Room 1120

February 21, 2007 at 8:45 am (Uncategorized)

Yesterday, two big ships brought Sydney to its knees. I’m still trying to figure out what happened, but what I can tell you is that the place was at fever pitch for a mad 24 hours. The reason? The QE2 and the QM2 (for those not up with Cunard nicknames, these are the enormous cruise ships Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Mary II respectively) were in town.

Hate to be a party pooper, but just what, exactly, was the big deal…?

I had to go into town yesterday afternoon because we were having a family dinner for my sister-in-law’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Flic!). When I got to the ferry wharf, the jet cat had been cancelled and the place was heaving with sweaty daytrippers all queueing to see the QM2 docked at Woolloomooloo on their way back to Circular Quay. This would be the same QM2 they all saw on the way over yesterday morning. They’d already seen it. But no matter, once the capacity-crowd ferry hobbled its way past, the ferry lurched violently port side as everyone choked the deck to take more photos of the docked ship.

I can confirm it was a big ship. A very big ship. Yes. That appears to be all it was.

Utter pandemonium reigned at Circular Quay. I fought my way through the crowds, passed at one point by an employee of Sydney Ferries, travelling in the opposite direction (or trying to) and loudly swearing “Oh for fuck’s sake!” at the swarming scene of disembarkation. It was really hot yesterday, so by the time I emerged, gasping for breath out the front of Customs House, I was not only hot but bothered. So bothered I headed immediately for the soothing air-conditioned comfort of David Jones, where a new pair of fab sunglasses to replace my beloved Burberrys (lost in the line of duty on my way to the airport last week) made me feel much better about everything. They don’t call it retail therapy for nothing, kids.

But then Llew and I returned to the Quay to meet the others, and it was in a state of advanced super-chaos. The QE2 was due to arrive at 7pm, and this was apparently the biggest news of the century. It was the Attack of the Killer Crowds down there, kind of what I imagine it was like during the height of Olympic fever in 2000 (we stayed away. Far, far away). The tsunami of boat worshippers surged around to the Opera House side, where we were due to meet parents and Flic at the Oyster Bar for a pre-dinner drink and what we had thought would be a casual once-over of the QE2 as she docked. It was not to be. Llew and I took one look at the madness and made the executive decision to walk in the opposite direction.

Unfortunately, this only put us on the other side of Circular Quay, at the International Passenger Terminal. By this stage Llew was going to smack someone if he didn’t get a beer in his hand before he could form it into a fist. We somehow found a table, and put in the calls to let the others know where we were. Peter and Katie had left their car in Manly and caught the ferry. They had to wait an hour for that privilege, which they snugly shared with the same masses I had encountered hours earlier. They did, however, get to see the QE2 passing the QM2. This was the number one news story in Australian media last night and this morning, so you can see how starved we are for something to talk about. Unless I’m missing something. Maybe there is something hugely important and exciting about a moving ship passing by an unmoving ship.

Eventually, we all found each other, and the bar, much-needed by that stage. People thronged around us in a most enthusiastic thronging fashion. We went to Sailor’s Thai Canteen for dinner – fantastic, now there’s something I can get excited about – and when we emerged a couple of hours later, everyone was still there. But for the conspicuous absence of floats and dancing girls, it seemed for all the world like a crazy, very low budget version of Carnivale.

And here’s where it all went awry. Here’s where Sydney shuddered to a stunned, bloated halt. Here’s where two cruise ships had Sydney on its knees. No cabs. Overcrowded buses. Massive ferry delays and an unspeakable queue making that delay just that little bit more horrific. Madness reigned. Flic somehow managed to get herself on a Bondi Express – the birthday present of the night – but for the four of us wanting to get to Manly, the outlook was grim.

After a fruitless search for transport alternatives, we drowned our stranded sorrows at the bar at the Wentworth Hotel whilst we tried to figure out how to get home. In the end, Llew’s parents insisted we take the last room in the hotel – they were strenuously insistent that they had to get back to Palm Beach, but I was still horrified we got the room and they got the road. It was a tiny broom closet of a room, clearly the last one left for a good reason, but it was a roof and a bed, shelter. And that’s how we came to be in Room 1120 last night. It’s also why Australia is not a republic. You say the word “Queen” around here and the whole place just falls to pieces.

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4 Comments

  1. Sarah said,

    Well Mr Iemma’s incompetencies aside (and don’t worry, I thank my lucky stars all the time that I don’t have to use PT) I thought the whole thing was really exciting! When the largest moving thing ever to visit this country can pull up a stone’s throw from my office, well that’s just plain cool. In virtually any other city on the planet it would have had to park several kms off-shore or in some far-flung port. But no, not here! Sydney harbour accommodated not only the biggest liner in the world but also its cousin – simultaneously – slap bang in the middle of the CBD! And I think it’s brilliant that everyone wanted to see it – loved the enthusiasm of it all. I saw thousands of Mums & Dads bracing themselves and making the effort to hop in that car, on that bus, ferry or train to take their kids to see them – I got such flashbacks! But yes, a think a pied a terre is in order for you guys. (Oh and you know there’s always my sofa bed next time you get stuck – which just might be tonight given the chaos today’s rallies are expected to cause!)

  2. doctordi said,

    Well, whilst I admire your enthusiasm, Sarah, it really is infectious, I can only say you might have felt a little differently if you HAD been forced into the people-transport-super-highway hell (Iemma? I feel sorry for him – really it’s Carr I blame). It just takes the sheen off things. And for the first time since we moved here, I felt utterly stranded.

  3. Neil said,

    When you say ‘Queen’ in Sydney, you certainly tend to get a waiter’s attention quicker

  4. doctordi said,

    That’s true. Every second man answers to it.

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