Category Archives: Sydney Opera House

Sydney, “Don’t go changing…” Onwards to Melbourne.

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Our departure from Sydney felt quite sad but was clearly exciting as we were joining MS Noordam en route for Melbourne, Tasmania and New Zealand. We enjoyed the smoothest and most stress-free embarkation ever previously known and rushed to unpack, get our bearings (locate important points like food and drink) before taking part in the ubiquitous safety drill. They are quite strict on board Holland America ships. If you don’t take part, you can’t sail. Aye, aye Cap’n! But a stiff breeze blew up and off we went, under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, followed closely by the Opera House before waving to all the little bays and reaching a very strong swell; a clear indication we were turning into the ocean.

A lazy day at sea followed and I think we were all grateful to relax after our hectic few days, ease the muscles and catch up on some sleep. I still love being rocked to sleep by the motion of the ocean! Of course, we took part in ship board offerings but there was no pressure to be or to do.

Today dawned with a beautiful blue sky full of promise for a hot day in Melbourne. And, so it was. 27 degrees, hot sun and a fabulous day in one of Australia’s beautiful cities. It is very different to Sydney with much evidence through its majestic buildings of its colonial past. Museums chronicle its growth and origins whilst embracing the multiple cultures which make up its present.

Riding the free trams (complete with helpful commentary) was both informative and fun. Sights peaked out from lush foliage – how wonderful to be here in mid summer – and we were happy to soak up the information about where we could go if we were here for longer. We had to make do with a walk besides the Yarra River, the tram ride and a dive into some of the intriguing alleyways in search of a snack in the shade. An excellent day out…..Tasmania tomorrow.

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Sydney always brings to mind – for me – the Tetley Tea men of TV advert fame. “Don’t go changing…” is one of the classics but, of course, Sydney, Australia is changing. It’s history is relatively brief in European terms but it is rich in culture both Aboriginal and, more latterly, settlers, immigrants and, as some think the derivation of ‘Pommies’, the prisoners of mother England, i.e. the sometimes minor criminals who were transported half way round the world. After penal labour, they could earn their freedom in the New World. Times have changed and are changing. Sydney is impressive. Vibrant, youthful, developing and, whilst we were there, hot!

But, we sailed away. Under the majestically impressive Sydney Harbour Bridge, watching, again, where Ann walked above, glancing for a final time, perhaps, at the Opera House, we sailed into the sunset bound for a day at sea and then to Melbourne.

Days at sea are an opportunity to catch up with chores and sleep! We sampled B.B. King’s Blues Club on our first night aboard and watched the ‘main entertainment’ show in the theatre last evening. More than reasonable quality but my preference is for live instruments as well as vocals. Also, a preference for beat, brash and bawdy.

Melbourne (remembering to shorten the final vowel to ‘…burn’) is another proud city. Proud of its past, secure in its present and confident of its future. Public sculpture celebrates the city’s eventful history and graffiti from the recent Equal Marriage referendum, together with a huge billboard reminding us of refugees and our responsibilities, bear testament to a social conscience. Its ‘gold rush’ days are celebrated with a gold topped skyscraper.

We rode one of the historic trams around the city centre which, as Kath indicated, was free. A clever way to encourage use of public transport as you are signposted to other (paid) trams crossing the city. Apparently, Melbourne is the city with the best and largest tramway system in the world. A pity we were only here for one day.

 

Do you come from a land down under?

Had I discovered Australia soon enough, I could well have been tempted to live there, but the thought of leaving your nearest and dearest about 11,000 miles away and taking 24 hours to get here, perhaps ought to be sufficiently off-putting. The flight via Abu Dhabi was fine. Well, as fine as sitting in economy can be, considering… the delightful travel stockings still permitted your ankles to ooze out of your shoes and your bum refusing to release its muscles (what muscles?) and allow normal feeling to be resumed. However, the taxi drive from the airport was speedy and greeting Sydney felt like a homecoming as, once again, I was the kid who had all the sweets.

My friends hadn’t enjoyed the Aussie experience before and were magnificent about the joys of jet lag. It is such a bitch! Although we arrived late evening after a minimum amount of sleep on the flight, we all felt the wonders of stomachs being in a different time zone to your head and sleep being a reluctant bed fellow – even in a luxury hotel with sublime mattresses. If I am not selling it well, forgive me. I am feeling better now, ready to eat at approximately the appropriate time but still somewhat keen to kip in my cornflakes. Carolyn and Ann remain stoically determined to overcome all sleeping/sleepless issues and we are living it up in Sydney.

Yesterday, for our first day at large, we settled to sightseeing the old fashioned way – on foot. Ann is a very keen walker whereas Carolyn and I are fit enough to do it but not quite ‘enthusiasts’. But with great abandon we set off to check out Circular Quay and make sure that the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House were where I left them last. We admired the berth of a Celebrity cruise ship (presumably where ours will arrive on Thursday) and wandered off around the waterfront in search of breakfast. We first happened upon a Sunday market at The Rocks, found refreshment in an Irish hostelry and proceeded to climb heaven knows how many steps to reach the Harbour Bridge, whereupon we walked across it. This activity is not to be confused with the ‘Bridge climb’ which I did on a previous visit and which Ann has now booked to do on Tuesday, but is the free opportunity to pose on top of Sydney’s magnificent Harbour and think how wonderful life is and how lucky we are for the opportunity. Well, something like that. More walking followed, back around The Rocks, sustained by an Aussie beer, lunch, another loop around Circular Quay and at this point I gave in, let the jet lag in and went back to the hotel for a snooze. We did get to see Roger Federer win the Aussie Open in real time. Fabulous tennis.

Yesterday, I wore out my legs but today we took the easy way via a sightseeing trip on board The Big Bus. It is far too far to walk to Bondi Beach and at least we got to cover the rest of the city in relative comfort from the top of an open bus. Ah, did I mention it was hot and sunny? The last time Carolyn and I did an open topped bus tour was in New York when we got soaking wet; today, we got rather warm and a bit pink!! We hopped on and off the bus, as per recommendations, and particularly wanted to see the rollers and the surfers at Bondi. The surf was less dramatic than I had previously seen but the young and beautiful people appeared untroubled and still turned up, their surf boards being the “must have” accessory. Even without waves, the skatepark exercised balance and agility.  It’s been a truly wonderful day and, Sydney, you capture my heart every time!!

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes

Disappointed… no-one has yet greeted us with “G’day” or called us “Sheilas”. We have, however, discovered that our “How are you doing?” is replaced here by “How are you going?” As Ann would say about the Aussies (and the Americans!), “We gave them English and look what they did to it?!” Part of the commentary on the bus tour today also reminded us that about 20% of Australians are direct descendants from our transported convicts. #justsaying

Kath began with Men at Work’s “Down Under” – we’re not from this land down under and not at work! The song begins…

“Traveling in a fried-out combie
On a hippie trail, head full of zombie
I met a strange lady, she made me nervous
She took me in and gave me breakfast
And she said
Do you come from a land down under?”

Visions from childhood of being upside down and falling off the planet down here are long gone. However, my usually excellent sense of direction, it seems, is merely based on the Sun as I am struggling with remembering that, at noon here, the Sun is at due North rather than South. I’ll adjust, I’m sure.

As it’s my first visit to the Southern Hemisphere, I was prepared for most things. We flew from wet Manchester and landed half a world away effectively spending a day of our lives in the air. Having some inkling of how to deal best with time zone adjustment and jet lag, having failing to sleep at all on the plane, I wanted to stay up until ‘normal’ bedtime and begin the next day as if it was the usual. It has, for me, seemed to have worked. So, off we went.

Yesterday was a bit of ‘pottering’, aka walking over 10k steps and several flights of stairs, together with the Sydney Harbour Bridge (just the pavement walkway!). A beer and an ice cream helped the unaccustomed heat.

Today, we decided to do the Big Bus Tour and memories of New York’s torrential rain downpour was replaced by early gentle sunbeams which became red hot lasers by 4.30 pm as two of us ultimately began to sizzle and fry. Flaming pink is not a good look for the skin. And,… hmm, it’s tender!

The bus tour was good but the recorded commentary, although informative, was punctuated between segments with music. Regrettably, there were four tracks cycled over… and over… and over! We’ll come to Ann’s and Kath’s ‘favourite’ in a moment but Down Under (Men at Work), It’s a long way to the top (AC/DC) and Treaty (Yothu Yindi) exemplified Australian music. Kylie and Olivia Newton-John were mentioned in the commentary but not in the repetitious tape which was added to by the “unofficial national anthem” (according to Wikipedia!) of Waltzing Matilda which rapidly became for us Piggin’ Waltzing Matilda and we were resolute in resisting the singer’s “All together now..” for the repeated final verse. Nope!

I was concerned at the outset that ‘Waltzing Matilda’ wasn’t a waltz but in 4/4 time but that was the least of the issues!

Of course, this bush ballad wasn’t intended as other than about a sheep stealing itinerant who was chased, fearing capture and imprisonment, committed suicide and his ghost still haunts the area. Uplifting, eh?

The title was Australian slang for travelling on foot (‘waltzing’: derived from the German auf der Walz) with one’s belongings in a “matilda” (swag) slung over one’s back.

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One of my two favourite punctuation signs (interrobang) is used as the logo for the State Library.
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A final note was a pleasant sign I spotted for the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation and simply said, “Literacy is freedom”

A final note was a pleasant sign I spotted for the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation and simply said, “Literacy is freedom” and one of my two favourite punctuation signs (interrobang) is used as the logo for the State Library.

Sydney is a truly impressive, vibrant and laid-back city. The next few days look promising!

Ann’s absent answers

Why, if I don’t enjoy flying, do I prefer sitting in a window seat?

Why, when I try to settle down to sleep on a long flight does the Captain turn on the ‘Seatbelt’ sign and turbulence commences?

Why, does an urban area have roadworks in proportion to the size of its population?

Why, when a great photo opportunity occurs do structures block a split second later?