Sydney – Bridging the gap with a trip to the ACL

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April 10th 2019
Published: May 7th 2019
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“Traveling. It leaves you speechless, then turns in to a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

Due to a full programme yesterday, we decided to have a lazy sort of day today as we were out again tonight. The sun was shining so, after a leisurely breakfast, we decided to head up to Circular Quay, where most of the tourists seem to head for. We took the short train journey from Museum to Circular Quay and headed over to a small grassy area with a few trees scattered around. This was known as First Fleet Park. From Circular Quay we saw ferries come and go taking their customers to practically anywhere in the Sydney Metropolitan area; from Manley to Taronga Zoo; from Watson’s Bay to the Olympic Bay. This just sounds like I’m reeling off names and probably don’t mean much to most people. However, I have it on good authority (just not mine!!) that all these places are worth visiting. Unfortunately, we’re fast running out of time. Our visit to Sydney is almost at an end. Tomorrow we set off for Auckland, New Zealand for a few days before picking up our ship. For now, though, we were happy to soak up the sun, people watching although most people weren’t watching back but heads down, wandering around watching their phones!! These people have no spatial awareness of their surroundings, hogging the promenade not realising there are people trying to get past. Yes, you know who you are, school party of about thirty-five!!

Cadman’s Cottage stands adjacent to First Fleet Park. This small detached building is the second oldest surviving residential building in Sydney, having been built in 1816 for the use of the governmental coxswains and their crews. It is also the first to have been built on the shore area of the rocks with the water coming to within only a few feet on the doorway. Nowadays, though, due to reclaimed land, the shoreline (quayside) is a good 300 feet away. The cottage was also once the headquarters of the Sydney Water Police. Today it is part of the Nation Heritage of Australia as it remains of significant history value.

Sitting, as we were, in the First Fleet Park overlooking the Bay and facing the Sydney Opera House, we were (but not literally!!) in the shadows of Sydney Harbour Bridge, or as the locals like to call it: ‘the Coat Hanger’ (say what you see!!)

If you like heights, have cash that’s burning a hole in your pocket and enjoy seeing stuff from slightly different angles then it is possible to book onto a walk across the bridge. I don’t mean using the public foot path, I mean up and over. It’s more of a climb than a walk. All participants wear safety gear, are tethered together and follow the instructor in single file over the top of the bridge. All personal belongings are safely locked away. This includes coins, watches, jewellery, wallets and ALL types of camera including mobile phones. You may have magnificent views and a breath-taking experience but unless you’re willing to spend $30 on the official photo, as well as the $300 for the privilege, the 1 ½ hour ordeal (for that is what it would feel like to someone as unfit as me!!) would have to remain locked away in your head. A much cheaper option to capture a complete panorama of the bay would be to climb (on the inside) one of the four granite turrets. This would only cost, I believe, about $15 for the ascent (cameras allowed!!) My preferred method was to walk up Argyle Street that lies adjacent to the MCA. A little bit of an incline but certainly within my repertoire!! From there I cut through an archway to ascend several flights of stairs to Cumberland Street, running parallel (albeit thirty feet below) the main approach to Sydney Bridge. Whilst pondering my next move - how I reach bridge level, I noticed several people disappearing in to a small clearing. As I crossed over the deserted road, I realised the reason why – A lift. I was now on the pedestrian walkway, another three hundred yards and I was passing through the south east turret and was standing on the world famous land mark; the sixth largest arch span bridge and the widest in the world, looking down on the harbour below. I wonder if those scaling the dizzy heights,160 feet above, had a $300 better view than what I was witnessing!!

On the way back to our hotel, via the metro, which we were now starting to master, we called in to Hyde park once more. From our hotel, looking across the park, through the trees, we had seen a pink building, symmetrical in design that we had learned was the ANZAC memorial. The ANZACS were the joint forces of Australia and New Zealand that helped the allies in the First World War. We had to take a closer look at the Art Deco building that now stood before us. We followed a ramp down in to the podium level as if disappearing in to the crypt of a church. We now stood in what is known as the Hall of Memory admiring the newest addition to the memorial that was only revealed seven months ago, in 2018. This consisted of ceiling to floor names of the towns and cities of New South Wales that provided at least one soldier to fight in the Great War. Furthermore, a sample of the earth around that town or city had been collected and on display next to the name. They provided a huge range of colours from black volcanic earth through to the beige or sandstone and the reds of the dessert area to the golden sand of the coastal regions. We were told that the art designer of this fitting memorial didn’t realise the sort of visual impact this memorial would convey. A solitary plaque to commemorate the opening, hung in a remote corner of the memorial and simply read: ‘This Memorial Extension was opened by a Grandson of the Queen on 20th October 2018’ We found that a very strange notation:

‘Ere, Bert, what shall I put on this ‘ere plaque. Who opened the extension? Was it ‘Arry or William?’

‘Blimey, now yer asking’ (Bert scratches head then continues) ‘Just put Grandson of the Queen. That should cover it!!’

On the opposite side to the ramp leading down to the Hall of Memory, in front of the main entrance, a modest size rectangular reflecting pool did what it said on the tin. In the vicinity of the ANZAC monument but constructed on the periphery of the park in order to be clearly visible to the passing pedestrians and motorists was a further monument with the unusual name, the Yininmadyemi Memorial. The name is taken from an indigenous language of Sydney, translates as 'Thou Didst Let Fall' and was commissioned & erected to honour the aboriginal men and women who served in the Australian Defence Force. The piece of Art consists of four seven-metre-high bullets that are modelled on the standard .303 rounds that were issued to the corps. The bullets are mounted on crushed granite in the shape of a boomerang. The shape of the base recalls the boomerangs that were given by some families to soldiers who left for war as a symbol of hope for their safe return

Now on to this evening’s entertainment. We have both currently seen football (soccer) matches on three different continents; Asia – Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Africa – Cape Town in South Africa and mainland Europe (take your pick!! Barcelona and A C Milan for starters!!) Tonight, we attended a football match on our fourth continent. Sydney FC played Shanghai in the Asian equivalent to the European Champions League known quite simply as the Asian Champions League!! Unlike other trips and excursions, there is very little research to do when arranging to visit a football stadium other than purchase the tickets and check out the nearest metro station; you just get off the train and follow the crowd. The stadium was about a ten-minute walk from Carlton train station. Carlton station was on the blue T4 line so the thirty-five-minute journey involved a quick change at Central station. On alighting the train, everything was as expected except one thing...where were the crowds??!

Quick!’ I said to Roisin, ‘follow those three who just got off the train!!’

‘You can’t just follow someone willy-nilly.’ She replied, ‘They may have just been out for their tea or coming back from work. It won’t bode well if two strange English people follow them up their garden path to their house. When you go out for your walks, especially somewhere unfamiliar, I always warn you to beware of the crazies. I don’t want to be seen as one of those crazies!!’

It was time for plan B and call upon the services of good old Google Maps. As we crossed the main road and commenced down one of the side streets, the flood lights of the stadium came in to view. We followed this sign as the three unsuspecting Australians, otherwise known as plan A, headed off in a completely different direction!!

The attendance of the game was just over 7,000. The usual attendance for Sydney FC is about 4,000. As there is a huge Chinese community in Sydney, the section containing the away support was, for once, pretty full. Although champions of Australia’s ‘A’ league, Sydney FC have been having a torrid time of late. After going 1-0 down, Sydney turned things around to take the lead twice only to be pulled back by a dogged Shanghai side that contained ex-Chelsea and Brazil stars Oscar and Hulk. This entertaining game finished all square at 3-3.

It is my ambition to attend a football match on every continent. There is a game in Cusco when we are in Peru in June (blog pending!!) and we have already purchased tickets for New York City FC when we are there in October. That leaves only one continent left – Antarctica. As there are no football stadiums on this vast landmass, I have told Roisin that if we’re ever lucky enough to visit Antarctica, don’t forget to bring a ball!!

Time has beaten us once more. We were both becoming very comfortable in Sydney but now it was time to move on. We managed to do and see everything we had planned as well as meet some (not so old!) friends but now we were ready to advance to the next chapter in our circumnavigation of the earth…Auckland!

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