in total, i spent 3 nights and parts of 4 days in sydney on my way back from tasmania en route back to the states. what follows is a brief listing of where the wind took me on one of those days, with some images from the day included below (a more complete collection of pics from oz here. note: the pics are at best ok and at worst terrible. why? because i realized too late that my camera battery was dead and therefore i had to resort to a blackberry-ipad camera combo to document my trip. not terrible, but definitely not great!)
Early to Mid-Morning
Walk north on York after leaving my hotel. The air is cooler than yesterday, clouds blanket the sky and a light mist and steady breezes make me thankful for the scarf around my neck and the umbrella in my bag.
Coffee, blueberry muffin from window cafe on York St. As I walked up, I inadvertently interrupted what looked like a familiar flirtation between a thirsty male customer and a friendly female barista.
Walk across the Harbor Bridge, on the lower, commuter side. I walk briskly like the Aussies around me, each moving with a purposeful stride. The non-residents are easy to spot; they/we pause to look at the brilliant views of the opera house, the central business district (CBD), the Circular Quay (pronounced “key”).
Follow foot traffic over bridge and into North Sydney. Descending the stairs, I am struck by the almost carnivalesque colors in this part of the city.
Admire the wood stain work on a series of benches. After snapping a couple of pics, I get the attention of a thin man who looks to be in his late 50s who is busy sanding the surface of a picnic table. He wears a construction vest with neon yellow stickers over his grey sweatshirt. When I ask if I take a photo of one bench, he blushes and nods; his face becomes redder when I make an appreciative remark about the craftsmanship of his stain work. He points to the collection of benches and tables in the small area where he is working and tells me he worked on each one. He is smiling even as I walk away.
Luna Park. Full of artful and unexpected views of the familiar Sydney skyline, a giant moonface entrances, ferris wheel and other artifacts reminiscent of boardwalk topography: games, prizes, and rides. All empty, likely awaiting the blossoming of spring into summer where visitors will be plentiful.
Back across bridge. Collect a few more pics for my “Benches” photo essay.
Late morning to early afternoon:
Set out across town toward Paddington. As I walked through the city center, across Hyde Park, and in search of a café I had read about, I stumbled onto a large protest going on held by public workers in opposition to the wage caps and job cuts being imposed by the New South Wales state government. Teachers wearing red tees bearing the slogan “public education for our future” and correction officers in light blue with the slogan “we face what you fear.”
Walk in search of and in the direction of At Perry Lane. I meandered through town with a vague sense of my destination, which was a café I had read about as a much touted must-visit spot in the Sydney café scene. On the way, I found Ampersand Book Store and Café. I stopped in, fell in love, started reading a biography of Wittgenstein that was poking out of one of the many full bookshelves. I was getting hungry, so I decided to head to At Perry Lane (APL) and stop back at Ampersand on the way back.
APL closed. Apparently under new ownership, not yet re-opened. And yes, it was really good – according to the two employees working in the adjoining clothing shop. A part of me is bummed, but after snapping a couple of pics, I happily headed back to Ampersand for lunch and more time in the magnificient, cozy basement, shelf-lined room.
Lunch at Ampersand. Mine was a “Vegie Brekky” – that’s vegetarian breakfast sandwich to you and me – an earl grey tea, and a trail mix cookie. I was served my lunch in the magical room and I spent the next hour catching up on a few emails (courtesy of Ampersand’s free wifi) and reading most of the first chapter of the Wittgenstein biography. I also had delightful chat with a man who initially engaged me to ask about my iPad – did I like it? Was it useful? What did I use it for? – and we ended up talking about his son, a musician who is currently finishing up a three-month stay in Brooklyn; about a play he was writing based on his time living in Rome – he has called many parts of this world home at some point or another, including Tokyo, London, and New York; and he explained that he was here dropping off some books given to him by his daughter for which he had received a $30 credit from Ampersand. While we chatted, my new colleague from Scotland, who was also part of the Tasmania conference, let me know he was in Sydney so we decided to meet up at another café near the Circular Quay. I finished my lunch and came to a good stopping point in the story of young Ludwig, and, after purchasing a ticket from the convenience store next to the bookstore, hopped on a bus (the 380) back to the city center.
Afternoon to Evening:
Police and Justice Museum. I had a couple of hours before meeting B for coffee so I wandered a bit then saw on my google map that I was near the Police and Justice Museum. Given the complicated history of Australia’s origins, it seemed like an interesting option. The featured exhibit was on the uses of various forms of surveillance to identify and pursue “persons of interest.” This quote by Oscar Wilde, emblazoned in one of the exhibit rooms, seems to say it all: “One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted.” A part of me did not want to document this visit as I had the rest of my travels through this country. But there were a few images and visuals that compelled me click and capture, if only to ponder further as time passes.
Coffee, flat white. Le Quays, where my Scottish friend and I were scheduled to meet, was closed for the day so we wandered a few steps away to another coffee shop and each ordered a flat, white coffee. We sat outside, taking in the chilly air that was refreshing after the day of walking that each of us had experienced. Another option worth an afternoon’s exploration that I learned about was the Botanical Gardens just steps away from where we met.
Dusk walk thru CQ. My coffee companion and I walked in the direction of the Circular Quay where the ferry terminals were located, and paused to take in the city at dusk on a cloudy day in the shadow of the Sydney Opera House.
The opera house. After bidding my colleague goodbye, I rushed back to the hotel for a quick shower and change of clothes and rushed back out again in hopes of securing tickets for that evening’s showing of La Boheme. My colleagues had encouraged me to ask for the “concession” fare, so when I approached the box office – in record speed, if I may say so! And whizzing right past scores of people all heading in the direction of the opera house for one of a variety of happenings taking place there that night, in addition to the opera itself. – I inquired about available tickets and concessions. The ticket agent asked to see a university ID, which I readily produced, and she handed me a considerably reduced ticket. I walked away elated that I had secured a seat (and feeling the slightest bit funny that she may have mistaken me for a student). I was early, so I took in the scene around me and from various vantage points in and around SOH before finally taking my seat.
La Boheme. I have always loved the music of this Puccini creation, but until this viewing I did not pay close attention, I think, to how the Italian had been translated into English. I admit, the stilted translation bothered me. But only momentarily after which time I got swept up in the performances, the story, the emotions, and the stunning voices of the performers. It was a special treat to discover wifi inside the opera theater, which I took advantage of during the intermission to quietly exclaim to my sister a few others that “I was watching La Boheme inside the Sydney Opera House.” While I’m easily delighted by life, I find that I’m not easily impressed by the usual, iconic world attractions that are foregrounded in travel books and tourist guides. SOH was an excellent exception to this rule.
Veggie Udon, a hotel room, reflecting on the day. If it hadn’t been raining, I might have followed the advice I found online to go up to the 36th floor of the Shangri La Hotel and get a drink while taking in the city view. But I left SOH feeling quite full in many ways, so I opted instead for a quiet end to a busy day. The restaurant next door to my hotel prepared a fantastic veggie udon soup which I consumed while relaxing in my hotel room. It was my last night in Sydney, in Australia. I was already thinking of what I would do on my trip…