As regular readers will be aware from my previous post regarding Wollongong, I have spent some time in the capital of New South Wales, and possibly Australia's most famous city; Sydney.
Those of you who have seen my recent social media posts will have noticed that I haven't been that impressed with my visit.
I have enjoyed my activities within (and around) the city, but I really did not like the city itself. I found the place to be very claustrophobic, the streets are narrower than any other city I've visited in Oz, and they are overrun with both traffic and people. People had told me that there were beautiful green spaces where you don't feel like you're in the city at all, I couldn't find any.
Sydney is the fast paced business city, where people flock to in search of their next big career move. I should't judge people, but I was overwhelmed with a sense of self-importance emanating from the vast majority of passersby.
On the free walking tour I attended, the guide told us of the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne (Melbourne a clear winner in my book by the way!), saying how if Melbourne gets a big building, Sydney has to make one that's bigger and better. This implies that the city is defined by imitating other cities, and that's how I felt whilst exploring the metropolis and having now seen both cities I can't help thinking that Melbourne is the pioneer and Sydney ends up trying to up the ante.
The most striking resemblance I noticed was to London, I hadn't even left the shuttle bus from the airport before I had made this comparison. The amount of traffic surpasses any I have seen in other cities in Australia, everyone is in a rush to get somewhere, and nobody pays attention to other pavement users. I remember walking down George Street at one point, and on passing the Apple Store I had to remind myself that I wasn't on London's Regent Street.
The walking tour of the city later highlighted another part of the city that falls foul of imitation; Martin Place. For Sydney it is the heart of the city, and the centre of business and finance. The pedestrian mall however, is used as a film set for major productions such as Superman (one of the bad ones), and The Matrix, the reason it is used for this is because it looks so similar to many other of the World's cities; put a slew of yellow cabs on the roads at either end and all of a sudden it's New York!
Anyway, I should not concentrate on the flaws. My adventures have been enjoyable, and not a waste of my time. As I spent most of my time alone I took a large amount of photographs on my various wanderings. I have 36 images to share with you today so we should probably get started.
First up was the aforementioned free walking tour that I took, starting outside Town Hall on George Street our guide took us on an informative wander around the main areas of Sydney's CBD.
I liked being able to take this shot, including Sydney's tallest buildings. Yes, plural. The church stood as tallest building for a very long time, with it's spire dominating the skyline. Obviously things have changed, and now the tallest building is that big tower. The bucket at the top actually marks the height limit for future buildings.
My previous blogs have waxed lyrical about the street art that Melbourne is famous for. This has also noted by Sydney, prompting them to commission some street art of their own.
The piece below, a mass of empty bird cages hanging from the sky represents the birds that were once abundant but have since been forced out of the area due to Sydney's urbanisation. The strangely haunting display is added to by the inclusion of bird song played through small speakers as you walk beneath the cages.
We paused for a short snack break at Australia Square (which happens to be round) where we were shown a sculpture by John Seward Johnson. "Waiting" is a sculpture of a man sat on a bench reading a newspaper.
Moving forward, we briefly explored The Rocks; Sydney's oldest district, where settler's first started... well... settling. Here we saw the oldest building still standing in Sydney, Cadman's Cottage.
The Rocks is located just off Circular Quay, which is the main port area in Sydney Harbour. And what better location to end a walking tour than a place with views of Sydney's most iconic buildings.
So yeah. I've seen those things now.
Although I was fairly non-plussed with the views I had from this point, I was keen to get up close to the Opera House. That would give me chance to put my own spin on it through photography.
Ah, abstracty goodness. Much more intriguing. I'll admit, I was unaware that the structure was tiled with such a distinctive chevron pattern.
I may have seen images of the Opera House's exterior before, but I hadn't seen the inside. Something I managed to do on the Monday after returning from Wollongong. My train arrived back in Sydney in the early afternoon which gave me chance to walk through the Botanical Gardens and visit Mrs. Macquarie's Chair which I found completely unexciting, but this area is where you can see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge together. I took a couple of pictures but you've seen it before (and they're awful photos) so I'm not going to share them here.
After my wander through the gardens I ended up with time to kill before meeting a relative (Mum's other cousin's sister) and I discovered that I had just enough time to take a tour of the Opera House.
The tour was surprisingly interesting, the building has a fascinating history and being able to see inside some of the theatres was really cool. Sadly there was no photography allowed inside the theatres themselves.
Lucky for you, and in a strange moment for me, I decided to rebel.
This is the stage in the main theatre, it was being set up for the night's performance. I'm not sure what the performance was though.
The impressive wooden ceiling is suspended, the entire thing hangs and is not connected directly to any part of the external structure. The organ at the back is the World's largest, consisting 10,154 pipes. The white (actually transparent) things hanging from the ceiling are to rebound the sound back to the musicians immediately whilst they are playing, if they weren't there the sound would take a couple of seconds to travel to and from the back of the auditorium before so timing would be impossible to maintain.
For Tuesday I had booked a tour of the Blue Mountains on the recommendations from many people. On my way to the place I would meet the tour bus I found an amusingly named coffee shop.
I don't even like coffee!
Once I had successfully caught my tour bus, we headed out of the city to our first destination; Featherdale Wildlife Park. I've visited a wildlife park before but it was much smaller than this one and I was pleased to find that I got chance to see some wildlife here that I hadn't already seen before. And some that I had of course.
Despite these animals being in captivity it was great to be able to see them. The park has a large number of owls, and owls are awesome! The collection of parrots is amazing too, and I'm pleased I've managed to see a cassowary because in the wild they're very dangerous. The saltwater crocodile was a highlight (although I'm sure I'll see more when I visit Australia Zoo), as were the inhabitants o the reptile house. Featherdale has a lot more koalas than the previous park I visited, and they're much more accessible so I've finally managed to get some decent pictures of the adorable little fluff balls.
After Featherdale we stopped for lunch at a country club in the hills before making our way up to our first view of the Blue Mountains, from Echo Point.
The Blue Mountains are an impressive sight. They're actually a canyon system, and one that is (as proudly stated by employees) older, and larger than the United States' Grand Canyon.
One of the main attraction points is The Three Sisters; three prominent columns of rock that have great significance to the aboriginal people of the area. You can see them in the panorama shot above, but here's a better look.
From Echo Point the tour made its way to Katoomba Falls where we would take three different "rides". The first, a glass bottomed cable car across part of the canyons. It travels 270m above the canyon floor.
The views from here, and the second ride (a very steep cable car that travelled down into the canyon) were either much the same as already viewed, or obscured by people which always puts a stop to my photography (gosh darn those pesky people!).
The rainforest at the bottom of the canyon was also not very photogenic, but it was a pleasant walk, even if it was cold. The temperature was about 10 degrees in the Blue Mountains on that day, and being down in the canyon, shaded by trees meant it was much chillier in the forest. This was the first time I'd actually felt cold since being in Australia, it is winter though so I guess it's alright.
The third and final ride of the day was the World's steepest (lots of "The World's somethingests" in New South Wales!) railway. From the bottom of the canyon it travels upwards (also backwards) with the steepest part of the incline being 52 degrees. It's a short ride, and one that offers nice (yet also fairly un photographic) views.
After our foray into the Blue Mountains, we were dropped off at a ferry terminal where a Captain Cook Cruise would take us back to either Circular Quay, or Darling Harbour. I opted for Darling Harbour as I hadn't seen that bit of the city yet, it was much the same as any other spot. Unfortunately, the Sun's winter schedule meant that the entire cruise was spent in darkness, and being inside a ferry meant that photos were pointless.
My trip to the Bule Mountains had filled me with some more positive feelings and I began Wednesday with renewed vigour and enthusiasm to discover the good parts of Sydney.
My plan for the day was to walk from my hotel in Kings Cross, through the city to Bondi Beach, and then to enjoy the coastal walk past Coogee beach, finishing at Maroubra Bay. I managed to dawdle a bit too much though and only got as far as Coogee, it was still over 25km and took 6 hours though so I figured I'd walked enough for the day.
I was determined to find the mysterious green spaces that I'd heard so much praise of, and Google Maps provided me with a spot to try. A large, green patch on the map labelled Centennial Park which I could make a detour through, surely I could escape from the city in this large bit of parkland?!
In a massive attempt to prove me entirely correct about the city (I accept that I may still be entirely wrong), the park presented itself with several roads through the middle. Roads for cars, with enough room to park on both sides and still drive through the middle. It could have been such a nice place too.
Nevermind. I continued on my merry way, keeping my eyes open for interesting things to photograph. Like this building with it's billboard that in my view wins an award for creepiest and most disturbing advertising.
And this strange piece of stencilling.
Not sure if "Occupy Yoga" will take off as a hashtag!
I finally reached my second main destination. Bondi Beach. It's worth noting that I am not a beach person, and that even before visiting the place I couldn't see myself being overly impressed by a beach.
True to my expectations, it is just a beach. I had to walk the entire length to find somewhere I might consider getting a spot to eat, and even then it turned out pretty terrible and hugely overpriced.
I couldn't help admiring the waves of traffic throughout the place, and the sea of parked cars along the seafront (see what I did there?). I'm glad I didn't visit in summer, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to move.
Along the beach there is a long wall that is covered in street art. It's not a patch on what you can see in Melbourne. In Melbourne all the art is temporary, apart from some very large commissioned pieces, or a few with specific history/significance, the artworks will be covered within weeks if not days. This is part of what makes it special. I think Bondi misses this point, the art on the walls has clearly been there for a long time, and will be there until it's faded into obscurity. It's a tourist draw, not a community project and as a result loses its integrity.
Nevertheless, here's two pieces that I enjoyed.
The coastal walk itself is a nice way to spend time, although I struggled to take any photographs that interested me. The coastline seems much like a lot of other coastline, I could just as easily have taken a trip to Cornwall and enjoyed the same kind of walk, probably with less houses lining the cliff tops. The beaches along this walk however were much more pleasant, and in some cases the waves were more impressive than those at Bondi.
After a couple of hours walking I made it to Coogee Beach, another one of Sydney's well known beaches. I was pleased to find that this place was much more to my taste. I didn't have the claustrophobic feeling I had experienced elsewhere in the city, there was just an air of pleasant seaside town. I even managed to find somewhere that served good food at a reasonable price which made me very happy.
Despite quite liking Coogee, I only spent an hour or so there before hopping on a bus back to the hostel for my last night in the city, looking forward to heading back to Brisbane to settle down for a while...