the rest of city centre
by MagdaDH_AlexH on November 10, 2010
Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney is one of the largest art galleries in Australia, established in 1897, and is a public gallery with free entry to main exhibitions, devoted to European, Australian and Asian art. The gallery is located in a grand Neo-Classical building at the edge of the Sydney's Domain parkland, although new modern wings have been added (but are not visible from the main entrance) since the foundation. The gallery has a fabulous collection of paintings, including major European Old Masters and some of the best works by the best Australian painters. These are exhibited in permanent displays as is a diverse collection of Asian, Pacific and Aboriginal art. IN addition to the permanent displays, Art Gallery of New South Wales also runs a variety of temporary exhibitions, some of them free to enter along with the main collection, and some incurring an additional charge. If the quality of exhibitions that were present during our visit in the winter of 2010 were any indication of what is normal for the Gallery, then the temporary exhibitions are as good as the main collection if not better, imaginatively designed and well presented. Art Gallery of New South Wales is a pleasant building to visit and the layout of the main floor is clear and not very cluttered. The display areas are clearly divided between older European and Australian art, while the newer galleries house modern Australian artists. I really enjoyed my time in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and it was probably my favourite among the art galleries we visited in Australia, even though I didn't have time to explore all that was on offer and concentrated on the European and Australian paintings. The European section is particularly rich in British Victorian art (not surprising considering when the Gallery was established), but there is also a good representation of modern artists with Cezanne, de Vlaminck, Degas, Giacometti, Kandisky, Monet, Pissaro and Picasso among others.Australian collection was for me personally a revelation. The Australian wing was closed when we visited the Art Gallery of South Australia earlier during our trip and I did not have a chance to acquire any idea of Australian art. The displays at the Art Gallery of New South Wales changed that as their brilliant collection is well placed to show both the stages and the highlights of development of Australian art. From the heroic realism of the settlement chronicles by the still very much Victorian Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton to heavily European modernist works of the 1920's and 1930's including particularly lovely work by Grace Cossington Smith to the emergence of not only native subject matter but a native idiom in art of the Australian artists of the last sixty years or so. Arthur Boyd, Russell Drysdale and most of all, at least for me, the work of Sidney Nolan of whom I shamefully have not heard before but whose paintings displayed in the Art Gallery of New South Wales were a revelation, surrealist in imagery but very much expressionist in the feel, Nolan's work seems to evoke the depths of Australian subconsciousness in which European and Aboriginal archetypes and history, landscapes and psychology meld and fuse, crash and reconstitute to produce art that is dark and yet exhilarating by its sheer force of insight. Anybody interested in Australian art, and in fact in art in general, should make a point of incorporating the Art Gallery of New South Wales into their Sydney visit. It's not a huge gallery and if you are either focused or prepared to just view the highlights, a couple of hours will cover the most important parts.
Queen Victoria Building is an ornate upmarket shopping arcade in Sydney, described by the French designer Pierre Cardin as "the most beautiful shopping centre in the world". The building itself is a major attraction, designed as a show-stopping replacement for the market that previously took place at the site and completed in 1898. Queen Victoria Building or QVB was created in neo-Romanesque style by the Scottish-born and trained architect George McRae and originally housed a concert hall, tradesmen' offices, shops, cafes and showrooms. After a period of decline in the role of council offices, it was restored in the 1980's and is now an upmarket shopping gallery, housing higher-end high-street shops, designer outfits and expensive boutiques. The long gallery has four levels, with the upper levels equipped with open walkways (with railings, obviously) which allow those there to look down and those at the ground level to look all the way up to the building's arched roof and the main domes. The interior is beautiful in this very ornate manner through which modern engineering has been just allowed to peep, so characteristic of grand Victorian constructions. There are two mechanical clocks with quaint diorama displays (one with royal moments from Magna Carta to Charles Stuart having his head chopped off) and the other with scenes from Australian history. The exterior is very fussy (though by comparison to the nearby Sydney Town Hall it appears positively restrained) in the way in which Victorians managed to overtake all excesses of Baroque, although the central dome helps to lift the structure and the whole somehow, bizarrely, works despite the massive overindulgence in the ornamentations' department. It's doubtful how many visitors to the Queen Victoria Building are actual shoppers but it's worth a stroll even if just to marvel at the design. The stained glass is lovely, the clocks certainly curious, and some of the shops interesting. There are some eating places and cafes inside as well as a cafe at the entrance with tables outside, so you can have a coffee looking at the wishing well with a dog figure that barks when you throw in a coin, admire Victoria's statue and listening to buskers in the square (sometimes very loud buskers).
Sydney's Botanic Gardens form an over sixty acres oasis of peace and greenery in the heart of the urban bustle of Sydney. Right next to the city's Central Business District, near the Circular Quay and a stone's throw from the state Art Gallery and Library of New South Wales. The Gardens were officially founded in 1816, as an extension of the Governor's Domain which was originally a farm (in fact, the first farm in Australia) and then an area of parkland created in the late 1780's in order to separate the Governor and his mansion from the convicts in the penal colony. The purpose of the Gardens as a scientific research institution dedicated to collecting and study of plants dates to the arrival of Charles Fraser, Colonial Botanist and Superintendent who was appointed to his function in 1817 and in 1819 created a botanic garden area sensu stricte. Public access was effectively allowed in 1831, although for many years afterwards rules regulated who and what conditions could enter the Gardens. Nowadays the Gardens are still walled and gated but open to everybody during the daylight hours and visitors are not only welcomed but even encouraged to walk on grass and hug trees. For most people the Royal Botanic Gardens are an enchanting park, with a variety of areas devoted to plants of different origins and a number of art works, water features and some fantastic views. The Gardens are, after all, located on one of the truly prime spots in Sydney, overlooking the Harbour at Farm Cove and with a variety of vistas, of which the most famous is probably the one extending from the Mrs Macquarie's Point and Chair, but equally good views can be had from the area near the Main Pond too. The Royal Botanic Gardens have over ten thousand plant species on display, as well as a number of animals living in the green oasis, from rare butterflies to over twenty thousand of grey-headed Flying Foxes (Fruit Bats) who are actually causing damage to the plants and are apparently going to be resettled. There are numerous water features, from ponds to fountains, as well as a Gardens Shop, restaurant, cafe, toilets, free guided tours as well as a (charged for) a greenhouse with a Tropical Centre. There is a small road train that runs around the Gardens (as most such things in Australia it seems ridiculously expensive at 10 AUD per adult).We visited the Gardens one winter afternoon, after spending a morning looking at paintings in the New South Wales Art Gallery nearby across the Domain. Being Sydney, winter was rather sunny and warm by most standards, and we had a pleasant time walking about among the trees and sitting on the lawns. Joggers and other exercise fanatics that seem to infest many public green spaces in Australia were mercifully mostly absent, though I am told they like to use the Mrs Macquarie's road, and we enjoyed the plants, the peace and the views, both towards the harbour and to the CBD which rises in a wall of skyscrapers above the Gardens' wall. I wouldn't say that the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney are a 100% must-see tourist sight in the city: I would not include them on a two-day plan for example. But the area is a very pleasant one to relax after a morning of pounding the streets or seeing indoor attractions and the combination of beautiful parkland, historical connections and fabulous views make it one of the nicest places in the centre of Sydney, and as many locals agree with this assessment and retire here to eat lunch, rest on the grass or even indulge in the jogging mania, visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens will give you one of the best insights into Sydneysiders' lives now and into how the ideas of past and present connect and influence each other in this vibrant city.
Sydney Tower is a purpose-built lookout tower located in the middle of the Sydney's Central Business DistrictAs far as towers go, the Sydney one is neither spectacularly attractive or particularly high by world standards (although it is among Australia's tallest three free-standing structures at 305. meters above the street level), but it undoubtedly can boast one of the best views of all the lookout towers in the world, providing a panorama the city and the harbour around which Sydney spreads out. Paradoxically, Sydney is so full of great views that the vantage point offered by the Tower is perhaps a little bit of a disappointment, not that the views are bad, because they are not, but because there is simply only so much stunning picturesqueness that one can take in. Still, Sydney Tower is a pretty good lookout and if you make a point of visiting such, it's certainly everything that it says on the box. We like visiting the highest hills or towers cities and towns have at the beginning of our visit to a location as nothing gives a better general idea of a city as a bird's eye view. The views from the Sydney Tower are truly 360 degrees and the eighteen telescopes located on the observation deck mean you can see some things in close-up. There is no glass floor, and the widows don't go all the way to floor level, so no easy thrills of that kind. The main lookout platform at Sydney Tower is at 250m above the street level, there is also a higher Sky-walk, but that incurs an extra charge that the experience of feeling the air is probably not worth: most towers don't charge for outside access as such, and frankly the difference of ten or so meters between the observation deck and the Sky-walk is not really worth it. It's not a cheap attraction, costing around 25 AUD per adult at the time of writing (2010), with children being charged 15 AUD. Some Sydney publications have discount vouchers, and there is also a pass that gives access to the Tower as well as several other Sydney commercial attractions like Aquarium and the Wildlife World and a few others which a decent value if you are "doing" everything. Your reviewer might be a little bit jaded after experiencing several tower lookouts in the last few months (of which the CN Tower in Toronto was the highest while the Melbourne's Eureka Tower was probably the best building and the best experience), but I have a strong feeling that those who run Sydney Tower have such a captive audience, and such a natural advantage due to Sydney's great situation that they hardly need to make much effort and it shows: not that it's a bad experience as far as lookout towers go, but for the money charged it should be better.
Sydney's Lunapark stands proudly on the North Shore of Sydney's Jackson Harbour, entered through a huge laughing face of a clown flanked by two fairytale castle towers, colourful in the daytime and glitteringly lit at night. An amusement park was opened at the location in 1935, soon after the Harbour Bridge was constructed and one has been operating here for most of the time since, although the management, the rides and the opening times varied, and the whole park was rebuilt several times, notably for three years in the early 1980's due to safety concerns (a disastrous fire resulted in a death of seven people in 1979). The current park has been open since 2004, but the character of a lot of what's on offer harks back to the 1930's origins of the Park: there is quaintness about the LunaPark that is missing in the biggest and most modern amusement centres, and it can seem hopelessly lame or charmingly old-fashioned depending on your mindset. The park has a selection of rides that will be probably most attractive to older school-aged children (8 to 12 year olds), though there is much to do for younger ones too. There are three types of tickets (and the price depends on whether you are taller or shorter than 130cm): a 30 AUD one (at the time of writing in 2010) that allows unlimited rides everywhere, a 20 AUD one that lets you use five of the most popular rides (Dodgems, Carousel, Ferris Wheel, Wild Mouse, and the play area of Coney Island) and one-off tickets at 10 AUD per ride. We have visited with out nine and four year olds and chose to get the 20 AUD tickets for all participants (your reviewer was mercifully spared nausea-inducing whirls), as we had limited amount of time and even the older child wasn't sure if she wanted to go on any rides not covered by the cheaper pass. As people shorter than 130cm pay less, that meant that the four year old could use the small children's rides as well. All in all we spent almost two hours in the LunaPark and the children certainly seemed to have fun. The nine year old went on the Wild Mouse wooden roller-coaster at least six times, while the four year old enjoyed the timid kids' rides as well as the Ferris Wheel and the magnificent Carousel, while all had fun on Dodgems. The Coney Island is perhaps the most nostalgic of Lunapark's attractions, apparently the only operating example of a 1930s fun-house left in the world. It's a huge wild-west style decorated barn of a play area containing two astro-glide slides as well as a rotating barrel, moving platforms and arcade games. In addition to the rides mentioned above, the LunaPark has also some more heavy ones, notably the Rotor, the Flying Saucer,Tumblebug (a Troika type ride), the Spider (a Breakdance type ride) and a Ranger (a pendulum ride) and a Tango Train (a Caterpillar type ride). There are some catering concessions as well as separately-paid fairground type stalls (ball throwing, duck fishing and the like), all at the cost of 5 AUD. All in all, the Sydney LunaPark is a pleasant enough small amusement park with a nostalgic feel to many of its rides and a decent diversion especially for those with children tired of endless sightseeing, although cheap it isn't. The "Go Wild" unlimited tickets at 30 AUD are the best value for money by far, assuming you will spend a good few hours here and make use of most rides, although even that is still rather steeply priced, while the individual rides are priced at the utterly extortionate 10 AUD. The lack of a family ticket is a bit of a disgrace too. Of course if you have no children in tow, you can just stroll through the Big Face and along the Midway of the LunaPark for free, looking and being happy that it's all behind you.
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