At Bondi Beach.
At 'The Rocks' near the harbour.
On our Bridge Climb.
December 2, 2006

There was one city that the majority of people who have been to Sydney had likened it to: San Francisco.

When I first arrived, I did notice many similarities. But there was one that I wasn’t prepared for. It would be that I would experience
San Francisco weather. In Sydney. In the summer. Today was grey, cloudy, cool and breezy. A little bit cold but oh-so-refreshing. I
don’t think I have experienced this type of weather in seven months. It was such a nice change. I am sure it is only for one day (which
I don’t mind as I would like it to be sunny for the duration of the time that I’m here) but it was nice to experience some mildness in
terms of weather.

I had the day to myself and I went down to Darling Harbour since it is really close to my hotel. Lots of restaurants and bars along the
water. I checked out prices and I was hit with something: I am no longer in a
developing country. By the looks of the prices, this
country has been developed five times over. All I could really think was ‘I am going to go broke out here!’

I walked down George Street and continued to be blown away by the similarities of Sydney and San Francisco. It truly feels like San
Francisco with an English touch. There are times that I don’t even think ‘This
reminds me of San Francisco’ as much as I think ‘Oh
my gosh, this
is San Francisco.’

I went down to ‘The Rocks’ – an old part of Sydney that is as charming as can be. This is right next to the Harbour Bridge and a stone’s
throw from the Circular Quay (pronounced ‘Key’) and the Sydney Opera House. I went to the weekend market in this area when a
massive downpour suddenly occurred. So now I was stuck underneath the umbrellas of the weekend market as I wasn’t willing to
venture out into the rain (since my attire wasn't prepared for this). About thirty minutes later things started to ease up and I finally
could head back out onto the street.

Because I had so much fun with the entertainment portion of my flight on Singapore Airlines, I opted to not sleep at all last night. This
caught up to me today while I was in the city. I figured this was a good time to go back to the hotel for a nap before Monique came
into Sydney.

A few hours later, Monique got to the hotel. We ventured out to get some dinner and wine. I was looking forward to hearing about her
previous week that she had spent in Australia (between Cairns and Melbourne). We ended up at Darling Harbour since it was relatively
close and had atmosphere. This ‘atmosphere’ definitely came at a price. Oh well. I am now accepting the fact that I am going to be
spending a lot of money here whether I like it or not.

December 3, 2006

Ari came in this morning! When I saw her it felt as though only a few weeks had passed since she took me to the San Francisco airport
back on April 26th.

Okay. I am now sick of the cold weather. Where is the sun? Where is the nice weather that everybody talked about when they speak of
Sydney? People say that the difference between San Francisco and Sydney is that Sydney has nice weather. Well, I have yet to see this…

On a side note, I feel like I am encountering a ‘counter-culture shock’. What is that? Well, I just came up with the term. I am using it
to describe a feeling when there is absolutely no culture shock whatsoever to feel. Since this is Ari and Monique’s first time in another
country, I am bummed that they don’t get to have that experience of seeing something totally different.

We headed down to The Rocks so that we could sign up to do the Bridge Climb. This was something everybody was saying we had to
do. If everybody was saying we ‘had to’ do this well then we had to do it, right? The price tag of $150 included a free trip up to the top
of the Pylons at the bridge to check out a view of Sydney. I guess it was kind of nice to feel like we got a complimentary trip up there. I
was a bit surprised to see that people can walk across the Harbour Bridge just like they can the Golden Gate Bridge back at home. We
didn’t walk across it today but I think that is something I just might do when I come back to Sydney at the tail end of my trip.

We opted for lunch with a view on the Circular Quay. Completely overpriced but we could justify it for one meal.

We signed up for the night Bridge Climb since all three of us are suckers for city lights. I thought there was going to be more
‘adventure’ involved. I guess if someone had a fear of heights, that might be the case. But our group of seven consisted of nobody with
the fear. The ‘climb’ actually consists of several ladders and many stairs that led us to the tip-top of the bridge. Such a sight. The views
were amazing especially since we got up there as the sun was setting and by the time we got to the very top the sky was nothing but
lights. We all agreed that this was far more impressive to us at night than it would have been during the day.

December 4, 2006

We had the most bizarre experience last night. I swore I heard a gun shot. I knew it was a gun shot. I woke Ari and Monique up to tell
them what I had heard. Since they were so sleepy it didn’t really phase them. Then I thought maybe I was wrong about the gunshot.
But just a few minutes later I started hearing police sirens. Many of them. I looked out the window. All of the commotion was taking
place just a half-block away from us. I saw a person laying in the middle of the street. I woke Ari and Monique up and told them that I
was right and that I knew I heard a gunshot. During this time, more police came. Now even ambulances were coming. A few minutes
later when we were going to bed, we couldn’t help but wonder just what kind of neighborhood we were staying in (though it seemed
fine to us before this).

When our van picked us up this morning to go on our wine tour, we asked the driver if he knew anything about a shooting that
occurred last night. Turned out there was no ‘shooting’. There was actually a hit-and-run accident. A hit-and-run accident that killed a
girl (the person we saw in the middle of the street). The driver of the car ended up crashing into another car right after. The driver then
turned up the radio where we were listening to the news reporter discuss some of the details: George St. and Goulburn St.; car hit a 25-
year old girl and her friend; the guy was in critical condition while the girl was declared ‘dead on arrival’ when she got to the hospital.

Our mouths dropped thinking about the lifeless body we had seen last night. We were all, however, just a bit relieved that I was wrong
about there being a ‘gunshot’. It just really, really sounded like that. It was just a bit weird because just last night we were all talking
about our own mortality. Ari was convinced she would live forever; I felt the opposite and was saying that you just never know what
might happen. Sadly, hearing about this story on the radio (and watching it last night) just backed-up what I was saying. Of all of the
places that I have traveled to, who would think that it would be in
Sydney where I would see somebody lying dead in the street? An
eye-opener that no matter where I am – whether it’s walking down an alley (which I don’t do often) or crossing a street – I need to
always be alert.

Onto a slightly brighter note, we spent the rest of our day in the
Hunter Wine Valley. The not-so-bright side of this was that Ari felt like
hell all day (I’m guessing it was jet-lag setting in). Here we were…on this lovely wine tour…and she couldn’t even enjoy it.

We got back into Sydney in the early evening. While Ari recovered a bit, Monique and I headed down Oxford Street to the Paddington
section of the city. While we were on Oxford Street, I had to remind myself, once again, that I was not in San Francisco. It felt like we
were walking down Market Street near the Castro. I even made this reference to Monique but also said “Well, except that this might
not be a gay neighborhood.” Just ten steps later it was confirmed that this was, indeed, their gay neighborhood. Guys with bulging
muscles and tight t-shirts were hanging out with lots of other guys with bulging muscles and tight t-shirts at the bar we passed by. Was
it possible to find any more things that made this city completely reminiscent of San Francisco???

We wandered into the residential part of this area and loved the Victorian architecture with the ‘lacy’ terraces. Then we found an
Indian restaurant that didn’t only have excellent food but also had Bollywood videos playing that sucked in both me and Monique. So
far, I think that was the most ethnic experience I have had while in this country…

December 5, 2006

We found my favorite neighborhood in Sydney today. It is called ‘Darlinghurst’ and might I say that it is quite darling???

We went out there for brunch today and while we were moseying around we came across many great shops, restaurants, cafes and
parks. Not only that, the architecture of the homes made it tempting to want to move there.

We would also get to see Sydney in a new light today (literally) as there were sunny skies. Now
this is how summer is supposed to be!

Ohhh, how pleasant Sydney is. I can honestly say this is one of my favorite large cities. I agree with everybody that had told me that
before I came. The only thing I have a slight issue with is how expensive it is out here. That is one main thing that is preventing it from
moving into the top spot as ‘my favorite city’.

We walked up and down different streets. We strolled through different parks. We even entered a Gothic-style cathedral. It was here
that Ari announced that she would want to get married in a church like this. It was also here that Ari and I were sitting down looking
at the stained-glass windows. She then asked me “Is that Jesus Christ?” It was at this point I told her that she might not be a good
candidate to get married in a Catholic church if she couldn’t tell what Jesus Christ looked like. She then said “Well lots of people have
beards.” I rested my case with that statement.

We then headed to the harbor and took a tour of the Sydney Opera House. This was a bit overrated. Okay, it was a lot overrated. It is
far more impressive from the outside. Let me be the first to say that 70s architecture is far from timeless. This would be the case here. I
didn’t find anything impressive or incredible about the inside. Ari agreed. But at least we went in and saw it so that we know that we
didn’t miss out on some amazing sight.

We are about to head to Bondi Beach to grab dinner and drinks. It will be nice to get out to the beach. I have heard so much about this
beach – I am curious to see if it lives up to the hype…


Oh geez. Just got back from the bars. Met some great Aussies. Had fun with some great Aussies. Sadly, Monique didn’t have the best
luck tonight. We drank a lot at dinner (by ‘a lot’ I mean three bottles of wine between the three of us) and for some reason the guy
downstairs at the bar part of the restaurant thought Monique was not in the right state to stay. This was so wrong as I was far more
drunk than she was at this point. There was no changing their minds so Ari and I decided to give up and we all left and headed
downtown to another drinking establishment. Actually, it was even called ‘The Establishment’. We had fun and met lots of boys. Lots.
We eventually went to another bar with a group of guys that we met. It was at this bar that Monique would eventually not be let back
in. It did not make sense. There was absolutely no reason for it. The guys we were hanging with tried to work some magic to figure out
a way to get her through the back door but it didn't work.  We eventually we were able to hang out with Monique again when it was
closing time and she made her way back into the bar. All of this left a bittersweet taste to the evening which is really sad since it is the
last night that the three of us are together.

On a side note, we all loved Bondi Beach. It was much nicer than I was anticipating as I thought it was going to be an area that only
attracted surfer-types. It was actually really nice with some great restaurants and beyond-beautiful scenery. I think I am going to stay
in this area for my last couple nights in Sydney before I head out to New Zealand. I would love to spend some time during the day

December 6, 2006

This morning was painful. Truly, truly painful. Not only could my head and body not function, but we also had to be checked out of
our hotel room by 10:00am. Somehow we managed to pull this off. I still don’t know how.

We went to a little café in Darlinghurst for breakfast. This would be where we would re-live the events of last night. This was also
where I would learn that there was a large chunk of the night that I had absolutely no recollection of. Monique was also finding out
things for the first time. Ari told us about conversations that took place, people we were hanging out with, a table of people I had
befriended during dinner. The night was definitely a haze in both Monique’s and my memory.

Another thing that happened last night is that we all found Aussies that we were a little ‘friendly’ with…though I am proud to say not
friendly enough where we found out about the ‘thunder' from Down Under, if you catch my drift…

The best part of the morning, though, was recapping Monique’s getting kicked out of two of the three bars we went to. We had fun
telling her all about the different comments that came out of her mouth during the cab ride back to our hotel. Comments like:

“I am so f’ing done with Sydney. This city has it out for me.”

“It is only because I’m a female that I got kicked out.”

And Ari's and my personal favorite…

“It’s because of my dress. If I wasn’t wearing bright colors, this wouldn't have happened.”

We couldn’t laugh at her last night because she was really upset. But this morning, everything was fair game. At least all of the
laughing at breakfast was making me forget a little bit about my hangover.

On our ferry ride to Manly Beach, Ari was referring to some of the conversations from last night. I am not exaggerating when I say
that she had to repeat
everything she had discussed with us the night before. Ari wasted quite a bit of breath on me and Monique at
dinner last night.

When we got to Manly, I had to make a declaration.

Sydney had moved into the ranks of being my favorite big city based on aesthetics. Overall, it wouldn’t be #1 because it is just too darn
expensive. But based on looks, I have to say that it even surpasses San Francisco (this is particularly due to the weather and beaches). I
am definitely planning on spending another couple days in Sydney before I fly to Auckland. I can then spend more time at Bondi and
Manly and just relax. Ahhh…

The time officially came to part ways with Monique as Ari and I had a flight to Cairns to catch. It was sad. It wasn’t fair. It felt like we
all just said ‘hello’ to each other and now it was already time for some ‘good-byes’. As I said, sooo not fair. I am already missing her.

I am on the plane now and have an hour before we arrive into Cairns. I’m going to use this hour to sleep…
Back to Australia.