The Race that wobbles a nation

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
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Trip End Jan 04, 2012


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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Our first day in the biggest city and the often mistaken for the capital city, Sydney.

Big, slightly pompous and yet iconic. First impressions. And you know what they say about those. Coincidentally, our first full day in Sydney is the first Tuesday of November and therefore the day of 'The Race that stops a nation'.

We got up and got out onto the streets with a torn cover of a 'Whats On' guide as our map to the city. Straight through a park we stopped briefly for a glimpse at the Anzac War Memorial. Not that you should be impressed by these things, but I wasn't really. I quite like war memorials to be understated and this wasn't. We didn't hang around as Kate noticed 3 chinese girls who were staying in the same place in Newcastle, were on the same bus out of Newcastle as us, who passed us in the street last night and who seemed to be tracing our steps through Sydney. We quickly changed direction under the possibility that they would soon want a photo with us in China stylie.

After walking into the foyer of the Museum of Australia we turned around as I wasn't really interested in the dinosaur type display that appeared to be on offer. The History Museum in London does that sort of thing pretty well and we didn't have the time for 'generic museum'.
The Cathedral just across the road drew our attention for a while.
I said to Kate after walking around in awe, I would give up building a lifetime of iconic skyscrapers to build 1 iconic cathedral. There is just something to be said about the feeling that being inside a Cathedral emotes. You don't have to be religious but just suck it in. Enjoy the quiet, enjoy the peace, enjoy the feeling the building is meant to give. St Mary's is a pretty big one by Australian standards having been Poped 3 times in the last 30-40 years and I can see why the old white one would want to visit.

We took to the Art Gallery of NSW and enjoyed it. Some old stuff, some interesting contemporary stuff, some more plain black exhibits with strange titles such as 'Stephen Hawking 2002' and 'Stephen Hawking in a raincloud'. Those were purely odd. Kate recognised a painting from the Van Gogh exhibition in Singapore which made her happy and I listened intently to a couple of pompous older art students commenting on some of the paintings like they had a clue. They talked such crap it made me smile. In the contemporary section, Kate found an installation called 'Black Forest' or something which was a large block of fluffy black looking trees and she liked that. I liked a large carving of a table and related items (all from one block of wood). And we were both disturbed by a silicon model of a small child covered in hair holding a flesh like creature - it looked like something out of a horror movie.

We then went for a wander.

But we appeared to be the only ones doing so. Or at least we were massively in the minority. For the first time in a Botanical Gardens, there was barely anyone just taking in the green, nobody just savouring nature amongst the big city. Instead the gardens had become the athletic centre of Sydney. Firstly we passed a big group of people who were actually formed of lots of small groups of two's and three's doing some sort of boxercise. Box a little, run a little, box a little. It looked like hard work. We passed them by, oh to have to exercise again.
And then, seemingly without break. 'heh heh heh heh', 'heh   heh   heh   heh' 'hehehehehhehehe'. Thats not meant to be laughing but the constant panting we heard as one after another person felt the need to steam past us in the least advertised jogathon in the world. Loads of very fit people barely straining, a few people holding conversations about bonds and mergers, a few people who looked like they were probably trying to run to a hospital, a few people with clearly distressing sex faces. Everyone was running. It was very distracting.
We managed to exit from the track (although it didn't state it was a track anywhere, it stated it was a 'circular walk' in fact) and take a couple of standard tourist snaps across to the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
On the continuation of the walk we were passed not once, not twice, not three times, but four times by groups who were at first jogging and then approximately 30 metres short of where we were walking began sprinting like their life depended on it. We found ourselves repeatedly in amongst a rabble of runners passing us by like ducks amongst a buffalo stampede. There couldn't be any more of an insensitive bunch of assholes in the world. I like running, I am a runner - but these guys were just repeatedly out of order. Ok, go for a jog, if there is space, run, if you find a nice clear bit of track, sprint if you will - but don't bloody do it as a group. Thats just rude to everyone else who are trying to go about there day without getting buffeted around.
Note of caution to anyone visiting the Botanical Gardens; stay around the middle of the gardens and avoid the 'Circular Walk'.

The Opera House is a good looking building from afar, but looks a little grubby up close - and thats all there is to say about it really. I think it's smaller than it looks on TV.

It was when we were at the Opera house and heading back that we started to notice the parties. Everyone seemed pretty smart. All suited up. Women in evening dresses. Cafes looking very busy for 2.30 in the afternoon on a tuesday. A lot of Champers around. Ah yes, the big race. Did the nation stop at 3pm? I would have loved to say yes. But it didn't. Did the nation function slightly worse after 3pm, I would think so. We watched the crowd, watching the race because we didn't really care over the result - which is probably the case with 95% of the revellers. It all went a bit quiet which led me to believe it was a close result - a photo finish I have since learnt. The Aussies didn't win though.

We visited the Justice and Police Museum which kept us both enthralled until 5pm with home made weaponary, stories of crime & punishment and bushranging activities of the likes of Ned Kelly. A good place to wile away some time without the crowds. Well presented.

We took in a Pizza Hut on the way back to Hostel (Buffet all you can eat) and walked past many overdressed people looking more than slightly worse for wear considering it was barely 6pm. A couple of girls wearing fascinators still must have thought they looked the bees knees as they sat down for their Pizza's with unlimited self serve ice cream. Classy. I think it sums up Australia a little. The race is a big classy event and everyone talks about it as if they care about the racing. The truth is they just care about the chance to have a piss up in the afternoon.

The one thing it reminded me and Kate of is that we miss 'going out' properly. We have little in the way of 'going out' clothing and if we had found an event to attend today, we probably would not have been dressed to enjoy it. We feel like we are looked at constantly as the great unwashed of the student generation yet know that we're not, and although we have funds we are restrained in it's use to make sure we have enough left to enjoy the States.
In desperate need of a big night out on our return.



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