March 05, 2005

Downtown again...

On Thursday (03.03.05), I was scheduled to meet up with Fred MacLeod, a man whom Dad met while on a plane out of Halifax. Fred is from Sydney, NS, but for the past 25 years has lived here in Sydney, NSW. I took the RiverCat ferry in to Circular Quay and arrived at 11am, but I could not meet with Fred until 12:30, so I had a bit of a wander around CBD. As with most large cities, there are the tall skyscrapers...

Tall Tower Posted by Hello

Another tall tower Posted by Hello

...but I was more amazed with the contrast you see downtown, between the new and the old.

Contrast Posted by Hello

This particular building is the Queen Victoria Building, built in 1898 to replace the Sydney Market which previously occupied the area. It's a very posh mall with lots of very high end stores. This is Her Majesty herself sitting in front of it...

Queen Victoria Building Posted by Hello

Just across the street is Town Hall...

Town Hall Posted by Hello

There's one particular alleyway where it seems most of the people who work in downtown, but ride rather than drive in, park their bikes. For the bike lovers that read this, here's one I liked.

Ducati Monster Posted by Hello

Around 12, I walked past a "Boost" juice bar and decided to get one, as I'd had one previously in Manly and loved it. All my life, I've not been much of a fan of fruit. Nearly all fruits I love the taste of, but despise everything else about them, such as the texture, the seeds, et cetera et cetera. What they do here is make cold blends though, with fresh fruit, so I get all the taste, all the healthy stuff, but none of the stuff I don't like! My particular favorite (actually it's the only one I've tried so far ;)) is the Skinny Dip, which is a combination of "100% pure apple juice," strawberries, raspberries, bananas, and "TD2 low-fat frozen yogurt." They're very refreshing, especially on a hot day, are touted as being healthy, and are very tasty as well. Unfortunately, they're somewhat expensive, at $5.60. I really should start watching them make them - I already know the ingredients, but I imagine incorrect quantites of any ingredient could make it very, very wrong... At 12:25, I entered the building Fred works in. He works on the 21st floor, however, it would be the 23rd floor back home, as what we call the 2nd floor is the 1st floor here, and also, they have a 13th floor. In fact, I entered the elevator, looked at the button panel, and had a period of head scratching as I noted the elevator only went up to floor 13. I figured it best to head up to there anyways, and hopefully there would be a new set of elevators that proceed further, or else I've got a good stair climb in front of me... When I got off, I noticed a new set of lifts which went from 13 to the top, so up I went. Fred decided to show me the view from his office, which was incredible.

Sydney Harbour Posted by Hello

Following him out of the office, we went to the set of elevators I'd just departed from, but this time I noted that he did not press the button for 13, but the one marked "G" instead. If only I'd looked around the corner on the ground floor in the first place.... We went to the restaurant in the underground level of his office building, which was very nice indeed. As an entrée I had Tuna Carpaccio, which was small, thin slices of raw tuna underneath some grated cucumber and red apple, and dressed with grape seed oil. I'm not much of a seafood person at all, and wasn't entirely thrilled about the prospect of eating raw fish, but I was pleasantly surprised. I certainly won't make it part of my own menu, but it was pretty good. I had conjured up images of a thick slab of bloody, raw fish full of the millions of bones fish seem to have, but they were very thin slices. The texture reminded me of those thin, rectangular "Fruit On The Go" snacks. After the entrée, I decided upon one of their daily specials for the main course - kangaroo. I was a little hesitant about this as well, but I figured I've got to try it sometime, and I might as well make it in the first portion of my Australian adventure, just in case I like it and want more. I want more. It was excellent. It's an extremely lean meat, so there was not even the tiniest sliver of fat to be found. It looks and has the texture of steak, but has a touch of spice to it - tasted to me like a mix of steak and sausage. Don't worry like I did about the kangaroos - they're actually pests down here, and as plentiful as the deer in Canada. Anyways, the meat was on a bed of rice, asparagus, and mushrooms soaked in what seemed to be molasses, strangely enough. It was good. Those who know my tastes in food know that I despise mushrooms, but I managed. With the small mushrooms, I would scoop one up with a whole rest-of-the-fork-full of rice and barely notice it, but there were some very large, intimidating mushrooms as well. These were monsters - stalks perhaps two inches long and heads of the same diameter. I bit the bullet and threw one in my mouth, but after fighting about 3 consecutive gag reflexes before swallowing, I decided I best push the others aside. Finally, for dessert, I had another daily special, espresso crème brûlée, which was incredibly good. Just to make it that much more special, I washed it all down with a long black espresso. MM caffiene... By this point, we'd been in the restaurant for two hours, and Fred had a scheduled conference call he had to go to, so we parted ways. I called Glenn and he came up from Rockdale. We wandered around a bit more, this time entering the Queen Victoria building. We went up to the top floor, from where you can, surprise surprise, look down and see the bottom floor. Oh, and they've got these shiny things, called the crown jewels or something insignificant like that. ;)

Big clock Posted by Hello

Inside the Queen Victoria Building Posted by Hello

Me with the Crown Jewels Posted by Hello

Look out below! Posted by Hello

Finally, because I just can't seem to make a post without a car, here's a crazy modified Toyota Hiace. Don't ask.

Crazy modified Toyota Hiace Posted by Hello

March 02, 2005

More Cars! (and toilets...)

There's a lot of differences between here and Canada. Some are instantly noticable (like people driving on the left), and you get used to them very quickly. However, it's the little differences that really take ages to catch on to, and until you do, they can drive you insane.

Driving on the left is a huge, noticeable difference, but it makes for a few other small changes that take longer to get used to. For example, looking to the right first before crossing a road. I still don't have this one nailed. I've almost been smoked by several cars, since I naturally look left, don't see anyone, then prepare to start crossing, only to have a car fly by from the right on my side of the road. Also, you have to remember to walk to the left of people. I've pretty well caught on to this one now, but for the first while I was always nearly bumping into people, since they expect you to pass by them on the left...

There is one little difference, however, that is driving me absolutely bananas. The light switches here flick down, rather than up, to activate the light.


Every time there's a two-switch panel, with one light on that I want to turn off, I get it wrong EVERY time, and switch on the other light. Every time....

One difference that I absolutely love, however, is the toilets. I've come to the conclusion that the toilets here are completely uncloggable. First of all, the piping in the bottom of the loo is about 6 inches in diameter, rather than the measly 2 or so back home. Secondly, all toilets here have a near pressure-washer style flush action, seemingly powering several gallons a second through the bowl. Modern toilets have two different flush buttons on them, one for half-flush, and another for full-flush. Half-flush powers water down for an average of around 3 seconds, while Full-flush launches the full on bowl-typhoon for an average of 7 or 8 seconds. The toilet in my bathroom, however, is older and does not feature the half-flush function, and has a more potent than average full-flush. I've counted - it power-pressure-insano flushes for a full 11 seconds. Yeah, baby!

Just don't ask if the toilets here swirl in the opposite direction. I have no idea.

On Saturday (26.02.05), for lack of anything better to do, I walked into Parramatta to see what it was like, and also to check out yet more car dealers ;D The first dealer I came across was one that I had not found in CBD, Peugeot.

Peugeot 206 GTi180 Posted by Hello

Peugeot 607 Posted by Hello

Sharing a lot with the Peugeot dealer (and also the MGRover, Land Rover, Porsche, and Honda dealers) was the Parramatta Alfa Romeo dealer. The sales people here were also friendly but seemed less inclined to just chat, except for an old Italian guy who, from what I understood through his heavy accent, seemed to be talking about Toronto-based Italians sitting on bushels of figs. I politely wandered away from him at the first available opportunity...

Alfa Romeo GT Posted by Hello

Alfa Romeo GT Posted by Hello

Alfa Romeo GT Posted by Hello

The Hondas here are mostly the same as the ones in Canada, with a few exceptions. Since minivans are not huge sellers here, they tend to be smaller and more luxurious, rather than utilitarian. The Honda Odyssey here continued along the path set by the original, staying small-ish with four regular doors, rather than being big-ish with sliding doors and other touches of Americana-Minivania. I didn't, however, feel it worthy of a picture, until I looked inside it - beautiful interior!

Honda Odyssey Posted by Hello

Next up was the BMW dealer. Again, most of their cars are the same here as in Canada, but here they offer the new, small 1-series, the only available rear-wheel-drive small hatchback. Too bad it's underpowered even with the biggest engine...

BMW 120i Posted by Hello

Also, they still have a Compact version of the 3 series, which was only offered in Canada on the previous model. Oh well, it's not very good looking anyways, has a miniscule engine, and is overpriced for what you get.

BMW 318 Compact Posted by Hello

They did, though, have some exemplary BMWs in stock, including the new 6 series and several 7 series.

After BMW was Subaru, but there was nothing new, aside from a new shade of blue, so I proceeded through, the Volkswagen dealer to.

Volkswagen Golf R32 Posted by Hello

Volkswagen Golf Posted by Hello

HSV Monaro GTO Posted by Hello

I was quite shocked at the massive size of the Mercedes-Benz dealer - presumably they are doing quite well for themselves.

Mercedes-Benz dealer Posted by Hello

Parramatta Kia, however, is apparently not.

Kia dealer Posted by Hello

Before reaching the Mercedes dealer, however, I still had a few to go through on my current side of the street. Toyota? Nothing interesting. Mitsubishi? Nothing interesting. Daihatsu? Nothing interesting. Citroën? Nothi...hold on a second...what in God's green earth is that?!?

Citroën C3 Pluriel Posted by Hello

Citroën C3 Pluriel Posted by Hello

The Citroën C3 Pluriel. The fabric roof can slide back to the rear window as a full length sunroof, or you can remove it and the rear window altogether, lower all the windows, and have a very strange, open car. I like it. I'd never be caught dead driving one, mind you, but I like it.

Also on hand was this limited edition C3 XTR, apparently designed to look like an off-roader. Too bad it isn't.

Citroën C3 XTR Posted by Hello

The facelifted C5...

Citroën C5 Posted by Hello

...and the awesome little C2 VTR.

Citroën C2 VTR Posted by Hello

OK, time to cross the street. Remember to look right first...

Inside the Mercedes dealer, I find what I expected - not much different from Canada. They do, however, have the new smart forfour, smart roadster, and Mercedes-Benz A-Klasse.

smart forfour Posted by Hello

smart roadster Posted by Hello

Mercedes-Benz A160 Posted by Hello

Also, though all the other models are the same, they are often offered here with smaller engine options than in Canada, as exemplified by this E240 wagon, which presumably can barely make it up a hill.

Mercedes-Benz E240 Estate Posted by Hello

Coming across the Nissan dealer, I was able to fulfil my first and so far only picture request, by Adrian, of an S15 model Silvia.

Nissan 200SX Posted by Hello

Nissan 200SX Posted by Hello

Next, after completely skipping past the Ssangyong dealer, I stumbled across Renault. The sales guys in there were extremely friendly, and I ended up chatting with them for over an hour. Renault sales still aren't extremely high since their return to the Australian market in 2001 (I think), so it's not like they had much better to do.

Renault Megane Hatch Posted by Hello

Renault Clio Posted by Hello

Renault Megane Hatch Posted by Hello

Renault Megane Sedan and Cabrio Posted by Hello

Renault Laguna Hatch Posted by Hello

Renault Laguna Hatch Posted by Hello

Finally, I got to the last dealer, Suzuki, where I took pictures of the new Swift, specifically for Adrian (though he didn't request them).

Suzuki Swift Posted by Hello

Suzuki Swift Posted by Hello

One thing I observed while in downtown Parramatta is the contrast in money levels between here and Sydney CBD. While most people in downtown Parramatta seem to be quite well off, the people in CBD seem to be downright rich. New Ferraris, Porsches, etc, are the norm in CBD, but in Parramatta, you tend to see modified older cars instead.

Nissan Skyline, Toyota Supra Posted by Hello