Archive for the ‘Hyde Park’ Category

Being an Australian Tourist

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Before landing in Sydney Justin seemed very convinced that he could conquer the 15.5 hour trans pacific flight with ease due to his frequent travels on airplanes. No matter how many times I told him that regardless of any kind of flight experience that flight knocks everyone on their ass he continued to insist that he would sleep most of the way and be fine once he got here. He arrived in Sydney looking like he had champed it through, so I took him down to the Rocks to see the iconic Sydney sights, the Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. After we bused down there and walked around for less than an hour he was really beginning to drag. I never hate to say ‘I told you so’ so I did and we headed back to the apt so he could nap off his jet lag.

Since getting being in Sydney time he has done a good number of Sydney attractions and museums during the days while I have been in class, but there were a few things I hadn’t done that I wanted to explore with him, and some shopping errands he wanted some female assistance with. So we worked it out so that on a few of the days where my classes ended around 1 we would meet at the bus stop and venture into downtown.

On the first day when we had spent a little bit of time walking around the rocks Justin had noticed the abundance in opal jewelry stores, and out of sheer curiosity he had popped into a few stores to check out products and prices. Intrigued by the low prices of the rare and precious gems we decided to do a bit more research. We started in downtown Sydney inside the Queen Victoria Building off of George Street. The mall inside is absolutely gorgeous and the stores inside are very swanky. This did not prevent us from finding some really great deals on Opals though, since over 97% of the worlds opals come from Australia, they are very cheap to purchase here, plus being tourists to Australia all opal purchases can be made tax free. There are many different types of Opals we learned. White ones, purple and blue ones, and they come in all different shapes, sizes and cuts. We shopped around all afternoon and even made a few purchases.

Ceiling of the mall

Super swanky mall

Pretty stained glass window

On a different day we explored some of the big historical Sydney sights downtown. First stop- the Anzac War Memorial in the center of Hyde Park. The memorial, which was completed in 1934 is the main commemorative military monument in Sydney. It sits on the eastern edge of Sydney’s central business district and is the focus of the commemorative ceremonies on Anzac Day, Armistice Day and other important military and patriotic holidays.

It was built as a memorial to the Australian Imperial Force of World War I. Fund raising for the memorial began on April 25th 1916 on the first anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landing at Anzac Cove for the Battle of Gallipoli. It was opened on November 24th 1934 by His Royal Highness Prince Henry, Duke of Glocuester.

During my Sydney orientation we had walked through Hyde Park and past the memorial but hadn’t had time to actually walk through it, and now that I was walking through Sydney with a history buff and a military man, I finally had a reason to explore it.

The picture I took of the outside of the Anzac War Memorial during Orientation

Inside the Anzac War Memorial. This is a solider being supported by three females who represent the wife, daughter, and grandmother of the solider, who are also representative of the past, present and future of Australia. Australia was the first country to grant woman's suffrage and have always been supportive of women's rights.

Memorial to lost soldiers

Justin contemplating the Sydney skyline from the steps of the memorial

Views from the inside of the memorial

Cheesin

Next up on our itinerary was the Sydney Mint and the New South Wales Parliament building. We started with the Mint which is the oldest public building in Sydney Central Business District. It was built between 1811 and 1816 as the southern wing of the Sydney Hospital, but it was then known as the Rum Hospital. In 1854 a mint was established on the site with the hospital building used to house mint staff as well as providing a residence for the Deputy Mint Master. A coining factory was built at the rear of this building.

The British Secretary of state gave acceptance to the colonial government to establish a mint in Sydney which was to be the first branch of the Royal Mint outside England. The rear side of the building became the coining factory. There were frequent major upgrades to the mint during the late 1800s and the early 1900s. By 1926 the Melbourne and Perth Mints had installed much better technology and thus become more profitable, so the Sydney mint was closed.

Currently the Mint is little more than a few plaques detailing the history of the location, a tiny upstairs art gallery, gift store, a coin press located behind glass, a research library, and a bunch of event spaces that are off limits. In other words, Justin and I were very glad we did not have to pay any admission to get in because it was kinda a wash. I expected far more out of the oldest public building in Sydney. We spent all of 15 minutes within the mint, 5 of which were spent using the bathroom. The hospital located next door is still used as a hospital, so we couldn’t really tour that but we did walk by it. I have no photo documentation of this incredibly underwhelming experience.

Next we headed over to the Parliament building. This building, much like the US capital is still in use so in order to gain entry you have to go through metal detectors and have your bags searched. Once inside there isn’t a whole lot to do/see. The front lobby features very grand paintings of English crowns, but I since they were hung over a staircase I couldn’t get close enough to read about who they were. The reception area looks a lot like an upscale gentleman’s club with lots of rich reds, dark greens, leather and brass. Since we were there on a weekday most of the rooms were closed off because they were in use so all we were able to really wander around in was the main lobby/reception area. In the middle of the building there is a very modern looking fountain and inside there are paintings all around the glass windows that enclose it.

Fountain inside the Parliament House

Gentleman's club sheek

To end our day in the city we took a stroll through the Royal Botanical Gardens and Justin attempted to feed some of the feathery locals.

Justin gets friendly with a cockatoo in the Botanical Gardens

We walked around there for about an hour and finished our day watching the sun set over the harbor. On our way out of the gardens we were waiting to cross the street to walk back to the bus station and Justin stopped short before crossing. Once I noticed he wasn’t standing next to me I saw that he was talking to a group of guys. I walked over to find out that he had run into a 2011 citadel grad from his class who was also an army contract. What are the statistical odds of that?! Out of 400 citadel grads in the class of 2011, only 85 of whom are going into the Army and Justin happens to end up not only in the same hemisphere, continent, and city as one, but in the botanical gardens on the same day. WHAT. ARE. THE. ODDS?!

All the way back to the bus stop I was humming “It’s A Small World Afterall”

Sydney harbor by twilight

Being cute

The Orientation Process Continues!

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I don’t know what is causing this but everyday almost everyone is waking up around 6 or 7 am without an alarm, myself included. I am sure it has something to do with jet lag/being on the wrong time zone but its a very odd feeling to wake up and have no idea why. Usually when this happens to me its 2 pm when I needed to be somewhere at 9am, so I ususally wake up in a panic and scramble to find some device that tells time to confirm my fears. While the fleeting moments of panic are still there I have been pleasantly surprised to find each time I found a clock that I have woken up 1-2 hours earlier than I needed to.

SO in other words, this country has caused nothing short of a miracle to occur in my life. Let us all pray this blessing does not soon pass.

The first order of business when I awoke for day two was to find my luggage! Luckily it had in fact arrived when they said it would, and was waiting for me in the lobby of our hotel at the concierge desk. I have never been happier to see suitcases in my whole life.

I scampered upstairs with my suitcases bounding behind me and quickly found my shampoo and clean clothes. This was blissful.

45 minutes later it was time to head down to meet up with the rest of the group. Today was going to be all about living in the city and learning where things were. Our tour guide Russ, a native Aussie took us on a three hour walking tour all over the city. We started our tour in Hyde park which is very central and houses the Australian War Memorial.

Australian War Memorial

This building has four corners and there is a statue on each one. A member of the airforce, marines, navy and the fourth one is a woman. Russ was explaining that Australia was the first nation to grant women the right to vote, and that equality has always been a big part of AUstralia culture. Since women ran the country while the men were away at war during every major conflict, they are featured on the memorial. Inside of it is a sunken statue of  solider. It is sunken in so that you have to bow your head to look at it, assuming a position of reverence. The statue has three sets of hands supporting it that represent his mother, his wife, and his daughter. These women symbolize the past, the present and the future of Australia.

Also in Hyde park is this statue of James Cook. Much like Christopher Columbus he did little more than stumble into a large land mass, mistake it for something else, and get credit for finding it when someone else was already there. Essentially he is the Christopher Columbus of Australia. Why we can’t properly credit people for discovering our countries baffles me. I took the picture from this angle because our tour guide showed it to us from this angle and made some interesting comments about his….telescope.

As we made our way downtown towards the shopping district we could see the Sydney Observation tower. At the top there is a very fancy revolving restaurant. Being that the hotel we were already staying at was 80 floors high we were told not to waste our money to see the views from atop this thing as it would be expensive and no better than the ones we already had in our hotel.

This is part of the shopping district. Almost all the stores are located in open air alleyways like this. They are really quite beautiful and you can just wander in from the street without having to go through doors.

Throughout Sydney there are a bunch of public parks that feature the work from local artists. The design in this fountain that Russ is standing in front of is from a local artist. Also- since the soil in Australia is so nutrient poor the trees there never loose all their leaves completely since they don’t have the recourses to replace them all at once like the trees in the US do. Instead they loose a few all year round.

We also walked through the Botanical Gardens. When you first walk in the sign says “feel free to pick the flowers, climb the trees, walk on the grass and feed the animals” I thought this was really refreshing how they encourage a hands on experience when in the United States it would be very “NO TOUCHING”. The big white bird in this picture is really like the pigeon of Sydney. THese things are EVERYWHERE. They are very friendly and will eat out of your hand. Here, Russ is demonstrating how they will sit on your shoulder and eat out of your hand if you let them. They have a particular fondness for banana bread we found out. Many of the students tried this, one guy even had about 4 birds on him.

The botanical gardens back up to Sydney Harbor, where the famous sydney bridge and opera house reside. Of course everyone wanted a picture of this stunning view. I’m fairly certain all 80 kids from my program have this exact picture only with a different person in the foreground in every one.

Harry's Meat Pie Stand. These things are world famous apparently. None of our group was incredibly blown away by them. They were kinda bland, and not great food for an 80 degree summer day.

After our walk around the city we stopped at Harry’s meat pie stand for lunch off of the Harbor. Supposedly these things are amazing and quite famous in Sydney. I didn’t eat the tradition version, because it has meat in it, but instead opted for a veg version.

Harry's Meat pies with potato, mash pea, and gravy. Mine was a vegetarian one. Obviously this is not mine because I would never put coke zero (read:POISON) into my body.

It’s like a pot pie with a serving of mashed potatoes and smooshed peas on top covered in gravy. Its good but certainly not the life changing experience it was built up to be.

After lunch we all were loaded onto a bus and taken to Featherdale Wildlife Park http://www.featherdale.com.au/

It is a very nice facility that is a hybrid between a park and a zoo. While the birds and more dangerous animals were kept in cages the more docile ones were allowed to roam within the permitters. So you could be looking at a pretty exotic bird in a cage and all of a sudden a kangaroo goes bounding past you. Its really awesome. This darling little guy was the first animal we met. He is a newborn baby wallaby, and very sleepy as you can see. But o so incredibly soft and cuddly.

Baby Wallaby

There were also Koalas EVERYWHERE Almost all of them were sleeping in trees, which looks very funny and uncomfortable but they don’t seem to be bothered by it in the slightest.

To me they kinda look perpetually hungover. But also very cute and cuddly. And so incredibly soft.

The Kangaroos and Wallabys are very docile creatures and do not mind at all if you play/pet them. They are very friendly/indifferent. Also super soft. I think one of the major genetic traits of marsupials is that they are really soft.

tiny penguins! They huddled in a little group like this and it was adorable. I was so tempted to scoop one up and let it live in my bathtub for the next four months.

My favorite. So beautiful

Being that Australia has been so isolated from the rest of the world biologically the animals have evolved quite differently, or sometimes very little evolution has taken place at all. This lizard is a very close decedent of the dinosaurs, and he looks it too.

This crocodile is MASSIVE. The inclusion of the girl on her cell phone in this picture was intentional to give it some sense of scale. It was FRIGHTENING to be that close to such a gigantic and ferocious creature.

These guys are wonderfully fuzzy. And as long as they can still get to their food they don't really care what happens to them.

kookaburra!

So after we finished up at the wildlife park we went back into the city and had the rest of the night off. I went with some friends out to dinner at a sushi bar. I am not a big fan of sushi but they were very hell bent on having some since it is so plentiful and cheap in sydney. The quality of fish here is also a lot better than it is in the states. The water around Australia is actually very clean. SO clean in fact that they have begun to attract sharks. While this may seem alarming and unrelated, if the plankton and organisms at the bottom of the food chain have food to eat and can swim in the water then they attract bigger organisms, and this goes all the way up the food chain. So if you have a body of water that is attracting large predators like sharks you have a very flourishing and healthy ecosystem. So if you ever get bit by a shark, look on the bright side, you were swimming in a very healthy ecosystem when it happened!

So after my sushi dinner experience I have gone from a casual dislike of sushi to a passionate one. Luckily it was cheap and I didn’t waste too much money discovering this. After that some poeple elected to go out, but after a long day of marsupials and walking I was quite exhausted and decided to hang out with some friends in the hotel and then call it a night.