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22 March 2000, Sydney, New South Wales

When we awoke at 7:30, I immediately went to the window to check the weather. It was pouring down rain.We had hoped to get to the Chinese Garden and Powerhouse Museum, but decided to go to just the museum if the rain continued. The sunburn on by back hadn’t been bothering me, but on this morning, it must have been getting ready to peel, because it started to itch right after breakfast. Chris spread some of the aloe vera gel we had brought with us on my back, then she went down to the fitness center to work out. I didn’t want to irritate the skin on my back any further, so I didn’t exercise. The gel didn’t help much, and the itching got worse. By the time Chris returned to the room, it had gotten so bad, that I couldn’t think about anything else.

The only relief I could get was by standing under a hot shower, which I had to do about every hour. In that condition, I didn’t want to wander far from the room. Chris walked over to the Harbour Side mall to see if she could find something better than the gel we had brought with us. She came back with a different kind of gel that was soothing for a little while, but quickly wore off. Chris suggested that I get my mind off the itch by looking for a treatment on the internet. That turned out to be a great idea. I found a site that recommended simple calamine lotion for the itch. Chris returned to the mall, bought the last bottle of calamine in the store, returned to the room and painted my back with it. While the itch didn’t go away completely, it did ease up enough for me to think about something else for a while.

Still unwilling to venture out, I got back to work on the journal and did some reading. At lunchtime, I was feeling good enough to leave the room for a bite. Chris had noticed a cafe in the mall, and we went there, sitting outside under an overhang, eating our sandwiches. The rain still hadn’t stopped. We had dropped off film for processing before lunch, but the pictures weren’t supposed to be ready until 2:00. We had twenty minutes to kill, so we made a more thorough tour of the mall, finding lots of souvinir shops, but not much to buy.

Back at the room, Chris renewed the coat of calamine on my back, then I called to make dinner reservations at a place that Michael had recommended during our previous visit to Sydney. It is called Rock Pool and is near the Sydney Opera House, where we would attend The Nutcracker that night. I made an early reservation and planned our route, using public transportation. By then, it was too late to do any touring, so we culled the photos, then Chris read her book and I worked on the journal.

At 5:00 we started our trip to the restaurant, but it was bucketing down rain again. The Novotel had no more umbrellas to lend, and part of our route included a two-block walk. We decided to take a taxi instead. Within a couple of minutes we were on our way. We got to the restuarant very early — so early that it wasn’t open yet. We stepped into a pub a couple of doors down to have a drink and wait. At 6:00 we made the short walk down to Rock Pool where we were immediately shown to our table. The decor at Rock Pool is ultra contemporary, with lots of stainless steel, wonderful wallpapers, and nicely-textured, faux-painted walls.

I was wearing the best clothes I had brought to Australia — khakis, deck shoes, a polo shirt, and my best sweater — but I felt underdressed in such opulence. However, I wasn’t the only customer who was dressed caually, and the maitre d’ and Matthew, our waiter, didn’t seem to care, so I quickly became comfortable. The service was exceptional, and the food was excellent. We let Matthew know that we needed to be at the Opera House at 7:30, and he assured us that we would be able to make it. He even steered us away from one of the dishes we were considering because it would take too long to prepare.

Towards the end of our meal, we told Matthew where we are from, and he mentioned that he is planning a trip to San Francisco in August. We gave him a couple of tips about what he should see while he’s there. Then I gave him my e-mail address, offering to give him more details closer to his visit. As we left the restaurant, Matthew came out to the street to see if we needed a taxi. We had plenty of time, and the rain had stopped, so we declined. He then pointed out where we needed to go to get to the Opera House. Now that’s service.

The walk from Rock Pool to the Opera House took about fifteen minutes. We found our way inside, bought a program, and climbed toward our seats. Just before we entered the theater, there was an announcement that the ballet would start in five minutes. For once, our timing was perfect. Our seats were not ideal, but OK; we couldn’t see far back on the extreme left of the stage, but our view of everything else was quite good.

The ballet was a variation from the normal story of The Nutcracker. It was about an aging Russian ballerina living in Sydney in the 1950’s. After a Christmas party with a group of her friends — also aging dancers from Russia — she goes to bed and dreams of her youth and early career. This backdrop made for an interesting context for the music and dances that followed.

The show ended shortly before 10:00, and we made our way to the nearby train station, not wanting to wait for a taxi in the mass of people outside the Opera House. The train went most of the way to our hotel, and we had planned to take the monorail the rest of the way. When we got to the monorail station, though, it was closed. There were lots of taxis around, and we hired one and were shortly back at our hotel. Since it was to be our last night in Sydney, we decided to get a nightcap at the hotel bar. We got our drinks and found a secluded table. However, the atmosphere in the bar was nothing to write home about, so we sneaked our drinks up to the room.

While Chris started her packing for the next day, I checked e-mail and looked to see what was going on in the world. We hadn’t watched much news or read a paper in the previous three weeks. Other than a nice rise in the stock market and Duke’s continued success in college basketball, there wasn’t that much of interest going on in the real world. By 11:30, we were in bed for our last night in Australia.

Next day

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