A Dark Place

So, am I sailing the ocean blue, heading for adventures in New Zealand?

No, I am not. I am sitting in my apartment in Perth wallowing in a nasty combination of embarrassment, humiliation, disappointment, anger and worry about how much money I’ve wasted.

Turns out I hate cruising. After two days on board the boat I felt so wretched that my only option was to jump ship at Melbourne and fly home. So I’m not going to New Zealand, I’m not seeing all the cool stuff I was looking forwards too, and I’m pretty pissed off at the world and myself for not realising that life on a cruise ship would be hellish for an Aspie like myself.

So, I need to cancel all my reservations in New Zealand, alert my bank that I’m back in Perth so they won’t block my card and get in touch with my travel insurance to see if there’s any way I can get any of my money back. I’m not hopeful on that last one, but I’ll try.

I’ve also got to try and reconcile myself to another magnificent failure at living. If American sit-coms are anything to judge by, this is the kind of thing best treated by consuming vast amounts of alcohol and going to a strip club, but that’s not going to happen, so I’ll need to figure something else out. Give me a week or so and I should be coming out of this horrible funk. I hope.

Man I suck.

Checking Out

Had a lot of fun in Sydney, but today I’m checking out of the Rydges and boarding my cruise ship. This means that I’m going to have even less online presence than I have for the last few days, as I’m not willing to pay insane Satellite Internet prices out on the open sea.

Before I go, a quick summary…

Sunday – Great tour of the Middle Head fortifications, including lots of underground tunnels. Met up with Paula and her friend Saskia, gourmet pizza at the Australian Hotel, tour of the Old Observatory in the middle of a massive thunderstorm.

Monday – Hire car out to Katoomba and the Jenolan Caves. Three Sisters much more impressive than I’d expected. Caves amazing, although we only had time to tour one. Our guide (Analiese I think?) was awesome and took us to look for platypuses afterwards (we saw plenty of water dragons but it was too windy for the platypuses). Drove back to Sydney and had expensive (but very tasty) fish and chips at Doyles.

Tuesday – Fascinating tour of the Opera House, then Cadman’s Cottage and the Harbour Bridge Pylon museum. Afternoon tea in the park at Wynyard Station, then the Queen Victoria Building. Finally a fantastic Ghost Tour through the Rocks with ‘Ghost Guide Gary’.

Today – Plan is to do the Centrepoint Tower, the Chinese Gardens and the Harry Potter Exhibition at the Powerhouse. Then I board my ship.

See you all in two weeks!

Sydney Day One Roundup

Sydney Town Hall – Mildly impressive
Queen Victoria Building – Like an upscale Diagon Alley
Town Hall Railway Station – A descent into the bowels of Hell
Circular Quay Station – Best view from a railway station in the world
Circular Quay – Crowded but cheerful
The Rocks – Enjoyably quaint
Sydney Harbour Bridge – Mind bogglingly massive
The Old Battery – Of considerable archaeological interest
The Old Observatory – Fantastic views

Just about to head off for a tour of the old Middle Head Battery. Should be interesting!

Live! From Sydney!

Live in Sydney!

I have safely arrived in Sydney and am happily ensconced in my quite swanky hotel. I’ll be heading out shortly for a ghost tour in the rocks, and also to find some lunch, as the only things I’ve eaten all day were two ham sandwiches at 3:30am and a small bag of those grain chip things. On the upside I watched three episodes of Warehouse 13 on the plane – which just made the time fly.

Gaint and Wired

Blagh.

Been feeling totally dull, blah and pointless of late. In an attempt to do something approaching worthwhile I spent much of yesterday uploading the photos from my 2009 trip to the UK for Ali and Mat’s wedding to my Flickr account – which I’ve been meaning to do since the day I got back over two years ago.

The vast majority have no titles, descriptions or geotags – but I’ll work on it over the next few weeks. There’s also one day’s worth of wandering around Leicester left to go up, including my exciting and action packed investigation of the Medieval Packhorse Bridge!*

(*Not guaranteed to be exciting or action packed)

Those should go up this afternoon. In any case if you have an abiding interest in amateur photographs of unidentified English buildings, fields and street signs, please consider my photostream!

Back to work…

Dolphins? Pah!

Dolphins are seriously overrated.

Just what is the big deal with dolphins?

Everywhere I turn, everyone seems to love dolphins. See the dolphins! tourism ads proclaim. Meet the dolphins! Swim with the dolphins! Swim with the WILD dolphins! Everyone seems to go completely gaga over the damn things.

Well, here’s the thing. Dolphins are seriously overrated.

I’ve met the dolphins. I’ve met the wild dolphins. And they completely failed to impress me in any way.

For many years Australia’s premiere site for communing with wild dolphins was Monkey Mia right here in WA. There are plenty of other places to see dolphins these days, but that was the first place where wild dolphins started coming into the beach and begging for food. It’s still a major tourist draw, despite being in the middle of nowhere, and we stopped off there to meet the dolphins on a family trip back when I was in high school.

And we did meet the dolphins. Or at least the dolphin, as only one turned up. In the midst of a big crowd of tourists we waded waist deep into the ocean and saw the dolphin. We saw the dolphin, we touched the dolphin, we listened to a lecture about the dolphin courtesy of the ranger minding the dolphin, a few randomly selected folk fed fish to the dolphin, the dolphin bit my brother, then got bored and swam away, and we waded out of the ocean.

That was it. No great revelation. No amazing sense of joy, wonder and communication with another intelligent being – just standing around in cold, salty water prodding at something that could have been a wetsuit full of custard for all the profundity it provided.

We returned to Monkey Mia a few years later with my Aunt who was out from the UK and wanted to meet the dolphins. We sat around on the beach until the dolphins arrived and everyone stampeded down to the water – everyone except me that was, as I was reading a rather good book and couldn’t see the point in putting it down to go and stand in the water, gawking at something rather dull that I’d had my fill of the last time.

Everyone was wildly concerned. Didn’t I want to see the dolphins they asked? Was I alright? Was I feeling ill? Was I – my Aunt asked quietly to spare me any embarrassment – scared of the dolphins? No, I explained. I was fine, I’d just seen the dolphins before and didn’t feel that I needed to see them again.

They all looked at me as if I was dangerously insane, but then the lure of the dolphins proved too much and they scurried down to the water, leaving me to my book, which was far more interesting than any cetacean could ever be.

Now, pinnidpeds – particularly the otariidae – I have time for. They’re smart, playful and entertaining, and you can interact with them without getting wet (well, too wet). They have personalities. But dolphins… dolphins are just dull, and fail to excite me.

Read into that what you will – if that is, you have any time for reading while there are dolphins around.

Waylaid by Art

Cartographical exploits

Spent far too much time over the weekend doing the first bit of art (for a certain value of ‘art’) I’ve done in ages. A hand drawn map of London.

The idea (you can’t just draw something, you need to have an idea behind it for it to be real ‘art’) was to replicate half pages from the A-Z (the London street directory par exellence) by hand and then paste them all together. As each panel would be drawn without referencing the others the end result would be a fragmented, patchwork view of the city – kind of an exquisite corpse map – with roads, rivers and rail-lines fractured or just coming to dead stops. Close up it’s a mess, but zoomed out it’s still recognisably London.

(I suppose I could come up with some art-wank about it representing the tourist’s view of the city as a collection of disconnected enclaves surrounding tube stations, but that’s just a little too pretentious, even for me :))

The end result can be viewed here. Well, sort of the end result as after I scanned it I added another panel to the lower left. But you get the basic idea.

I was inspired to create the map by Londonist’s hand drawn map exhibition.  I’ve submitted it – guess we’ll see if they like it.

Hotel

Venting my frustrations…

I have completely failed to make any blog entries while I’ve been here in the UK haven’t I? This is mainly because I’ve been having too much fun to spend time sitting in front of a computer typing away, but since this is my last day with regular internet access I suppose I’d better make some kind of effort, lest everyone thinks I’ve died. So I though I’d write a review of my hotel.

For reasons that will become obvious I’m not going to name the hotel. I’d also like to state that overall my experience there has been good. There are just a few things that got on my nerves…

So let’s begin.

The staff at the “Mystery Hotel” are well organised and friendly. Check in and out are quick and efficient – if on arrival however you are allocated to rooms 114 or 115 it’s best to ask for a map. These are placed far away from the rest of the first floor, requiring extensive navigation to locate. There are signs, but these peter out before you hit the first of several staircases. Be careful – one wrong turn and you could end up battling a snow-witch in a land where it’s always winter but never Christmas.

Your room will be clean with a wardrobe, a dresser, tea/coffee making facilties, a television, a phone and a safe. If you’re shelling out enough cash there may also be room to swing a cat – this is however London so a lack of space is only to be expected. You will have an onsuite bathroom, which is just the perfect size for you to brush your teeth without difficulty while sitting on the toilet. Hot water is both hot, wet and plentiful – in an unusual twist however cold water is in short supply, your tap producing just a half hearted trickle which refuses to alter in volume no matter how far you turn it.

Your toilet is a source of unending wonder – you will wonder for all eternity how it manages to produce noises akin to the base stop of a major pipe organ for several minutes after being flushed.

A continental breakfast buffet is provided in the basement restaurant. This is clean, well organised and packed to the gills with Spaniards by 8:00am, so get in early. The selection of food, drinks and condiments is perfectly adequate. The restaurant may be open for other meals – I’m honestly not sure. I did go down to check it out one evening but it was like the Mary Celeste down there, so I fled.

Eating options in the immediate area include the Pride of Paddington pub which does a very nice grilled chicken, three separate Italian restaurants in the space of about twenty metres of road, and a diner named Garfunkle’s just past Paddington station. I can recommend the gnocchi at Bizarro (perhaps that should be ‘me can recommends tasty potato dumpaling things’?) which comes with a free floor show from the serving staff who race around the place without break like their pants are on fire. Garfunkle’s is also very nice, but beware of the tendancy of the waitstaff to assume that any change they owe you is intended as a tip.

But back to the hotel. It offers a laundry service where you place your dirty clothes in the bag provided and leave them in your room. By the time you get back from your day’s activities the maid will have tidied your room, made your bed and neatly left the bag of still-dirty clothes on top of it. I found the best laundry option was to haul your clothes one block along the street towards Paddington Station to the Harlequin laundrette where a nice Muslim lady will have them washed, folded and ready to pick up by 5:00 that evening for about ten pounds.

Your hotel room includes a phone. This will not work. The procedure to get it working involves heading down to reception where they’ll explain that you need to pay a deposit of either 40 or 50 pounds (depending on who you’re talking to) before they’ll switch it on. It’s best to do this before you head out in the morning, as it gives them the full day to do absolutely nothing about it. On your return in the evening confirm that the phone is still not working. Head back down to reception and query this. They will express puzzlement and poke at a computer for a while before stating with confidence that they have no idea what’s going on. Ask them to look into it again, and with any luck your phone line will be sorted out by the time you return to the hotel the next day. Probably.

Transport connections are excellent with the hotel only two blocks from Paddington station. Busses charge up and down the street at all hours, and if you feel lucky you can try to catch one of the wildly bucking black cabs that hurtle around the Hilton in the nightly running of the taxis.

There is an internet terminal in the bar. You’re probably better off heading down the street to the Reload internet cafe. A weekly or monthly membership is fairly cheap and you not only get decent hardware and speeds, but you can enjoy the sound of the Underground trains as they whiz back and forth only a few metres through the wall from where you sit.

So, that pretty much sums up my hotel experience here in London. Tomorrow I’ll be heading to Southampton for a few days before flying home mid next week…

PS: The wedding was excellent! I’ve put some photos (note that “some” – I’ve got heaps more) up on my Flickr Stream

Chavs and Rude Boys

I think they’re kind of like bogans…

Well, this is it. I fly out tonight for the UK. As is usual for these kind of things I am in equal parts excited and terrified. And I haven’t even finished packing yet.

The terror in particular is compounded by my discovery yesterday that I totally screwed up my dates and am arriving in London a day earlier than I thought. On the upside this means I have an extra day to do stuff in. On the downside it means I have no accommodation booked for my first night. I imagine the hotel I’m staying at will be able to fit me in, but if not I may end up sleeping under a bridge, fighting off chavs and rude boys with a pocket knife.

So yeah. My plane leaves at 1:05am tonight. Wish me luck!