I have recollections of Sydney from the 90s as being a sophisticated and cosmopolitan city. Sadly, that is not the city I discovered today.
While I'm disappointed in Sydney, I have discovered rather a lot about me. Namely that I judge cities on three major criteria -- street culture, service and food. Perth barely passes these criteria on a good day -- I can walk into about half the coffee chops and restaurants and get at least two gluten free options; the food is fresh and good; the coffee is fantastic at most cafes; there's stuff happening on the streets and you can easily get into the galleries and museums; the sales service is terrible in most shops. In comparison, New York and Los Angeles failed outright -- there was some great street culture, but the food and service were mostly awful unless you were in the know. Denver passed, to my endless surprise. San Francisco passed. Seoul passed. Hong Kong passed. Singapore almost passed (street culture was spotty; food mostly ordinary, but with a few stand outs). Melbourne passed. Sydney... passed in China Town, but otherwise failed.
Watching Sydney fail today was utterly fascinating. To start with, the coffee is ordinary -- not bad, but not special. Better than Melbourne, though, to be fair. Sadly, there was no cake I could eat. I found one cafe with gluten free cake, but it was almond and orange cake, and I swear my pancreas has almost turned into an almond with the regularity I've eaten it as the only option other than going hungry -- I just couldn't face it, even though I was craving cake. I tried dozens of other shops, but no joy. Then I went for a long walk, and while the crowds were interesting to watch, barely anything was happening in the streets. There was some art-style graffiti in the alleys, but not interesting enough to photograph. The people were mostly just mooching. The closer I got to China Town, the more interesting things got, including some rather awesome buskers. Even the beggars were insipid! They looked like middle-aged, middle class tourists, and were overly polite. O_o
At the Powerhouse Museum, I learned exactly how deep my love is for Star Wars: puddle-like. There was a queue at the entrance at least an hour long. My feet protested that idea, so I wandered off to go shopping instead. What a great victory for fannish devotion! :)
At the shops, I finally quantified my dislike for most Australian service staff. Most have this snooty disdain, and look at me down their noses -- quite the feat, as I'm taller than they are. This disdain, I've decided, is predicated on their total belief in their good taste, and their assessment that I have none. However, I saw no evidence of any good taste today. It's like people have had their taste amputated, or brainwashed out of them by their devotion to brands. Even Gorg Jensen let me down. What was he thinking with the whole daisy motif? *shudder* He used to do lovely work. Frankly, the costume jewellery in China Town was more interesting.
It boggles me that people can't see how awful their wares are. Take clothes, for instance. I went into several boutiques and also David Jones, and it was all much of a muchness. Wool blends are in this year, which makes me enormously happy. But! You knew that was coming, didn't you? Most shops are stocking imported wool blend trousers, for over $500, and these pants fail on the following counts: they are ugly; they are unflattering; they are made from cheap Russian wool, which is scratchy and unlined. Seriously, why would anyone in the world use anything but softened Australian wool? It's fantastic, and you can wear it right next to your skin, unlined. I've bought a dozen shirts so far this year alone, and if I could only find flattering wash-and-wear pants, I'd pay $500. But instead it looks like I will continue to buy mens' jeans from Target for $20. Hahahaha. Capitalism for the lose. The only really competent service staff I've found in a clothes shop in the last year was a male attendant in a small menswear shop with its own tailor. He was polite, helpful, knowledgeable, and gave good advice about alternative options. No "looks" from him.
Anyway, the highlight of today was definitely lunch. I had Thai. The main meal was fine, but standard for Thai. However, as the hotel had no gluten-free breakfast food, I was starving and ordered desert as well: braised bananas with sticky rice and coconut cream. OMG! Orgasm in my mouth. Best desert in the history of ever.
For that one dish alone, I'm ready to call today an epic win. It was that good.
Tomorrow I'm off to SPN con. It will be interesting to see what a big media con is like. No doubt I will find bitchy things to say about it. I'm on a roll, after all. I've decided that this trip is all about embracing my inner snob. Sydney: you are on notice!