Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sydney, Australia - here I come! (for a mere 36 hours tho' then I'm off again!).

May 16th. Arrived in Sydney around 5pm. Took the train from the airport to my hostel (called "Wake Up - great name eh!). It was very conveniently located about 5 mins walk from Central Station. The public transport system here is great - really easy to use and everything is very clean and modern.. good first impressions!

The hostel also has a very hip, modern design ...but not quite as friendly as some other hostels I've been in. Hey, you can't have everything! Decided to head out and get my bearings and yes, you guessed it, look for an internet cafe (ahhhh.. did i mention this blog is hounding me!!) Just kidding! Early night (sort of)..another black mark against this hostel - you cant make a cup of tea after 10pm - kitchen is closed - WHAT!! Had a very nutritious dinner of seaweed crackers and M&M's; couldn't be bothered going back out! Oh, woe is me!!!

May 17th. Woke up early today ready to get to grips with this city.
I mean - hey! I'm in Sydney, Australia! Home of the most famous Opera House - ever!!! And as for that bridge - well! Feel there is so much for me to see and do today - and as usual, I've given myself my normal tight schedule.
I only have today as I leave tomorrow morning at 8am for Tasmania - yah!!! The place mainland Australians admit to forgetting about - but also tell you, as a tourist, you HAVE to go to Tasmania - its just brilliant! Hmmn - interesting dychotomy there!

Left the hostel on Pitt Street around 8am... and walked right down to the waterfront (about 35 mins away...) kept seeing glimpses of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as i got closer, then a wee bit of the Opera House, and then I came across these fantastic Aboriginal buskers - brilliant stuff, playing cool trancy didgeridoo music! It really is a gorgeous day here in Sydney. I don't even need a jacket; that's a big change from the South Island of NZ! So I'm walking along then all of a sudden, I turn a corner and TADA....there they both were! Bridge - Opera House. Opera House - Bridge!! Absolutely amazing! Seriously - I actually felt quite emotional - what is wrong with me! But they really are both very beautiful pieces of architecture, and after seeing them so many times on TV or in films, it was quite impressive to see them live, right in front of me! Maybe it was a mixture of pretty buildings and the fact I was actually doing this trip - on my own...and that everything was ok...and going pretty well, actually.... maybe a mix of all that nonsense in my head.. who knows. It was a nice moment anyway, lets just leave it at that!

So the blog wouldn't be the blog without some background on Sydney! With a population of 4 million, Sydney is Australia's oldest and largest European settlement...a vibrant, modern city (that gives me the same kind of feel as London) surrounded by a spectacular harbour! As well as the trilogy of opera house, bridge and harbour, there are so many other cool things about Sydney - the hip Rocks area of town, heavenly beaches of Bondi and Manly, Oxford St. shopping, millions of fab cafes, bars and restaurants and then for a change of pace, there's the Blue Mountains, less than 2 hours away.....ahh so much to see, so little time! Thank goodness I'm coming back for a week before I leave Oz.. but I digress!

Anyway, after reviewing my options/how much can i pack into a day, I decided to book my Bridge Climb - yup, I'm climbing that thing.. I just gotta! I chose the evening climb - mainly because it was recommended to me, plus it gave me till 4pm to do everything else! I got my bearings by visiting the South Pylon first (part of the bridge but a separate section from the big climb)....After walking up 200 stairs, I had a lovely chat with a gentleman called Jeffrey, who was working there, originally from Delhi. Not only did he take a photo for me, but told me to come back and see him, and he would organize my trip to India for me so I could meet all of his extended family! Now, how nice is that? Don't worry mum - I didn't take him up on his offer - I prob. should have, but wasn't climbing those stairs again!! Teehee!

Some noteworthy info on the bridge that Sydneyites call their beloved "old coat hanger". It took 7 years, 356 days to build, started in 1924 it was finished in 1932. It is the largest bridge ever built but Bayonne Bridge in the States is the longest - a mere 63cm longer - trust America!! (oops sorry ole' Yankee!). It cost $20 million and is a firm favourite here - for a number of reasons. It's sheer size, the fact it unites the city straddling both sides of the harbour and also because it boosted employment during the Depression era!! Who knew!

After this little jaunt, I headed down to Circular Quay and on to the Opera House. Wasn't enough to just look at it, had to get inside so booked myself on the 12:30pm tour (typical tourist that i am!). Great tour - really informative. Saw the Concert, Opera and Drama Halls. Did you know 30,000 pairs of ballet slippers are needed for one season of Giselle?? There are 10 opera house sails or roofs with 1,056,006 Swedish tiles on them! Both the interior and exterior really are amazing...tried to catch the tiles in an arty-farty way.... not sure if i accomplished it!

Moved swiftly back to Circular Quay and grabbed the first ferry to Manly, affectionately called "the jewel of the North". Very curious to see where my brother Myles lived while staying in Sydney!! And quite a nice place too! Lots of fun and funky stores - with a bit of tacky thrown in for good measure, and tons of restaurants, bistros.. and a lovely beach. Check out the people "over" feeding the seagulls - yuk! Wouldn't want them all over me!

Loved the ferry ride there and back.. very relaxing watching all the boats go by.. ahh this is the life! Once back on dry land, I headed off to Bridge Climb, the company who take you up, up, up and away.. to the top of the bridge. First things first - everyone has to take an alcohol breath test before you get the ok to put onyour Star Trek-like outfit you have to wear - oh so fashionable! Interesting story - the man who fought with the local government for years to make the Bridge Climb happen - Paul Cave, (it opened in 1998), is a freaky collector of all things to do with bridges, esp. the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is particularly special to him because his late father-in-law, then a teenager, lined up for two days from the 19th March 1932, the day the Bridge was opened, and purchased the first rail ticket sold to the public crossing the bridge - ticket number 00001, from Milson's Point to Wynyard Station. 4 1/2 years after opening, the one millionth climber stepped on to the Bridge - pretty impressive! The climb itself is incredible - so glad i did the evening one (especially 'cos we got to wear these cool and trendy headlamps..not!). Seriously tho', the city was so beautiful, twinkly, coloured lights everywhere...the panoramic view was amazing....loved it!

After the climb, Melanie and Sarah, two surgeons from Melbourne in Sydney for a conference, invited me out for drinks and dinner with them - how nice is that! Had a great chat then headed home to ye olde hostelry... to pack (again) and get outta Sydney.... at least for a wee while. Heading off to Tassie tomorrow!


Anonymous Katharine Rancourt (ISM) said...

Hi Steph,

I studied abroad in Australia in college so it was fabulous to read about your day in Sydney! It made me want to go back!

Miss you,

7:43 AM  

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