When last we met our intrepid traveler, she was making her way from Sydney airport to her temporary digs in Rushcutter’s Bay. . .
My Uber driver was a young man from Hyderabad, a Muslim, who had been in Australia since he was 18. He and I engaged in conversation about current politics in India, religion and its challenges, and what it is like to emigrate. He had been on Haj several times and his father was a physician in India. He had applied for residency in Australia because of the anti-Muslim sentiments in India, but he missed his family. What a wonderful introduction to the extroverted Australians!
After a 20-minute drive on the wrong side of the road, I was met at my flat by the cleaning lady, a Hungarian force of nature named Izabelle (with a zed). She was open-hearted and welcoming, insisting that after such a long trip, what I needed was a good meal! I unloaded my luggage and joined her walking directly uphill to the bustling thoroughfare of Darlinghurst Road.
Turns out, Izabelle was a woman who had many connections with many denizens of Darlinghurst Road. If you are at all familiar with San Francisco, this is similar to Polk Street back in the 80’s. Lots of colorful people doing colorful things! She steered me to a small, hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant owned by a friend of hers who made “the vorld’s best scampi!” (imagine Zsa Zsa Gabor talking).
While I scarfed down the scampi and enjoyed the passers-by, Izabelle shared her story. She had a difficult life, having grown up in Hungary under Tito and having a mother who, at least through Izabelle’s eyes, was quite crazy. She came to Australia in her early 20’s and once managed one of the multitude of sex shops located just up the street from my flat. Her current income was derived from cleaning several flats owned by my Air BnB host. She had a heart of gold, and in fitting with that stereotype, I suspect she turned tricks and did drugs. Truly an unforgettable character and one whose kindness to me during my stay gave me an insider’s view of a fabulous neighborhood in the incredible city of Sydney, New South Wales. (Superlatives intended!)
Perhaps because it shares a similar geography with San Francisco or perhaps because I lived there in a previous life, Sydney felt like home to me. I toddled up and down the steep hills of my Art Deco neighborhood and got more exercise than I had in months due to the fact that I had two new hips. I had four blissful days in Sydney.
A typical day would include waking early, wandering downhill past exquisite wrought iron fencing, and around the corner to Shuk, and Israeli-owned neighborhood eatery that had the most marvelous fresh Middle Eastern fare. Then I would head over to the subway and take a train to Circular Quay. One day I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art (free!) enjoying modern aboriginal works as well as people watching. Having grown up going to museums in Chicago, I was amazed at how museum etiquette has changed. People now talk out loud, take selfies with the art work, and incessantly post to their mobiles. I actually miss the hushed conversations and respectful distance that I remember from my youth, but I was also thrilled that so many people were enjoying art!
One of my favorite adventures was taking the Sydney Harbor Ferries, which flit like water bugs across the Bay with their different colored catamarans and remarkably fit boatmen who heave to the walkways on the different quays. The ticket system (Opal) was a bit intimidating initially, but once I got the hang of it, I almost felt like a native.
What almost did me in, however, was taking the rail system back to Rushcutter’s Bay. There is terrific public transportation in Sydney, but it does take a bit of orienting to figure it out. Elevators and escalators take you to different levels of platforms which, in turn, serve different rail lines. It is kind of like playing chutes and ladders where some of the escalators skip platforms, and if you get on the wrong escalator you will not be able to access your train. And, because it is underground, unless you know which train is going where on which platform, it is possible you might never ever be found. (Remember that old MTA song?)
After going up and down, back around, and down and up again, I finally asked a very kind police person (who was also an EMT!) how to get to where I needed to go. Just love playing that disoriented little old lady! (ha!) I did make it out of the Seven Circles of Hell and back to Roslyn Street. I noticed this time that my flat was located directly across the street from St. Luke’s Home for the Aged, and thought perhaps, in the not too distant future, there might be a room there for me!
On my bucket list was a visit the Sydney Opera House. It was the last night of the season and I snagged a ticket for the final performance of Faust. I suspect you are all familiar with the Sydney Opera House – it is an architectural icon. It sits on Sydney Harbor, and is home to world class opera and other events. While most people go gaga over the architecture, I was most impressed with the lovely restrooms, with back lit toilet roll dispensers.
I had a great seat and was escorted to it by staff member who kindly shepherded me back through a new passage way that allowed for folks who cannot walk very well to bypass a LOT of stairs. My seatmate was a woman who was raised in New York City, but who had been in Sydney for years. Her accent was an interesting mishmash of Aussie words and accent (ix-sent) and American – definitely not NYC! She worked for the main library and loved being an expat. We said our good-byes, and with that my last night in Sydney was over.
Leaving the opera, I walked uphill (always uphill!) on a beautiful warm moonlit night. It was the perfect ending to an all too brief stay, leaving me with the intention of returning just as soon as I can.
The photograph of the Sydney Opera House above was taken by Linda Shoenherr Hancock Green. All other photographs were either taken by myself or are in the public domain.