March 8, 2020, Sydney, Australia
Two years ago, two days in Sydney wasn’t enough, we explored “The Rocks” the original part of town, did the Opera House tour, explored Circular Quay, went to Bondi Beach, had tea in the Queen Victoria Building (QVB). We took the hop on hop off to many of these places. That left two things I really wanted to do, ferry around the harbor (subject of another post) and see the Central Business District where Victorian Gothic mixes with international style glass. We were in the CBD two years ago on foot but the area was a big construction site for the new Light Rail, the hop on hop off had to detour around the construction. This time we took Light Rail to the stops QVB and Town Hall and explored.
The area is a delight in contrasts with Victorian Gothic and Romanesque revival up hard against New International Style, post modern and Woolworth commercial. Near George Street and Market there are three of those Victorian buildings, complete with monuments, statues and fountains. St. Andrew’s Cathedral, the Town Hall and the QVB. Street Life is also abundant, buskers compete in volume. The 16-year-old playing the Scottish War Pipes wins the contest. He is raising money to go to the Tattoo in Edinburgh. Across the street is a man who is mouthing words into a mic with music in the background. I really can’t say lip synching because there is no synchronization at all. His speakers blare out to distortion but he can’t beat out the piper. Nor can the lass with an acoustic guitar singing Nora Jones.
St Andrews, like most churches, has a place where you can leave a contribution, except it doesn’t take cash and the amount is always $5. You tap your credit card on a device, I suppose you could give in multiples of $5 if you choose. Takes Visa and Master, not AMEX.
Outside the church there is a bird that seems to be evolved to pick garbage out of rubbish bins. It has a long, curved beak perfect for dipping into the bin while its feet hold firmly on the rim. The birds work the bins, chasing off pigeons that get to close. I have no idea what type of bird it is so I will call it the Australian Trash Bird. Perhaps you can give me a better idea of what this bird really is.
We went for scones, tea and coffee at the QVC. I love the interior of the building, which is kitted out in the design style of Gilbert Scott, although Scott was not the architect. The tilework on the floor is a delight and something that the Victorian architects did not plan on, the chrome plated underside of the escalators reflecting the geometric patterns of the floor tiles create a kaleidoscopic effect.
Outside the QVB is a statue of the good queen herself with a figure so ample that I think she should have labeled queen mother. She was the grandmother of much of Europe’s royalty. We left QVB and headed down Market street to Darling Harbor and the shuttle bus and the ship. The bus driver knew where he was going.
I’m posting this a couple of days after leaving Sydney. The atmosphere on the ship has changed subtly. On the lido cafeteria line bread pudding and cobbler are no longer served in big common serving pans with spoons to help yourself. Each serving is in a little pot of its own. Grapefruit, and slices of fruit are not on a big platter with tongs but each half grapefruit is on its own plate. Cookies are no longer there for the taking, you have to ask. This all to prevent germ transfer. The Captain sent note about this to everyone but apparently some people didn’t get the memo. One woman this morning was taking several plates of fruit, with her fingers taking the cantaloupe and putting it on one plate and putting the pineapple on the other plate WHICH SHE PUT BACK ONTO THE BUFFET.
All announcements include a bit about hand washing. Wash for 20 seconds, or through two choruses of “Happy Birthday.” (I sing it in 18 seconds so have to add a drawn out “and many more.” That takes me to 21.) Staff is more insistent that you use the hand sanitizer that is sitting in dispensers all around the ship. Some Purell stanchions have staff standing next to them urging you to sanitize. Folks are greeting each other with bows, nods or elbow bumps. The ship has instituted a no guests on board policy, so if you have a friend in port they can no longer visit. New embarkations go through a more strenuous vetting, including temperature checks.
Our stop after Freemantle (Perth) is scheduled to be on the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean but the last ship to land there prompted a riot with insults hurled at the New Zealanders and Aussies getting off. Only 200 of 2000 got off before the ship decided to bag the stop, according to USA Today.
I would say the mood on the ship is good. The virus is certainly a topic of conversation. A few cruise mates people want to get off at the next stop, some of the breakfast talk was about what travel insurance polities cover, but most are enjoying the ride and are curious to see what comes next.