Sunday, January 20, 2008

DAY 107: Day off Emu Plains (day in Sydney)

Day trip to Sydney
Sun 20th January 2008

Distance to date 6655 km (4159 miles)

Cloudy, oppressively hot

After a restless night I was pleased to see an improvement in the weather - the rain had stopped and even an occasional glimpse of the sun. Looked like a good day to be a tourist in Sydney, and being a Sunday the trip would be less of a crush maybe. After breakfast I walked the 500m to Emu Plains station for the 55 minute journey into the city. You have to get a ticket from a machine on the platform, and I was surprised that this was only $10 day return - cheap. Emu Plains is on the Sydney Central to Lithgow line - the whole journey is around 3.5 hours.

I was in the city by 0930 and caught the light tram to Darling Harbour, by which time it was brunch time - Subway and Starbucks - then I strolled around the esplanade with the expanding horde. It was already pretty warm as I headed through the streets towards the Harbour Bridge (you can’t walk all around the shore to get there which is a shame). It’s a good 2km walk but the streets were pretty quiet. I’d forgotten what an impressive structure the bridge is; the Old Coat Hanger the Aussies lovingly call it. The bay was teeming with craft of all kinds, including a massive cruise liner that looked too big for the jetty in Circular Quay, towering over the fleet of local ferries.

I walked up into the area known as The Rocks, teeming with people browsing around the market stalls lining the streets. One stall was selling tubs of fresh fruit topped with a generous helping of yoghurt, which looked too tempting to miss, and it was delicious! And not bad for $7 in a city where everything is a little more expensive.

There are some nice old pubs along the main street of stalls, and I was again tempted, this time by the sight of a glass of cold Guiness. Just sitting sipping and watching the crowds - true tourist activity. Everyone had quite a sweat on as it was very humid. By the time I reached Circular Quay I was hungry again (it sounds like I do nothing but eat but I was wandering around leisurely in between feeding). I had just settled down to eat my beef and salad roll by the Opera House (resplendent as ever) when the rain came on - just enough to scatter every one for a few minutes; however the sun shone throughout and felt very hot.

Later in the afternoon I walked through the Botanic Gardens (aren’t trees wonderful and cool to be in?) to the NSW Art Gallery, which I don’t think Lyn and I got to when we were here in 2006 - it was beautifully cool. From here I headed back towards the Central station via St.Mary’s Cathedral and Hyde Park. Once out of the shade of the trees the streets were too hot, and I was content to sit around in the station cafe and wait for the train back.

The trains are air conditioned, so I cooled off somewhat during the journey.

Sydney is such a popular tourist destination - there are thousands of them - I hardly heard an Aussie accent; there are very many Oriental visitors and quite a lot fron the UK too. It is certainly a great money-spinner for the city. To be honest although the Sydney coastal scenery is awesome and fairly nicely developed (apart fron the discontinuity of the coastal walk) the city isn’t that interesting or comfortable for my tastes - traffic rules and you have to wait ages at the lights to cross again and again. I think more could be done in this respect.

The popularity of the Opera House goes without saying - what a great example of how unconventional buildings can not only look stunning but reap dividends too; this one is so popular. It really is a masterpiece of design and build. The close proximity of the Harbour Bridge enhances and complements the incomparable scene and defines Sydney to the world.