Before moving to this part of the world, I knew very little about Sydney, Australia. My knowledge was limited to the TV coverage of fireworks from the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge on New Year’s Eve – one of the first places the clock strikes midnight. And my parents had visited there, in their semi-retirement years. My only other experience was a one-night stay in early 2013, for the purpose of catching a connecting flight to Dallas the next day. During that short stay my husband and I had a memorable visit to The Wine Odyssey on Argyle St. in the historic Rocks section. We had so much fun choosing some Australian wines to ship to the U.S. for our daughter’s wedding. Australian personality even shows in their wine labels. The funniest one was Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch, a Fowles Wine Chardonnay that just kind of fit with the old world English feel of The Rocks and the light-hearted sassiness of the Australian people. Something about the ability of women to shoot their lunch also reminded me of Texas.
In my naiveté, I always equated Australia with photos I’d seen of the dusty outback. Sydney’s Rocks section consists of narrow, stone laneways, brick and mortar buildings and wood beamed warehouses, built into the rock face overlooking the harbour. It’s not at all what I expected. Not surprising though, considering Sydney is the site of the first European settlement in Australia, the storied penal colony from Britain established in 1788. I found it interesting that the oldest building in Sydney is St. James Church, built entirely by convict labour from 1819 to 1824. It’s use for worship has been continuous since it’s completion.
I fell in love with Sydney and it’s people on that first visit. They are friendly, funny, and addicted to the outdoors. I think all the vitamin D makes them extra happy. So, I jumped at the chance to meet our youngest there for her spring break from university this year.
I booked us with points at the Sydney Harbour Marriott, Circular Quay. The Circular Quay is where all the action is for Sydney Harbour. (Quay is another word for wharf and it’s pronounced key, not qway. If you say it wrong you risk getting that “oh brother, she’s a tourist” look. You will get corrected and you might get teased.)
We couldn’t have been in a better location. A lot of fun was right within walking distance of our hotel. So after a monstrous Chicken Caesar Salad and an equally large pot of Earl Grey tea, my daughter was sufficiently recovered enough from her “Pacific Express” jet lag to go out and explore.
Circular Quay is a hub of lively activity. I think it is one of the busiest places I’ve ever seen. Shops and cafes line the promenade opposite the wharves. Ferries continually come and go, carrying commuters and tourists to their destinations. The sound of the Aboriginal didgeridoo’s, played by local buskers (street performers) attired in aboriginal dress and paint, resonates all along the promenade. It’s ethereal beat is a reminder that this place was once populated only by Australia’s indigenous peoples.
The iconic Sydney Opera House sits at the far eastern end; it’s shell form reaching out towards the water. The beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens sit on the hill behind the opera house, ideally situated for a panoramic view. The Museum of Contemporary Art is located on the western end of the quay; just near the Overseas Passenger Terminal that supports the many cruise liners that come in and out every day. And there’s the bridge, always in sight, soaring over the harbour a short distance away.
Sydney Harbour and Circular Quay kept us thoroughly entertained during our stay. We spent many hours having coffee by the waterside, planning our days, watching ferries… and people, taking photos and just enjoying the incredible clear blue sky. It was our staging area for more adventurous pursuits in the days to come. And of course, our trip wouldn’t have been complete without a return visit to The Wine Odyssey, this time just for dinner.
My mother was in my thoughts as I wrote this…wishing she were still here so we could share our memories of Sydney together. Love you Mom.
Next…Manly Beach, and a peek at one of the locations for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby!