The Travel Blog That Wasn’t – Australia part 8 (July-early August 2011)

I got back to Sydney from my 6-week return to Canada exhausted but refreshed.  I had missed Sydney and it was nice to be back — and the 6 weeks of summer were a nice way to avoid Sydney’s chilly winter.  I was also headed into my busiest time of year for work, which left very little time to do the remaining handful of sightseeing I had planned.

In the first week back I ticked a few other Sydney sights off my list.  I finally made it back to Sydney Tower (I had gone up in 2009 but for some reason never made a return trip!), and went to the overpriced Sydney Aquarium, which was nice but I’m glad there was a combo discount with the Tower!

State Street

I ended up making a full day of it and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the controversial Barangaroo site.  It’s a large portland / industrial area that’s being redeveloped into parkland, including de-claiming some of the land and going back to a more ‘natural’ foreshore.  Strangely, despite my penchant for parkland, I was a little disappointed it wasn’t being developed, as it’s a massive tract of land right in the middle of the CBD, and developing it for residential could go a long way to making the city more affordable.  But anyways, I’m sure the park will end up being very nice for the people who can afford to live near it.

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I also decided to take a Monday off to get out to Newcastle, one of the furthest cities accessible on the CityRail network.  I didn’t have a whole lot of time there (sunsets were still relatively early, given it was mid-July), but it’s a nice combination of “tourist seaside town” and “industrial port” that, somehow, works for it.  Its CBD wasn’t doing so well though — plenty of vacant shops, likely affected by the decline in tourism caused by the GFC.  I spent the whole day just wandering around, having a delicious lunch in a seaside restaurant, and watching the surfers on the beaches.  It was pleasant – a nice place to stop in for a while.  And I still got home in time for Q and A!

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The next weekend the Canadian Australian Club had arranged for us to all go to the Sydney Winter Festival.  The Festival sets up a small and oddly-shaped outdoor ice rink in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral.  We all rented skates (which were bright orange and came with ski-boot-style buckles rather than laces) and went skating, which was both awkward and hilarious — being a country that has very little winter has left Sydneysiders as being primarily beginners when it comes to skating.  And despite being in the depths of Winter, it was still quite warm — puddles were forming at one end of the rink.  It was a fun day though, and I got to meet one of the founders of the club, who had moved to Sydney many decades ago from Canada and married an Australian. She had such wonderful stories!

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I took another Monday off and this time headed to the Jervis Bay Territory.  Jervis Bay is Australia’s little-known “third” mainland territory. It’s governed by the ACT, and virtually everyone who lives there is in the navy.  It was designed as a way for the Commonwealth (that is, federal) government to have naval access in case of a war or some sort of internal dispute (the Australian Navy, of course, has plenty of bases located within the boundaries of the other states and territories as well).  It was also almost the site of a nuclear power station — which thankfully was stopped.  What’s there now, besides the small off-limits navy base, is a majestic national park.  It’s small, but oh so beautiful.  And basically only accessible by car.

Which meant hiring (Canadian translation: renting) a car for the day.  Which was terrifying, since not only had I never driven in Sydney before, I’d never driven on the left side of the road!  And everything was backwards in the car — I kept turning on the windshield wipers when I wanted to use my turn signal!  The first couple of hours (it’s about a three-hour drive from Sydney) were terrifying, and I eventually relaxed enough to feel comfortable turning on the radio.  The worst part was driving in Sydney: I first had to pull out of the smallest rental car garage I’ve ever been in, which was followed by having to cross three lanes of traffic and make two quick right turns (this was actually the only way to do it), and then find my way onto the motorway.  Once I got on there it was mostly okay (except for the occasional aggressive driver), but I’m so thankful I had a good GPS from Avis!

Anyway, once I got there, Jervis Bay was just stunning. There are a handful of places to park and walk around, and most of them are near the water.  And there are kangaroos and wallabies everywhere.  You can camp there year-round, and if I had lived in Sydney longer I certainly would’ve made it a camping destination.  At my first stop, I had an entire beach to myself.  This just set the stage for the rest of the day which was more of the same: beautiful beaches on both Jervis Bay and Wreck Bay.  Words and even photos can’t describe it — it’s just a little piece of unknown Australian heaven.

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Later that week I went to the Hyde Park Barracks which I’d always heard rather unexciting reviews of — while it wasn’t massive, I actually rather enjoyed it. It had some really interesting histories of Sydney which I think I appreciated more after being in the city for so long.  As an aside, I think I missed mentioning in an earlier post having gone to the Museum of Sydney… it was also a small museum but focused entirely on the history of the City of Sydney, with rotating collections of more modern exhibits.  It was so inspiring to read the stories and history of civic life in Sydney – I really think every city should have something like this (Vancouver does – I recently visited it), and that everyone should go!  There’s so much about cities that we don’t think about when going through our daily lives.

Later still in that same week, I met up with Josh and we spent the day at the Taronga Zoo, a very old but clearly modernised zoo on the North shore.  In addition to its extensive collection of animals, Taronga’s big highlight is its location — it has beautiful views of the city (and requires a ferry ride from Circular Quay — making any trip there an iconic Sydney day!)  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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I also finished off that week by attending the Mardi Gras AGM, which I mentioned briefly in this post.  And from there, I hunkered down and spent most of my time working.  August and September are super-busy for me, so I just settled in and did it.  I still found time for Q and A, of course, and participating in the Australian census! Having not been able to participate in Canada’s census, I was rather excited that I could participate in Australia’s.  I even requested and got a Census Party Pack.  So much delightful nerdiness.

I also used what time I had to settle back into the city for my last little while.  Tim and I hung out a few more times, and it was nice to start to be friends again.  I also spent an afternoon out in Parramatta, which until I actually went had simply been synonymous with “suburban and full of working class white people,” which was partly true, but it was also a nice area – the river flows through the town and has a great little park running along it, and it has a small but thriving CBD.

I also went to my first (and sadly, only) footie match… the international Australian Rules Football championship was in Sydney this year.  I went to see the Canada vs USA women’s match – Canada won, of course, but it was also just a really fun game to watch.  Sadly, international Aussie Rules football isn’t really that popular, and there were more people on the field than in the stands!

Earlier that same day was the official reopening of two small parks in Woolloomooloo, so I wandered around there – it was so nice to finally see the parks open again and capable of serving the public with fully-operable public toilets, and a community garden!

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I was going to finish off the rest of the time in Australia on this post but I have so much to write for my last entry that I’m splitting it into two. I’ll pause here for now – final post will go up next Monday!

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I love australia and although it seems that this country is becoming the number one not only the tourists spots but also thousands of people across the country emigrates. Sad thing.

    Reply

  2. […] The Travel Blog That Wasn’t – Australia part 8 (July-early August 2011) […]

    Reply

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