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Completing the Loop in Sydney

(Reprint from News: April 7, 2002)

April 7, 2002


I left Peter and Helen's house on Sunday morning (Peter even washed my windshield for me -- what a guy!) and drove into Australia's largest city, Sydney, thus completing a two-month, 9,000-mile drive around the country.  Although I'd spent my first few days in Australia on the periphery of Sydney, I didn't have much of a chance to check it out then because I was packing up and getting ready for my drive around the country.  I was flying out of the Sydney International Airport the next morning, so I had exactly one afternoon to see the city.  I figured that would be enough time since, not being a real "city person," I didn't have high expectations for Sydney.  My impression of Sydney from my brief visit in February wasn't very favorable.  It seemed to be a lot like Los Angeles -- big, hot, sprawling, and smoggy. 


I headed across the Harbor Bridge Sunday morning and drove smack dab into the middle of downtown Sydney.  Good thing this was a Sunday and traffic was light, because the street system in downtown Sydney is really convoluted, a holdover from the early settlement days.  I quickly realized that Sydney, like Boston, isn't a great place to drive around if you don't know where you're going -- which I definitely didn't.  Melbourne was big, too, but at least the streets there were in a grid and laid out logically.  


I drove around downtown Sydney for about 20 minutes looking for a parking garage, too busy driving to glance at my map and figure out where the heck I was.  Finally, though, I found an underground garage at a place called the Queen Victoria Building.  Harried from the drive, I really wasn't looking forward to exploring Sydney but figured I better, or else I'd regret it.


And I'm really glad I did.  


As I walked through Sydney during the next six hours, I discovered that it's a utterly fascinating city.  The most interesting part is a section called "The Rocks," Sydney's Old Town area which juts out into Sydney Harbor, with lots of curving cobblestone streets and charming old brick buildings.  From the Rocks, you can stroll across the 70-year old Harbor Bridge.  If you're adventurous, you can walk up inside one of the bridge turrets for a great view of the city.  If you're REALLY adventurous and have 50 bucks (I'm not and I didn't) you can join a guided "Bridge Walk" and walk on TOP of the entire bridge from one side to the other.  By the way, you can do the same thing now on the bridge in Auckland.  


For legal reasons, I'm sure, they don't have these kind of bridge walks in the U.S., which is a real shame because I'd imagine that walking on top of, say, the Golden Gate Bridge would be pretty awesome.  That's one of the big differences between the U.S. and Australia, by the way:  lawsuits.  Compared to America, Australia and New Zealand are not litigious countries at all.  Folks there take a lot more responsibility for their actions and, unlike a lot of Americans, they don't go whining to a lawyer or judge every time something bad happens, which is a refreshing attitude.  


Anyway, the newer sections of downtown Sydney are also interesting.  The Sydney Opera House, one of the most famous icons of Australia, was pretty cool too.  After a few hours, I decided that I really liked Sydney.   


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Above left:  Sydney from above.  

Above center:  Inside the AMP Tower, where you can get a 360-degree view of Sydney.  I don't know what AMP stands for... and neither did the AMP Tower tour guide.

Above right:  At Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens, with the AMP Tower in the background.


Although the day was sunny and pleasant, for the first time during my visits to Australia and New Zealand, it was a little chilly and fall was definitely in the air, which made me automatically think of... Football Season!  But wait, this wasn't September, it was April.  Oh that's right, I was in the southern hemisphere.  It's funny how fall weather makes you think about football, even if it is April.  With winter fast approaching here in Australia, this was a good time, I decided, to head back the U.S.


As I walked back to the parking garage at dusk, I regretted having only a single afternoon to visit Sydney because I could have spent a whole week there.  I made one last stop that evening, at a street-side cafe to buy a "meat pie."  In case you've never seen one, a meat pie is a small pie stuffed with meat, gravy, potatoes and things you'd prefer not to know about, completely enclosed in a flaky crust.  Back in the U.S., they're called "pastys" (which shouldn't be confused with "pasties" which are what female strippers wear in certain intimate places... but not that I would know).


Anyway, I'd seen meat pies on sale nearly everywhere I went in Australia, but for some reason I hadn't eaten one yet.  The night before, Peter told me all about meat pies, so I decided to try one.  Actually, it was pretty darn good -- better than a pasty (and much better than a pastie).  So as I walked back to my car that evening, I decided that next time I came to Australia, I would:

  • Spend more time visiting Sydney, and

  • Eat more meat pies.

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Above left:  The Hyde Park water fountain on a Sydney Sunday afternoon.  

Above center:  And, of course, the Sydney Opera House.

Above right:  Those little specks on the Sydney Harbor Bridge are people.  For about US$50, you too can climb across the bridge. 


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Above left:  Circular Quay and the Sydney waterfront.  

Above center:  Opera House from the Harbor Bridge.

Above right:  Another shot of the Harbor Bridge (built in 1932) and a few bridge climbers.  They affectionately call this bridge "The Coat Hanger" because... well... that's what it looks like.


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Above left:  The Sydney waterfront from the Harbor Bridge.

Above center:  Walking back to my car late Sunday afternoon.  I stopped here and got a meat pie for dinner -- an Australian classic.  

Above right:  Here's the Queen Victoria Building.  I had a great time in Sydney and wish I could've spent more time here.


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Left:  Packing that night in a hotel near the Sydney airport.  This would be my last night in the wonderful country of Australia.



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