A Travellerspoint blog

Sydney

We got up in the morning and got ready for our tour of the Blue Mountains. As we waited, several different tour busses from different companies arrived, but weren't on the list for any- even the company we had our tour with. As it turns out, we were somehow booked with them for yesterday (when we were doing the bridge climb), but all our stuff said we were booked for today. Since there were no more spots left, we were on our own for the day, but were promised a Blue Mountains tour tomorrow. My sisters and I decided to head over to the Powerhouse museum, which was supposed to be a really great science museum. It also was supposed to have some art stuff, which is why I could convince them to go. We got to the museum. We saw the line. We gave up on the museum. The line was literally out the door, around the corner, down the block, and starting to turn another corner. I've seen lines for concerts and sporting events that were shorter. Also, this was also not a single-file line. There were hundreds of families with kids waiting to get in. Based on the number of light sabers in the crowd and the crowd of people trying to get their picture taken with the storm trooper out front, I'm guessing most of them were going to the Star Wars exhibit. Hey, whatever gets kids to go to a museum is fine with me. Instead, we decided to check out the big "Market City" building across the street. We got there and realized that the real market part was closed. However, there was also a large indoor mall part. The malls in Australia are so much more airy and open than the ones in the US. Most of them are open air, but even this one had so much natural sunlight coming in that it seemed more open than it was. We stopped in the food court for lunch. This food court was unlike any other I've been in. There was an Indian place, 2 or 3 Asian seafood places, 3 or 4 Asian noodle places, a Chinese restaurant, a Sushi restaurant, and more Asian places. I don't think there was a sandwich, taco, or plate of spaghetti in sight. The most "non Asian" place had fish and chips. And fried squid, some random seafood, and Asian seafood sauces. Afterwards, we wandered through Chinatown back to our hotel. Rachel got a great deal on a souvenir baseball hat. It was marked $2.80 (about $2 USD), but she unknowingly haggled down to $2 (about $1.40 USD). After changing, we headed out to Bondi Beach, one of the most popular beaches around, according to the travel books. We took their subway to get there. It feels most similar to NYCs in the sense that each station is somewhat of a maze with many ways of getting from platform to platform and to the various entrances. Also, there are some long tunnelways in the stations. The walls are mostly decorated with tile or have those very large ads on them. The main difference between these subway stations and the NYC ones is that Sydney's don't smell as bad or have as many bums. Also, in Sydney's subway, there are people carrying surfboards. That's not quite normal in NYC. In addition to the people carrying surfboards, there were plenty of other people wearing swimsuits, who were clearly headed in the same direction as us. The beach was pretty crowded, and possibly seemed more so due to its shape. Unlike many US beaches which are long, thin strips of sand that run for miles, this beach was a completely contained crescent moon-shaped beach. It was significantly deeper than the average US beach, but also much less wide as it is contained on both sides by hills, rocks, and other land that goes right up to the ocean. One other difference is that there were a lot of women sunbathing with their tops off, which I wasn't expecting and didn't really need to see. We got settled in a spot near the back and I went into the water. The waves were much larger than I'm used to, as I mostly go to East Coast US beaches. When the water was out, it came almost up to my knees. By the time the wave came in, the water would be up to my neck. Because they had really good waves, there were tons of people both surfing and just riding the waves in on their own. After I had enough salt in my mouth and water up my nose, I headed back to our spot to dry off and ended up falling asleep briefly. We spent a little while longer just relaxing and enjoying the gorgeous weather before we headed back to Sydney. That night, our whole family went out to Thai food for dinner. My dad had said that he would be leaving tomorrow, so it was our last dinner in Australia as a family. I was sad that he was leaving, but I know he has a good reason. As for the dinner, it was great. Mom ordered something that came out flaming-literally. We had to wait a few minutes in order for the fire to die down before she could even begin to dig in. Michael and I got curries. He got red, which is usually my favorite, but I decided to get green, since I was in the mood for something different. I identified the hot red peppers in my curry, but ate them anyway. My mouth was on fire. So, I just kept eating them because I'm brilliant and they tasted pretty good. By the end of the meal though, no amount of white rice and water would make my mouth stop burning. This time, when I stopped at a store to grab a candy bar, I was smart enough to ask the store clerk what his favorite was, instead of just picking. I didn't want a repeat of the Picnic Bar incident. Unfortunately, both his favorite and the favorite of the customer at the counter was a Snickers bar. I just cant bring myself to get things in other countries that are readily available at home. Fortunately, they had more types of Snickers bars here than at home, so I got a "Snickers the Lot" bar and was able to satisfy both my need for something new and not offend the clerk and customer. I was happy about my choice. In fact, I much prefer a "Snickers the Lot" better than a normal Snickers. The nuts were in much smaller, more manageable pieces than a normal bar, and there was some filling that made it creamier and seem more like a candy bar than a long turtle with caramel. More importantly, it put out the fire in my mouth. With that need fulfilled, Michael and I headed down to the Rocks area of town. When I had gone online to book a night tour of the Sydney Observatory, there were only two spots left, and I grabbed them both, but there weren't enough spots for the whole family. That was ok as most everyone didn't want to go anyway. They really did miss out though. The observatory tour was one of those "Thank you mom and dad for this amazing trip" moments. I would have to say that it was one of the three best tours I've been on during this trip (the others being the Penguin Parade part of the Penguin tour and the other being the Savanah walkabout). First, we looked at a bunch of the artifacts and stuff they had at the museum part. Because it was very crowded (did I mention we got the last 2 spots?) we didn't get to do all the hands-on games, but we did get to learn a lot and see some pretty old stuff. However, the best part was still to come. They split us into 3 groups so it wouldn't be as crowded. Our group started with the old telescope. We learned that Venus crosses the sun twice in about 120 years. It crosses, waits 8 years, crosses again, and then waits the 120 years. In colonial times, they used these crossings and some trig (yay math!) to determine extraterrestrial distances. One of the reasons Captain Cook was in Australia when he was, was for the purpose of making some measurements related to the Venus event. About 120 years later, they wanted to check his measurements, so they built the Sydney observatory. They got a telescope made by some European company that had a 4 meter focal length. It was one of the best in its time and is still a good optical telescope. How do I know? Because I got to look through it. The tour guide opened the observatory roof for us, which was pretty neat. The motor that turns the ceiling is still the original motor (although it is newer than the telescope as electricity wasn't invented back when the telescope was originally installed). The motor is about 100 years old and is still in operation. The telescope is over 130 years old, so even when the tour guide touched it to adjust it, he had to wear gloves. Each of us got a chance to look at some stars and such. After every two people or so, the tour guide had to adjust the telescope to keep the planet in view as it appears to move across the night sky because the earth rotates. To see what the old-time astronomers would have seen out of the very same telescope excited me. However, when one of the little kids took a look and the tour guide asked him if he saw what he was supposed to be seeing the kid replied "No. All I see are some stars." I guess you have to be a little older to appreciate it. Next, we went into the other observatory tower to see the modern telescope. This one also had a 4 meter focal length, but instead of being 4 meters long, it was closer to 1. This telescope had mirrors on the inside that reflected the image, so the telescope was more compact from the outside, but the light still traveled the same distance (via bouncing) on the inside. The tour guide picked something for us to look at, but this time he didn't have to touch the telescope at all. He just clicked on a computer screen, and the telescope moved itself to where the stars were. Not only that, but he didn't have to keep readjusting it as the computer caused the telescope to track the stars by itself. The tour ended with a 3-D movie, complete with funny little glasses. Overall, I was pretty happy with how the day turned out despite the few plan changes.

a small portion of the line at the Powerhouse

a small portion of the line at the Powerhouse


Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach


on the train with a surfboard

on the train with a surfboard


the old telescope

the old telescope

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Australia

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