It's all about Sydney
11 Feb 2006
|A late afternoon flight to Sydney so we spent the morning browsing around Hobart and a spell in the Hobart Maritime Museum. Tasmania has a rich history of shipwrecks - the map is littered with them and so it was quite an interesting visit! It took an awful lot of wrecks before it was realised that Tasmania was actually an island. We got the shuttle bus from the town centre to the airport. They suggested 3.00 pick up for our 4.30 flight, this went well except we spent 55 mins bumbling around town picking up other people and didn't get to the airport until 30 mins before our flight. This didn't seem to bother anyone though so I guess it's just the slower pace of life kicking in again. Uneventful flight to Sydney, we were very early but then had to spend ages circling round before we could land so not much gained!
Another shuttle bus picked us up at Sydney and took us to Tim & Sandy's where we are staying. It's been very nice to stay in a house that is actually a home. In the evening we took a stroll up to the local, an extremely nice pub called The Oaks which, as you may expect, has a huge oak tree in the garden and serves extremely good pub grub (see pics). For those O2 readers that remember Tim Farmer, he has certainly got things well and truly sorted here and I don't think he is missing Slough, although I could be mistaken. The view from Brunel Way doesn't compare to looking out at Sydney Harbour.
First day we went into Sydney which is only about 10 minutes by bus. Our first point of call was The Rocks visitor centre to get an idea of what Sydney has to offer. There's lots of stuff to do although the walking tours seem quite expensive at $25 per person so we got a free map instead so we could have a go at doing it ourselves. Next stop was of course the opera House which is just as stunning as it looks in all the photographs (apparently it's the no. 1 most recognisable sight in the world). Interior wise it's got more than a whiff of the 70's about it with a great deal of wood panelling but the whole thing is just so incredible that you can overlook that little detail. The bogs are quite something! We then walked back to the city through a park, stopping to have a quick peek at the Governor's House as well. That has organised tours so we couldn't pop in for a nose around but the outside was impressive enough. Much stopping and smelling of the flowers today after our busy busy week in Tas. In the evening we met up with Tim & Sandy in Darling Harbour and we went to a place called Kingsley Steak House. Apparently it's a chain but this particular one is housed in a very nice old stone building so lots of good atmosphere to soak up. The steak was amazing and we had some very excellent wine (although I have to admit I can't quite recall the name of it.....)
Second day we had arranged to pop and see Tim at his office in North Sydney (to see what jobs were on offer - unfortunately there's a recruitment freeze. Doh!). After that we caught the train to Central Station and stopped for a spot of lunch in Hyde Park. Steve tried to kill a gull by throwing it a grape. It was last seen legging it through the park with a huge grape in its beak. The gull preservation society is probably after us right now. In the afternoon we did separate things:
Again following a recommendation from O2 Marketing Melbourne contingent, Steve booked himself on the Bridge Climb. This is a 3.5 hours climb and desent of the upper arch of the Harbour Bridge, roped on all the way. It felt fantastic to be climbing up such an iconic structure and the view from the top is simply incredible. The bridge is a triumph of British Engineering (they practised first on the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle) and its construction was about the only source of jobs during the Great Depression in the early '30s, hence the nick-name the "Iron Lung" as it breathed life into the city. On the way up, we were entertained with fact 'n' figures and the tales of the chaps that built it. This includes one fellow who fells from the top, went into a perfect dive and survived with just a perforated ear-drum. Eventually the bridge was handed over to the city with a generous 6 month warranty. They now reckon it'll be good for 400 years. By the way, the stone pylons at either end are entirely asthetic and were only added as people thought the bridge didn't look strong enough.
Mads afternoon at the Sydney Aquarium
It's Australia's number 1 attraction according to the blurb so geat things were expected! I wasn't disappointed - it was really spectacular with more fishy critters per square foot that you would have thought possible. They had a couple of platypus who were obligingly swimming around but they move so fast it's impossible to take photo's. I do have some nice river scenes with a platypus blur in the middle which I may bore my nearest and dearest with when I get home. The aquarium is split into several different zones. Each one has got a walk through area with tunnels so you are essentially surrounded by sealife. In one of the tunnels the rays like to sleep on the top which makes it quite dark! After the aquarium I took the ferry back to Circular Quay to meet Steve after his climb.
We then went to the historic Lord Nelson hotel for a beer (by far the best pub in Sydney) and then back to Circular Quay again for an ice-cream and a people watch. More truly dreadful buskers again, the 'New Radical Eco Friendly' something or other. They might have been better if their microphone had worked so we could tell what they were singing apart from just catching the odd phrase which seemed to contain the words "ungrateful bar stewards" when we didn't clap.
Third day was hot hot hot again, up to 31C so we headed out to Manly on the bus. Manly is just the picture postcard perfection of what a beach should look like. The sea looked soooo inviting, the sand so white and lots of cool looking bronzed bods (not including us of course!) We sat in a little cafe for lunch which was opposite the beach and somehow it felt like life just didn't come better. We did look for the shop where Alan purchased some flaming skull shorts but sadly it wasn't there anymore as Manly has apparently come a little upmarket since Steve was there the first time. Spent another happy hour or so in an Internet cafe run by a very jolly man and then caught the ferry back to the city. The ferry from Manly to Circular Quay is the best and cheapest way to see Sydney harbour, the views are simply stunning.
Fourth day we went to Taronga Zoo (thanks Sarah G for the recommendation!). The animals there are treated to some of the very best views of Sydney, we only hope they appreciate it! There are no elephants at the zoo at the moment as they have 5 new 'recruits' coming from Thailand and are still in quarantine! Surely this raises the question - how do you quarantine 5 elephants?? The zoo is not too big and the animals are housed as much as possible in their natural habitats as there are lots of Australian animals there. We walked through the kangaroo and wallaby enclosure where they were all snoozing in the sunshine, and then through the koala bit where they were all snoozing in the trees. Good photo opportunites but not very active! There were a couple of zoo people wandering around with a snake and an iguana that you could pat. There was also a man giving a talk about turtles which involved the following commentary: "... so here we have a long necked turtle....Ah. Oh. A question for the big kids, can you see what's special about this turtle? Yes, that's right, it's a BOY turtle. Well, that's what happens sometimes when you pick these critters up, they can get a bit excited. Little kids - your parents will explain later. Anyway, the eating habits of the turtle..."
After the zoo we got the ferry back to the city - another pattern emerging! I can't forsee a time that I would ever get tired of taking the ferry across the harbour. It's really breathaking every time. More comedy buskers at Circlar Quay, this time a rendition of Amazing Grace on steel drums. We listened for a bit but had to go when he broke in a highly dubious version of Don't Cry for Me Argentina. In the evening we went to a German restaurant in Neutral Bay which was very good. Fortunately they didn't stock German wine.
On Saturday so we all walked into town via the North Sydney market - a strange mix of market and car boot but without the cars. Walked across the Harbour Bridge and spent a happy hour or so pottering about the market in the Rocks. There were lots of things to buy but sadly none that would survive another 2 months in a rucksack. We then caught a ferry (it's compulsory at least once a day!) to Cremorne Point and a very nice leisurely stroll back round the water edge.
Tim & Sandy have been superb hosts and don't seem to mind that we stayed twice as long as originally requested.....!!
New Zealand next!