Our second day in Sydney began with some driving.
Let me reiterate one of Sydney's biggest problems: driving there is terrible. The city is a sprawling mass, the roads are badly designed and laid out and the drivers are terrible. (Probably not half as bad as many other places in other countries, but certainly far less courteous than I expected).
We had planned to drive to the zoo. We'd stayed at a hotel in the north of Sydney to make this easier. Our first problem was toll roads - there are major roads where you end up on a toll road with no advance warning and no way to get off before the toll point. We ended up in the botanical gardens on the wrong side of the bridge (the only place we could find to pull over and re-asses our options. After attempting to figure out the toll company's website, we eventually just gave up and rang someone. They don't do late-day type passes on their roads, so we'll be getting a few fine notices and will just have to deal with that when it comes. (I'll probably be able to put them against my e-tag here and avoid most of the cost, but it's going to be a pain)
We made our way back over the bridge and out toward the zoo. It was late morning by the time we'd made it through this ordeal and to the zoo. We figured that we really wanted a full day at the zoo, so we turned around and headed back toward the hotel, planning on taking public transport in to the city to do the rest of the Powerhouse Museum. We detoured via a number of train stations looking for parking but none of them had car parks. One had a parking garage nearby that wanted more than $50 for a few hours.
When we got back to the hotel, we asked the guy at the desk how to get in to the museum. He said they'd probably walk to the station ("five to ten minutes away") but wouldn't today because of the dumping rain. He was of the opinion that people just wouldn't go out when it was a day like this.
We hadn't driven up to Sydney to be put off by a bit of rain, so we head back out by car into the city. The guy at the desk thought this was odd, but admitted there was no other option.
Sydney has a problem with right turns, in that there's some religious or cultural ban on them because you can't do them anywhere. I was driving and Jen was navigating and it was a horrid experience trying to get to the car park near Chinatown.
We finally got into a car park at about 1:00. We'd spent the entire morning being frustrated at every turn by how hard it is to get around Sydney. I was left with the feeling that it's a pretty tourist-unfriendly city. The mess with the toll roads is particularly galling.
We made our way back up to the Happy Chef for lunch. This place was really one of the highlights of Sydney. (Not just because the food was free, either)
Sufficiently recharged, we headed across to the Powerhouse museum. There's a lot of awesome stuff in the museum. I'd have liked to see more of the exhibits working, especially a lot of the steam engines. It was really good to be wandering around during a weekday outside school holidays, though.
We finished up all the exhibits except the AC/DC exhibit which neither of us were interested in.
Jen had lined up dinner with a friend of hers - Aliese - so after a bit more battling with Sydney's roads and a trip back to the hotel we met up and found a little café.
Dinner was fun, but neither Jen or I were hugely hungry.
The next day we set out early to the Zoo. People and pamphlets seemed to indicate the only way to get to the zoo would be to take the ferry across the river, but parking at the zoo was readily available and not ridiculously expensive.
We were there a little before the gates opened. We wound our way through the zoo, sometimes having to double-back because the layout isn't great. It's a great zoo, but all up I think Melbourne zoo is a tiny bit better. Melbourne Zoo combined with Werribee Open Range Zoo is certainly better.
We saw a bird display, which was awesome. It started with a brolga flying down over the audience, and included a barn owl, peregrine falcon and a galah doing various impressive things. The most impressive was probably the condor who came swooping down to land ungainly. She was a juvenile and so was curious, trying to derail the show by trying to eat people's feet and an umbrella.
We were all done and had seen everything by mid-afternoon. We made our way back into the city and found parking to go for a wander through the markets. Jen tried on a few dresses and I bought her a full-length cheongsam. (Now I just need to make some excuses for her to wear it.)
Dinner was Wagaya (with touch-screens for ordering) with rxgra
, a friend of Jen's she'd never met before. Thankfully he didn't kill us and stuff us into barrels. Dude loves his movies, though, as was offended when I said Bill Murray's part in Zombieland buggered up the movie.
We drove him home, then made our way back to the hotel.
The next day we loaded up the car and head out, intending to drive until we felt tired and find a motel to stop for the night. We actually made it all the way back home by about 10 or 11. The Hume is not just a bit faster than the coast road - it's hugely faster, though there were a few trucks that annoyed me to no end by only doing ~100 not matter if the speed limit was 110 or 80, causing an endless backwards and forwards of overtaking and being overtaken.
Overall the trip was well worth it. Sydney is surprisingly unfriendly to tourists, with terrible drivers and a public transport system that you can't get on to. There are also lots and lots of speed cameras. I don't think I got caught, but I wont know until we receive (or don't receive) a fine. They're all fixed in place, though, so Sydney drivers will speed everywhere except where they know the cameras to be.
There were a lot of other cameras around, too. Security cameras were on most intersections and public places. I suppose people don't notice them or they've just been added gradually. I wasn't really bothered because I knew we weren't staying but I wouldn't be happy about them if I lived there I wouldn't be too happy about being constantly watched by some unknown mook in a dark room somewhere.
Favourite parts included the food at the Happy Chef, the Chinese gardens and the steam engines at the Powerhouse Museum. I also had a lot of fun exploring the shops in Chinatown. Sydney's Chinatown is much more interesting than Melbourne's. Maybe one year in the distant future we'll head up to Sydney for CNY.