I’m wrapping up the day (Tuesday, March 5) sitting by Circular Quay listening to a jazz combo playing at the Opera Bar 50 meters away, and watching the tagalong of tourists chatting, strolling, cuddling, and taking an endless stream of Selfies with the Opera House lit up as the backdrop.
Half an hour ago a couple of the brightest stars (they may be planets) started to be visible, and I had hoped that I’d be able to see, and maybe even photograph, the Southern Cross. But with increasing darkness has come increasing cloud cover, and now all I see when I look up are very large bats flying from the eves of the hotel next to me. These warm, breezy, waning days of the austral summer are exceedingly pleasant, and it is easy to see what draws people to vacation here.
And apropos of vacations, I noted that this is the first night in 5 where the cruise ship dock is empty. This harbor can and does accommodate the largest of the ocean liners, and I have chatted with quite a few passengers (on city buses, attempting navigation by the free city maps available at the information booths, in check-out lines watching them fumble for the appropriate AUD denomination, at the zoo, and at various POI’s) who are seeing as many sites as they can pack into their 1-3 day Sydney shore leaves. Their checklists are really impressive!
At the risk of this becoming an exceedingly lengthy post, I’m going to try to summarize my Sydney adventures thus far in fewer (remember what par is for me) words and more pictures. That being said, the first notes will be un-illustrated.
Observation #1: Lots of vacant shop in the suburbs I’ve passed through while on the bus. In Paddington, where my B&B (photo below) is located, the bad news began with the opening of the huge Westfield shopping mall at some point in the past 10 years. The chamber of commerce (or some similar entity) subsequently made the decision to turn the main thoroughfare of Paddington (Oxford Street) into a fashion district. But as soon as the area began to revitalize, the economic downturn (same precipitous direction as in the northern hemisphere) collapsed the market. There remain quite a few small shops with all manner of clothing not meant to compete with the major fashion houses that have stores in the CBD, but for every two, there is a storefront with a “for lease” sign prominently displayed.
Wayfinding in Oz
Observation #2: Folks in Sydney exercise a lot, and very publicly. On the beach and the nearby lawns in Bondi, there are individuals and small groups doing all kinds of body-weight work, sprints, calisthenics, and distance running. Six-packs, 7-packs, 8-packs (I exercise poetic license) were all proudly on display by men and women spanning close to 7 decades in age. Similarly, this evening in the Botanic Gardens I noticed there are also hills and long flights of steps for the hundreds of runners to sprint up repeatedly, and wide expanses of lawn for personal trainers to work their clients out. I was walking along one path when all of a sudden, the guy walking in front of me dropped down and started doing pushups. He’s lucky I didn’t trip over his well-toned ass! (I apologize if I have offended anyone’s delicate sensibilities.)
Observation #3: Manly is meh. But the ferry ride out to Manly, even on a cloudy drizzly day, is glorious. I was out on the tiny front deck of the reasonably large (largest of the dozen or so lines leaving from Circular Quay) passenger ferry, and as we approached the Harbor mouth with a view of the Pacific Ocean, the pilot came on the loud speaker and said, “due to larger than average swells, those passengers on the bow deck may wish to go inside.” Anticipating what was coming, I opted to stay out in the air, as did a few other stalwart folks. There was a lot of shrieking from a gaggle of young 20-somethings as we navigated past the gap, but the drenching amused the rest of us.
Observation #4: While the dijeridoo player I listened to in the Queen Vic market in Melbourne did all sorts of fascinating things with his instrument, the four separate dij players I observed entertaining the tourists on Circular Quay were all equally uninspired. They nevertheless drew huge crowds, in part because they were actually of Aboriginal descent, partly because they were dressed in indigenous minimal costume and lots of white body paint, perhaps somewhat because of the novelty of the instrument for many of the onlookers, and significantly because they were all extremely friendly, chatty (not so play-y) and encouraged onlookers to have their picture taken with them, free of charge. Their extreme open-ness made me wonder what they were really thinking.
Dij player with protegee from the crowd
Photos from Sunday: Ferry to the Toronga Zoo and a day with the animals, followed by an evening at the Aquarium and a wander around Darling Harbor.
Amazing how many people can’t read.
Darling Harbor - cnference center, mega mall, and tourist mecca
Photos from Monday: Bondi to Coogee cliff walk, with wading at every beach en route, and back again for a real swim at Bondi where there were lockers in which to stash my backpack. Observation #5: Travelling alone means no one can watch your stuff.
Cliff walk indeed! (Though truth be told, I was not actually on the walkway for this one.)
Ice plant in it’s natural habitat.
Greenest seaweed I’ve ever seen
" Most beautiful cemetery in the world," says the guidebook. Can’t say much about the cemetery, but the ghosts sure get a spectacular view!
Monday evening: walk across the Harbor Bridge for views of the city at night. Accompanied (another deciphering-the-map situation) by two early 20-somethings (British and Canadian) who had met in a hostel in Indonesia and had been traveling together for 5 months. There are a lot of peripatetic (that’s for you, Mom) kids in that age group in Australia, and they seem to be either going to or coming from New Zealand, Indonesia, and all of the Southeast Asian countries. Best life! (That’s for you, Alena.)
Nothing but a giant Erector Set®
I just spent 90 minutes uploading all of the above (just uploading, not writing or editing or reducing the size of photos) so I will post the next installment later. Off for a bike tour of the city. Reputed to be excellent, as advertised by two of my surf school classmates, and as reviewed on tripadvisor.com. I hope the rain holds off!