The Travel Blog That Wasn’t – Australia part 5 (February/March 2011)

Having gotten around most of the country in about three months, and heading into a busy work period again (my peak season runs March-October), not to mention Mardi Gras, mid-February got me settled into Sydney.

Looking at my calendar for the time though, I don’t think I really slowed down for a while.  Knowing that I was finally going to be in Sydney for longer than a week, I took what spare time I did have to catch up with people.  I had spent the last few months meeting people and saying “let’s get together… in February” which really didn’t help with building any real connections to people.  Nevertheless, I caught up with some of them, and also finally met some Twitter folks from Toronto who happened to be in town that week too.  I also got to reconnect with Dean, a Sydney-born Australian who I know from Toronto, who had recently moved back home.

February also marks the beginning of New Mardi Gras / Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras.  I’ve blogged a bit more about the festival here.  I went to the flag raising at Town Hall and reconnected with someone I met at the Marina & The Diamonds concert in January.  It was also nice to attend a pride flag raising that was totally uncontroversial (despite being, apparently, a fairly recent addition to the festival).  It also gave me a chance to hear Lord Mayor Clover Moore speak again, which is always a delight.  Later that week was Fair Day (described in the linked post above) which was a full but fun day.
The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, MP

The next week or so was a bit of everything — but mostly work and Mardi Gras. I figured it would likely be my only chance to get the full Mardi Gras experience so I took advantage of it.  The festival attaches its name to a number of art exhibitions which gave me a chance to explore Sydney’s smaller art galleries.  It also runs a comedy festival (“Mardi Ha”) so I got to check out the Entertainment Quarter and enjoy some laughs. I’m glad I waited a few months before going to a comedy show — I wouldn’t have gotten even half the jokes if I’d gone in completely green to Australian culture and politics.  The Mardi Gras Film Festival also runs alongside the festival’s schedule and I bought a pack of five tickets and checked out the films at a handful of theatres — a highlight was “beanbag cinema” at the Oxford Hotel, getting to watch films on the floor of a bar!

Somewhere in the midst of all this I also found some time to renew my Canadian passport which was surprisingly easy, though much more expensive than doing it back home.  The Canadian Consulate in Sydney is so incredibly helpful – I have nothing but good things to say about them.  I also finally got to go to a show inside the Sydney Opera House — ironically, it was Canadian singer Martha Wainwright.  It was a great show, and I really do think the best way to experience the Opera House is to see a show there.  Plus, there’s plenty of time for a glass of sparkling wine with this view before the show.

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The last weekend in February was the Harbour Party, which was a lot more fun once I actually met people to talk to and hang out with.  I spent much of the day sort of wandering and exploring – it’s a great party but can get boring when you’re alone.  I ended up meeting a couple of Americans (and, eventually, a couple of their friends) and spent most of the day dancing with them and enjoying the shows (it was nice to finally put a face to some of the names I’d heard on the radio, like Jess Mauboy).
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I almost forgot one of the biggest highlights of the festival for me — the history walk led by the Sister of the Order of Perpetual Indulgence, which was an amusing and interesting story of gay Sydney’s history… an absolute must for any festival-goers (and free!)

I ended up meeting up with the Americans a couple more times over the festival.  First we went to the Drag Races at Bondi Beach together, which was a lot of fun.  We also met up at the Mardi Gras Party, and I ended up spending most of the evening with one of them who was the last of the folks I knew there to leave (I lasted til 7AM, when it ended, but just barely!)  The Parade was also before the Party, as usual — I went by myself but that didn’t really matter as there were so many friendly and entertaining volunteers and other parade-watchers that I was kept amused the whole time.  One volunteer even came prepared with rain ponchos for people, which I was more than thankful for by the end of the day!  It saved my outfit!  I can’t find any photos of myself from that day which is a shame as the outfit was awesome (it involved silver short-shorts).

Having survived Mardi Gras, I settled into normal life again in March – work was coming in in larger quantities, which I expected, and so I had to get used to spending more time at home working.  Which was not always an easy task — my apartment’s air con never really worked properly and we had some severe heatwaves (daily temperatures in the 40s (not even considering humidity)) in February which made the apartment unbearably hot at times.  I recall at one point going to a nightclub because (amongst other reasons, like an actual desire to go there) it was cooler inside than it was on the street!  The worst part was that the process of replacing it took over 6 weeks – the replacement unit arrived in the beginning of March and wasn’t finally installed until the middle of March, just in time for autumn. I think I used the actual air conditioning function once.  Fortunately it was also a heater, which came in handy through the winter.

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I still found some time in March to explore a bit more, and to start being a bit more social.  I got back out to Luna Park and the North shore just to wander a bit, and for an excuse to walk over the bridge.  I also got to a couple more shows at the Sydney Opera House — a performance of the Barber of Seville (I figured I had to see actual opera at the Opera House… it was an amazing performance, and once again the production value blew me away), as well as the percussion ensemble performance in the YouTube Orchestra concert series.  I also ended up at a Trews concert at Newtown’s dodgiest hotel, the Sandringham (Sando for short) – which was fun, though I certainly felt out of place!   There was also an amazing Shakespeare-in-the-[Botanic-]Gardens performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which was just… wow.  I can’t even describe how brilliant it was.

I also got some more time to meet up with people.  Josh and I finally got some time to catch up again, having a particularly delicious dinner at Greenhouse by Joost, a temporary sustainable restaurant set up in shipping containers at Circular Quay – such a creative idea!  I caught up with Marni again too, at a delightful American-themed whiskey bar called Shady Pines – one of those places where you enter through an unmarked door in a laneway to discover a large and pleasant bar (don’t worry, it’s legit).

I also got to finally meet up with the only person I’ve ever met on Foursquare, Steven.  (We were both checked into Oxford Street bar the Stonewall Hotel at one point earlier in the year, which led to a Foursquare add, followed by facebook and Twitter adds, and eventually meeting up!)  We went with some of his friends to the ABBA show at The Imperial Hotel in Newtown after a delicious dinner on King Street, which was a treat. While there, I also met a guy named Tim who happened to be sitting beside me for a few of the shows (and had taken an interest in me).  We ended up sort of going out for a while over the next month or so.  That fizzled soon enough, but we’ve since reconnected and have become friends.

Sydney Opera House & Harbour Bridge darkened for #earthhour

Towards the end of the month I got to experience Earth Hour in Sydney… Earth Hour’s become less significant these days but it’s still pretty cool to see the bridge and opera house and some of the CBD buildings going dark – being one of the first “Western” nations over the international date line, Sydney’s often seen on North American news covering events like Earth Hour (or New Year’s) so it was nice to get to see it in person.

I also took a day to explore Canada Bay – simply for the sake of visiting an Australian place named after Canada (there are, surprisingly, a few of these… there is also a Toronto, and a Niagara Park).  It’s not much to look at, it’s more of a mud flat than a bay, and the suburb is mostly residential, but it was fun to explore a random suburb in the city.

Canada Bay

The end of the month also brought the New South Wales state election, where Kristina Kenneally’s Labor Party was roundly defeated by the Liberals (who are basically Australia’s Tories).  I still don’t quite understand the logic of voters — one of the biggest issues was that Labor privatised things, and did it really badly (as most privatisations tend to go), so people voted for the more right-wing party… which in turn has continued to make more efforts to privatise things.  I guess that’s the problem of a mostly two-party system.  That said, the Greens (who in Australia, unlike Canada, are decidedly left-wing) got their first lower house seat in the State Parliament.  It was fun following the election and results, especially from an outsider’s perspective, since I of course couldn’t vote!

At the end of the month I took a trip to Melbourne – but since most of it was in April I’ll save that for the next post!
Had enuf?Australian Sex PartyMake your vote work harder!IMG_0014Community Needs Not Developer Greed

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  1. […] The Travel Blog That Wasn’t – Australia part 5 (February/March 2011) […]

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