 4 sets of seats, and earphones are provided for each seat (enabling both multi-lingual dialog, and some slight isolation from the other quadrants). However, the first diorama set-piece I saw, the TV didn't work, so there were no moving actors (which made the crocodile's appearance rather non-climactic since it didn't). The whole arena then moved a quarter circle, and we watched three more dioramas, two of which worked perfectly, the last of which had something going wrong with a billboard (which wasn't that big a deal).

Next we went into a motion-controled ride, which seemed to work well. The little presentation was nice, if a little needlessly violent in places (violent motion, not violent images). Next, we were funneled into a queue for the elevators to the observation platform (after passing through a metal detector). The view was absolutely spectacular, and I attempted to take a full-circle panoramic photo - 19 or so photos, 2 of which were so overlapped that I removed them, ending up with 17, some of which are probably redundant. I don't know how many images the autostitch pano generator can tie together, but I hope it can do all 17!

I went back to the monorail (at least I got some use out of the all-day monorail pass) and rode about 3/4 of the way around to the Powerhouse/Chinatown stop. A short trip through Chinatown got me back to the hotel via McDonalds and the convenience store, and I got myself another hour of internet time before going back to the room.

Tomorrow is my last full day in Sydney. I'll be getting on a bus at 7:55 am to go out to the Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves. It is supposed to rain, but I'll just have to deal - I've already booked and paid for the tour. I've checked my pickup time for the airport transfer (7:30 am on Sunday). I really hope the tour gets me home before 7pm, so I can get some food and settle in to watch my first ever episode of the new series of Doctor Who!

A few more observations about this hotel: I mentioned before about the "modern"ness of the place - it definitely has a modern style to it. The small storage spaces, the brushed-nickel door and drawer pulls set at an angle, the sleek furniture desigh, etc. It has an interesting system to prevent excess energy usage - you need to put your room key in this little slot by the front door for the majority of the powered items in the room to turn on, including the lights and the heating/cooling system. One light will continue to work, enabling you to see to put your card-key into the door slot. They need to update their in-room literature - the booklet in my room has some pages coming loose from the ring-binder, and at least some of the information is not up to date (for example, the internet setup, which used to be in a room on the 2nd floor but is now both in-room and in a corner of the lobby on the ground floor). All in all, it's a perfectly nice place though. Centrally located, easy to get to. Then again, there are dozens (at least) of hotels in this city, so I'll probably gamble on a different location if I ever come to Sydney again.

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