Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kings Cross

And so I woke up on Friday, with a morning-after Guinness head and an interesting programme for the day. First of all, I was going to go explore Kings Cross, Sydney’s red light district with plenty of drugs, booze, prostitution and back packer hostels. On my way over, I stopped by an internet cafe to print out the reservation for my next hostel where I would be moving tomorrow. I was quite happy about this, because I had not seen anybody in my first hostel have a good time at any point during the day. I was the only one who seemed to be enjoying Sydney.

Either way, Kings Cross was only about a 15 minute walk from where I was staying so I set out to have a good day. When you approach Kings Cross from the central business district, you walk over the top of a hill and when you reach the top and start walking down towards the area, you will see a big Coca Cola sign in the distance. This is sort of the light house of Kings Cross that you are aiming for. It is similar to the Foster’s sign on Picadilly Circus in London or the big screen on Times Square in New York. When you see it, you know you’re going in the right direction. Before I even got to the Coca Cola sign, I spotted a couple of interesting looking places, but I declined to go in. As I had only 2 bars to go until 500, I had to pick carefully to get an appropriately interesting bar for number 500. The first one, still before I reached the sign, was

499. O’Malley’s hotel.

This Irish pub is strategically situated on a corner at the busiest cross road in the neighbourhood. I walked in and felt right at home. A dozen clocks on the wall informed me about the time in New York, Sydney, Dublin, Glasgow and a host of other cities around the world. The usual Irish decorations were on the wall and Irish music was playing in the background. On top of that, pints of Guinness were only $ 5,50 so I sat down and ordered one. I soon found out that the girl behind the bar was new and this was here first day, so it took a while to get my pint, but hey, we all have to learn. She soon caught on to the trick though, which was just as well, because 5 minutes after I came in, a noisy bachelor party of about a dozen guys came in and started drinking like there was no tomorrow. I enjoyed the atmosphere and ordered another Guinness while trying to decide on pub number 500. I made a note of this pub as a good spot to watch the AFL final replay that would take place the next day. It seemed the right place to go.

After finishing my Guinness and then another one, I decided to get a move on, because otherwise I would have stayed there the whole day and I had other stuff to see and do.

O'Malley's, an excellent Irish Pub in Kings Cross.

Welcome to Kings Cross

I walked around the main streets of Kings Cross for some time, checking out interesting shops and bars that could possibly be interesting to visit. I checked out some restaurants and walked down Victoria Street, a street that was lined with campervans that were for sale. Prospective buyers were walking up and down the street, pointing at dents and making calculations in notebooks as to which van would be the best buy. I sat down on a fence and watched this for a while until I got thirsty again. It was time to go for number 500. Leaving the vans behind, I made my way to the other end of Victoria Street and decided that the Green Park Hotel would be number 500.


The Green Park Hotel.

I had seen a couple of interesting bars in this area and had nearly chosen a different one for number 500 because it had a pinball machine, but in the end decided on the Green Park Hotel. Why? I don’t know. Gutfeeling. And it looked really nice with their yellowish front, big bar in the centre of the main room and a beer garten. When I walked in, I first tried to locate the toilets and I found out that a major renovation was under way. This had the unfortunate downside that the pokie room was closed, but had the advantage that I was on site to witness the opening of the newly renovated beer garten. While the builders were putting in the last screws and installing lights, I was welcomed at the bar by yet another cheery bargirl who also informed me that happy hour was about to begin in 20 minutes. I decided to order a James Squire ale to celebrate the new beer garten and wait for happy hour. The good thing about pubs in big cities is that there is always stuff to do. Even though there were only 2 other customers in the pub (strange, it was nearly 4 PM and Friday) I found a shelf with local papers and listings magazines and spent a happy half hour alternating between reading about current affairs and talking to the girl behind the bar, who also threw in a free bowl of peanuts for me, which I though was really nice. Happy hour started and I decided to switch to Victoria Bitter, which came at the happy hour price of $2,50 if I remember well. I had a couple more VB’s, watched the official inauguration of the new and improved beer garten and then decided to head off. The Green Park Hotel had been a worthy number 500, even though it was a bit quiet.

I walked back to the main entertainment area of King’s Cross and set out to get some food. Ofcourse, my attention was diverted when I walked past a tacky bar called

501. The Vegas Hotel

If you think this sounds like it was a cheap and trashy gambling hall, then you’re absolutely right. I ordered a Victoria Bitter and sat down at one of the poker machines. The good thing about the poker machines in Australia is that you can choose to play for just 1 cent per spin, which basically allows you to play for 15 – 20 minutes on a single dollar if you’re a bit lucky. You won’t win an awful lot of money either, but then again, I was on vacation and not out to break the bank. I won some, lost some and then noticed that Friday Happy Hour had started. Happy Hour here had various aspects to it. First of all, the price of a beer went down, which always scores points in my book. Second of all, a short time later, the waitresses started distributing free meat pies. Meat pies are a staple of Australian food culture and, consequently, even cheap take out pies from corner shops make a pretty decent snack. The obvious point of giving away free food around diner time is that your punters will not be tempted to go out to get food and will stay in your establishment and drink. And, in most cases in Australia, gamble. After a second round of free pies, the waitresses started handing out free raffle tickets for a 6-times-an-hour raffle in which gift hampers, booze and meal vouchers could be won. I didn’t win anything, but I was kept busy as I was now playing the poker machine, drinking cheap beer and sorting my raffle tickets the whole time (I would get somewhere between 5 and 15 tickets per draw, which meant that new ones were contantly thrown on the ledge of the poker machine I was playing. I ordered another beer and then realised that I had been there for well over 2 hours and was still playing with my first dollar.

Apart from that, I was just having a great time. There was non stop entertainment in the form of raffles, sports on tv, gambling and cheap drinking and, well, I was just about getting to that point in a day of drinking where the sun is setting outside and you realise that you have spent the afternoon doing things you enjoy while the whole evening and night are still ahead of you. It had been a great afternoon and, as I ordered one final beer, cashed a $20,- profit from the poker machine, I tried to think of something to do to spend the night.

Cool pokie machine score

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