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Published: November 25th 2015
Sydney actually starts about 40km from the centre and has sprawled out, consuming everything it reached. The traffic was very heavy but flowed well and we soon reached our campsite. We hadn't planned to check in as we were far too early but, as we couldn't find parking, we tried our luck and could drive straight in. The Lane Cove National Park Camp Site was a beautiful place with great facilities. We didn't have time to appreciate them at that moment though as we were keen to get to into the city for 11am.
We arrived in a wet Sydney and went straight to the Anzac Memorial. This is a grand, blocky marble-fronted building in the middle of Hyde Park. Inside is a circular chamber with a bronze statue of a dead Spartan Warrior, representing the broken bodies of the youth of Australia. Above this was a circular gallery to look down upon the sculpture. On the walls of the gallery were the names of the key battles Australian soldiers fought in. The memorial is a moving tribute to those "who shall not grow old". Just before 11am we went outside to the short remembrance ceremony. This started with some
dignitary making remarks that were both random and rambling about what we were commemorating. Following this a former soldier recited Binyon's poem, "For the Fallen", and then there was a bugler playing the Last Post before a minute's silence. It was a dignified and poignant memorial to the fallen of all nations but especially to the enduring spirit of the Anzac troops in the year of the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign. Following the ceremony we went back into the memorial and went downstairs to the small museum. The museum does a good job of glorifying the spirit of the Australian soldiers whilst presenting the futility of the war they fought. Near to the memorial is another large striking sculpture. This is a collection of bullets, some standing and others fallen. Each bullet represents one Aboriginal soldier who fought for Australia. The fallen bullets are are for those killed in combat.
Following a coffee break with a huge almond croissant and internet connection, we moved on. After completing a mission to get a key cut, which was more difficult than it should have been in a major city, we went to visit the Library of New South Wales. I
love Australian libraries... They have re-interpreted their purpose from being a repository of books to being a place where people connect and knowledge and understanding is shared. They usually have a gallery, a café, a book shop and reading rooms as well as open spaces where people can meet. The Library of New South Wales was no exception. We didn't see much of it but we did spend some time looking at an exhibition in the lobby. This was a thought provoking and often moving collection of photos - the winners of a photojournalism competition. The stories portrayed were often significant, displayed a depth of humanity and sensitivity that was admirable but also dug down to find the truth. The one that stood out to me was the winner of the competition, an exposé about the growing problem of Ice (crystal meth) addiction in indigenous communities.
After a hurried lunch sitting outside the library, watching a turkey going through a rubbish bin, we moved into the Botanic Gardens. Here we had a good walk, meandering amongst the plants but generally moving in the direction of the Opera House. In the gardens we came across the music Conservatorium, a strange
building which was constructed to look like a castle but was originally the vastly expensive stables of a government building. Before long we got our first glimpse of the imposing Sydney Harbour Bridge and then the sails of the Sydney Opera House came into view. We went to book some tickets for the next day, soaked in a bit of the atmosphere of Circular Quay and then, completely exhausted, decided to go back to our campervan.
As we were at the ferry terminal we decided to take the short trip across the harbour and catch our train from North Sydney. The journey was amazingly scenic, giving great views of the bridge, opera house and skylines of both sides of the harbour. What we didn't realise though was that North Sydney ferry jetty and North Sydney train station are not co-located. This meant we then had a kilometre to walk up "High Street". We assumed that this meant it was a shopping street but our assumption was wrong... It was a street which steeply climbed high above the harbour. We struggled onward to the station and limped onto the train and back to our van.
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