So, last week I went to Sydney to see Amadeus. It was a wonderful, if short, visit, and worth every cent I paid.
And I bought books, despite promising myself I wouldn’t. More of this later.
I arrived in the late afternoon and took the train from the airport to Central railway station. I knew my hotel, the Great Southern, was near the station, but not how very close it was, so a two minute walk brought me there.
It’s a very old building, 19th century, although renovated, of course, so it’s a bit shabby, but clean. I had a small room, mostly taken up by a huge bed, with a small bathroom that had a decent sized shower. It was clean and comfortable, which was what I really wanted. Unfortunately their entire breakfast offering was something called “Carnivore Hot Plate” filled with meat, meat and more meat, as I discovered next morning. And a toast and fried egg. I know that hotels no longer have a buffet, since COVID, but surely a menu? Ah, well. A nice gent in the nearest open shop, a tobacconist, directed me to the food court at a shopping mall around the corner. That was open, so I bought breakfast, a salmon Benedict and fresh squeezed juice.
The first night, though, I caught up with my great niece, Rachel, and her sweet boyfriend Benjy. We got on the light rail, aka tram, which was right across the road from the hotel, and went to their favourite falafel joint, which you had to book for! Rachel has grown, she is now taller than me. It was a delight to see her and have a chat with Benjy. They are both about to start their second year at university.
Tuesday I met my friend from the Blue Mountains, Anne, whom I know through science fiction fandom, but who is also a Ricardian. We caught up after a long time. We have both seen and loved The Lost King, and Anne, who is picky about these things, has seen it three times! After we had had lunch at her favourite cafe in the Queen Victoria Building, we crossed the road to Galaxy Bookshop, which is Sydney’s big SF shop. Minotaur in Melbourne is big too, but it’s mostly devoted to comics and knick knacks. Its SF book shelves are limited.
I decided that if I was going to buy anything, it would be a classic that I couldn’t get in ebook. I’d hoped to find some of C.J Cherryh’s Chanur books, but no such luck. Nobody seems to have them, so I ended up ordering a three-book volume from Amazon, which did have it, but there is a long story around that which I will tell you when it arrives.
So I bought Samuel R. Delany’s classic novel Babel-17, something definitely not in ebook. I’ll let you know how it goes when I’ve finished it. It was slim enough to fit into my overnight bag.
That night I went to the Sydney Opera House to finally see Amadeus. I had only seen the building from a distance before, while going to Manly on the ferry. This time, I stood on the terrace and took photos of ferries going past.
The production was brilliant. I think they must have hired opera singers to be in it, because, unlike when I saw it with the Melbourne Theatre Company, that wasn’t a recording when Mozart’s operas were on. They were actually singing. It must have been very expensive to stage. Worth it! And Michael Sheen was amazing as Salieri - what a plum role for the right actor! He has also played Mozart when he was younger, so he knows this show well.
The trams to Circular Quay were not working that night due to track work, so I walked to the railway station, which got me back to Central and my two minute walk to the hotel.
Next morning I checked out early and found a cafe on the way to the station to have breakfast.
On the plane flight home I didn't read my new book, because a young man sitting next to me wanted to chat. He was a teenager, about to start Year 9, and had just been for his first trip on his own. He wanted to talk about his favourite things, such as history and books. I let him, and answered. I’m a teacher, after all, and he was about the age of the students I used to teach.
So, my first trip since the pandemic. Very enjoyable! And now I know it’s possible, I will do it again.