I was in Sydney three years ago and always felt it was grander and bigger than Brisbane. The taxi drive in from the airport confirmed this. At night it really looks wonderful.
The taxi ride was complimentary from the hotel we’d booked. The taxi driver, thanks to the hotel or Booking.com details had the wrong address for the hotel and this luxurious ride ended, we discovered, 300 metres from the door. Oh how we laughed about this error with our three heavy bags and two rucksacks. We were smack in the middle of the CBD (Central Business District). In fact Anna and I were confused as to the hotel we’d booked and had no idea it was so expensive at about £220 per night without breakfast. (I do appreciate people reading this in the south of England will observe that a Premier Inn on the outskirts of Hounslow at Easter costs about the same amount.)
The hotel is well furnished, quite classy but has made some considerable missteps. Every corridor is in darkness, a bit like a nightclub without Lionel Richie’s ‘Dancing On The Ceiling’ at volume 10.
A 12 year old must have been asked to propose the electronics. You had to present your key card to the lift call button and it would bring the lift, whence you can only ascend to the floor activated by your card. There were folk who’d just checked in bewildered by this weird arrangement as they searched for floor buttons in the lift. The gym had one static bike. However is was a ‘Peloton’ bike and you had to join or log in to the software to get any performance data. All building doors were activated by cards or mysterious hand waves over wall sensors etc. Needless to say our coffee machine wouldn’t work/pierce the pods to make a drink. There was near panic as a Yorkshireman barrelled his way to the Reception Desk with the offending article under his arm. ‘Next time Sir, please just call and we’ll swap it’…. what and miss the alarmed look on your face, in front of other guests, about defective appliances? Oh yes and only two of the three lifts were working; this meant wearying queues at peak times. On our last night a tannoy went off in the room advising a fire alarm, somewhere on the 30 floors, had gone off and we were to await further instructions. Having seen Towering Inferno Anna and I immediately dressed and descended to the ground floor. Here we witnessed firemen leaving the building. It was a false alarm. Someone on the11th floor had burnt something whilst cooking. Never a dull moment. I’m looking forward to the request for feedback from Booking.com.That could be an essay.
The Harbour Bridge and the Opera House are magnificent monuments. I’d done a walking tour in 2020 but did it again with ‘Business Class’ and I have to say Kieren was outstanding. Funny, in control and interesting with a mix of history, art, animal life, ethnic explanation and architecture. A top man, not all guides are this exceptional. He told the agonising story of the building of the Opera House that was over budget and continued to be designed well after the construction had started. The concern was enough to have the brilliant Danish architect (who won the design brief competition in 1957) eventually marginalised as the overspend and delays mounted. Ultimately he was replaced and offered a junior role, that he rejected, so that he resigned and went home to Denmark. In fairness his replacements didn’t address the delays and created appalling acoustics (since rectified.) When the Queen opened it in 1973 the architect Jørn Utzon wasn’t even invited. Relations were later patched up between the government and the Dane but it wasn’t a ‘good look’ given the unmatched iconic status of the building globally. Literally a wonder of the world.
In comparing my walking tours then the 2023 one had more recognition of the indigenous people. It’s a new theme. The Aborigines have been in Australia for 65,000 years and all of a sudden, in three years, the Australian (whites) are talking about them and pointing out the fact that they now fly their indigenous flags! Kieren also apologised for those who entered the old Custom House at Circular Quay about the swastikas inlaid in the marble floor. This apology was due to their Nazi connotations. I reckon that unless you’re over 60 and European then you’ve got little idea or sensitivity about their appropriation by the German National Socialists. You had to seek them out on the floor as you entered the building. The building was built and used in the 19th Century long before Hitler and Australia had no fascist sympathies. The swastika has been around since 500 BC in Eurasian art and I’ve seen them proudly displayed in Malaysia. It seems that you can never apologise enough nowadays.
Culturally there were other crimes that still persisted. I speak of the male mullet and moustache. Like the eradication of rickets and leprosy I thought such a look was long gone, it’s last recording was, I thought, in the 80s. Sadly not. Much to my distress whilst watching Aussie Rules ‘’Footy’ on the hotel TV I came across Bailey Smith. Surely as a child his parents should have opted to have him inoculated? Unspeakable? I agree.
We walked around the city and took a ferry across to Manly. Here we watched the surfers in overcast conditions show their skills before enjoying the views on the way back to Circular Quay.
As I discovered last time, when I cycled out of the city, the suburbs are smart, often exclusive and interesting. Sydney has a population of over 5 million, about a fifth of the whole nation. If I had to live in an Australian city then it’s my pick.
My first wife relaxed her grip on the purse as regards dining and some of the food was terrific.