Sydney impresses as a destination and a place to live

It was a weird sensation to have left on Sunday night, to have journeyed overnight and to arrive at Sydney on Tuesday morning.

We felt cheated. After all we only had a couple of weeks in Australia to explore a little bit of this huge country and, even before we got there, someone had stolen one of our days! It was our own fault in some ways.

We had found out that the cost of flying to Australia and back from the UK was very little different from a round-the-world ticket. So, we chose the latter, selecting to fly west to minimise the jet-lag.

After stopping off overnight in Hawaii we set off for Sydney, crossing the international date line and losing the day on our way.

Any feelings of disappointment were quickly whisked away, when we headed in from the airport through Sydney's suburbs to our hotel. There, in the background we could see the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. Once in the hotel, we found we could just see
jøn Utzon's famous "orange slices" of the Sydney Opera House peeking through a gap in the skyscrapers.

A stunning building that has become an Australian icon – the Sydney Opera House

Although it was November (and therefore summer in the southern hemisphere) it was quite cool and overcast as we took the air down by the quayside and walked out past the controversial "toaster" as the locals call the building to the east of Circular Quay.

In the grey sunless weather the Opera House didn't look as magnificent as I had expected, close up. The concrete is disappointingly like so many buildings around the world, although the white roof tiles of the "orange slices" have weathered well. A little bit below expectations it might have been, but it is still extremely impressive. Fortunately, when the sun came out on subsequent days we were able to enjoy the full splendour of Australia's iconic building.

Nearby is The Rocks - the oldest part of Sydney, much of which was saved from the bulldozers by the intervention of the unions.
Down on the quayside are a row of little tourist-trap eateries. At the end of our first day we settled down at Wolfies, where we enjoyed an amazing view across Circle Quay to the Opera House and to the left, the Sydney Harbour bridge.

The Opera House and Sydney Harbour bridge from a ferry trip in the harbour.

It may not have been the cheapest restaurant around but the food was good, the wine was excellent and with a view was simply outstanding. As such, it represented good value in our book.

I can certainly see the attractions of living in Sydney. The commercial heart is reasonably compact and, if you live on the other side of the bay you might be lucky enough to take the ferries to work. No traffic jams, no parking problems. Just and envigorating sea breaze as you cross from one side to the other.

The Monorail from downtown Sydney to Darling Harbour

While it is quite easy to walk around the downtown commercial heart of Sydney you may want to take the monorail. This will whisk you along above the pedestrian and traffic level, weaving in and out of narrow gaps between buildings as far as Darling Harbour.

The stations themselves are on the first floors of shops. The logic of the monorail seemed so obvious and made me ponderwhy it is not morecommon in our cities.

It is not intrusive, the pylons that hold the rail being relatively small. It rides above and does not conflict with pedestrian or vehicular traffic. It can thread its way in and out of buildings. And, by using the first floors of buidlings as stations, it can re-vitalised uppoer floors of shopping streets, which have traditionally been poorer trading areas.
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