Sydney – Part 2

Beth at the South Head, the Pacific waters in the back

Everything in Sydney is about the harbor.  As one non-Sydney (how do you call someone who lives in Sydney?) resident told me Sydney is the harbor with 5% that have a view of it and 95% who want to have a view of the harbor.  Any property with view of the harbor gets an instant premium on  its value.  Talking about property value, what is going on in Australia is putting me off.  The quality of the housing is terrible to not so terrible but the prices are through the roof.  I was not sure if the quality of the housing was substandard or if it was just the houses we had visited but after talking to recent immigrants to Australia from Europe they all say the same thing.  I cannot believe that this country has forced the light bulbs off the shelves around the globe but otherwise live in highly inefficient houses waisting water, energy and precious resources.  House prices through are really high, even in suburbs that are half an hour away from the CBD a decent place can cost you a million!  The same goes for all major cities in Australia.  It is crazy and stupid, the discussions about property and property values remind me of discussions I had with friends in the US back in 2007.  Is there a housing bubble looming in the  horizon down under?  I do not know but I like the

South Head again with Sydney in the background

German restrain on these matters, we do not get excited about this stuff and we do not like artificial wealth nor much credit.  As usual I tend to trail off so lets get back to the subject at hand.

We spend a week in Sydney and took in all the major sites, we saw the magnificent harbor and all its major sites the first day but we of course returned a couple times and even did a ferry ride to Manly late in the evening and were treated to an awesome sunset.  There is a single entrance of Port Jackson, the entrance is protected by two big rocks called the Heads.  We went to the South Head, through some wonderful little suburbs.  The view from the Head to the west is the city and the Harbor Bridge and on the other side the Pacific Ocean.  The views are grant and the suburb of Watson Bay is really pretty.  The zoo with its sky safari, new elephant baby, an excellent Outback area and many lookout points at the city across the harbor is one of the top ten destinations within Sydney.  The zoo itself is very good but its location and its proximity to water, plus the fact that you can reach it by ferry make it incredibly beautiful.  There was a lot of areas that they were working on, and that took out some of the fun but overall one of the better zoos we have seen.  The suburbs

Coogee Beach

on the north side also looked a lot better and more exclusive that the ones in south but we only drove through and did not linger much.  Closer to the city and next to the Rocks is the Darling Harbor and Chinatown, two parts of the city that are very interesting to visit and tons of stuff to do.  Especially around Darling Harbor there are a lots of restaurants, clubs and cafes.

As always I have to visit the memorials and in Sydney the ANZAC memorial is in Hyde Park, close to the Museum Station on Liverpool St.  There is a “Lake of Reflections”, very similar but much smaller than the one in front of the Lincoln Memorial in DC.  Here I met Tony, a New Zealander veteran of the ANZAC forces in Vietnam.  You would not have guessed looking at the guy but he had done two tours in Vietnam in the late 60’s.  We talked about war, memorials and cowards (…sorry I meant politicians), it was another chance encounter that has made this trip so much more interesting.  It also confirmed that there is always pain and much sacrifice for us to get to where we are and we need to honour that… …remember them and learn to avoid the same mistakes in the future.  We cannot let their sacrifice be in vain.

Ben on Bondi Beach

Of course visiting Sydney without visiting the famous beach of Bondi is like drinking a milkshake without the ice cream.  Bondi beach was crowded, there was also a contest of surfing that was being filmed.  The commotion was incredible, and the weather perfect.  We also visited Coogee and other beaches like Cronulla around Botany Bay.  Botany Bay is also the spot where Captain Cook actually made his first landing in Australia, there is a small memorial in the Botany Bay National Park to mark the spot.  It is incredible to just stand at that spot, look around and see all the development that has taken place in the last 200 years.  I am sure he would not recognize the place today.

Another must for any visits in Sydney is the Blue Mountains.  We took the train from the central station in Sydney and travelled west through the suburbs like Parramatta for about two hours before reaching Katoomba, the gateway to the Blue Mountains.

Bondi Beach Ben and his mum!

We walked down to the lookout and then the short hike to the Three Sisters, the main landmark in the Blue Mountains.  We loved the landscape and we would love to have more time to hike through some of the trails and spend time in this National Park.  Throughout our travels we have enjoyed mountains and forrest parks the most and this one was really very pretty.  The air had a pleasant smell as the Eucalyptus oil that the trees emit permeates the air.  It is also the reason why the mountains look blue from the distance.  This place is a mere 200km away from Sydney  but it is so dense The ANZAC Memorialthat only in the mid 1990’s did they find a pine tree that was thought to be extinct for 90 million years.  This country is so vast that there are still things, species, organisms that have yet to be discovered.  Sydney is where Beth and me fell in love with Australia.  We have seen so much in the past two months but we were awestruck and dumbfounded.  Sydney maybe a city that is very far away from other big cities, Melbourne does not count (at least not for the people of Sydney) but there is a reason why so many people want to come to Sydney.

I would like to also thank our hosts Rita and Tony Vitalis, who took us in for a week and showed us Sydney.  We appreciate their hospitality and hope to reciprocate soon.
So long…

Ben, Beth and Kyriakos on the ANZAC Memorial

Elizabeth on Elizabeth St.

Sydney Tower and the Monorail

QVB, wonderful building!

Ben and Kyriakos on our way to the Apple Store in Sydney

A Memorial

Chillin' in Sydney.

Yeah, Bondi baby!

He is incredible

In Taronga Zoo

Darling Harbor

Ben the bird whisperer

At the zoo

For Ben's profile pic

My BBs

View from Taronga

Magnificent

Bondi Beach

Candid moment

with my mate Rick.

Awesome!

The three sisters

Enjoying the outdoors

Landscape galore...

Our hosts, Rita & Tony Vitalis

Sydney

Those are bats hanging on the tree

When one mentions Australia there are two things that come to mind, especially after the Olympics of 2000, Sydney and beaches.  Well it is all for a good reason.  If there is one place that you can visit in Australia it has to be the state of New South Wales.  I wondered why it is called New South Wales as there is no other Wales than the Wales we know in the UK, would it not be simpler just to call it New Wales?  Well, name issues aside NSW is the most populous state and it has a bit of everything that we associate with Australia.  A trivial fact is that New Zealand was briefly part of NWS in the mid 19th century.  Sydney is the biggest city in Australia and its trademark is the Sydney Harbor but besides the city which has a lot to offer there are beaches in and around Sydney and within a couple hours drive you can reach the outback, see the Blue Mountains and drive north on the Pacific Highway to Hunter Valley, the oldest winemaking region of Australia. We flew to Sydney from

The CBD from the Botanical Gardens

Melbourne on the 12th of March, the flight was uneventful until we reached the city where we flew over the city and had grant views of the city and the harbor with the dominating Harbor Bridge, locally known as the “Coat hanger”, the Quays and the Sydney Opera.  What a view!  It was and will be one of the greatest approaches that we have ever experienced.  The city looks big and I remember reading somewhere that the area of Sydney is about 7 times bigger than Paris!  So you get the idea, there were a lot of expectations and Sydney did them all justice.

You need time to explore Sydney and we only had a week.  We used as much of that as we could.  On the first day we went downtown and started our walking tour at Martin Place, this is where Channel 7 has their main offices and if you are there at the right time you can see some of their morning shows being aired live, similar to

Another view of the CBD

the morning news show is New York.  We walked through the Domain and the Botanical Gardens. While the Botanical Gardens are not as spectacular as the ones we saw in Singapore, they are still very very good.  The city skyline in the background and the general setting, the lush green and the many birds make this a wonderful place to picnic, jog, stroll or even just sit on the grass and enjoy the warm sun.  From the distance you can see the roof of Opera House and once you hit the water the views are just amazing.  Behind us on the left was the skyline of Sydney, while not as big as New York or Chicago it is very nice and with the Gardens in the foreground and the water it is just amazing!  Now to the main attraction, the Sydney Opera house and the Sydney Harbor Bridge, there is no much one can say.  It is stunning, it is a view that is just breathtaking.  I

Voila!

have seen it so many times on TV or pictures but nothing can do it justice, you just have to be there.  It was a sunny and very warm day but Ben was enjoying the outdoors, he loves being outside – I know we did not give him much choice but still.  We just stood there and took in the scenery, while all around us there were tourists and locals alike strolling through the park or just having a picnic.  The warm wind and the sound of the water just enhancing the whole experience.  We took many pictures as you can see and wondered loudly why it took us so long to get here to see this.  We walked towards the Opera House.  The Opera House is not really as nice when you are close up, this is a building that you have to take in and admire from a distance.  When you are walking along it you do not see much and what you see seems a bit outdated, a bit old… …the brown glass does not help the appearance either as it looks like the windows have not been cleaned in a while.  From what I hear it is not the best of theaters and the indoors is rather mundane.

Ben abusing his mother!

The Sydney Harbor is actually part of Port Jackson.  Port Jackson is the natural harbor and it is location of the first European settlement in Australia.  The first European to discover Port Jackson was Lt. James Cook in 1770 and it was named after the Judge Advocate of the British Fleet.  Although, Cook’s first landing with the HMS Endeavour was on 29 April 1770 (230 year in about a month!) in Botany Bay, slightly south of Port Jackson.  The sight is marked within the Botany Bay National Park near Kurnell.  In 1788 Governor Arthur Phillip returned and established the first British colony, later to become the city of Sydney.

As we passed the Opera House we sat in awe of the Harbor Bridge, sure I have seen bigger, longer bridges before but the setting and the form are a sight to behold.  It is the world’s tallest and probably widest steel arch bridge.  There are two pairs of pylons on each side and one can actually go up one of them on the south side of the bridge.  For the adventurous, there is also a climb the bridge for exciting views.  As I am afraid of heights that was not really an option.  We stopped and enjoyed another excellent flat white (my new favorite brew down under) while taking in the scenery and observing the colorful masses going about their business all around us.  It is a very busy place.  We then

Oh... he's so much fun!

continued our walk through the SydneyWriter’s Walk, that honors Australians and foreign writers.  The plaques start somewhere near the Opera House and go all the way around through Circular Quay (pronounced key for some reason) to the International Passenger Terminal west of the Quay.  It provides  an overview and interesting quotes.  The Quay is a bustling ferry, bus and train terminals where commuters and

The Family

tourists mix.  It is around this spot that we see the famous New Year’s Celebration.  We walked west around the International Passenger Terminal and into the Rocks, an inner-city suburb that today has established itself as a chic area full of bars, restaurants and an interesting market on the weekends.  This area though had a rowdy, it was an area filled with prostitutes and shady taverns that sailors frequented.  The buildings were about to be demolished for redevelopment, thankfully though it was saved.  Its close proximity to the Sydney Harbor and its slightly elevated position make it very popular with the tourists.  We got some food and walked through the weekend market, so many people, so many sights, so much to do.  We decided to call it quits for the day and head on home, we had just spend a good five hours mostly walking to one of the prettiest urban places on earth.
So long…..

Ben is greeting the world!

The Harbor Bridge

...the view from the east side

Breathtaking!

An artistic approach!