Monday, December 14, 2009

Old Sydney Times

I am a Canberran born and bred. Being such means you spend a lot of your time explaining that Sydney is not the capital of Australia. Annoyingly, I have even had foreigners challenge this fact. Naturally, it is understandable that the bustling, vibrant city is more familiar and appealing to foreigners than the tranquil streets of Canberra. I have often dreamt of being a Melbournian, whilst being somewhat apathetic to Australia’s most populous city.

It occurred to me recently that I had not ever really explored Sydney. Sure, there was a school camp, and several trips for concerts and Surry Hills vintage shopping, yet most of my knowledge of old Sydney was second hand.

With this in mind, a few weeks ago I made a pilgrimage to the big city, leaving the Canberra suburbs far behind. My first point of call was, naturally, the Art Gallery of New South Wales. I simply love the 19th century building, complete a beautiful entranceway, and sculptures out the front. After visiting the gallery, which has a fantastic collection of Australian and Victorian Era art, I sat blissfully under the trees of the surrounding park. Speaking of the trees, their roots were so thick with age that I couldn’t help admiring their nostalgic appeal. They reminded me of the trees in old children’s books, like Beatrix Potter.

The gallery is right near Hyde Park and the Botanic Gardens. Both of which offer numerous routes for leisurely walks and picnic spots amidst the wildflowers and overgrown trees. I don’t know how anyone could not love this place. It is amazing to me how the bustling city appears alongside the perimeters of these tranquil areas. It is almost like travelling between two countries.

Speaking of travel, ferry rides are about the most fun part of any Sydney trip. On my way to Manly I enjoyed beautiful sunset views of the harbour, and the homes of rich and famous that dot the water’s edge. Alas, if only I had a lovely glass of Chardonnay to sip on the ferry then my voyage would have been bliss. Though I did get to sit on the balcony and have my hair swept by the sea air. This sounds rather glamorous, but I’m sure I looked somewhat scruffy to the tourist behind me.

The Rocks is another area that I rummaged through on my visit. I have often heard the area spoken of, particularly the beautiful sandstone buildings, yet never really taken the time to visit myself. This is probably one of the oldest parts of Sydney, as small laneways and cobbled roads attest to. I was so surprised by the unspoilt beauty of this historic area. Sure, I was still in Sydney, but The Rocks was more laidback and quaint than anywhere else I had seen in the city.

I walked around behind the Museum of Contemporary Art, which to my delights is housed in an exquisite Art-Deco building. This area is filled with numerous 19th century cottage houses with old lace on the outside. Definitely the sorts of places that I would like to live in. In fact, I would be quite happy to reside in the oldest home in Sydney. Cadman’s Cottage was built in 1815 and is the quintessential Rocks dwelling – yellow sandstone situated along the harbour.

After my Rocks adventure in thirty degree weather, I naturally wanted to rest my legs. However my search for all things pretty and historical wouldn’t let me take a break in any old place, so I made my way up to Observatory Hill. Before you start questioning my interest in Astronomy, let me reassure you that the Observatory is housed within a beautiful Colonial building, dotted with numerous trees that are as old as the building. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the historic building that attracted me, nor the sculpture of the Dutch fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen that attracted me to this secluded place. It was the view. From my park bench I got the loveliest panoramas of Sydney that I have ever seen. It certainly rivalled the photos of the harbour I have often looked upon.

All in all, my Sydney adventure has changed my feelings toward the city. I think if I ignore the smell and bustle of the city and focus on the lovely haunts I uncovered on my trip, then I may indeed be happy to be a Sydneysider one day. Well, at least I will be happy to revisit the city, if only for the trees and the historic places.



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