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Published: November 23rd 2015
Apparently, once the heap in the corner had read my exciting approach to the new bloggism, it was deemed slightly lacking. Not giving enough respect to Sydney, or the loyal blog followers, were some of the comments I was able to make out. So the Starman has fallen back to Earth, the old order has reasserted itself, Clark is side-lined and Lois takes over once more .....
Hmmphhh. Some people certainly know how to get ideas above their station! Back to normal service. Now then, Sydney ....
We had another Qantas flight from Singapore to Sydney and it was as good as previously but on a smaller plane. Our route took us over the Equator and into Australian territory at Port Headland on the west coast. After some initial signs of life with clusters of lights on the coastal area we then flew over central Australia where it was pitch black; this was clearly the unoccupied central outback area. It gave me ample opportunity to gaze at the stars in the clear night sky. They really did seem to be shining more brightly and were quite stunning.
We landed early morning (Sydney is three hours ahead
of Singapore) and, despite all the horror stories I had seen when stumbling across a 'Nothing to Declare' programme on TV, we were not stopped at Customs and sailed straight through. We caught a shuttle bus into town, left our luggage at the hotel (the Metro Marlowe - huge, corporate, anonymous, clean and spacious - fine) and set off to explore Sydney as it was too early to check in to our room (not yet 9.00 am!).
On our journey to the city from the airport we had noticed just how many similarities there seemed to be with England. Of course, they drive on the left, but the style of the buildings and layout was very much like home. In the city many of the road names continued this theme (King/Oxford/Grosvenor/Sussex/Castlereagh/Pitt streets, for example - there was even a Kippax Street!) and the central park was Hyde Park. Many of the civic buildings, such as the Town Hall and barracks, were built in traditional British style, which is not surprising given the era they were built and there are many newer buildings (they really like their shopping malls in Sydney) of more modern (but uninspiring) appearance and we couldn't
shake off the feeling that we were in some British city somewhere, just one with sunshine.
Although quite hilly in places the city was compact enough to easily explore on foot. We walked down to Darling Harbour and crossed the bridge to the other side (not THE bridge, just a bridge) getting a feel for the place. There was much more physical activity, with skateboarders and runners. We saw one young mum jogging round the harbour in full running gear whilst pushing a pram at the same time! Over our time in Sydney we saw many of the tourists sights, including the Sydney Observatory, the Parliament of New South Wales building, Customs House, the Botanical Gardens, the Mint and the Barracks and, of course, the Sydney Opera House and the Bridge. We found Paddy's Market, where I managed to buy some almost weightless souvenirs to post home. We also saw a lot of the State Library of New South Wales. After having easy access to secure WiFi just about everywhere in Asia it became hard to access once we hit Australia. The hotels argue that the providers charge them huge sums of money for the service so they either
don't bother with it or pass the costs along to the users. In our hotel it was expensive, slow and unreliable so we used the library where it was free and fast. Our pre-planning had become less rigid at this point in our itinerary so we needed to make travel and accommodation arrangements for the next phase of our travels and we would have struggled without the library facilities.
Sadly, the lovely sunny weather we had followed half-way round the world decided to change. The temperature initially cooled, then the rain started. Who would believe it? The days were decidedly grey and quite cold with either drizzle or downpours. This may have affected our experience of the Sydney Opera House, with which we were quite disappointed. It wasn't as white as it is always depicted and was a bit dim and dingy inside. A band (Tame Impala) was rehearsing for an outdoor concert that evening and we found them more impressive than the Opera House! The bridge is just that - a bridge! It is apparently painted grey because that was the only colour they could get in sufficient quantities. With fireworks on it on New Year's Eve it
looks somewhat more colourful. Overall, we were starting to think Sydney was over-hyped.
What else about Sydney? Charles and Camilla popped by to say hello - we missed them. The city is very cosmopolitan and attracts many tourists. It is incredibly expensive. We opted for KFC and burgers on more occasions than I would have liked because eating out regularly was prohibitive. There is quite a large homeless population, sleeping on the streets, but no-one seems to mind (or care?). The birds are very different and quite colourful. We saw some Australian white ibis, sulphur crested cockatoos and some almost tame rainbow lorikeets at the library where they called every day for lunch provided by one of the waitresses in the cafe. We also saw a rat there, but we won't mention that.
We are due to revisit Sydney (it is our main transport hub in Australia) so I'm going to reserve judgement. I can't say I disliked it but I was just a little disappointed with it. There is still a lot we haven't yet seen - rain stopped play. Maybe the sun will be with us when we come back and give everything a different hue.
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