Well ok – so Sydney is not exactly the place where I would want to go if I were going on a vacation. It is the typical, slightly over-hyped tourist package – sight-seeing, a photograph with the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House each, a crowded performance at The Rocks, equally crowded one at the Circular Quay, mime artists, shopping, eating – and then back home.
But, I was there on a business trip, and it is always worthwhile to make the most of those – after all, what could be worse than spending the whole weekend in a lonely ‘white’ room, feeding on self-cooked food – or even worse, room service!A new place is, statistically speaking, a more welcome experience.
So on one of the Saturdays, I did get out of the hotel room, and ventured outside of Parramatta, the ‘Indian’ (by all means more Asian and less Pacific!) suburb of Sydney, to visit the happening downtown. The trip turned out to be fun, specially since I managed to find company (The lonely wanderer is a pretty site only on Discovery – or good for nature walks. If you are not in Paris, a city is hardly the place to enjoy solitude!). We drove down for an hour to reach the downtown, straight to Darlington, hunted for a parking, and then set out on foot to explore the place. With no breakfast, our first choice was ‘The Rocks’, the old part of the town, and the tourist haven of Sydney (though I could easily say that the entire downtown is a tourist spot!). With expert navigation, we managed to reach The Rocks after almost an hour of walking 🙂 and dashed to the first Pizzeria that we could find. It was only after a good meal that we looked around and found a colorful, exciting marketplace, perked up with a vibrancy that is so typical of the tourist town. Lined on both sides of the street were small shops and tall, old buildings, the harbor bridge peeking from behind them. In the central square, a hilarious puppet show was being hosted, the entire square being packed with an easy-going, almost lazy audience, most of it tourists.
After enjoying a few moments of the puppet show, we then walked through the very busy marketplace, full of interesting and colorful food items and souvenirs. I particularly liked a shop that was selling engravings of old Australian stamps. I was really tempted to buy them – but alas I am one of those useless people who are used to doing the mental math of dollar to rupee, and trust me, those numbers never look good even with all the rise of rupee that we keep hearing of!
We walked on towards the harbor bridge. Truthfully speaking it is beyond me why the Eiffel tower or this bridge have become the icons of their cities – they are all steel and hardly the prettiest of sites. Even then, in a way I had loved the Eiffel tower, and I did like walking through the bridge and enjoying the view of Circular Quay and the Opera House from there. Due to the tunnel effect, there is a strong wind as you walk on the bridge side and the swish of the rushing vehicles makes a queer atmosphere. A strong wind has the power to alienate you, even in a crowded tourist spot. Anyways, we did not go upto the top of the bridge – there were enthusiastic climbers doing that – with their feet tied to the stairs and protective clothing, they were taking the numerous steps across the Southern half of the bridge.
We walked down the bridge and went walking to the Circular Quay, the transport hub of Sydney, which is also the site of the first landing of the 11 ships from Britain sent to form base in New South Wales. It is a bustling port, also lined with many local transport ferries. It was around this place that the two sister ships QE-2 and Queen Victoria landed together on Feb 20th and were warmly welcomed. I wanted to catch the event, but alas! One of many endless dreams is to do a world tour aboard one of these ships – but I can keep growing that wishlist without affecting the perfect harmony of the world.
There were a lot of stand-up comedians, jugglers and mime artists performing at the Quay – again crowds greeted these events cheerfully. We kept walking ahead to reach the Opera House. It is a lovely building – perfect looking and worth all the attention it gets. Through my stay in Sydney, I kept planning to watch a performance at this place, but this too never worked out – I still plan to do it some other time.
Behind the Opera, there are the famous Botanical gardens – where Preity Zinta and Amir Khan sing the famous song in DCH 🙂 Well, they are pretty, these gardens, especially since they line around a part of the ocean. We walked through these gardens to reach back into the city and broke at McCafe for a much needed ‘Flat-White’ (Australian term for the Americano with milk!).
We realized we hardly had any more energy to wander the streets, and so headed back to the parking spot. We then drove to a less exacting place – the Manly beach, which was also far less touristy than the rest of our day. Though driving down to Manly was by no means easy – directions and mapping are not exactly the strong points of APAC countries apparently – Europeans still take the cake there. We reached Manly in the evening, and by that time most of the crowd had left. Except for the occasional surfer and a few idlers, we hardly saw anyone and enjoyed the evening sky against the sea. It was breath-taking. Somethings always are, even if you have seen them repeatedly in your life about a thousand times.
We drove back to Parramatta, to end a very nice day. Stopped for dinner at Auburn at a Turkish place, the counter-part of Indian roadside dhaba 🙂