Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Darling Harbour

18 June 2013

Today we headed to Darling Harbour - that's really the name, Darling Harbour.  This is an inlet on the larger Sydney Harbour, sort of west of the main part of Sydney and Harbour Bridge.

We walked to the Central train station, took the train to Circular Quay, and there boarded the ferry for Darling Harbour - all on the same ticket, which is just wonderful, the public transportation system here is great.

Our ferry (this is the New South Wales transportation system logo, the lotus blossom) went under the Harbour Bridge, giving great views of the crazed tourists climbing the bridge - as well as a dizzying and disorienting trip under the bridge and out the other side. 

We first stopped at Luna Park - cousin to the Luna Park in Melbourne, which I believe is older.  The moon face entrance in Melbourne is more sinister and ominous - this moon face is decidedly friendlier, although it is, for some reason, flanked by twin Chrysler buildings.  No idea why. 

And of course there were interesting views of the bridge and the Opera House, totally different from the other side.

We ferried on and stopped at a few places, then finally arrived at Darling Harbour. 

And found that the trash cans are somewhat reminiscent of the Opera House!  I don't know if the trash can designer meant to do that, or if this is just a new cover to keep rain out - but it certainly looks in keeping with the design of the Opera House!

So - in the Darling Harbour neighbourhood, there are a variety of tourist activities.  The main one I was interested in was the Wildlife Sydney Zoo - we walked in to enquire about prices and such.  Right in their entry way was an enclosure with a four foot or so glass wall, all kinds of vegetation, a few trees in the center, and a peacefully sleeping koala snuggled up in the tree, just a big round ball of grey fur.   

I knew this was the place for me!

Turns out they have a Koala Breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays - it was a bit late in the day to spend the money to go in, and the koala brekkie sounded wonderful - imagine getting to the zoo about 7 AM and sitting eating brekkie while the koalas climb back into their trees and go back to sleep for the day!

The lady was very nice and told us that while she couldn't give us the senior concession price, we could go online and book the tickets and pay a bit that way. 

So that's our plan.

And of course, I had to pose with the giant koala photo outside!   Because it turns out there are laws in much of Australia prohibiting people from holding koalas - so that won't happen here.  (And they have the same law in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin - no koala holding.  But we've been told I can hold a koala at the zoo in Brisbane, Queensland.  I hope.)

Anyway, we wandered around Darling Harbour for a bit, and crossed from one side to the other, on a huge pedestrian bridge, so wide it hardly seems like a bridge at all but more like a boulevard.  Complete with watchtowers, and a monorail going by overhead.

We walked around the shopping center, but, well, we don't buy much of anything.  

More walking, a late lunch, and by mid afternoon we had the brilliant idea of going to the casino.  I know, it sounds as if we spend half our time playing slot machines across Australia - but we've found that pubs are great places for home cooking at good prices, and also are great places to meet people and just chat.

Plus the poker machines (pokies) are regulated here - and, by law, must pay out something like 80-85% of the intake.  That means that over the course of a day or a week, every (any?) pokie will pay out $80-$85 for every $100 people put into any given machine.  Pretty good odds.  Some machines are linked to various jackpots.  Almost every pub or bar has a house jackpot.  (I can't tell you how thrilling it is to have the picture go blue, come back with the video of the "machine," and suddenly there's $100 you didn't put into the machine!!!!  Wowza!)

Anyway, so with odds like that, we'll play $20 or so, and 90% of the time make a profit.  Some days more, some days a little, every so often take a loss.  But, over time, we've found that we usually win, and can pay for a few splurges with the pokies.  (And no, we aren't like the people we see who pump $50 bills into a machine.  We have personal limits, we stick to them, we take out any appreciable amount rather than play it down - in other words, we have fun, make a little, and don't go crazy.)

And I have a few machines who just seem friendlier than others.  

So we went to the casino.  I explained to my machine that I was trying to get money to take Richard and myself to the Koala Breakfast.  First machine quadrupled my funds.  Next machine, no.  Third machine, no.  (We're talking $5 into the machine here - can you tell I'm a really conservative gambler?)  Fourth machine - I won a mini jackpot.  Then I won the free games (which pay extra).  Then I had several rows of racing and roaring tigers.  Voila, I had enough money to pay for one (MY) koala breakfast.

Back to our neighbourhood pub to see a bit of the football game (qualifying rounds for the World Cup, Australia was playing Iraq, the pub was packed - plus they raffle off trays of meat on Tuesday nights - don't ask, we didn't invest in a tray of questionable meat - and so the place was doubly packed).  Anyway, I visited my very friendly Lakota machine (with Indian chiefs and tomahawks and eagles, buffalo, and wolves, complete with wonderful graphics and animation).  I explained how much money I needed to take Richard to the Koala Brekkie.  (Yes, I talk to my machines.)  Of course, this is my very friendly favorite machine who did, indeed, pay me through free games and transforming animals and double lines of eagles - and I made enough for Richard to be my date.  I thanked the machine with a big hug (I always hug winning machines, it seems to make them pay me more), and we headed home.

Exciting times, huh?

So after the weekend I'll be able to report on our Koala Brekkie.   I'm guessing scrambled eggs with eucalyptus oil, crumpets or toast with koala pictures stamped on, maybe pancakes to look like koalas - I'll take photos!   

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