Yet another reason that Loraine and I are good travel companions is that we are the exact same kind of lazy. There was a five year stretch of time when I had to worry about getting from a meeting at 9am on one side of a strange city to another meeting at 10:30am on the other side of the strange city and then crossing my fingers hoping to make it to the airport in time for my flight to the next strange city. When I’m on vacation, my goal is not to rush or hurry. If I fall in love with a place, I am more than happy to return. I don’t have to see everything there is to see in a single visit. It’s more important to me to relax and enjoy the experience without stress. The Viking knows this and is the same way, and it’s why two individuals who hate people can travel together two to three times a year for a week at a time in close quarters and still be friends.
I give this as background to a puzzling, then maddening conversation we had in Australia. It was our last night in Tanunda after tasting
wine at eight wineries over the course of two and a quarter days in the Barossa Valley. We were waiting for our meals to arrive at our early dinner, when out of nowhere, in a rush, she said, “After we get to Sydney tomorrow, I need to do a lot of sitting. I don’t want to go to a museum, I don’t want to walk from one beach to another, I don’t want to walk around looking at things. I just want to sit. And on Friday, the only activity I want to do is the Bridge climb. No walking around on Friday afternoon, either. I’m exhausted, and I need to rest. The next two days need to have a lot of sitting. And wine.”
She did not yell, but she overwhelmed me with her fervor. Her outburst confused me because I have never been the person to argue in favor of more activity on vacation, and I hadn’t suggested any activities for the following day or the day after. So I agreed with her in calming tones, reassuring her that our only obligation the next day was to meet Johnny for drinks, which would not involve any walking, only taxis and pretty views and being still. She grumbled something about maybe skipping drinks with Johnny but settled down to enjoy her glass of muscadet.
The next day, we made it back to Sydney without incident, relaxed with chilled water in the lounge on the top floor of the Sheraton while listening to the buskers in Hyde Park, and then strolled out the lobby to catch a taxi to meet Johnny for drinks at 4pm. The universe had apparently heard the Viking’s plea for stillness, because Johnny proposed meeting us for drinks at Wildfire, where we already had reservations for dinner that night. We went the wrong direction on the harbor for a few minutes, but then we corrected course and enjoyed the people-watching on the way. We found Johnny on Wildfire’s patio, admired the view of the Opera House, snacked on pate and charcuterie, drank more muscadet, and discussed how good the quality of life seemed to be in Australia. Then Loraine and I walked four steps to the dining area of the patio and ate dinner. At the end of the evening, Loraine expressed satisfaction with the lack of walking.
Friday morning, we reported to the reception desk of Bridgeclimb (several minutes west of the Rocks on the southwest side of Circular Quay) at 9:25am for our 9:35am reservation. We left Bridgeclimb around 12:35pm after purchasing mementos, and we found a place to eat on the southeast side of Circular Quay. We finally got to sit at 1pm for the first time since arriving at the harbor. After we ordered, Loraine remembered that our tickets for Bridgeclimb included admission to the museum housed in the southeast pylon of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. She said, “I think we have to go see it.” I contemplated the walk all the way back to the other side of the quay and beyond, the fact that we’d been two desk jockeys on our feet standing or walking for almost four hours, and the slight reluctance I heard in her voice, and said, “Do we?” I thought I was giving us an out to miss the museum. She shocked me when she said, “Yeah, I think we do.” I tried to talk and whine my way out of it, and I hoped that lunch would take so long that we wouldn’t have time to walk back over. All to no avail – the Viking, who berated me only two days before about NOT walking was steadfast.
So at 2:30pm, we departed from the restaurant and made the trek back to the bridge. We did not take the most direct route to the pylon for two reasons: (a) neither one of us had been paying attention to where Bridgeclimb was in relation to the restaurant because we didn’t think we’d need to go back; and (b) the entrance to the museum in the pylon is not in the same place as reception for Bridgeclimb. When I write that we didn’t take the most direct route, I mean that we got lost and had to backtrack multiple times, going up and down the same set of stairs twice before spotting the entrance our destination.
The reason to go to the museum in the pylon, aside from the history it relays and the significance of that history, is the view of Sydney that you get at the top. I don’t know why, but I thought that there would be an elevator. WRONG. There are only stairs. They sprinkle in some history on each floor and on the walls of the staircase and put the major portion on the top floor, which is surrounded by a balcony with the lovely view. Here’s the thing. It is the same view that we got of Sydney at the top of the Harbor Bridge, which we had climbed only hours before. It’s arguable, and yes, I pointed this out, that the view at the top of the southeast pylon is actually inferior to the one at the top of the Harbor Bridge because the top of the pylon is lower than the top of the bridge. Loraine countered that we hadn’t gotten to take any pictures on the Bridgeclimb, and so this was an excellent opportunity to capture some of the inferior but still breathtaking views. I replied that I have an excellent memory and did not need pictures, but I took them anyway.
Y’all. Did I mention that we were not wearing tennis or hiking shoes on our feet? Because we hadn’t anticipated doing anything that could be described as “active,” we each brought a pair of flip-flops, ballet flats, and Toms. We climbed the Harbor Bridge and walked for another three hours wearing Toms. Let me repeat: TOMS. I do not dispute that they are comfortable, but they were not made for seven hours of walking and climbing stairs.
When we left the balcony at the top of the pylon after taking obligatory photos, I was at maximum levels of disgruntlement. I have a pretty high run rate of crankiness on an average day, so this meant epic levels of being disgruntled. But two things happened when we got to the bottom of the pylon. On the way out of the museum, there is a small theater where they show an 8-minute movie, which is a slide show of photos taken back in the 1920s and 1930s of the bridge’s construction. During those 480 seconds, in those images, I saw the massive accomplishment of humanity achieved all those decades ago, and the awe the photos inspired brought peace and harmony to my sullen soul.
Also, we managed to flag a taxi right as we got to unencumbered street level from the bridge. It took three days for my feet to recover, and I have retired my now-ragged, sparkly, black Toms. The next time the Viking insists she needs to be still, I am going to laugh in her face.