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.
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.
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.
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.
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”