Friday, July 25, 2014

Down Under, Day #2 - All Around Sydney

My first full day in Sydney = the day I walked nearly 8 miles in my high boots, and paid for it for the rest of the trip. The night before, Stephanie helped me map out my journey for the next day, though we didn't look at the distance. And as I explored, it didn't feel like 8 miles. But the next day, and the next, my legs really complained!

I started out the day walking into the city, the opposite direction from the Opera House. After stopping at a convenience store that offered free wifi with a cup of coffee (or in my case, hot chocky) so I could call home, I headed to the Chinese Garden of Friendship in Darling Harbour. With the skyscrapers visible overhead, this garden is escape to peace and harmony, full of waterfalls, lakes, pavilions, exotic plants and birds, and hidden pathways. I kept thinking "I thought I was in Australia, not China!" I spent a couple of hours exploring this enchanting garden before heading back into the hubbub of the city.

After a quick walk through Chinatown, which wasn't all that impressive after the Chinese Gardens, especially when compared to San Francisco's Chinatown, I headed over to see some of Sydney's famous architecture. I wanted to go in Sydney's Town Hall to see their famous organ, but they were closed setting up for an event. So I had a quick lunch of a chicken schnitzel sandwich (at McDonald's!) and then ventured into St. Andrew's Cathedral, a lovely, lively church in the middle of the city. One of the guides met me at the door and asked if he could explain to me why Jesus is essential. I explained to him that I already know why Jesus is essential, and he let me continue exploring. He would occasionally walk over and show me something of interest, such as their 1540 Tyndale Bible. The cathedral was beautiful inside, reminding more of the churches in Scotland with their simplicity than the ornate abundance of those in Germany.

My next stop was a walk through the QVB, the Queen Victoria Building, a beautiful example of late-19th century architecture. I've never been in such an ornate, extravagant shopping center (and I live in Dallas!). From the dome in the center to the exquisite clock features to the glass arched rooftops, this place is amazing. Of course I didn't actually shop, because shops like Swarovski, Coach, and Swarovski, the QVB is quite out of my price range. 

Back outside, I wandered over to Sydney's Hyde Park, a lovely sanctuary in the midst of the Central Business District. The day was beautiful, the sky was an amazing blue, the Sydney Tower soared overhead, and the palm trees were HUGE! I walked through the park and made my way to the St. Archibald fountain and St. Mary's Cathedral, which reminded me a bit of Westminster Abbey in London. St. Mary's Cathedral, the first Catholic church in Sydney, was started in 1821 - building of the present church commenced in 1868 but the twin spires weren't added until 2000. So it's a true mixture of ancient and modern. They don't allow photography inside, but it was quite beautiful. 
Leaving the calmness of Hyde Park and the cathedral, I walked up Macquarie Street past the Hyde Park Barracks, the old Sydney Hospital, and the main library (where I stopped for a quick wifi fix) to Sydney's Botanic Gardens and the Conservatorium of Music, housed in an old stable building. That's quite a stable, I must say! I walked through the Botanic Gardens and around to Mrs. Macquarie's Point, an ideal spot to watch the sunset over the bridge and the Opera House. Since I was there early enough, I took time to sit in Mrs. Macquarie's Chair for a few minutes and relax. The "chair" is actually a seat cut out of the stone by the convicts for Mrs. Macquarie, wife of the first governor of Sydney, who loved to sit on the point and watch the sunset (albeit without the added beauty of the bridge and Opera House). The rock seat is not all that comfortable, but it does have quite the view!
Finally it was sunset time! I positioned myself on the point for a great view and probably took over a hundred pictures as the light changed over my two favorite Sydney landmarks. Eventually I started walking back around the harbour because I had to meet Stephanie by the Opera House after work. I found a lookout area in the Botanic Garden for a few more photos, and then made my way to my favorite spot on the wall just below the Opera House. I think I sat in that spot almost every day while I was in Sydney - the view was spectacular! Waiting for Stephanie, I was able to get a few night-time photos of the bridge and Opera House (and one of my BFF with my favorite building!).
The Opera House takes on different shapes depending on your angle. I think this angle makes it look like a whale.
After a light dinner of potato soup in a Rocks District restaurant, we went home and I was finally able to rest my exhausted legs. I still can't believe how far I walked and how much of Sydney I was able to see in one whirlwind day. 

0 comments: