At first we grumbled about having eagerly booked a flight at 05:30 from Perth to Sydney; we had to get up at 04:30 in the dark. I woke up at 03:30 and, because I was so excited for our second full-blown weekend mini break since returning to Australia, I couldn’t sleep. For once I was awake earlier than the cat and she was grizzly when we poured biscuits for her hours before her usual breakfast time. We took only carry-on baggage and were at the airport, through security and boarded without fuss.
I’ve not seen my Dad for almost three years. I haven’t noticed the time, because of Facebook. If there is a gene for Instagram addiction I know which parent I inherited it from. We were due at noon and Dad had offered to pick us up. We landed at 11:17, so I texted Dad from the tarmac, expecting he’d be about to leave Parramatta. He was already in the terminal, downstairs at the baggage carousel. As we descended the escalator Dad rushed to hug me and Aunty Ella started a 48-hour paparazzi fiesta. They both wanted to make up for almost three years of not being able to take a photo. For once I had competition for uploading photos to Instagram.
Dan stayed in the airport, waiting for Liesl (the President of the Romance Writers of Australia – Dan is the VP and they had a meeting with a publisher) and I left with Dad and Aunty Ella for lunch.
Dad drove us to the Radisson in Chinatown and parked in a 5 minute bay in front of the hotel. For an hour. I’m not sure if it’s a Chinese cultural thing or if it’s peculiar to my Dad and step-mother, but their idea of a good time is to hang out in a hotel lobby, better still order coffee and sandwiches (or cake) and bask in the reflected luxury of the reception area. Staying at the hotel is irrelevant. I spent many hours as a teenager on my annual visit to Sydney in various hotel lobbies around the city. Sometimes we’d eat at a buffet and I’d be scolded for eating the bread (it was delicious). We ate club sandwiches with Dad sauntering to the window every 10 minutes to check his extended 5 minutes of parking hadn’t attracted a parking ticket.
English is a second language for my Dad and my step-mother. Neither is embarrassed (and they shouldn’t be) to acknowledge an occasional slip-up in pronunciation. I frequently have no idea what they are trying to say, due to a partially translated Chinglish mashup of a word and have to break it down to individual syllables in explaining how to pronounce the word, once I’ve finally figured out what they meant. What is entertaining, for me, my Dad, my step-mother and anybody in a 5 km radius is when they practice at the loudest possible volume of almost shouting.
Mediterranean. Dad can pronounce the first two syllables then truncates the remainder into something I can’t reproduce. I explained to focus emphasis on rain, using hand actions of course. Thankfully the hotel lobby cafe was empty because Aunty Ella, picking things up a little faster than Dad does, started shouting RAIN-E-AN! at Dad, which I was emphasising hand actions of rain and Dad kept shouting MediTRAIN! I don’t know what we had been talking about.
Other neologisms are Inta-gram and Sydney’s bon-tannic garden. My Cantonese is non-existent so I have no idea what exciting mis-translations I’d be saying if the situation were reversed. Mediterranean took on a new meeting for the weekend: an impossibility.
My Dad and Daniel’s Dad are both over 60-years-old and both relish in the glory of their Seniors Card discounts for public transport. Dad showed us his Gold Opal Card, the new RFID public transport card in Sydney. “I can go to the BLUE MOUNTAINS for $2.50!” he explained. I’m not sure if that’s a trip you’d want to be doing frequently but they’re considering moving there next year (probably because they could catch a train back to downtown Sydney for only $2.50.
Dad drove me, with Aunty Ella in the back seat occasionally shouting, “MediterRAINian!”, up to Circular Quay to pick up our friend’s house keys from her sister’s office. Dad asked if I wanted to drive. “I don’t drive much any more [becuase of the Gold Opal Card with only $2.50 a day all the way to the Blue Mountains if you want].” The office was a law firm and I had to catch the lift to the 40th floor and ask at reception for Anna’s sister’s secretary. I felt like I was in a episode of Suits. The secretary was stoked when this information got back to her, as that made her the character, Donna.
Dinner Angel Place
Dan met up with Cam in the city and caught the bus out to Bondi Junction. We walked from Anna’s down Oxford St to the train station where I bought my own Opal Card (unfortunately not a gold one, with the $2.50 ticket) and we sat upstairs in the seats that you can move to face the other way. We got off at Martin Place and wandered West to Angel Place. I’d called ahead to China Lane, having remembered a serendipitous delicious meal there one night after a RANZCR ASM function. The waiter, Stefano, was Italian and very charming. He managed to get us to order twice as much as we normally would have. I’d forgot that Sydney has a partial tipping culture (vs. none at all in WA; we have a minimum wage and penalty rates for a reason) and forgot to tip. We left a small pile of notes when we left. We walked up to Circular Quay, to see the Bridge and House lit up, before catching the train down to Museum and wander Oxford St. We didn’t stay out late, just a few drinks at a bar and a cafe on Oxford St (Stonewall and Coco something). Dan and I caught the bus back to Bondi Junction and Cam wandered back to his hotel.
I’d planned to catch up with as many family and friends as possible on Saturday at Yum Cha in Market City. My step-sister, Michelle, and her boyfriend cancelled at the last minute but everybody else showed up. We had a lot of food. Dan chatted a lot to his uni friend, Neha, having not caught up enough last week. My hopes of getting cuddles from my nephew were dashed when he spent almost all of lunch face-planted into my sister’s bosoms (I’m not sure when she got them; last time I saw her run around shirtless in the backyard sprinkler in summer we were kids and they were walnut-sized). Cam joined us, as did Julian and his boyfriend, Andre. We left full.
Cam, Dan and I wandered around Paddy’s Markets before meeting up with a Canadian expat friend of Cam’s who now lives in Melbourne, Andrew (everybody new we meet seems to be called Andrew). Although Dan and I had planned definitely not walk around again (we hadn’t bought walking shoes and my boots were blistering my little toes) we ended up spending the afternoon walking around. It was busy and the bars in Circular Quay and the Opera House were full. The Festival of Dangerous Ideas was on at The House and outside was crawling with tourists. We made our way around to the rocks and eventually found a coffee table with incredibly comfy couches and jugs of Pimms at The Argyle. We stayed a while and ate a seafood platter (pricey but good food) before I started to fall asleep and we split up to go home for naps and showers.
Our luck at getting last-minute tables at good quality restaurants did not run out. We rocked up at a Thai restaurant on Oxford St without a booking and Dan got the last available table, upstairs. The place was full. The food was delicious. It was BYO but there was a bottle shop next door.
We had a drink at the Colombian before I dragged everybody to Palms on Oxford. I don’t care it’s a below-grind dive with interesting people. The music is fun (80s and 90s) and we all ended up dancing. We left by midnight, when the place started to get busy, caught the bus home and crawled into bed.
Sunday we walked around Barangaroo before having lunch and then heading to the airport. To wait for hours for our flight to get delayed, delayed, and then aircraft changed to a smaller plane. Finally got home, safe and sound.