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Australia: Bendigo, Blue Mountains, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula, Sydney
Sydney, Australia: It rocks
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
The Rocks is a nice little neighbourhood next to the Sydney harbour. That’s where the city had its roots. It was the location of the first European Settlement in 1788. This bustling metropolis has come a long way since. Today, the entire city rocks… for its icons, for the cuisine it offers, for the business opportunities it offers, its nightlife… the works.
I was to be in Sydney for business from Monday through Thursday. However, I arrived on a Friday morning allowing me time to catch up with the time zone change as also explore Sydney. To my horror, it was windy and pouring when I landed. The weatherman predicted that the weather would remain so for the rest of the day. Well that’s the weatherman for you.
I was booked at Hotel Sofitel Wentworth on Philip Street in the CBD. It’s a good business hotel in an ideal location. I was within 25-minutes of walking distance from most of my schedule meetings as also the Circular Quay, The Rocks, Sydney Opera, Sydney Bridge, Royal Botanic Gardens and the Darling Harbour. I took a shuttle from the airport. It was a 30-minute ride that cost me AUD15. At the time of my writing the USD was running at 90% of AUD.
Since it was raining, a good idea for me was to hit the bed. From my home in Pune, India, to my hotel room in Sydney, Australia, I had spent 24 hours in a car, in an airplane, at the airport lounge and finally in an airport shuttle. I was flying Cathay Pacific so a halt at the Hong Kong airport was part of the travel thrill. I must have slept like a baby. When I woke up it was almost 4PM. More than the sleep, it was the sun outside that cheered me up. It was windy but the ambience was inviting to explore Sydney.
Just 10 minutes away was the entrance of Royal Botanic Gardens on the Macquarie Street. The Royal Botanic Gardens were first established in Sydney by Governor Bligh in 1816. The gardens cover 30 hectares and adjoin the 35 hectares making up the Domain. There are over 7,500 species of plants represented here. I spent some time in the rose garden and the conservatory. The gardens are at the north eastern corner of the City Centre and overlook the Sydney harbour.
A good 15-minute walk from the gardens took me to the world famous Sydney icon. The Sydney Opera House is one of Sydney's most beautiful and unusual buildings; its sail shaped structure, designed by Jorn Utzon, is world famous. The Opera House is host to most of Sydney's major classical music and opera events. You can walk all around the building, and some of the foyer areas free of change. The location offers good views of the harbor, the north side of Sydney and the Harbour Bridge.
From the Opera House I walked to Circular Quay. This is a very busy ferry station with ferries departing from its 6 wharfs in all directions. Along with Sydney’s metros and buses, ferries form an important public transport means. Passes of various durations, valid on all modes, are available. I had been walking for some time. That called for pushing in some calories. Burgers, fries and soda at Hungry Jacks did the trick.
Adjacent to Circular Quay is The Rocks. I spent some time walking around this chic neighbourhood and then continued my return journey taking a different but very busy route; George Street – Bond Street – Wynyard Station – Martin Place – Hotel.
Martin Place is a pedestrian zone situated in the heart of the CBD located between George Streets and Macquarie Streets. It is a significant and popular civic open space hosting a Cenotaph, numerous major public art installations, fountains and an amphitheatre.
By the time I reached my hotel it was 8PM. After catching up with my mails, it was time to hit the bed. The next day I would leave early to explore Blue Mountains.
On my third day in Sydney, I planned to visit Bondi Beach, another of Sydney’s ‘must visit’ locations. Generally, folks would go straight to Bondi Beach and return. However, I was rightfully advised by Nick Bocock, the concierge at my hotel to make my visit more interesting. Here goes:
I took a ferry from Circular Quay to Watson Bay ($5.60, one way). Before boarding, I bought 2 bus tickets ($7 for 2 single journeys) that would come in handy later on. After cruising for 30 minutes I got down at Watson Bay. The location offers good views of Sydney skyline and has some great restaurants on the beach. I walked uphill, through Robertson Park to reach The Gap – a vantage point to view the open ocean and rising cliffs. From thereon I walked along the South Head Cliff to reach two light houses.
From the second light house I took a bus to get down at Bondi Beach. Being a Sunday the beach was full to the brim. Surfers were having a great time as did beach volley-ball players. Thousands of others were busy basking in the sun or sipping their chillers. Now began the interesting part of my day – a walk of about 5 kilometers from Bondi Beach to Bronte Beach along the cliffs. Since I made quite a number of photo stops it took me an hour and a half to cover the distance. Other walkers and joggers (and there were hundreds of them) covered the same quite quickly though.
All along the route there were ‘health-stops’ that had exercise equipment for visitors. As far as I know Australians are pretty fitness conscious, well most of them. I was surprised to read an article that over the years Australians are actually inching towards obesity. That’s another subject though.
At Bronte Beach I grabbed a bag of fries and Diet Coke. That was my lunch. Post feed, I took a bus to city and alighted at Liverpool Street on the corner of Hyde Park. From there I strolled to my hotel along the Elizabeth Street with stops at Hyde Park’s Archibald Fountain; St. Mary’s Cathedral; Barracks Museum; Parliament and the State Library.
St. Mary’s Cathedral stands in the centre of Sydney as a Christian statement of grace and beauty. Generations of artists have bequeathed to it their magnificent gifts in stone and glass, designing a unique space of solace and prayer within this vibrant city. This Cathedral represents the spiritual origins of the Catholic Church in Australia. It is one of Sydney's most treasured historic buildings and one of the finest examples of English-style gothic churches in the world.
The Archibald Fountain, properly called the J.F. Archibald Memorial Fountain, widely regarded as the finest public fountain in Australia. It is located in Hyde Park. It is named after J.F. Archibald, owner and editor of The Bulletin magazine, who bequeathed funds to have it built. Archibald specified that it must be designed by a French artist, both because of his great love of French culture and to commemorate the association of Australia and France in World War I. He imagined its civic design and ornamentation developing to rival his dream city Paris. Over the years the Archibald Fountain has been a chosen spot for photos, street performers, political rallies and just as a meeting place.
By the time I reached my hotel it was 6PM. I quickly freshened up and met Mark Luckey my business partner for dinner at the one of the restaurants next to the waters near the Opera House.
The whole of next day was busy with business meetings. The evening I kept aside to take some night shots on the harbour and to have dinner with my niece Arpita and her husband Srijith. They live in Sydney. It was a good re-union.
I was not aware that a surprise would hit me the next morning. I was told by Mark that the meetings would start a little early and that I should be ready at 8AM. As scheduled David Reeves our business associate in Sydney showed up at the hotel door - fully geared on his Harley Davidson! The plan was now revealed. The business meetings would commence from 11AM. I had 3 hours on hand to explore Sydney with David on his Harley! I excused myself for 10 minutes to get into a more appropriate dress for the occasion.
David Reeves, a veteran in the travel industry is also popular in town and with tourists with his bike rides. If you fancy, you can reach him when in Sydney next. The ride will surely delight you. He operates under the brand www.ridetheworld.com.au.
We did about 60 kms that morning. The first stop was Lady Macquarie Seat that offers the classic Sydney picture spot… Sydney Opera and the Harbour Bridge in one frame. The route: Philip Street – Macquarie Street – Watsons Bay Ferry Wharf – Campbell Parade – Bondi Beach – Dolphin Street (we had breakfast here overlooking the Coogee beach) – La Perouse (to visit Botany Point and Bear Island) – Hotel.
Quickly, I changed into a more civilized outfit and head out for the first business meeting of the day. The day was over at 5PM. There was still time to walk The Rocks and to cross the Harbour Bridge on foot.
The Rocks encompasses the past, present and future. The indigenous Cadigal people inhabited the rocky headland and surrounding shoreline for thousands of years. Then in 1788, Australia's first European settlers- British convicts and their overseers- claimed the land and built their camp atop the sandstone cliffs. The Rocks eventually grew into a vibrant port community. Its colourful history, filled with tales of ‘shanghaied' sailors, rough gangs, and gritty life, can still be traced in the many surviving buildings from the last two centuries. But today the renovated former warehouses, sailors' homes, and dens of iniquity house a unique mixture of fine restaurants, one-of-a-kind shops, and galleries showcasing both established and emerging talent.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a steel arch bridge across Sydney Harbour that carries rail, vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic between the Sydney central business district (CBD) and the North Shore. It is 1.6 kms. long and was opened in 1932. 80% of the steel that went into building it was imported from England. The bridge, an engineering marvel, is nicknamed "The Coathanger" because of its arch-based design.
That was my last evening in Sydney. The next day we had a road show organized on the top floor of the Shangri La hotel. The venue, arguably, had the best views of Sydney. Post lunch I left for Melbourne.
Sydney Image Gallery Photo viewer
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