Our first full day in Sydney and the weather was a bit gloomy. Just as well since we needed a bit of a morning off after the packed week in NZ. I found an Air BnB that looks remarkably like our place back in Denver, and is in a central neighborhood with plenty of restaurants and bars (Surrey Hill, for those of you that know it).
Before leaving for the morning, I’d handed over the Sydney guide and map we picked up at the airport to the kids and told them that they were responsible for planning the day and navigating. They took to this with aplomb and began studying both. They came up with several alternative itineraries for the day, and the one they settled on was having dumplings at Din Tai Fung, then walking through Chinatown, then the Chinese Friendship Garden, then the playground at Darling Harbor. Perfect.
The girl said her stomach didn’t feel good and she was homesick and not eating enough. We tried to console her to little avail, and she somewhat glumly trudged after us when we left for lunch. The boy did a fantastic job getting us to the train station and then navigating us the shopping mall where the lunch restaurant was. We walked up stairs that twinkled in multicolored patterns and under a swirling metal Chinese Dragon.
DTF is a Taiwanese dumpling and steamed bun chain and it was super yummy! We had the vegetarian gyoza, steamed buns and spinach with garlic. They had a little dish with sliced ginger in it and you put soy sauce and vinegar into it to make your own dipping sauce. The little detail I loved was that they gave you a bag for your belongings, somewhat like an upright laundry bag that they then covered with a cloth. So civilized! The girl, who doesn’t care for dumplings, instead chose the vegetarian fried rice which was tasty as well.
As Eric has mentioned in his post, we stopped at a random shop in Chinatown which had notebooks and other paper products printed with English sayings, something of which was clearly lost in translation.
After this we went to the Chinese Garden of Friendship and it really was lovely, though the girl’s mood continued to decline. The Garden was designed by Sydney’s sister city, Guangzhou and opened in 1988. It is a traditional walled garden in the style of the Ming dynasty, and the kids were given activity books to search for little figurines of the Chinese zodiac through the garden. There were large crowds of Australian White Ibis throughout the park, aggressive little critters they are.
We made it to the fantastic harbor playground after that and all of the girls aches and pains and sadness seemed to vanish as she ran, climbed, swung and slid in what the boy kept calling “the greatest playground ever!” and which he describes in his post. We walked across the small bridge to the train station and boarded the light rail to head home.
Once on board, the girl said her stomach didn’t feel good again and she thought she might throw up. Given that she’d been complaining of this all day and had just spent the better part of an hour frolicking freely without complaint, we patted her back and gave a few “there there’s” and said we’d be home soon, completely ignoring her.
At which point she proceeded to vomit large volumes of fried rice all over the crowded light rail compartment.
Sydney residents must have excellent reflexes, because they all jumped very quickly and no other passengers were hurt in the incident. I went into a state of shock and helplessly held out my hand under her mouth as if it would do anything other than make sure that I was covered in vomit as well. A kind lady offered us a tissue, which was nice but again, about as useful as a postage stamp at that point.
Eric thankfully maintained some sense and insisted we get off the bus, NOW. We got off and stood there, dazed for a moment, until another kind person pointed us across the street to a warehouse and told us there was a bathroom in there. We made our way across and found ourselves in the midst of a massive flea market of sorts and got to the bathroom as quickly as we could. Once inside, I was able to clean the girl up as best as possible and we balled up her dirty over shirt and went back into the market.
We all stood there for a minute, wondering what to do next exactly whilst surrounded by piles of plastic gizmos, Disney themed clothing and fake swords. I pulled out my phone to see if we could just call a cab home, but the wifi wasn’t working and I hadn’t loaded in a new SIM card yet. We started to look around for a new sweatshirt for the girl so she wouldn’t be freezing cold but they were all hideously ugly. I realized I could just give her my long sleeve shirt and we could make it home.
At this point, the girl was feeling back to her old self and began chattering away nonstop, especially as we were in a flea market with about a million things she now wanted to purchase. “Let’s get those swords for our friends back home! I bet they have snow globes here! I like that shirt! Oh there’s stickers over there! That playground was great can we go again?” As Eric and I stared at each other over her head in disbelief while trying to ignore the acrid aroma of vomit that surrounded us. At that point, we realized the only way back was to get on another light rail, and we went back to the station to wait.
Sydney has a system of cards which you tap at little pads at each site to get on or off the transit. We had tapped on when we first got on but didn’t tap off when we escaped after the girl marked her territory. At that point we weren’t sure whether to tap on again or tap off and then tap on. Thus began a comic and somewhat frantic tapping of cards only to yield multiple error messages over and over. I’d tap one and it would say “not accepted,” then I’d tap another one and it wouldn’t accept, then I’d tap another and it went through, then another one would say it had already been tapped on, and all the while the 4 of us are standing around this pole like total idiots staring at the tap pad and the Australians are staring at us. Eventually, I gave up and left it to fate and the transit police.
We got off at our station and tried to tap all the cards again, with another set of error messages that basically read, “Stop it you dumb tourist, you’re just blocking the actual Sydney residents from getting home.”
A few blocks later, we were back at our flat, the girl was in a hot bath, and Eric and I both had drinks in our hands. I felt like a terrible parent for ignoring the poor girl’s complaints all day and blowing them off as homesickness, and apologized to her to which she replied, “Oh, that’s okay mommy. I feel better now! Can we go eat some sushi?” Lesson learned : when your kid says their stomach doesn’t feel good, stop putting food in it. You might think I would have figured this out before now, but sometimes it takes true pyrotechnics for an education to sink in.