Sybil’s Leaves: Sydney, NSW, Australia (Part Seven)

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Day 8 – Sunday, December 16, 2007 – Churches, More Animals and OLD Acquaintances
Location: Sydney, Taronga and Newtown, NSW

Eating my Chinese bakery provided almond twist on the bus, we headed out for an 11am service at St. James Anglican Church off Hyde Park. It was the 3rd Sunday of Advent (the Sunday of Joy) and the first hymn sung was an old favourite that i got much pleasure out of singing along with: Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel!

St. James is the oldest church in Sydney. The walls are covered with commemorative plaques for first reverends and governors and there is a lovely copper dome at the very back. Ilya was a little surprised that we were the youngest people in attendance (and he’d never been to a Protestant service before). I had forgotten that the Anglican liturgy is substantially longer than that which i am used to, so we actually skipped out while people were lining up to receive the eucharist. However, it was a very nice feeling to be in a church on Sunday. I don’t believe anymore, so i won’t go on a regular basis, but it is very pleasant to visit a church for its architecture when it is in actual use. Furthermore, as i have said many times, i have the utmost respect for people who are able to maintain their faith despite rational questioning of its premises – i just can’t do it myself.

After the zoo, we took a ferry to Taronga Zoo to see koalas, platypus, wallabees, birds of all kinds, sun bears, fishing cats and much more. The Taronga Zoo is awesome. It’s a rather small enclave zoo, but it is affiliated with the much larger NSW Zoo which runs many breeding programs. My obsession with the birds of this country continues and… I SAW A BLACK SWAN AND BLACK SWAN CYGNETS! Black swans are GORGEOUS. We also saw parrots, cockatoos, these little tiny Java Finches. Le sigh.

After the zoo we came home for a gourmet dinner of chicken burgers accompanied with perhaps the best white wine i have ever consumed – Geoff Weaver Lenswood Adelaide Hills Riesling 2005 – which Ilya had bought when i first purchased my ticket down here in mid-October. We also had Russian Caravan tea and polished off the box of Mudpie Tim Tams. Yum.

It was pouring outside as we headed out to Newtown to meet an old elementary school acquaintance of mine, Jonathan. I had not planned on using my fall leather coat while i was here but it came in very handy. We met at the Vanguard, but they were closed for a private function, so we relocated to the Marlborough Hotel. The evening was very pleasant… Jonathan is staying with two Sydneysiders and it’s always great to meet some natives. It’s also nice to catch up with old acquaintances. The irony of the entire situation being that Jonathan and i were far from friends in elementary school. Archnemesis would probably be the more appropriate term. We have run into each other multiple times since then though and get along rather well. The coincidence of our both being in Sydney at the same time was just too much to pass by. Don’t you love facebook?

I had a detailed conversation with the bartender at the Marlborough Hotel about tipping practices (in Australia tipping is for good service not all service like at home and is not standardized to a percentage), American tourists’ treatment of people in the service sector, and cruising. All this while my lychee and cinnamon mojito was being prepared. The mojito was very good, not AS good as the ones Leo would make aboard the Baltic Cruise, but a fine mojito nonetheless.

And thus concluded the penultimate day of the Sydney saga.

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