Trip Report - Sydney 30 Yrs Later

Old Apr 15th, 2024, 05:47 AM
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Trip Report - Sydney 30 Yrs Later

I spent five days in Sydney (March 6-10) prior to boarding a cruise ship. Since Fodorites are always helpful with pre-trip questions, I like to provide a trip report in case it sparks someone else’s interest! I’ll cover logistics first and then summarize what I did and sights I saw.

Getting to Sydney from JFK: Knowing that I had to book a one-way flight since the cruise left from Sydney and ended in Tokyo, I knew it would be costly. After comparing various routes, airlines and prices, I ended up booking an Air Zealand flight primarily because they offer SkyCouch in Economy. Basically, it’s a row of Economy seats that can change into a couch since the arm rests go up, there’s a LEG rest - not a foot rest - that raises to match the seat level & is very sturdy and you get a kit of two full-size fluffy pillows, a size appropriate quilted mat (to spread on the seats), a quilt and a special seat belt extender so you can be buckled in comfortably. It was about 29” wide and 60” long; and it made the 16 hr flight (JFK to Auckland) as great as a 16 hour flight can be. The plane was one of those new Dreamliners and it was a dream😜. My couch was SO worth the money and I slept for, I kid you not, at least 10 hours. The plane was half empty so it was quiet too. Happened to wake up at the exact moment the sun was rising, so got to watch the colors change, pretty spectacular for a serendipitous moment. There are a limited number of SkyCouches available and the price varies depending on how many people are using it and the route, etc. It ended up costing me an additional $700USD over the standard economy fare for one seat.

I had a 90 minute layover in Auckland and then a 2.5 hour flight to Sydney. Since I had a fairly large suitcase, I decided to take a cab to the hotel was about 30 minutes & $55AUD. In my younger days, I would have used public transportation but now I’m willing to pay for convenience, especially at the end of 24 hours of flight travel.

​​​​​​Accommodation: I used Marriott points for 4 nights in a King room at the Four Points Sheraton Central Park, which is right across from the University of Technology Sydney. Normally I wouldn’t stay in a downtown area since I like neighborhoods better but free is free! The room was fine and had a mini-fridge. The front desk were very helpful with maps, directions and recommendations.

Public Transportation: I decided to buy an Opal card since I like the ease of having a card instead of digging for my phone or credit card to tap in/out of buses, etc and the Opal app made it easy to figure out how to get around. (Some people don’t like getting the Opal card since any unused balance is not refundable but I knew I’d use most of it and then I typically give the card to someone on my way out of town; in this case, a woman at the cruise terminal.) I used a combination of ferries, buses and trains. Of course, walking is a great way to get around too.

Weather: This was an unexpected and slightly unpleasant surprise – it was 10 degrees warmer than normal the entire time I was there. And humid. Despite the heat, I still did everything I had planned to do but after one day bought a sleeveless, flowy linen dress at Myer which I wore everyday.

Food: I’m not a foodie so I don’t have any helpful info! Lunches were quick grabs where ever I happened to be and dinners were take aways from local supermarkets.

What I Did: On my previous trips to Sydney in 1990, 1991 and 1992, I loved the city. I explored all over and remember taking cabs to Glebe, Darling Point, Paddington and Kings Cross and just walking around, up and down streets looking at the houses and buildings, people watching and going to whatever historic homes were there. In a Paddington gallery, I bought a Linda Jackson bush couture doll, bag and ceramics. I felt like I was discovering an entirely different type of city (versus London, NY, etc.) and was eager to re-visit.

DAY 1: Once I checked into the hotel by early afternoon, I was ready to explore. My mission today was nothing too strenuous, just a ferry ride to Milsons Point to wander and a walk across the Sydney Harbor bridge. While I love using local transportation, it always takes a day or so to figure it out which I forget and then get cranky. The hotel had steered me away from using buses and suggested trams instead, but the trams were a 15 minute walk from my hotel through a busy area which felt like Times Square in my tired and cranky state. After asking three people, I finally found the tram stop I needed and got to Circular Quay ferry station where I easily found the correct wharf for Milsons Point. Lots of signage, maps and folks to ask.

When the ferry pulled away, my mood changed! The sun was out, the sky was blue, I was on the water and my adventure had begun. Once off the ferry, I walked straight ahead past the old amusement park, Luna Park, which was closed but it was fun to see the huge sign at the entrance. I walked along the Lavender Bay boardwalk and the Peter Kingston Walkway which is named after an artist who lives in Lavender Bay and contains various small sculptures. There’s a marina with lots of small boats and I enjoyed watching people puttering around on their boats. And plenty of benches to absorb the view back to the city; good photo op for bridge and opera house.

It felt good to stretch my legs which had been my objective, so the walk was mild but interesting and I saw lots of local trees and bushes with interesting flowers. I was really intrigued by one of these trees and I saw a young guy sitting on a bench with a fishing rod, so I thought well he’s interested in fish, maybe he knows something about plants. I asked if he had any idea what the tree was and he said he had no idea but we agreed it was odd looking and then he said “oh, there’s a Google tool where you can take a photo of something and it will tell you what it is” so he showed me how. I’ve learned about all kinds of Google tools this trip and I was busy snapping photos and googling trees and bushes the rest of the day🤣.

My other objective of this walk was to go to a secret garden - Wendy Whitely’s. It’s not really secret but that’s what it’s called; in fact, it’s won awards for the best garden maintained by residents and is easily found on various travel blogs. When I first read about it, the garden intrigued me because it’s built on a steep hillside overlooking the harbor and the bridge with a maze of paths bringing you from tiered level to tiered level through nooks, sculptures, and cul-de-sacs. But the backstory intrigued me even more: apparently Wendy and her husband Ben were enfant terribles of the art world in the 60’s/70’s; he was the artist and she was his wife and muse. He died at 53 and all the websites say she channeled her grief into building this garden and has kept it going for all these years, along with help from volunteers. I googled his work which didn’t really appeal to me, but maybe I need to see it in person 😉.

Although there’s no sign for the garden, I turned right at the public toilets on the Walkway and climbed the steps from the harbor and the garden is on the right. I saw a quite elderly woman whacking away at large tropical plants, thinning them out and putting the discards in various gardening tubs. I wondered if she was actually Wendy but wasn’t going to say anything because I think that’s tacky. However, another woman walking through asked her if she was a volunteer, and she responded, I thought slightly affronted, “No, I’m Wendy and this is my garden.” Aha!! So I wandered through the garden, up and down, around corners, into cul-de-sacs, and then I thought, I should go back and say something to her. But I wanted to say something that might mean something to her versus what the other person had said: “oh this is a labor of love” which I’m sure is what every article & every person says and she’s probably sick of hearing it. When I reached her again I said “I just wanted to say hello and mention that through reading about your garden, I researched your husband‘s art and was so interested in it. I didn’t expect to discover a new artist when I came to a garden, but I have so I wanted to let you know that the garden introduced me to him.” She seemed very pleased about that and actually stopped her weeding while we chatted briefly; she told me that they had lived in the house behind us, where she still lives, and painted the amazing scenes of Lavender Bay which he is well-known for. And that the view now is so different from what he saw 30 years ago because the trees and plants have gotten huge. I was happy that I met her and that I actually thought of something to say. During my trip, a number of people asked me what I did in Sydney and when I told them I met Wendy, they were all surprised (some thought she was no longer around, others thought she was in a home and someone else told me I’d met one of Sydney’s real characters!)

My final objective of the day was to walk across the Harbor bridge and although it sounds easy, the actual process of getting from Wendy’s garden to the street level entrance of the bridge required me asking three people – two of whom gave opposite directions! Anyway, it was easy to find once I had the right directions and off I traipsed (one of the things that I loved discovering on this trip is that there are so many elevators next to stairs, whether museums, subways, bridges, etc.). The bridge was built in 1932 and there were a lot of people walking across it; of course, it was 5:30-ish so end of day workers, runners, stray tourists, etc. Because this is a late blooming issue for me, I had forgotten that I don’t like heights. I’ve only discovered this in the last two years and it seems to appear when I’m at places where I feel like there is no barrier between me and hurtling into space (such as very tall skyscrapers, cliff edges, castle ramparts, etc); you might think a bridge would fall into the same category and it finally occurred to me when I walked onto the bridge walkway. Luckily, I was fine, but I did focus on looking up at the bridge structure and out into the distance; and of course there was a thick tall wall and fence plus plenty of people and 4 security guys in high viz. jackets spaced along the length of the bridge. I had a fleeting thought of “suppose I freak out and have to ask someone to walk me back to the shore side”, but that didn’t happen.

The walk across only took 15 minutes max and my feet were tired by now so I figured out the tram situation and got back to the hotel. (Of course, I took the tram one stop too far (should have exited at Central Station) and looking at Google Maps, thought I could cut through the train station to get to the hotel, but in the train station, you have to have a ticket to get through the gates, which I didn’t have because I took the tram not the train….. so I explained my saga to a train employee and he said how did you get into the station, yada yada yada). Finally got to the hotel after I stopped on the way to buy a soda, bag of chips, and ham sandwich for dinner.

Overall, I was happy that my 5 week trip had begun and that I enjoyed both of my day’s goals.

Next…. tomorrow is my day for historic sights and the art museum. Also, since I really did enjoy the ferry ride, I think tomorrow I’ll end my day with a nice long ferry ride to the suburb of Parramatta, and back.
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Old Apr 15th, 2024, 07:03 AM
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Along for the ride!
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Old Apr 15th, 2024, 10:26 AM
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Photos from yesterday's walk in Lavender Bay and Wendy Whitely's garden:













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Old Apr 15th, 2024, 11:13 AM
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Day 2: Blue skies, sun, breeze and humidity (weather stations are reporting degrees that are 10° higher than normal).

The morning started off a little slowly because I realized that I had forgotten to bring a case for my contact lenses so last night I rigged up 2 baggies with little puddles of contact lens solution, but that was a very short term answer so this morning I had to go out and find a contact lens case. I also wanted to buy an Opal card for public transportation. I went to a drugstore and they only sold cases packaged with a pint of lens solution which I didn’t want and then I thought of going to a optometrist like Pearle Vision because optometrists have a bazillion contact lens cases. Spec Saver is an Australian chain located in a shopping center called Broadway Sydney which was about five or six blocks from the hotel. Very snazzy mall, with long, inclined escalators (sort of moving walkways, except that they inclined up and down). Spec Savers sold me a case for two dollars – check! There was a Coles supermarket in the center and I bought a $20 Opal card – check! I knew of Coles from the MKR (My Kitchen Rules) series and I immediately decided to go there at the end of the day and buy my dinner. My shopping needs took about an hour and I was off to the art gallery of New South Wales to take the 11 AM tour of their aboriginal art gallery. Decided to take a bus and used the Opal app which is great. I like taking the bus because I can look at the buildings; it’s interesting to me that there are a number of older Australian style hotels, from the 20s or 30s I guess, tucked in among the modern buildings.

My plan was to begin at the top of the park to the art gallery first, then down to Hyde Park barracks, then down to the Anzac War Memorial, and ideally a ferry ride to Parramatta. So I’m in the bus zipping along past various parks, including the Anzac War Memorial and at the next park we go past a kiosk called the Grumpy Baker which has a sign about pies. Ooh, that’s appealing so I got off at the next stop and backtracked to the Grumpy Baker; serendipitously, they had one breakfast sandwich left which was a fluffy sesame roll filled with lots of bacon, an egg, cheese, and a tomato relish. It was $10 US; I bought a soda for $5 AUD and took my treats into the park to eat them. This park has a lot of manicured grass areas among pathways and landscaped areas - not many flowers, but native Australian plants and huge, towering trees. Mostly Morton figs, but also olive trees and some pine trees. There were these crazy, big, fluffy white birds with a long curved, black beak and tall, black legs that were hunting in the dirt for bugs; not skittish around people, but not annoying either. Lots of people out and about either sitting on the grass, working out or walking through the park on their way somewhere. Down the middle of the park is an avenue of huge Morton fig trees, which provided very nice shade and there were benches all along the way. Came to the very ornate Archibald fountain and veered off to the right where I could see St. James Cathedral since I knew the art gallery was bit beyond that.






Now we were in the Domain, which is the name of that park and that’s where the botanic gardens are but that’s a project for another day. The Art Gallery of New South Wales has two wings - an old and a new. The aboriginal art collection is in the new wing. There were 4 of us on the free tour which was led by an Aboriginal women who grew up in Sydney with Aboriginal parents from two different communities. The physical gallery it’s very attractive - very bright, light, huge rooms, spacious. As always with museum tours, I wish they talked about more of the artworks instead of focusing on just a few items. It was very interesting. One of the sections that really grabbed me were the very recent Aboriginal artworks made from reclaimed metal, as in corrugated steel walls, old road signs, metal from shacks, etc. The artists’ theory is that they are cleaning up the country by removing debris, and since industrialization is all over Australia and has become part of the landscape, by using items from industry, they are incorporating it into their art, which makes their art relevant. They had to get approval from the elders to use these metal elements since previously all Aboriginal art was done on bark or cloth. They etch the design using a drill type implement to take advantage of the shape, texture, imperfections, etc. of the metal. The piece of corrugated steel was etched with a design that looks like ferns and because of the ripple of the steel, it helps the ferns appear to ripple. I was impressed with this style of art and that the artists were thinking of new ways to do traditional art. She also talked about some of the dot paintings which were done in the last 20 years; very colorful, not the ocher and white and black that I’ve seen often. They depicted looking up at the sky, so they were showing constellations and Milky Way in the Aboriginal version.




I learned that for millennia there was active trade from the Macassar, from Indonesia to the Darwin area because geographically they’re very close. The Macassar brought food items, glass, steel and metals, and lots of items that the Aboriginals did not have, so those items came to Australia much earlier than I thought. In 1900 that trade was stopped by the Australian government; I realized that I know next to nothing about Australian history so I need to buy some history books once I’m home.

I took a break at a food kiosk in the courtyard of the new wing, which had very nice seating near a natural landscape garden that was slightly shaded and conveniently they had just put out a platter of large, plump chocolate chip and wattle seed cookies so I bought one and sat for about half an hour enjoying those treats, resting my feet and watching all the people. There are lots of school groups coming to the museum; what’s interesting to me is that the kids all wear uniforms – and these are teenagers. Each school has their own uniform; some feature plaid skirts with white boxy tops, others are navy blue skirts, slightly snug & short with white blouses, and then another wore blue and white striped long-ish dresses with straw hats with blue ribbons. They all wore clunky, black shoes, either loafers, or some kind of tie up shoes, but clunky heels and thick soles with white socks. Some groups were all girls were all boys and others were coed. Very well-behaved, no loud joking, or shouting, or shoving the way an American group of students would do. Well behaved inside the museum too.



Hyde Park Baracks were free, as was the art gallery, and it was described as an immersive experience. OK I’ll give it a try. You get an audio guide that is linked to different spots in each room so it automatically starts talking to you via the headset. It was actually very well done. Just walking through the front gate I could envision how the barracks looked when they were being used. The initial purpose was to house convict labor sent from England. When Sydney was being developed in the early- mid 19th century, they needed a lot of labor hence convicts. One of the buildings used a video installation and audio to re-create the voyage experience from England to Australia. Then you cross the courtyard and enter a three-story building, which has been renovated with whitewashed walls, squeaky wooden floors, and a pitched beamed roof. Again very well done. Starting at the top you work your way down and see a recreation of a sleeping room, the hammock room for the convicts, displays of items which the convicts wore, used, etc. In addition to the display cases, an audio commentary via your headset explained what we were looking at using actors to recount the stories of convicts, based on their letters, or stories handed down. They had a section describing the work that the convicts did to help build Sydney – they made bricks to use in creating the buildings, sawed, nailed, cut lumber, provided blacksmith services to keep all the tools sharp and more. So it was interesting to see these items and hear the stories. Around 1850 convicts were no longer sent to Australia, so the barracks were used to house indigent women for a while; women from the UK who were coming to Australia to work. Again, more items combined with audio; they also had a section from the matron who ran the woman’s home. Another whole section of the museum talked about the treatment of the Aboriginals, which was primarily land focused. So although I was skeptical of this spot and went because it was there and free, I learned a lot. Would definitely recommend this.

Off to the Anzac war Memorial next. I took a bus – I feel like I’m going to be an old hand with the Opal app and buses! The memorial was built in the mid-1930s and has a blocky “reaching to the skies” art deco look . This was another surprise. It’s not huge; the top floor is mostly a space for silent contemplation and the names of various battles and locations where ANZAC forces operated during World War I were carved into the walls. I didn’t recognize Hindenburg so I asked one of the docents who were both very talkative and informative and I probably spent half an hour talking to them. The ground floor had very interesting exhibit about the royal Australian Navy (RAN) with photos from veterans, lots of ships’ crests, and some uniforms.

The lower floor, which I ran out of time for, was fascinating. I needed another hour there and will try to go back. They have a very large exhibit of Australian forces throughout the ages up to current times; they were involved in places I never would’ve thought of like Fiji, what looks like desert storm, and desert locations. Lots of uniforms with explanations; stories of individuals; medals; a great photo video section of the forces in action from the 1960s forward. I had to hurry through this section. I was about to head out because they were closing in 10 minutes and realized I had missed probably one of the most significant aspects of the memorial – the circular area of the lower floor contained samples of soil from every Australian town where Australian military who had died during World War I lived. The circle is filled with narrow marble slabs engraved with the name of the town and set into the marble is a clear circular disc maybe 3 inches wide by 1 inch deep that contains the soil. And they’re in alphabetic order. The soil differences in color, graininess, etc. was really interesting. Then in the center of the room on the floor was a large circle with the names of battle locations where Australians died and a soil sample from each of them; some of them have no soil, and the docent explained that was because the governments of those countries said (in essence) “you invaded us, we didn’t ask you here, our people died, and we are not giving you any soil (Vietnam and Afghanistan)”. I would’ve liked to spend more time there, so will try to get back.

It was after 5 o’clock and I was very tired and realized a ferry ride wasn’t going to happen today. Instead took the bus back to the Broadway Sydney shopping center and Cole’s. In the meantime, I realized there’s also an Apple Store in that same mall and since my AirTag battery has died, I went to the Apple Store for another one but they sent me to Cole’s to buy a battery. Cole’s was busy with after work people, but I bought lots for dinner and the next few days plus the air tag battery. I didn’t do as well with the bus ride back to the hotel, because I either mis-read or misinterpreted what the app was telling me and took a bus that sailed past the hotel and took me to the train station; so I took another bus which went two blocks past the hotel, so at this point I just walked two blocks back to the hotel with my bulging Coles bag.
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Old Apr 16th, 2024, 01:59 AM
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Great report, I need to go back and read more thoroughly. Do you remember the app you used to find out what the plant was? That would be so useful.
The price for the SkyCouch was pretty good, much much cheaper than business class but being able to lay down to try and sleep is the best part. Who cares about fancy business class food or alcohol.

It's great you got to talk with Wendy Whiteley. She's had a lot of sadness in her life, her daughter Arkie, who was an actress, died quite young. And her partner Brett (not Ben) was/is very famous. The sculpture must be by Leunig, love it.
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Old Apr 16th, 2024, 08:16 AM
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KayF I have the latest version of Google and on the Google home page on my phone, there's a little icon called Google Lens; it's located right next to the big Search field, to the right of the microphone. Just tap on the lens icon and the Google Lens function opens and says "Tap shutter button to search"; tap the button and all kinds of info will appear about the item you photo'd. Pretty cool!

I was very pleased that I got to speak with Wendy and in reading a bit more about her life, realized that she's rather indomitable. And her garden is wonderful

Last edited by vickiebypass; Apr 16th, 2024 at 08:47 AM.
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Old Apr 16th, 2024, 08:48 AM
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Day 3: Another great weather day blue skies, sunny and quite warm. Although it’s humid, there’s a good breeze and the air is very soft so is pleasant.

Since my watch battery died last night, I headed off to the Swatch store in the Pitt Street Mall. I got talking to a very nice lady and asked her what department store would be the equivalent of a Macy’s or M&S and she suggested Meyer. Since it’s been so warm, my denim capris and T-shirt are super uncomfortable, so I decided to look for a sundress - loose and flowy. It’s always interesting to me how clothing in every country except the US is very appealing to me, bright colors, attractive, styles, etc. the store was having a 50% off sale because it’s the end of their summer – woo hoo for me. I tried on several dresses and ended up buying a linen dress that was half price, which was US$30 - what a deal and I actually wore it out of the store. Immediately, I felt significantly cooler. (Ironic how for a person who doesn’t like to shop, I’ve been on multiple shopping expeditions already…oh well, I figure it’s seeing life like the locals!)

I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do today so sat on the bench outside the mall watching the world go by for 20 minutes or so. My original plan had been to do a 10 km Spit Bridge to Manly walk but my feet, back & knees hurt so I had to be realistic and opted not to do that hike. Instead, I decided to take a ferry to Parramatta along the Parramatta river and enjoy the scenery on this nice day. I sat on the upper deck and there was a man next to me who had grown up in Sydney and was very willing to provide a running commentary on what we were seeing. An interesting thing to me is the huge growth of very tall skyscrapers in Sydney, particularly around the Circular Quay area, but also downtown park area. They seem to dwarf the other buildings; even though some older buildings are still in use, these huge tall buildings take over. The development continues from the harbor bridge all the way to Parramatta (I think is about 24 km). Any waterfront property is valuable so there are houses, condos, apartment buildings, etc. The man said the housing is needed for all the people who work in Sydney and Sydney has nowhere else to build so they are going further and further out. This is a huge change from when I visited in the early ‘90’s. It makes sense given the economic development and I guess is positive but I miss the uniqueness that I remember – all those tall buildings and new housing tend to look the same the world over.

Because the river is tidal, the ferry couldn’t go all the way into Parramatta so we stopped and took a bus to Parramatta. A number of online tourist sites talked up the historical aspect and old buildings, etc. but I couldn’t find many. I went to the City of Parramatta's Heritage & Visitor Information Centre hoping for some suggestions and directions of what to see; while the staff tried hard, and encouraged me to sit inside in their air conditioning, they didn’t offer much helpful advice. So I walked around a bit and decided to go back to Sydney via train which was quick and easy. There was still plenty of day left and I decided to take the ferry to Manly and maybe go swimming in the ocean. Another nice ferry ride but when I got to Manly, I was very fatigued and not in the mood for much of anything. Don’t know why the funk – very unusual for me; I hate to blame it all on the heat. I think I was frustrated with not being able to get my arms around Sydney.

I persevered and walked to the beach which is a spectacular cove with a large, long sandy beach and the breakers rolling in. There’s a paved path and huge Norfolk pine trees lining the beach. Way down at one end is the Queenscliffe rock pool which I had thought about swimming in but I just couldn’t face walking the half mile or so down there. So I sat and people watched, enjoyed the breeze and the sound of the water, and then took the ferry back. Had a very odd experience on the ferry – I settled into an outside bench and sighed with relief when I actually sat down and a woman next to me asked if I was OK so I explained that I was just tired. We got talking (she did most of talking) and here’s her story: she retired from being an investment banker about 10 years ago. I think she was 30; she’s divorced and has a daughter but wants another child so she is on various websites looking for sperm donors. These aren’t frozen sperm, instead, she has sex with the guy. She flew to Seattle last month to have sex with her latest donor; she’s been through four of these episodes and hasn’t gotten pregnant yet, but will know next week if the Seattle guy took. She said she wants someone who’s handsome, because looks are very important to her and she would also like someone who’s rich because she says she’s a gold digger and while she has plenty of money of her own, she wants more money. Wow - now this was a surprising conversation at all, let alone to have on a ferry with a total stranger. It sure took me out of my funk. Then she suggested that I should find someone who I could be a sugar mama to - a young, handsome, charming man who will be kind to me when I’m old. She says there’s websites for that too. She gave me her phone number and told me that I should text her and let her know if I meet anybody appropriate for this role on my upcoming cruise. I just let her talk because she was on a role and it wasn’t worth my energy to have a real conversation with a virtual stranger. But her own story was certainly unique and her suggestion for me is something quite unusual…to say the least.

And on that bizarre note, I called it quits on this day and went back to the hotel.
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Old Apr 16th, 2024, 09:01 AM
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Had a very odd experience on the ferry...

No kidding, that was downright wacky.
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Old Apr 16th, 2024, 09:25 PM
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She does sound strange, the woman who talked to you. I wonder what she told US immigration when they asked the purpose of her visit?

Thanks for the photo app info, I'll have a look at it. Your days in Sydney sound busy, I'm not surprised you were tired, especially with the heat. Looking forward to reading more.
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Old Apr 16th, 2024, 09:43 PM
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'I wonder what she told US immigration when they asked the purpose of her visit?'
Kay - outstanding!
Vickie, thank you for this.
I am done. the strange stranger

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Old Apr 17th, 2024, 02:06 PM
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I'm glad you're enjoying this!! In addition to sharing my experiences with all of you, I get to re-live each day.

​​​​​​Day 4: Another day of beautiful weather, blue skies, sun, breeze, and no humidity!! I had planned to spend the day in Paddington at the market, sunken gardens, lunch and pottering around the streets. However, I decided I needed a nature fix because nature is what Australia does well, and I need to turn my perspective around. So based on the suggestion from the strange stranger on the ferry yesterday, I decided to go to Bronte beach and their ocean pool, which is past Bondi. I had THE BEST TIME. Took a train & bus and my instinct was right – residential neighborhoods are what I really enjoy more than the central business district of Sydney. Taking the bus through Bondi and Bronte, these are small towns, no skyscrapers, old buildings, Queensland style houses and lots of small businesses. Probably quite expensive, but still much more appealing to me than the CBD.

Bus 333 brought me to the final stop at Bronte Beach and what a surprise it was. Lots of green lawn, palm trees, huge Norfolk pines, various seating areas, all leading to a glorious wide beach. It’s a cove, but very very long and at one end is an ocean pool. This is a very cool thing because it’s high tide & the waves from the ocean break over the edge of the pool so you get salt spray and maybe drenched. There are various sets of steps into the pool. I got there at 9:30 and the local swim club was doing some adult races and training so a portion of the pool had lane dividers for them but there was plenty of pool available for everyone else. All along the ocean edge of the pool was a ledge, maybe 4 feet below water, so you could stand on the ledge and look out at the ocean or put your back to the ocean and look at the other swimmers and the very cool sculpted sandstone cliffs on the other side. When I got there I asked a lifeguard if it was safe to leave my stuff and she said definitely no problem; then I asked an older lady who was going into swim with her goggles and bathing cap and she said definitely it’s fine - just find a spot near the rocks, it’s very safe (which it was). Everyone is doing the same thing.







I dog paddled, breast stroked, treaded water and just hung out on the side, absorbing the ocean and everything. This is what Australia does so well; to my mind, Australia’s claim of fame is their nature and I should’ve focused on that from the first day. I remembered from 30 years ago that people work because they have to pay the bills but they spend every spare minute, including lunch hours, outside. Seems like a healthy perspective to me.




These stairs were open for the adult swim team folks and you can see the lane dividers.

At the beach, I was interested in how many people were set up on the grass with their towels, chairs or whatever so they use this beach and park for variety of reasons (not just sunbathing or swimming). I also went into the ocean: in an area that’s sheltered by rocks, so even though the waves come in, they’ve been broken by the rocks and are gentler; it’s about 4- 4 1/2 feet deep which was plenty for me. Then I walked over to the regular ocean and went in up to my knees and a big wave came in. It pushed me and I thought, I don’t need to be tumbled over and have to be rescued by the lifeguards so I got out of the open ocean. I asked the lifeguards about a posted sign and they explained that there’s almost always a rip current at Bronte so they have flags set up to indicate the areas that are safe to swim in and when I said I’m going back to the pool or the sheltered area and stay safe they said thank you! There were showers, changing rooms & toilets at each end of the beach, which was quite handy too. After about 2 1/2 hours I was getting a bit chilled because there was a strong breeze and had goosebumps that I couldn’t ignore anymore so decided it was time to mosey along. Took a shower, stuffed my wet bathing suit and towel into my knapsack and took the bus back to Bondi and connected to a bus to Paddington.

Due to a traffic accident, the bus was diverted so I had a much further walk along Oxford Street than I anticipated. Yes, it’s a nice day, but in the hot sun and carrying a knapsack with a wet bathing suit, it was tiring. Time to rethink the rest of the day - it was getting close to the 3 o’clock and the market closed at 4 and I don’t need any crafty artisan stuff anyway so decide to skip the market. Went to Vinnie’s thrift, which is a charity shop and bought four books; I must be loony, but I purposely did not bring as many books as I normally would have thinking I would buy some in Sydney, since I need them for the cruise. What’s 10 more pounds of weight to lug onto the ship tomorrow?! Very pleased to get some books by Australian authors that are hard to find in the US.

I wandered through the Sunken Gardens which were very interesting but needed to sit and rest and have a very late lunch. Went into the Imperial Hotel, but the outside chairs were all taken and inside smelled like stale beer and it was warm. So hiked to the Unicorn Hotel, which is pretty bare bones but looks like a very local kind of place. It was cool and the burger was okay, as was the cider and I rested my feet, so it met all of my needs.


The Unicorn Hotel in Paddington; very relaxed vibe.

Took the bus back to hotel and relaxed.

Next up - my last day in Sydney (just the morning) before boarding the ship.
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Old Apr 17th, 2024, 02:40 PM
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Day 5: I can’t board the ship until 2:00 pm so I went to the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens in the morning. I was looking forward to the free walking tour of the gardens but unfortunately it was bad. Led by volunteers, the route and quality of the tour very much depends on who is leading it. The leader this morning was a very nice older man who was quite a talker and went so deep into the naming of plants and the history of each plant that in 50 minutes we had only moved about 20 meters; there were about 12 people on the tour and several kept asking him questions that took him onto tangents. I like a balance of walking while talking and since there are so many interesting areas to see in these gardens I was very frustrated by the glacial pace, so I abandoned it after 50 minutes (it’s a 90 minute tour). I walked around on my own discovering the flowers, plants and trees from all over the world that are showcased, with an emphasis on Australian and south Pacific greenery. I particularly enjoyed the harbor front area so sat on a bench and was content people watching and listening to the water and the birds.





I spent almost 3 hours there, then checked out of the hotel and took a cab to the cruise ship which was moored at Circular Quay.

My almost 5 days in Sydney were busy and I don't feel like I "got" Sydney the way I did before. I think there were several reasons: (1) staying in a downtown hotel was a bad idea; I had initially planned to rent an apt in Surry Hills or Newton but the ability to use points and have a free stay was irresistible - lesson learned; (2) I should have explored the various neighborhoods; (3) the pervasive development; I’m sure that from an economic, global reputation, desirability, etc. perspective, “the man” looks at the development as very positive. However to my eyes, the tall buildings dwarf the older buildings and made the city feel very cramped and crowded because they can’t expand outward due to the water. In the city center, I felt at the bottom of canyons. The day at Bronte and in Paddington were when I felt the most enthusiastic so I wish I had done that earlier in the visit which would have prompted me to do similar days. But I'm glad I re-visited and I definitely felt the Sydney spirit in all the people I met and talked with; everyone was very open, friendly, helpful and upbeat.
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Old Apr 18th, 2024, 12:21 AM
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Thanks for a most interesting & entertaining TR, Vicki.

You might enjoy this article about Arkie Whiteley, daughter of Brett and Wendy. Brett Whiteley died in 1991, Arkie 10 years later at 37. Wendy did say at one time that her work in the Lavender Bay garden rescuing it from the overgrown mess near the railway track that it was, was to keep her sanity after Arkie's death. She has done a sensational job.

https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/whiteley-arkie-18324

The White bird with black "mantilla" in your pics is the Sacred Ibis.

All schoolchildren in Australia wear uniforms. It's a good system as it avoids (1) One-upmanship and other inter-relationship issues when students get to wear whatever they want. (2) Daily fights over what they are going to wear or not wear, I suspect with those who don't wear uniforms. I can imagine a few "You are NOT going to wear THAT to school!" edicts amongst those who have a choice.

Love Bronte! We used to walk down to that beach from our boarding school in Waverley on summer evenings. We have an annual sculpture exhibition "Sculpture by the Sea" from Bondi Beach to Bronte - in October/November. Can't quite remember when now.

What a pity about the uninspiring guide on your Royal Botanic Gardens walk.

If you walked from the Art Gallery of NSW through the Domain (Not the RBG) to Macquarie Street, you'd have walked through the wonderful old Sydney Hospital. Those interested might like to see if they can find tours of the old "Nightingale Ward", where original surgical implements, and wards are on show.

From your description, I think you may have been in the new art gallery of NSW (The Modern/North Building), which was opened a couple of years ago. There is a larger Aboriginal gallery in the original Art Gallery building - next time!. The jury of public opinion is still out on the new gallery, I think. It's certainly light & spacious, but I can't say I'm a fan, although I've been a few times and tried to like it. I did see an exhibition by Louise Bourgeois in the former fuel tank underneath it recently & that was "interesting". Eye of the beholder & all that!

You really covered some territory and different areas in your short visit. Hope you'll come back again. Sydney certainly has changed in the last 30 years - it's now a city of some 5.5m people. I'm hoping the city planners do encourage some good high density development around the inner & immediately surrounding suburbs to cut back the urban sprawl which is rapidly destroying vast tracts of green space to the north, south and west.

Thanks again, really enjoyed the read and hope you have a great cruise.

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Old Apr 18th, 2024, 08:22 AM
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Love your above floral pic Vicki - are those proteas? Such a joy to have Botanical Gardens to visit wherever one's travels may take them, yeah?
*Maybe consider buying some Manuka or Tawari honey as a souvenir?
Carry on.
I am done. the crooz
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Old Apr 18th, 2024, 09:26 AM
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Bokhara2 - Thank you for the link about Arkie; that fills in my mental picture of the 3 of them. It sounds like she had a difficult life and had found her way just when fate tragically intervened. The Sacred Ibis is an interesting bird and I loved having so many chances to study it up close in any green area. What a shame that I missed the larger Aboriginal art gallery in the old building; I'll add it to my list for a future trip. I know I'll be back but will plan it for cooler weather!

zebec - those are indeed protea! Living in the New England state of Connecticut, we don't have any exotic flowers here (unless you count daisies, chrysanthemums, black eyed susans; to us all of those are very common). So I was excited to see proteas growing in nature, along with other flowers that our florists call exotic and charge a lot of money for! Like Birds of Paradise. Also, wattle - I've read that word in Australian books forever and now I can picture it. I'm not much of a gardener but I do like seeing gardens all over the world - different plants, different landscape styles, etc.

BTW, I just posted a very short trip report on my one day in Cairns in case you're interested - I avoided the standard Cairns tours and did my own thing.
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Old Apr 18th, 2024, 07:15 PM
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<<All schoolchildren in Australia wear uniforms.>>
My son left High School last year and I asked him what he misses most, I was surprised when he said wearing the school uniform

<<Very well-behaved, no loud joking, or shouting, or shoving the way an American group of students would do.>>
If they do misbehave there will be serious consequences as they are representing their school and from the uniform, people know what school they are from. (the girls in the picture will be from Wenona Girls School)


<<The Unicorn Hotel in Paddington; very relaxed vibe>>
My son practically lives in it.
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Old Apr 18th, 2024, 08:49 PM
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Geordie - I could tell the Unicorn was a local's spot! There used to be a US show called "Cheers" about a bar in Boston and the show's theme song included the line "....where everyone knows your name"; it's become shorthand in the US for a low-key, comfortable bar that has a steady customer base of locals and there's no glitz or fancy decor. And as soon as I walked into the Unicorn, I got that feeling. If I lived in Paddington, I'd hang out there too.
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Old Apr 19th, 2024, 09:05 AM
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Enjoying your report! We will be in Sydney this October. Will re-read your report again. Love the photos. And yes, you did have a whacky conversation with that lady on the ferry! You gave me a good laugh!
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