AUS/NZ Trip Diary: Day 9

March 14

Day 9: Sydney


Melbourne has been so much fun, I feel we could easily spend another week there exploring entirely new things. So it’s with a little bit of sadness that we head out that morning for the airport.

We’re prepared to take the tram to the airport express bus until, upon reaching our tram stop we realize that we left the transit cards in the Airbnb. Leaving them was as planned, since our host had lent us the cards for our use while staying there. But we forgot that detail when plotting our route. Oops.

I call us a cab, which actually ends up being cheaper (and faster) than two transit modes x 2, so no big deal. We have a passable airport breakfast with plenty of time to kill given our unplanned early arrival.

At this point, I’ve resorted to checking my one big backpack for each flight, as my shoulder bag is now almost completely full with records. And it weighs just over 8kg, which is technically in violation of the Qantas Airlines 7kg max per bag rule. But my shoulder bag doesn’t look that big, so no one checks. Weigh limits for carry-on luggage are another thing I need to watch out for in this part of the world.

We are accidental hobbits once more as Qantas serves us a (second) breakfast: a fancy-by-U.S.-standards leek/cauliflower/cheese quiche. An airline providing real food on a one-hour flight? Unheard of!

Arriving in the Sydney airport via a domestic flight is much more laid back than when we came from the U.S., plus we now have a better feel for the airport and transit options. So we’re able to get on the train towards the city pretty easily.

We do need to change at Central station this time, as we’re staying in a different part of the city: Newtown. Newtown and the adjacent Enmore areas were recommended to us by Kit (he lives in the area) as places that would have the kinds of things we’re interested in doing and seeing. And when we exit at Newtown station and begin to walk down the street, we see this is a mellower, lower-rise commercial strip, with bars, restaurants, op shops and various boutiques.

Our Newtown Airbnb is a short walk from the station, and we manage to pass the very cool-looking record store at the corner without going in, as we’re still toting our heavy bags.

Our room is one of four in a building on a residential street. It’s a professional operation similar to our Melbourne Airbnb — printed laminated signs and instruction sheet, remote entry via code to get a key — but without the personal touch. In fact, it’s a hostel-type setup with two shared bathrooms, and we never do meet our “host.” But our room is clean and pretty cozy and the location is aces (and the price was low), so we roll with it.


Bags dropped, we text Kit to let him know our whereabouts, as our expert guide has some plans in store for us. But first we plan on getting some food. Mike is pretty hungry and I could use a small bite, so we wander up and down King Street looking for a decent option. Foursquare/Google isn’t being much help for some reason, or maybe we’re just too hot and tired to put the needed effort in. Then Mike spots the sign for six dollar felafels in front of one of the many Turkish restaurants on the strip: bingo.

Alas, Mike reports this is an under-seasoned felafel, with no tahini even. And my tabbouleh is mostly parsley. Oh well. First truly bum meal of the trip, but at least it was cheap.

I need my afternoon coffee, both to wash the taste of parsley out of my mouth and also… caffeine. Online reviews point to Cuckoo Callay back by the train station as a top option, so off we go. And for the first time I order my coffee iced, because… great big flamey orb in sky! Much hotness. So thirst. My iced coffee comes in a regular hot coffee takeaway cup. Such delicious. Much chug.

Getting out of the sun and into the dark and hopefully cool confines of a record store is our next priority, and we both want to check out the particular one around the corner from our Airbnb. I text Kit our location as we head on in.

Again we make our way directly to the local (Australian/New Zealand) vinyl sections, with a small detour for the cassette section by the door. I’m happy to see a few newer Australian releases that I hadn’t spotted in Melbourne and pull those out: two 7″es by Community Radio and one by Day Ravies. In the LP section I also finally see a decently-priced, used copy of the most recent Day Ravies album, so I grab that, too.

Record shopping strategy tangent: In Melbourne I’d resisted buying brand-new copies of bigger releases (LPs on larger indie labels, generally), reasoning I’d see them again and would get a sense of the best price. I’d also avoid adding weight to my luggage until the latest possible moment. And our last stop before home was scheduled to be Auckland, home to the well-stocked Flying Nun store.

I turn around and… there’s Kit! We wrap up our shopping and head out to be led to further destinations as-yet-unknown.

Kit had promised to show us the talents of various local breweries, so our first stop is a place in Surry Hills with a wide selection of local brews, all written on a chalkboard above the bar.

Beers on tap at our first bar
Beers on tap at our first bar

We make selections for each of our beer flights, done here and in other local bars as “tasting paddles”: small glasses slotted into a wooden paddle with holes in it such that when you lift the paddle, the glasses sit snugly in the holes for easy transport to your table. I pick a sour (#17) a Hefeweizen (#14) and a very strong and darkly-sweet black IPA (#15).

Paddle of local beers
Paddle of local beers

Drinking our beers, we learn more about Australian politics from Kit. (It’s been fairly easy to avoid American political news over here, something for which we’re currently quite grateful.) And I notice that I am sitting directly under an enormous taxidermied bison head. There is an elk head above us by the door. Were it not for the surfing competition on the bar TV and the hot sun outside, all these dead animal heads would make me feel like we’re back in a Seattle bar.

We still have time to kill before the comedy show we’ll be headed to, the same regular Monday night event we’d attended the previous week the day we arrived. And we still have more local brews to sample. Onward to the Albert!

On one wall in the bar area there are drink coasters with portraits sketched on them. Great idea — we grab fresh coasters and sharpies along with our beers. Mike and I split a peach sour beer (gotta pace ourselves!) and Kit tries another sour.

We decide to sketch cat portraits, and I pull up a reference picture of my orange tabby Habanero. Mike chooses to draw my other cat, Jalapeño, and also pulls up a picture.

Mike draws
Mike draws

My drawing skills are, uh, rudimentary at best, so I create what Mike charitably calls a “cubist cat”:

My cubist cat, Habanero
My cubist cat, Habanero

And here are all three efforts, including Kit’s freestyle cutie and Mike’s amazing portrait, Jalapeño fang sticking out and all:

Cat coaster drawings (clockwise from top): Kit, Mike, me
Cat coaster drawings (clockwise from top): Kit, Mike, me


Properly refreshed and ready for comedy, we make out way to the club and our reserved table by the front. It’s a picnic-style table, so we choose the seats on the far side, hoping as before to avoid the attention of the comedians onstage.

As it turns out, friends of Kit’s also from Seattle happen to be in town, and up for comedy. Mike and Janelle, and their Seattle friend Suzy, join our table and we laugh nervously about how what a great comedy target our table now is: a group of Americans, and all from the same city, at that.

We get a jug (pitcher) of a cucumber-minty gin cocktails and super-thin crust pizzas that actually exceed my (admittedly low) expectations for Australian pizza.

On with the show! Our host for the night is a pretty hilarious and kind of bawdy, riffing on escapades from her dating life. One table of coworkers gets the spotlight for awhile, as one of their members unwisely volunteers to be the subject of a “tell us about yourself” riff. Everyone else at their table looks very uncomfortable and the host takes the opportunity to get even raunchier, directing a few gags at them.

At one point, though, Mike and I do become the target (oh no!) as she looks for an opening for a bit:

Host: “Do we have any couples in the house?” [pointing at us] “What about you? How long have you been together?”

Me: [wanting to hide] …

Mike: “Just over a year.”

Host: “Ah, been together awhile then, okay…” [attention begins to drift to others in the room]

I guess she figured we weren’t a new enough couple to easily embarrass. Ha! Bullet dodged.

She introduces the first of maybe 8 comedians, again in three different groups, or brackets, each bracket with a break in between. Of the featured comedians, we like best this kind of dry-humored, slightly angry guy who does some bits about his working on a construction site and getting shafted by his bosses (and getting even). Not everyone is hilarious, but it’s all entertaining, and a fun way to spend a Monday night and share Australia experiences with fellow Seattleites.

Kit guides us back to the station where we get on a train headed back to Newtown. Tomorrow he’ll lead us around the city once more to explore things other than beer. (Okay, and also more beer.)