Sydney - Our Third Visit, Part One

Trip Start Aug 16, 2003
Trip End Apr 21, 2004

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Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Unwittingly choosing to fly down to Sydney on Melbourne Cup day, we were 'treated' to an impromptu sweepstake with commentary from the stereotypical air steward on board. The whole thing was camped up, let alone made up, and was in fact pretty cringe-worthy! Thankfully, the flight lasted but one hour!

Once we had performed the familiar rigmarole of checking and settling in, we journeyed on foot into late afternoon Sydney and as we neared the hub of the city, we found ourselves amongst a very exuberant and high-spirited throng. Some had returned by plane from Melbourne, others had been drinking in hotels and pubs for the duration of the races, all were considerably 'merry' and dressed in smart outfits and striking hats. There was a real party atmosphere as people were at varying degrees of sobriety. Unfortunately, we were at the wrong end!

Occasionally going against the flow, sometimes being swept along with it, we made our way to the Opera House and sat outside to eat. We had a leisurely meal (with no alcohol this time, some of you will be pleased to note!) and enjoyed the pleasant view of the bridge and skyscrapers as the afternoon turned to evening.

Our plan for the next day was to walk from the Opera House to Mrs Macquarie's Chair. Once we had had a little nose around the inside of the impressive theatrical edifice, we began our stroll through the beautifully designed botanical gardens, under a pretty unrelenting sun.

Upon reaching our destination, we sat on some rocks jutting into the harbour, soaking up the sun and the view back across the small bay - one that I am sure we could never tire of. After half an hour or so, we headed back, but stopped off in the botanical gardens, joining the growing number of sunbathers and siesta lovers.

That evening was spent apart, as Andrea had purchased a ticket for a play at the Opera House that I didn't fancy. I bought myself a fantastic takeaway pizza and enough beers and allowed myself a gluttonous evening of slobbery, whilst she enjoyed a certainly more highbrow, cultural night amongst thespians!

Our venue for our next excursion was the Olympic Park - an hour's boat ride away on the Parramatta River to Homebush. The whole park is set over a huge area, with a variety of stadia, sports complexes and facilities, all designed to be used in the Sydney 2000 Olympics, but perhaps more importantly for the local population, to be used by them, both before and afterwards.

We first had a quick look at a conceptual piece of art-come-information display that consisted of a cluster of metal cylinders of different lengths. Each cylinder had either a list of volunteers who helped during 'The Games' or some kind of multi-media device that divulged tit-bits of Sydney 2000 information. The overall effect was one of a neatly arranged metal copse, with occasional sound bites and flashes of colour from in- built monitors.

At the appointed time, we made our way to the Aquatic centre, where we were given a guided tour through the modestly impressive facility. Andrea had been keen to look round the centre, but I must admit that I was somewhat indifferent, as the thought of visiting the site of the synchronized swimming and Olympic water polo did not really capture my enthusiasm. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying the walk and talk and quickly became interested in the information and the sights within.

The main draw for me, was the chance to tour round inside Stadium Australia, now known as the Telstra Stadium. This was the venue for the athletic events of the Sydney Olympics, and of course where the spectacular opening and closing ceremonies took place. The stadium has since been used for a variety of other sports and sadly the track has been removed to make way for cricket and Aussie rules. Currently it is the venue for the semi-finals and final of the rugby world cup. The tour here was again informative and interesting, but we both could not help feeling that we had missed out, by not being there on a match day, or even during the Olympics. The capacity is in excess of 100,000 and many attendance records have been broken there - how amazing it would have been to absorb the atmosphere of a crowd that large, in such an imposing arena!

When our tour had ended (it was the last one of the day) we quickly found our way to the Olympic cauldron, which has now been turned into a fountain. Stopping only briefly for a couple of pictures, we hurried to catch the train back in order to return to the city in time for our evening's entertainment. As we rushed through the station, we laughed to see our tour guide speeding even faster than us, on his way home (we assume somebody else locked up!).

Arriving in central Sydney after a short train journey, we waited for a bus to take us back to our hostel. It was rush hour - no chance! Our bus arrived a few minutes later as we were dutifully waiting at the stop. Unfortunately, it did not pull right up to where we were and it became a mad scramble to run back and clamber aboard. Not fully grasping the situation, we upheld the British reserve of waiting patiently in line as the bus was filled to bursting point and we along with one or two others, were denied entry!

It was imperative we got back quickly to change etc as we had booked a 'Booze Cruise' departing in less than an hour. Through the heavy traffic, it sometimes took half an hour for the bus to get across the city (past the hundreds of traffic lights) so we knew we were cutting it fine. Giving up waiting after a nervous few minutes longer, we ran/jogged/hobbled our way back, gaining ourselves a ten minute turnaround slot. It was then that we noticed the message on the door...

One short phone call later and we discovered that the cruise had been abandoned on advice from the captain as a heavy thunderstorm was predicted. We were disappointed, but it would not have been much fun in the pouring rain, and perhaps even dangerous. At least we had time to shower and take it easy before going out for dinner, and we vowed to make up for it and go on a pub crawl the following (Friday) night.

Dan and Andrea
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