As a general rule (In case you didn’t get this vibe from my time in Melbourne)- I am not a city person. They are big, they are busy. The people are usually hateful, and it’s a concrete jungle. (I do appreciate Montreal and Calgary though for big cities)
Well today ladies and gents, changed that sentiment! SYDNEY IS SO NICE. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I want to live here or anything, but, I sure wish I had more time here.
I had a nice sunset picture from Cairns yesterday evening to share too, since I’m writing:
I slept in a tad this morning, before heading to meet a “I’m Free” Walking Tour of the city. It was about a 20 minute walk from the hotel, and I stopped to grab some banana bread and a flat white on the way, as I walked through the main shopping district.
The walking tour met at the Town Hall.
My guide Josh was a history major, so he had all kinds of fun info to share. Basically, this company was started 7 years ago when a bunch of uni students went to Europe, experienced similar tours, and began to wonder why Sydney didn’t have something like it. So they came home, started researching at the archives, and a business model was born. The guides are paid by your donation, and there’s no pressure or minimum. Side note: That’s why tipping is so great here. It’s hardly ever actually expected, because the hospitality industry has a really good salary. So you only tip when the service was genuinely above and beyond.
Apparently the Sydney City Council is one of the richest in the world, and that’s how they can afford things like $7M for NYE fireworks. Their building is made from Sydney sandstone, as many historic buildings in the CBD are.
Right next door was an Anglican cathedral, which is one of the oldest cathedrals in Australia. I apparently didn’t get a picture of it, but it’s also Sydney sandstone and really pretty! When it was originally built, it was facing the main road. However, over time the main road became George street. Then this beatific piece of Gothic architecture was no longer facing the main road. The solution? Sledgehammer a new entrance, and then renovate the whole church to put the alter on the other side!
Also interesting to note is that George Street is currently undergoing a major renovation project, to restore the teams which were ripped up in the 1950s. When they are restored, this entire main road through Sydney will only be open to pedestrian traffic and trams! No other vehicles.
From here we also went to the Queen Victoria Building, which has apparently always been a marketplace throughout history. Today it’s home to some beautiful stained glass and high class retailers. Outside, there’s a statue of Queen Victoria, which is on permanent “loan” from Ireland, and a statue of her dog companion named Ilah, known as the talking dog.
We also walked through the main regular shopping district known as Pitt Street and Hyde Park (a green space for over 50000 years from the indigenous people, the public logging land to horse racing to the green space it is today). In Hyde Park is the Archibauld Fountain which is similar in symbolic sentiment to the caribou for the Newfoundland Regiment. It represents over half a million Anzac soldiers who willingly volunteered to fight a war with France, and France’s appreciation for this generation’s sacrifice.
We also seen Saint Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, which is Australia’s longest construction project. Despite being started in 1868, and being mostly finished by the 1930s, the spires weren’t actually finalized until the 1990s before the Olympics came to town in 2000! This existed for the Irish convicts.
We also seen where the convicts would stay. During the day, they had more or less free run, and several labour tasks. However at night, if they wanted to be fed, they had to return to the Hyde Park Barracks.
Since Sydney was growing into this sensible colony, they needed a hospital! The British government wasn’t having anything to do with spending money on a hospital for convicts, so the governor for the area bartered rum-selling rights for a period of three years to some rich merchants in exchange for money for this hospital. To this day, it is therefore still colloquially referred to as the Rum Hospital! It still functions! It also has a stature of the Lucky Boar, like the one in Italy, which was a present from Italy to symbolize positive relations.
Another neat thing was this “Forgotten Songs Memorial”. It has all these bird cages, and speakers which play bird chips in each one. The sound clips were recorded just outside of Sydney, and are coordinated to play at the times those birds would be singing in the wild. It is meant to demonstrate the loss of nature European settlement brought to the area.
Other fun things I seen today included a Speak Easy:
There was street corn!
It’s really neat how the white sails of the Opera House are actually made of all these little individual tiles! We did a tour, which took us around to see some of the theatres inside, and we seen some incredible sets, including part of the one for Swan Lake! There’s so much I could say about these sites, but I’ll save the Iron Lung and Architect Drama stories for tomorrow.
For supper we took the ferry to Manly Beach, and had Mexican at a place called Chico Bonita. It was a 40 minute wait for a table, so we checked out the 4 Pines Microbrewery while we waited. They had live music and a deadly red ale.
Once at Chico Bonita, we ordered street corn and jalapeño poppers for our app, and I had a chicken taco and a fish taco for my main. It was so so good. I wish we could get real homemade Mexican like this at home! Think fresh pico de gallo and homemade corn tortillas.
I’ll let you know how we go tomorrow,