Sydney – January 2010

July 5, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Posted in Australia, General, museum, Out and About, Sydney, Tourism, Travel | Leave a comment
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Obviously very late with this wrap up and for the next few. Regular readers will know this means that they tend to be shorter than usual. I do apologise for this but when procrastination is in the title it’s got to be expected. Right? Right?

Or not.

So with the mea culpa out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Has Sydney changed much in the past 2 and bit years since I left (over 3 at this writing!)? Not appreciably, no. There are always going to be new shops springing up and closing down but luckily the bustle and energetic vibe of the city remains. This was a nice and welcome contrast to the slightly less active Brisbane.

I was surprised by the redevelopment happening in Pitt Street Mall. Formerly one of the most frequented shopping streets and on my visit largely covered in scaffolds. Presumably this will lead to a super shopping experience in the future, nonetheless is was a touch unnerving.

Now onto the things I went and saw (for those wanting more Sydney activities check out the archive).

ANZAC Memorial
I used to walk past this imposing and towering memorial to Australia and New South Wales’ war dead practically every day on my way to work through Hyde Park and never went in. Even on my last helter skelter day it was still on the cards but never eventuated. So did it live up to the hype?

ANZAC Memorial - Sydney 2010 (14) ANZAC Memorial - Sydney 2010 (10)

Sort of. For foreign nationals it’ll probably only appeal to the military history buffs amongst you. As for an Australian, I did find it reasonably interesting.

There weren’t exactly a lot of exhibits or content but the curators have done a solid job of putting up information that covers the conflicts have been involved in, the lives of soldiers and their families and their current activities.

However, this is a memorial, to remember and reflect. The museum elements are simply there to put it into context.

ANZAC Memorial - Sydney 2010 (21)

Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout
Want to walk up the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge but don’t have the time or money to do the climb? No problem! The Bridge Pylon centre is here to help. Located on the south side of the bridge the right hand pylon houses a museum covering the construction and maintenance of the bridge as well as a viewing platform.

Pylon Lookout - Sydney 2010 (1)

Granted the views won’t be as magnificient as those from the top of the bridge but they’re still very good.

Pylon Lookout - Sydney 2010 (32)

This option is really much faster and cheaper than the climb so if either of these are limiting factors, then go for it!

Pylon Lookout - Sydney 2010 (24) Pylon Lookout - Sydney 2010 (33)

Sydney Observatory
Located near the southern pylons is the Sydney Observatory. It no longer functions in that capacity, rather it now houses a musuem covering the astronomy and the unique history involved in charting the southern hemisphere’s night sky.

Sydney Observatory - Sydney 2010 (9)

The observatory is set atop a hill (as you’d expect, really) and also offers some great views over the surrounding city. A few years ago I watched the new year fireworks from year – a great spot.

Sydney Observatory - Sydney 2010 (10)

However, one bugbear was that in several places it still referred to Pluto as a planet. If by chance they opposed the resolution stripping it of that status then at the very least they should put up a piece of paper explaining the position. If they don’t oppose it then it’s just laziness to no put up some statement. Afterall won’t someone think of the children (and their education!). …. end of rant.

Sydney Observatory - Sydney 2010 (28) Sydney Observatory - Sydney 2010 (27)

Besides that it was a very pleasant wander. In one instance I helped explain the working of a telescope to a family. OK really it was just verbally explaining the instructions to the English speaker in the group who then translated, but still! Don’t take away my moment.

I love visiting Sydney and look forward to coming back again. Will also have to get to Melbourne – people are always raving about you!

Lastly, a big thanks and special thanks to Amy’s mum. Sorry it’s taken so long to get move past Brisbane.

More photos over at Flickr and Google maps.

Taste of Spain

July 6, 2009 at 8:25 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Sydney, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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At the end of May Regent Street in London was turned into a “Taste of Spain“.

Taste of Spain (14) Taste of Spain (3)

While I know I missed out on the free hats and paella it didn’t really live up to expectations.
Taste of Spain (17)

Realistically the event should have been renamed Spanish Tourism as most of the exhibitors were promoting travel to Spain with leaflets and brochures. Whoo. There were also a few vendors but nothing striking. The main stage had some dancers and the events there may have proved interesting.
Taste of Spain (5) Taste of Spain (11)

I went relatively early and walking along the street was fairly easy, that is until I reached the middle of the road where the organisers had placed a large sandy enclosure thus forcing the crowds into bottlenecks on either side. Awful planning.
Taste of Spain (7)

Lastly, I only saw 2 Spanish food vendors on the street with predictably large queues which more than anything seems to run contrary to an event called a “Taste of Spain”.
Taste of Spain (16)

Despite its significantly smaller size I found Sydney’s Spanish Festival a much more lively affair.

More photos at Flickr.

Pride 2008

August 24, 2008 at 9:17 pm | Posted in Gay and Lesbian, General, London, Out and About, Sydney, Tourism, UK | Leave a comment
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One sunny Saturday in July (5th) was London’s gay pride parade.

I was surprised when I arrived at Oxford Street shortly before it began and found a spot along the route only one person back from the road. In Sydney when Mardi Gras rolls around in order to get a decent view you have to know someone with a balcony or mark out a spot early in the day. Perhaps London’s route is longer and so the crowd can spread out more? That or fewer spectators….

Pride 2008

Boris, Mayor of London, leads the parade

In my area the crowd and passer-bys were mostly into it and supportive. Some staff from Carphone Warehouse were outside snickering – but I guess it’s good that they stayed and watched. About 50 metres further on was a Christian fundamentalist preaching that homosexuality equals death. I don’t know whether he was moved on but once the parade started I didn’t hear him anymore.

Free speech and all that…

London’s parade seemed pretty moderate with equal amounts of skin and community groups. Comparing with Mardi Gras again, I find Sydney’s parade a lot sluttier than London. I suspect that this is because Sydney’s is held at night with a lot more alcohol having being consumed. By the same token, London’s parde is longer and set during the middle of the day – out of the shadows, into the light and proud.

Trafalgar Square  and Old Compton Street were even busier – easily bigger than Canada Day. The Square’s main stage had performances with food and community stalls around the edges. I think the latter is one of the major differences (and benefits) compared with Sydney.

In Sydney things quickly shift to clubbing and partying with limited attempts to expand the community (excluding the parade floats). In Sydney (as with London) there are activities on many days but the parade is ultimately the main day, the day most of the public acknowledge.

London starts during the middle of the day and has plenty of energy to go on through the afternoon and late into the night.

On that note London clearly wins out.

I had a lot of problems including photos into this entry so you’ll find them all at Flickr.

Potts Point photos

May 4, 2007 at 11:50 pm | Posted in Australia, Out and About, photos, Sydney | Leave a comment

Here are some photos of Potts Point (and Elizabeth Bay and Rushcutter’s Bay) the rest are on Flickr.

A very dodgy person used to live behind these bars 😉
Potts Point (69)

I love tree lined streets – even in Autumn.
Potts Point (10)

The stairs you love to hate.
Potts Point (15)

It can’t be helped, another Harbour shot.
Potts Point (21)

Sitting back, doing nothing. Looks good to me.
Potts Point (48)

Terraces
Potts Point (11)

Traipsing the Inner West

April 23, 2007 at 12:48 pm | Posted in Australia, General, Out and About, Sydney | 1 Comment

On Saturday I took a ferry to Balmain (Thames St) to try and see as much of the inner West as I could before leaving Sydney and in so doing I’d at least finish checking out the inner city.

In Balmain I walked along Darling Street checking out the various shops along the main street before settling down at the Circle Cafe for some crepes and coffee for breakfast. This establishment is just off the street and you pass through its leafy couryard before entering the cafe itself. The cafe appears to have some sort of relationship with the Uniting Church, I’m not sure if that makes the food better or worse. My mocha was reasonably standard but still needed a few sugars to become sweet enough. The crepes with maple syrup and banana were tasty, a little bit crunchy but that contrasted well with the squishy texture of the banana. Throw in the sweet maple syrup and it was all very choice.

Balmain has a small town feel in a big city environment and what with all of the cars and people you can’t completely detach from Sydney but you do lose sight of the city skyline and skyscrapers resulting in a different vibe to similar high streets located within the inner city.

I continued walking through deserted streets, which is a very disturbing feeling coming from the hustle and bustle, until I reached the Lillyfield Metro Rail station which I took to Glebe station. This was my first time on Sydney’s light rail – something I’d generally equated with being a tourist (so now seems like a good excuse). I was pleasantly surprised by how clean and efficient the trip was and amused by the quaintness of having to buy a ticket from an on-board conductor.  

Lillyfield (2)
I wonder if “300” inspired the tipping of the vending machine?

In Glebe I made my way to the markets. I’m not one for markets but I’ve been told it’s quite alternative so I thought I’d give it a go. Wandering through the stalls didn’t change my perspective on markets but if you like this sort of thing I would encourage you to come because it covers a reasonable amount of space and there seems to be a wide range of products on display.  There was also live music and a large-ish grass patch for people to just sit around and eat. Having a common area like this contrasts with all the other markets I’ve been to in Sydney which seem to use up all available space for the stalls.

Glebe (4)
Some dodgy house in Glebe 😉

After the market I went to Sappho cafe on Glebe Point Road for another mocha (Badde Manors was full). Sappho was also very busy and there was about 20 minutes delay before I got another standard mocha. On the plus side this gave my legs a chance to rest and the staff were all very friendly.

After Glebe I walked into Newtown along King Street and ate at Guzman y Gomez, a place Grab Your Fork reviewed a while ago, although I couldn’t recall what was said. I ate some beef tacos and they were ok and call me a bogan but I was kind of anticipating a shell taco rather than the soft tortilla. I guess I don’t know anything about Mexican cuisine.

I’d been to Newtown before but only at night so I was planning on taking this opportunity to check out all of the shops in the area. I think I’d set higher expectations than the reality. While there are numerous food outlets, clothes and books there wasn’t anything in particular I couldn’t access closer to home. Is this being snobbish or inner city elitist?

Newtown
King Street, near Enmore Road, Newtown.

Newtown (3)
Newtown Courthouse

Next stop was up through Newtown to Camperdown, through some random park, before arriving at my old University – University of Sydney – to trade some of my games and DVDs with members of my old kendo club as part of the big sell up and move extravaganza. I haven’t been back to training for almost a year but fortunately there are still quite a few I know and they’re all as friendly as ever. We made our way to Market City for dinner and hung out for a bit before going our separate ways.

Camperdown
How is it that the Master Builder’s Association is located in this building?

University of Sydney (1)
The University of Sydney.

University of Sydney (8)
University team playing rugby and winning.

I have to admit by the time I returned home I was knackered and fell asleep on my bed/couch/table whatever you want to call the only piece of furniture I have left. This is a little bit concerning for my future travels but I’ve got 2 weeks to improve my fitness. That’ll happen.

Like learning languages…man, I’ve been slack with that. I’ve now got 2 weeks to learn traveller’s basic Japanese. I think I’ll end up procrastinating till the flight over – that should be enough time. Right? Right?

Taronga-rific

April 23, 2007 at 10:44 am | Posted in Australia, General, Out and About, Sydney, Travel | Leave a comment
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I took the ferry to Taronga Zoo a few weeks ago and walked the short distance to the chair lift which provides a nice birds eye view of the zoo (including the elephants) below. I’ve been to any number of Australia wildlife parks but Taronga is my first “real” zoo featuring more than just native flora and fauna. There are certainly a good variety of animals from the region and the world but I had assumed it would have been at least 50-50 between Australian-Foreign creatures not the 75-25 level. Granted for tourists coming to Australia it would be an excellent opportunity to see a snapshot of Australiana.

I enjoyed the chance to see the lions, giraffes, gorillas and even the mountain goats – even if some were less than active. Walking around the park was pleasant with not nearly as many people as I’d anticipated which made it pretty easy to get around. Buying the $3 map and guide is a reasonable purchase particularly when you’re on a tight timeframe.

I had anticipated spending a good chunk of the day at the zoo but after arriving at midday I was pretty much done by 3 (this was without seeing any of the shows and just looking at the exhibits). During the last half hour I’d been hankering for a burger, Coke and fries and arrived just before 3 at the food court to the burger joint named “Tarongas”. While waiting in line they put out at a sign saying they close at 3PM. Shocking. On the other hand I saw many families bring their own picnics to eat within the grounds and overlooking some spectacular views of the city.  

With that disappointment in mind I walked back down to the ferry and took another pleasant trip across the harbour and finally got my burger at Burgerlicious.

Overall, Taronga Zoo is an enjoyable experience, providing both Australian and international. Your best bet to get there is by Sydney Ferry and when you buy your ticket you can get your zoo pass at the same time.

Taronga Zoo (29)
The Thinker.

Taronga Zoo (10)
Elephants!

Taronga Zoo (2)
Nice view!

Taronga Zoo (30)
Big Mac?

Taronga Zoo (7)
Good Balance

Hugo’s Lounge

April 14, 2007 at 1:44 pm | Posted in Australia, Food, General, Out and About, Sydney, Travel | 1 Comment

I suffered a huge disappointment at Hugos the other day. Having heard any number of comments about Hugo’s I decided to finally try it out and on a overcast Sunday a few weeks ago I made my way in and out again after receiving singularly the worst service I have ever had in Sydney. I watched as the people on either side of me had the staff speak with them, had waiters and waitresses pass by and despite there being limited patrons I sat forlornly waiting for service. I called out and waived at the waitress to no avail as she stood at the edge of my table – was I invisible? Distasteful? Uncouth? Not “it” enough?

Failing to attract any attention, I got up and left. Returning to La Buvette for some quality service and food.

Therefore, unfortunately I cannot comment on anything at Hugos but would not recommend you try it. Avoid this noxious establishment.

75th Anniversary Bridge Walk

March 19, 2007 at 11:44 am | Posted in Australia, General, Out and About, Sydney | 5 Comments
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Sunday evening Miki and I went to North Sydney to participate in the 75th Sydney Harbour Bridge walk. While there was a delay at Town Hall station – resulting in a bit of a crush and some very annoying passengers – we managed to disembark and begin the walk without difficulty.

While you had to register ahead of time at no time during the walk were we asked for our details – which probably explains why according to late night Channel 9 news 500,000 walked across, 300,000 more than had registered!  Prior to getting onto the bridge itself you could collect a free cap. Green during the day and orange with a small light in the evening. We looked like a couple of miners and the light is still working 24hrs later! It appeared they had a considerable stockpile and that seems to indicate the organisers were prepared for the influx of people.

It was not that busy on the bridge, with plenty of space to walk around and stop for any number of photos. Unfortunately I only used my standard settings resulting in almost pitch black photos and only later did I start to figure out how to use the night options and as an amateur they occasionally came out a tad blurry.

As for the walk, it was quite cool with lights turning the frame blue, the pylons red and now throw in a bunch of white spotlights all of over the place. Adding to the all of this was a soundscape with speakers pumping out newscasts and songs from different eras. It sounds a little bit tacky but in the end all of the elements including a festive atmosphere made the experience worthwhile.

After the walk we ate and wandered over to the Opera Bar to look out over at the bridge and do a serious bit of people watching. While there, a number of people asked us and others if or when the fireworks would start. I understand that everything in Sydney normally leads to fireworks at the bridge but it was not included in the day’s official schedule so I remain a little confused as to how this rumour got started.  People with their cameras and tripods were still waiting at 11 for fireworks that would never come.

According to the BBC they decided against fireworks because “the organisers do not want to distract from the magnificence of the bridge.” Even though almost all events in Sydney use the bridge as a hub for fireworks. Cynically, I think they declined to have them because this would result in a concentration of crowds and traffic chaos would result. Something Sydney-siders would not appreciate again and officials would find distasteful this close to an election. Although given current polls the government could have had a traffic meltdown and still win.

People walking on the bridge:
Sydney Harbour 75th Birthday (25)
The bridge after the show:
Sydney Harbour 75th Birthday (39)
A silent and shut down George Street (kind of creepy):
Sydney Harbour 75th Birthday (16)
A vague effort to use the correct settings on my camera:
Sydney Harbour 75th Birthday (29)

Cafe Hernandez, what’s happened?

March 19, 2007 at 10:34 am | Posted in Australia, Cafes & Restaurants, Coffee, General, Out and About, Sydney | Leave a comment
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Cafe Hernandez is a bit of an institution in Kings Cross/ Potts Point, known for its coffee and being open 24 hours. The last time I’d been here was about 8 months ago while I was studying late at night, needed caffeine and a chance to get out of the apartment. If memory serves it was quite tasty and on other earlier occasions the food was also pretty good.

Unfortunately, a few weeks ago I went back there and tonight visited its new shop just off Oxford Street and frankly, the quality of the food, coffee and service have all taken a serious dive. Perhaps splitting their attention has weakened their capacity in both.

Service at both has become (more) surly and quite slow, which is particularly surprising when there are no people in the shop. The food lacks taste and was quite bland and uninteresting. I had pasta tonight and sought out the burnt pieces as this gave it overall food just a little more badly needed flavour. The coffee is ok but nothing worthy of the self-congratulatory tone on their website.

Cafe Hernandez you’ve failed me twice in almost as many weeks. Even if I was staying in Sydney I would not be back and should I require a caffeine hit late at night I’ll stick with whatever I can find at a local convenience store.

Is this it? For Sydney?

March 14, 2007 at 12:05 am | Posted in General, Sydney, work | 4 Comments

After much pondering and thought, based in part on the conclusion of my contract at the end of April, I have almost decided to leave Sydney for hopefully greener pastures in London and more broadly Europe, sometime in May. I’ll make my final decision at the end of March but at this stage I probably will not change my mind. If possible, en route, I’ll stop in Japan to have a break and catch up with friends.

I do feel relieved to have made this choice and while anxious and nervous, it feels like the right one – at least right now.

I’ve already started pondering my “lasts” and while I do feel sad in leaving Sydney, a city I love, a neighbourhood I love and friends I love. However, Miki made an excellent point that it is better to leave on a high rather than growing disgusted at some point in the future. Nonetheless, I can certainly see myself coming back to Sydney.

Before I go I’ve still a few places to see, such as Taronga Zoo but if anyone has a suggestion of a Sydney-must please let me know.

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