TGIF at the 'Astralian'
Sydney, NSW, Saturday 3 December 2005
Yesterday we landed at the airport late in the afternoon, and as usual, we spent a fair amount of time going through immigration, getting our luggage and finding affordable ground transportation. Then we zigzagged to and through the city, depositing other passengers at various prestigious hotels, before the driver decided to find the unique residence we had chosen for the next four nights. Weeks before we left home, Jeri had studied the Sydney accommodation web site, and had picked the Australian Heritage Hotel, a small, somewhat modernized 19th Century hotel in the oldest part of Sydney, known as ‘The Rocks’. This charming remnant of early Australia is now sandwiched between the on-ramp of the giant harbor bridge and Sydney Cove. It is hard to get to, and the shuttle driver got hopelessly stuck in traffic. Finally, well after dark we found Cumberland Street, where the hotel was supposed to be. I had no idea what to look for, and saw no numbers on any of the buildings, but Jeri, who had seen a picture of our hotel in a guide book, spotted its unique gable as we drove past it. I had not given it a second look, because it was the center of a giant street party. There were at least three hundred revelers celebrating TGIF on the sidewalk and even on the street in front of both sides of the corner building; we soon found out, there were at least another hundred inside, all guzzling beer and eating pizza.
There we stood, with our bags, in the middle of the street, wondering how we were to get through the throng of partying Australians to the check-in, and then beyond that, to our room. Fortunately a waiter spotted us and communicated his observation to the proprietor, who found us and guided us through the crowd to his desk and to the less chaotic upper floor, where we found our room with its windows opening right above the street party. As with all crowds, everyone was shouting instead of talking, and due to the general rambunctious behavior typical of such crowds, there was a lot of other noise as well. Despite being exhausted after a ten-hour flight and hauling our luggage around, the chance of our sleeping through the din of the gathering below was pretty well nil. So, we decided that the best strategy was simply to join the party. We squeezed into the lower bar room, and pushed ourselves onto an already crowded bench with our beer and pizza. I started a staccato conversation with a man beside me, and when I mentioned Canada, he turned to his girlfriend and said something to her. She leaned over to me and asked “WHERE IN CANADA?”. When I shouted “KINGSTON – ONTARIO”, she broke into shrieks of delight. It turned out that she had spent a year at Queen’s studying law. After an hour of more beer and pizza and Kingston/Queen’s stories, the crowd started to thin, our new friends left, and we staggered up to our room and the lights went out on our first day in Australia.
For the next three days, we did museums, the botanical garden, ferry rides, lunch with Alan Keast, the aquarium, miscellaneous shopping and we walked miles to see Sydney features of all sorts, but sharing that first ‘Sydney moment’ with the weekly crowd, having TGIF at the Australian is a highlight we will always remember.