19 July 2012


The Rocks is a great neighborhood along the Sydney Harbour known for its views and its history as one of the earliest settlements in New South Wales. The neighborhood has thrived almost as long as America has been in existence.

Nicola and I were intrigued by the historic significance, the stores and pubs aligning the streets, the old-style buildings and sidewalks and, of course, the Sunday Market where about 100 vendors set up shops in the streets.

After our whale-watching-expedition-turned-sea-sickness-experiment, we lined up at the door and ran out to land the second the doors opened. We took an amble around the Sydney Opera House until our stomachs were ready for some local fare.

On our way around the Harbour, we happened upon a small crowd and the sound of a youngish man coming through a speaker (I say youngish because he appeared to be around our age). A street performer – how exciting! We decided to stop and see what all the fuss was about – and by that I mean I persuaded Nicola to wait with me until something exciting happened.

We saw this guy, a lanky blonde man believed to be in his late 20s dressed in black pants, a black button-down shirt, a black vest, red tie and shiny shoes.

He had a few items typically seen with jugglers and what he described as the tallest unicycle. To make a really long story short, in the 10+ minutes we were waiting for something to happen, we learned that this man hailed from Minnesota. He made a career traveling across the world to do what he loves so much to do – make people smile – in the streets.

I would like to tell you that the in-reality beggar put on an amazing show but, sadly, I cannot. No, the show was not terrible – as far as we know. We just got tired of waiting for a show, tired of hearing this guy’s life story, tired of hearing his exaggerated happiness and tired of hearing how we needed to be handing him our money.

When we heard that he was married and supports his wife via his street shows, I immediately looked over at Nic and said, “Oh my goodness, I feel so sorry for his wife!”

“Why do I do this?” he asked the onlookers. “Because I get the most joy out of putting smiles on people’s faces,” or some garbage like that. His poor wife!

He not only asked people for money more times than I can count, he even told us all how much we should pay him for the show he was not actually performing. 

“If you don’t want to pay me for providing this service,” he said from atop his giant unicycle, “then all I ask is that you come up and say ‘thank you’ when the show is over. Don’t just walk away like those people (and he pointed at a small group who, like us, were not satisfied with the non-performance). Say ‘thank you’. That’s all I ask.”

To prove what a doofus this guy really was, meet The Kid. He was plucked from the audience before we arrived
and asked to assist the street performer. When he had completed his tasks of throwing a bowling pin up to
the man atop the unicycle, he was given the money he was promised. However, the street performer decided to
double his wages to $10 instead of the promised $5. Immediately upon transfer, the guy said into his microphone,
"Now, if your parents want to take that $10 and give me $20, that would be great." We hate this man.
We gave it two more minutes and then we bailed.

About a hundred meters down the walk, we saw an Italian man positioned on the ground painting a mural. On an easel, he had a sign that stated his name and his purpose: to paint pictures and earn a living from the tips people pay him as he works.

Just down from him was a man taking money from people who wanted to have their picture taken with an Aboriginal man.

Then we saw Cliff. Cliff, as Nic named him, had somehow managed to sit on a park bench surrounded by so many pigeons that I wanted to vomit at the smell of pigeon poop. I practically ran out of the area after I snapped a picture.

Just passed Cliff and up some stairs, we found The Rocks. Yay!

We asked a passerby if he would take our photo with the sign and this is what we got:

At least he got the sign posts. 
We roamed the streets and spotted the neighborhood’s first pub. So we took a picture and headed in for a feast.

Once inside we found the menu less than appetizing so we just had a drink. Nic ordered a coke; I decided to try a local ale. Too bad my half pint was smaller than her coke. Nuts. The plus side, however, is that both our drinks were only $7. 

After a walk around the area, we found a corner restaurant boasting pizza, so we popped in to see if they had something else like sandwiches. This place was a true gem and had its own version of Mamma and Pappa DePandi. We feasted on food so Italian the whole staff spoke the language.

Ah, Mamma! 
Once we had filled our bellies, we headed out to investigate some more. We found some shops and continued our search for true Australian Ugg boots.

The search began Sunday evening when Andrew drove us through town. “An Ugg store!” I shouted, pointing out the window. There were Ugg stores all over Sydney! Here’s the kicker, though – we only found one store that sold the real thing.

A local girl told us that Uggs launched in America and the U.K. before they had a presence in their own manufacturing country. She bought her Uggs in D.C. Due to the boots’ popularity, smaller, more localized companies have apparently come out with their own knock-off products. We found three poser companies and, thanks to Nicola’s expertise and my eye, we nailed each and every one of them.

In one store listed on the official Ugg website as an official Ugg retailer, we saw plenty of knock-offs so we left. As we walked out the door and passed the display, we saw the real ones, so we turned around and headed back in. “Oh, you want dis brand?” the Asian saleswoman asked (Asians are all over Sydney, but we’ll get to that later).

Jackpot. We found the real boots. “How much?” I asked. “$200.” Fricken’ A. I did not fly all the way to Australia to buy some Ugg boots for almost twice the price I would pay in America. Why are they more expensive in their own country, I wonder. I left empty handed. My feet were sad. They truly craved the comfort of the lined interior and the protection from the Sydney winter. At least I can get them from Nordstrom. I suppose I will just have to buy them online and have them waiting for me in the U.S. It's almost as if I never left. 

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