A November 2001 trip
to Sydney by billmoy
Quote: What makes Sydney one of the most attractive and cosmopolitan cities in the world is its string of scenic harbors.
I toured the Olympics Park, located several miles west of central Sydney in Homebush Bay. The glistening Olympics cauldron looks rather small in person, almost like a glorious garden ornament amongst the huge sporting complexes. On the day I visited, there were thousands of lively but not rowdy teenagers in the main outdoor stadium attending "Rumba", a music festival consisting mainly of Australian pop acts. The energy level in the Olympics Park was typical of my experiences in Sydney, fresh and vigorous, never boring. Close by is Bicentennial Park, a cozy place to take a stroll or have a barbeque.
Please take a look at my sections on MELBOURNE, CAIRNS, CANBERRA and PHILLIP ISLAND.
I would like to thank my travel buddy Richard Newell for his permission in letting his images illustrate some of the splendors of Sydney from our trip in 2001.
Going to the airport is facilitated by airport buses, trains, and of course taxis. I almost wish there were a ferry from Circular Quay to the airport!
The lobby is fancy, with a curving stair in the center of it. The hotel consists of 22 floors and 558 rooms. The staff is respectfully courteous and attentive. There is a nice fitness center with an indoor pool, jacuzzi and steam room. Taking a dunk in the pool was a good way to wake up for me! Even if you do not use these facilities, there is an outdoor balcony with outstanding views of the city.
The rooms are spacious and luxurious, with minibar and safe. The bathroom was huge and equipped with separate bathtub and shower stall. If you can afford it, this is a good place to splurge.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 12, 2002
Sheraton On The Park
161 ELIZABETH ST
Sydney, Australia 2000
Hotel | "LeMeridien"
The LeMeridien is housed in a modern high-rise with 34 stories and 415 rooms. The hotel is built on a small site, with a small driveway on the ground level for vehicle dropoffs. The lobby has a comfortably sleek and bright design. Each floor plan is small, so you will not have to wander down long hallways before reaching your room. There is a fitness center with an indoor pool, jacuzzi, spa and steam room.
The rooms are certainly comfortable enough. The slick bathroom has a tub and separate shower stall. The bathroom door consists of a pair of full-length saloon-style doors, unusual choice for a hotel bathroom. There is a minibar and safe in each room. Our room was on a low floor with a south view facing the triangular Wynyard Park. A solid shade can be lowered to block out the daylight.
My only quibble was the arrangement of furniture in our room. The console with the TV set hugged one side of the two double beds instead of siting at the foot of the beds, which made it difficult to watch TV. Oh well, we did not go to Sydney to watch TV, did we?
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 12, 2002
Amora Hotel Jamison Sydney
11 Jamison Street
Sydney, NSW, Australia
(02) 9696 2500
Perhaps the most famous pie stand in Sydney is Harry's Cafe de Wheels, a local wharfside institution which serves a typical pie floater with mashed green peas and a ladling of brown gravy. It is green and lumpy and messy, but surprisingly tasty. I went for lunch and there was an impressive crowd of locals eating meat pies along the waterside. This place was recently seen as a station point in the CBS reality show "The Amazing Race".
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 8, 2002
Harry's Cafe de Wheels
562 Harris Street
+61 (02) 9357 3074
The menu consists of items that are featured in native Australia but are highly unusual for the American palate. If you have taste buds that are geared to accepting only burgers or fried chicken, you are in the wrong place! Depending on when you are visiting, you can order exotic game like kangaroo, emu, crocodile, wallaby, possum, stingray, all lovingly prepared with indigenous vegetables and herbs. There is a popular joke that Australia is the only country where the locals freely consume the symbols depicted on the national flag’s coat of arms – the kangaroo and the emu! My entrée was the emu in a light glaze, a slightly tough but tasty bit of bird that tasted like chicken. My friend let me sample a bite of his kangaroo, which was good but also a little on the chewy side. There is a good selection of Australian beers and wines to choose from. The dessert was the culinary highlight of my meal. I had a pudding with a delicious selection of local berries tart and sweet, beautifully presented with dashes of scrumptious fruit sauces. Another popular choice, judging from what other diners were ordering, was a creation that looked like a pyramid of ice cream.
The entertainment portion of our evening starred a good-natured aborigine gentleman dressed in native dress and bodypaint who performed in the small stage area. He regaled us with stories about local animals, and he also performed some tunes on the mysterious wind instrument called the didgeridoo. On a side note: the first time I saw the gentleman was during his break. He was sitting outside in front of the restaurant, talking on his cell phone, and dressed in his “native” outfit. It was a strange sight indeed!
I must mention that the service is very casual. This is not to say that the service is slow; it just emphasizes that the food is carefully prepared here and one is here for a relaxing and educational evening anyway. If you are in a hurry and want a quickly prepared meal, you are going in with the wrong mindset and you will be disappointed. Also, some of the seating is a little awkward when it is time for the entertainment; you may have to turn your chair and crane your neck if your back is facing the stage. So adopt the “no worries, mate” attitude of most Australians and enjoy a pleasingly palatable but slightly sanitized serving of life in the Australian outback.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 29, 2002
Lillipilli in The Rocks
1 Globe Street
+61 2 9251 6988
It was a pleasant enough evening, so we sat on the outside patio facing Cockle Bay (there is also the regular indoor dining room). I thought it was going to rain at first (it had rained quite a bit during the day), but we took a chance and had a pleasant meal amidst the jovial surroundings. This is a prime viewing spot for people watching along the promenades below. We could see and hear various fireworks, water and light shows.
Now for the restaurant itself. There is nothing very fancy about Festival Cafe, but it was a comfortable place for a relaxing meal. We both had filet mignon for dinner, and it was well prepared with a tasty mushroom garnish. The prices are not cheap, but not too expensive either.
I decided to skip dessert because my entree was very filling for me, so my friend wanted to order a dessert to go. The waiter informed him that desserts were only to be served in the restaurant. We thought this was a curious policy, but we dutifully reclaimed our table and I watched my friend devour his slice of white chocolate mousse cake. Actually, I just sat there and soaked in the nighttime atmosphere of Darling Harbour.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 28, 2002
Shop 437, Harbourside
+61 2 9281-8727
The story behind the design of the Sydney Opera House is a bit like that of a grand opera. The original architect was Jorn Utzon from Denmark (he had won a design competition in 1957); the engineering firm was Ove Arup and Partners. Utzon seemingly was fed up with the meddling of various authorities who had altered his design intentions through the years, so he resigned from the project in 1966 (the architectural firm Hall, Todd and Littlemore is credited from this point on). The SOH was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on October 20, 1973. In a footnote befitting an operatic saga, it is said that Utzon has never personally visited the finished product, definitely the greatest production of his career.
The complex consists of the "shells" housing the Concert Hall, the slightly smaller Opera Theatre, and the even smaller one containing Bennelong Restaurant. If you do not see a performance at the SOH, try to go on an hour-long tour to see some of the interiors. The informative tour guide will mention firmly that photography is prohibited inside, but it is definitely the exterior views that you will want to capture anyway. When you purchase a tour ticket, you get a stub good for a free cup of coffee or tea at the cafe.
The popular cafeteria serves a decent pot pie in a ceramic cup along with various salads, sandwiches and desserts. The souvenir shop seems like an afterthought, but stocks your usual selection of books, hats and assorted trinkets.
Sydney Opera House
Sydney, Australia 2000
+61 (2) 9250 7111
For a hefty fee, you can now sign up for "BridgeClimb" and trek to the very top of the bridge. Groups of climbers (usually about ten people) are led by a tour guide along the slow and careful journey across the top arc of the bridge. The climbers look like fleas on a dog atop the bridge! Climbers are not allowed to take photographs for safety reasons, while ironically they become subject matter for photographers below.
For a slightly less dramatic but more budget-friendly view, walk up the 200 steps to the lookout within the south pylon of the bridge. The lookout platform is glassed in on the sides as a safety measure, but you can still take photos above the glass panels. Besides enjoying some nice panoramic views, you can visit an interesting exhibition about the history of the bridge. JJC Bradfield is credited as the chief engineer of the bridge design.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 12, 2002
Sydney Harbour Bridge
5 Cumberland Street, The Rocks
Sydney, Australia 2000
+61 (2) 8274 7777
The Sydney Aquarium and the Australian National Maritime Museum greet visitors if one is coming in by ferry. Just south of these two museums, two popular shopping and dining complexes flank the water: Harbourside and Cockle Bay Wharf. The hits keep coming: Chinatown, Star City Casino, Powerhouse Museum, markets, parks, and much much more! It is pleasant to just wander about and let something or someone catch your fancy.
The Darling Harbour area is well-served by several modes of public transportation: ferry, bus, monorail, and light rail.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 8, 2002
King Street Wharf
Sydney, Australia 2000
+61 (2) 9240 8500
Even if you are not shopping for anything, it is fun to take a look around inside and out. The plaza outside features a statue of Queen Victoria and the Royal Wishing Well.
Inside, there is a replicated display of Queen Victoria's crown jewels, with a fetching statue of the youthful monarch at the time of her coronation. The Great Australian Clock, north of the central interior dome, is categorized as the "world's largest hanging animated turret clock" (what a category). This gaudy timepiece depicts scenes from Australian history.
One of the more peculiar features inside is the Royal Clock (Gallery 2, South End). At the top of each hour, a slew of mechanical action figures act out scenes in England's history. The most memorable is the hourly re-enactment of the execution of King Charles I in 1649. Yes, the head of the poor king is rolled off the chopping block every business hour. I found this to be unintentionally hilarious.
Queen Victoria Building
455 George Street
Sydney, Australia 2000
+61 (0)2 9265 6869
Attraction | "Sydney Olympic Park"
A very pleasant way to approach Homebush Bay is to ride a RiverCat ferry up the Parramatta River from Circular Quay in central Sydney. The mini-cruise on the upper level during a sunny and breezy day was exhilarating, although my sunglasses were periodically caked with salt deposits thanks to the sea spray. Because of the blustery conditions, the poor skipper of the ship had a hard time docking at the smaller ports along the way, but we cheered him on as if we were witnessing a yachting contest.
One can hike to the Olympic Park, but to conserve energy for the sprawling grounds it is more convenient to take a bus that meets passengers at the ferry wharf. The gigantic Stadium Australia is soon apparent, with a seating capacity of 110,000 spectators. This is where the famous Olympic Cauldron was lit by Australian track star Cathy Freeman to officially start the Olympics with a dramatic flourish. The Cauldron is now somewhat inconspicuously stationed as a water folly in a landscaped plaza called the Overflow across from the main stadium.
Olympic Boulevard is the spine around which other venues branch off, such as the Sydney Superdome, the Sydney Aquatic Centre, and the Sydney Showground. Some of the facilities are open for recreational activities like swimming, tennis and cycling. The larger venues are reserved for grand gatherings like concerts or sporting events. We encountered waves of teenage pop fans attending the "Rumba" music festival at the Stadium Australia. Pick up some free detailed brochures and maps at the Visitors Centre.
Bicentennial Park actually predates the Olympics, as it was established in 1988 on the 200th anniversary of European settlement in Australia. This is a very peaceful area to wander through, and is a popular place for family picnickers. The park is intended to conserve local wetlands and to stabilize the environment of Homebush Bay. Except for the large stadia popping out around here, you would not even realize that you are merely a few miles from urban Sydney.
The Olympic Park Station is an award-winning design located right in the middle of the Olympic Park. The train ride back into Sydney is definitely droller than the ferry ride, but it is a much quicker commute.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 8, 2004
56 cables help to stabilize the tower, which is the tallest structure in Sydney at 305 meters above street level. Your admission ticket is good for both the Observation Deck and the Skytour. The elevators zip you up to the top of Sydney Tower in about forty seconds. The crowning turret contains the Observation Deck (250 meters above street level) and Skytour, restaurants and cafes, and private areas for telecommunications and other assorted technical activities.
The 420 windows of the tower allow for unparalleled panoramic views of Sydney and its surroundings. It is great to just walk around the indoor Observation Deck and name all the spectacular landmarks you can spot in the distance. It is not easy to take photos because of the glare and the glass, though it is fun trying. A good time to visit is before sunset so you can see Sydney by day and by night.
I did not have time to visit the Skytour, but it is advertised as a "Great Australian Expedition", some sort of multimedia extravaganza I am sure. I prefer to spend my time staring out at the real beauty of the city, although if I had barrels of extra time I may have enjoyed this "amazing virtual ride through time".
100 Market Street
The Royal Botanic Gardens includes the National Herbarium of New South Wales, the Sydney Tropical Centre, the Rose Garden, and the Palm Grove Centre. The latter area features a visitor center, the Gardens Shop, dining areas and public toilets. Free guided walks of the Royal Botanic Gardens start at the visitor center every morning. A "trackless train" tour operates in good weather conditions, but this tour costs a few dollars. Otherwise, feel free to wander aimlessly and enjoy a bit of nature within the urban jungle. Look around you to see the skyscrapers peering over the treetops. A walk through here is quite refreshing after a shower, as you may get the feel of a rainforest in a tropical area. Besides the multiplicity of flora, you may spot a strange bird or two tiptoeing on the lawns.
The Royal Botanic Gardens is accessible during daylight hours throughout the year. Unless there is some ticketed event, a visit here is free to most of the areas. The Domain is open all the time, though I am not sure you would want to saunter through here in the middle of the night.
Try to walk all the way to Mrs. Macquaries Point, which juts out into the water and offers some splendid views of Sydney. Look for the old rock formation nicknamed Mrs. Macquaries Chair, a spot named after the wife of the former governor who enjoyed this view but had fewer landmarks to gaze at back in the old days.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Mrs. Macquaries Road
Sydney, New South Wales 2000
61 (0)2 9231 8111
The design of the original neoclassical building seems like the product of an uncomfortable relationship shared between the architects Walter Liberty Vernon and John Horbury Hunt over the span of years from 1896 to 1909. Later modern additions (opening in 1970 and in 1988) designed by architect Andrew Anderson essentially doubled the gallery space of the institution. The architecture of the entire complex is not particularly memorable, but this quality definitely defers to the artworks on display.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales naturally features works by Australian artists, but they have decent collections from European artists as well. There are also galleries devoted to temporary exhibitions, Asian arts and contemporary works.
During my visit I was able to catch a free performance by a local Aborigine in the Yiribana Gallery, which is on the lowest level of the museum. This space features works culled from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. The gentleman performed on the mysteriously distinctive didgeridoo, and he spun a few amusing anecdotes while creating various sounds with his instrument. This experience shared by a handful of visitors sitting on portable museum seats seemed very Australian and very authentic.
Step out onto the Sculpture Terrace, which is outdoors and offers a few decent views of the surrounding areas. There are a few tables for a coffee or a light snack.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 8, 2004
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road
Sydney, Australia 2000
+61 (0)2 9225 1744