My trip to Sydney

The folks at the International Quality & Productivity Center had a hard time in 2007 finding someone to deliver the International Keynote Address at their second annual Executive Assistant & Personal Assistant conference, which was held in Sydney, Australia. I know this because they not only invited me to do the job but also supplied me with an air ticket, three nights’ accommodation at the Swissotel, and a little pocket money. Having never been to Australia, I happily agreed to go. And although it was a very short trip, it was worth the price of Calvin’s ticket to make a little vacation of it. This trip would be the last on which I traveled aboard a Boeing 747, and having traveled aboard them several times — always in Coach — I will be glad never to find myself on one again.

Our flight from Los Angeles arrived early on a Sunday morning and we were unable to check into the hotel, so we set out on a stroll. Before long we found ourselves amid the din of the Sydney Fish Market. Many people were there, some selling fish and others buying fish. I remember that the floors were quite wet, and there were many varieties of fish I did not recognize, like the Budgibaloo Rock Snapper and the Queen’s Fern Lace Doily Fluke. We did not buy anything at the fish market because it was unlikely, as guests of the Swissotel, that we would have access to any equipment necessary for cooking fish.

This is a modern-day image of the Sydney Fish Market. I recall a somewhat dingier vibe, so maybe it has had a sprucing-up in the last 11 years.

Ironically, considering the dearth of in-room cooking facilities at the Swissotel, we made our own lunch that day after all. At a pubby place called Phillip’s Foote, you choose a piece of meat or fish and then grill it yourself. We were there on the early side and it wasn’t very busy yet, which is just as well because I could imagine being annoyed if there were someone standing next to me doing something idiotic to a perfectly fine steak.

Here are pictures, which I did not take, of the grill and the table where we sat.


On that first night in Sydney we had dinner at a very good place whose name I don’t remember. I also don’t remember what we had, only that I enjoyed it very much. I do not have any pictures.

In addition to my headline act with the speech, I was also contracted to conduct two workshops. One of them was called “Being Your Boss’s Ambassador,” and the other, called “Anticipating Your Boss’s Needs,” used clips from “The Devil Wears Prada” as conversation-starters.

My commitments with the conference left Calvin and me enough free time to explore the city, which, in August, their midwinter, couldn’t have been more gorgeous.

On Day Two we rode a ferry to Watsons Bay, a trip of about 45 minutes. Watsons Bay is a lovely waterfront community near the mouth of Sydney Harbour. We ate lunch at Doyles on the Beach, where your table is right at sand’s edge. Not surprisingly, the Doyles menu is seafood-heavy. I had some kind of grilled fish — Greenback Scuttlescurry, perhaps — and Calvin very likely ordered fish and chips or a mixed seafood platter, because that’s what Calvin tends to do at fish restaurants. The only thing I’m sure about was that I loved the setting, which doesn’t appear to have changed since 2007. Here are some pictures, which I did not take, of Doyles on the Beach.


For dinner on Day Two we stayed in the hotel and ate Swiss food. The restaurant was heavy on Swiss specialties, and if not for the reversed seasons it might have been unpleasant to burden our digestive systems with cheese fondue and Züri-Gschnätzlets (veal and mushrooms in cream sauce) in August. I would bet money that Calvin ordered schnitzel, because that’s what Calvin tends to do in Swiss restaurants, but I can’t be sure.

Here is a picture, which I did not take, of Züri-Gschnätzlets with Rösti.

On our last day in Sydney we explored the Harbourside Shopping Centre, which is on the side of Darling Harbour. I distinctly remember Calvin becoming agitated because I could not decide where to eat lunch. We very likely walked five miles up and down the mall while I read menus, finally settling on Olivo, which featured seafood with an Italian bent. Here are some pictures, which I did not take, of Olivo.

At any rate, I think Olivo is where we ate lunch that August afternoon. I have just scoured the list of restaurants on the shopping center website, and Olivo is the one that looks closest to the one in my mind’s eye. But even if it wasn’t Olivo where we ate lunch, you may rest assured that Olivo very much resembles the place where we ate lunch. We had some very good calamari but beyond that the menu is a mystery. It was a beautiful day.

There is a very tall tower thing in downtown Sydney called the Tower Eye. You ride up in an elevator and look around, and then you go down. We did that.

For our last dinner in Australia we chose a place called Bentley, which had recently been named the best new restaurant in New South Wales. I do wish I could say in detail what we ate because I think it was all very good. We had a tasting menu of seven or eight courses, and I suspect they were all very good. The problem was that each course came with wine, and I don’t mean a thimbleful such as you might customarily have with your food as part of a tasting menu.

No, they brought full glasses with each course, and for the life of me I can’t remember a thing about paying or getting into a cab to go to back the hotel, much less any details of the food.

This is Bentley but it is not where Calvin and I ate. Bentley moved a few years ago.

I would like to go back to Sydney sometime, just not in a Boeing 747.