Sydney is Not the Capital of Australia

After our rushed walk from the car rental depot to the Central train station through Sydney, we felt that the city deserved some further exploring. I think I expected Sydney to be just another big city, but to its credit I was impressed with how many different things there were to see and do.

DSC02908WIn appearance, it did feel very much like a larger American city with some areas reminding me of Georgetown in Washington D.C. while others made me think more of New York City. Sydney seemed fairly diverse as Australia goes and everyone had somewhere important to go, but at a more relaxed pace than say NYC. It seemed like a great place to live if you had a salary in Australian dollars and a group of friends that liked to go out and try new restaurants. I was also impressed that in what I consider to be a generally expensive country, Sydney offers a lot of things for free, like the botanical gardens, many museums, parks, neighborhoods and of course a free walking tour!

DSC02922WAs per the usual, we planned our day trip to the city around this free walking tour and also as usual, we found that distances on the city map are much farther on foot than you might think.  So, by the time we had taken the 2 hour train ride from Katoomba to Central Station, we barely had time for a quick picnic in Hyde Park before we had to get to our tour meeting point.

DSC02912WLike all good walking tours, despite the city’s size, our guide took us to all the major sections of downtown so we felt as if we missed very little, while still agreeing that we could use another day or two to put many of his recommendations into action.

DSC02916WWe strolled through the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) and several of the newer downtown malls that flaunt high end stores and impressive interiors.

DSC02918WOne of our first stops, amusingly enough, was back to Hyde Park.

DSC02909W There we encountered the scavenging Ibis that I think resemble the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal more than birds.

DSC02911WWe also were treated to a city history that was very different than those of the European cities we’ve visited. Apparently, Sydney was originally used to house many of the convicts from Britain when they ran out of room for them in the UK.  It must have made for an exciting society.

DSC02924WThe juxtaposition in architecture was very interesting between Victorian and contemporary styles.

DSC02923WOur tour guide pointed out that Australia has no problem whatsoever consuming both of the animals that appear on its national coat of arms.

DSC02930WTowards the end of the tour we were taken into the transformed Customs building that now is filled with free wifi, newspapers and couches. It also has a glass floor in the middle that floats above a fabulous 3D model of downtown Sydney.

DSC02958WOur next stop was Circular Quay, which is easily the coolest part of the city.

DSC02936WIt’s hard to be unmoved by the famous Opera House, which I can confidently report is just as impressive in person as it is in pictures.

DSC02950W Especially since it’s set against water, ferries, the Sydney Harbor Bridge and several other beautiful neighborhoods on the other side of the harbor.

DSC02946WWe spent the last part of the tour walking through the Rocks which is a much quieter neighborhood with pleasant pedestrian streets and a casual inviting vibe founded by the working class.

DSC02956WWe circled back down to the harbor just in time to catch the beautiful colors of dusk over the water and Quay.

DSC02948WA few days later, we headed back into the city to meet an old friend of mine from high school and college, Allison, and her husband for dinner. Although we had to work at the hostel that morning, we were still able to squeeze in a few hours more of sightseeing before meeting up. We quickly visited the National Galley where a wide range of styles and time periods were showcased. I think I enjoyed the aboriginal art the most as well as the more contemporary, darker pieces.

The gallery is right next to the Botanical Gardens which provided a scenic walk back to Circular Quay to see the Opera House up close this time.

DSC03054WPAllison later told me that downtown seemed dead, but it appeared buzzing to us, especially for a Monday night. Everyone was out jogging, terracing by the water and taking ferries home from work which created a very lively atmosphere. We couldn’t resist taking a few more shots of the harbor and the Opera House while the lights were on.

DSC03053WLater in the evening, we met Allison and her husband at a local brewery for drinks and dinner. I was slightly disappointed that they didn’t have a kangaroo steak or emu egg, but I’m sure I’ll have my chance before we leave the country. We had a wonderful evening catching up and hearing all about their lives in Sydney which sounds like a wonderful place to live.

 

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