The clouds I’d brought Sydney weren’t very good and evaporated today. I’ll bring some proper ones from Ireland next time; a nice thick layer of misery, with fog falling through rain. And I’d be welcomed as a national hero – it topped 40 degrees in the centre today, and powercuts throughout the suburbs as two power stations failed.
But, given the pictures of snow back home – I was still pretty happy. Slightly melting, but happy. We discovered they have Lime e-bikes here, and used them to go around the botanical gardens area. The bikes are rather fab – disconcerting when you barely start to pedal and they suddenly zoom, as if an overzealous person is pushing you along. But handy to glide with minimal effort under rather warm conditions. And yes, the gardens are also fab; more tree-based rather than Hyde Park type formal flower beds, but with curious things like the Bottle tree, and an array of bird life.
All, of course, beautiful waterside location right beside the Opera House, which we also explored. It still looks unbelievable; a crazy architecture that no-one would dare consider for any form of construction. I had first heard of the Opera House as a child in a wonderful book called “The World’s Greatest Disasters”. Looking again, I was impressed to discover it still qualifies as one of the three greatest construction cost overruns ever (and with underwhelming acoustics, its sole purpose). It has truly stood the test of time, at fourteen times over budget (though recently beaten back to third place by the Scottish Parliament building). As a project manager, that makes me happy. Maybe I’m not that bad after all.
Fun Opera House fact: Arnold Schwarzenegger (former actor and Governor of California) won his final Mr Olympia body building title in 1980 in the Concert Hall.
For a change of pace, went to Taronga Zoo, which is one of the nicer types of zoos. Memories of Dublin Zoo from childhood put me off zoos for years – iron bars and concrete, with animals that were pretty messed up even to my oblivious eye. But places like Taronga are infinitely better, for animals and humans alike. As a human, you go there by ferry – always the most civilised way to travel – then a cable car up to the top of the hill, and explore your way down through the zoo till you get back to the ferry port. And they had, of course, plenty of strange Australian beasties that I’ve never seen in the flesh before – platypuses (apparently the correct plural); koalas, of course; kangaroos and wombats; and a range of less famous critters – the hopping mouse; the frog mouthed owl, and too many others.
After which we were pretty much dead from the heat. It might have been 40 in the city; it felt like even more in Taronga by late afternoon – not a whiff of breeze, and little respite in the buildings. Getting back to the hotel for a long, cool shower, followed by a nearby pub with long, cool beers, was all we were fit for. Plus a surprisingly good dinner in same pub – $15/£7 steak’n’chips, which we’d expected to be very average, but was pretty lush: juicy and perfectly cooked. (The Light Brigade, we salute you. But your beers shouldn’t cost more than your steak.)
And now – Melbourne. We’ll be back to Sydney again in a few weeks, but it’s time for a coffee break. So far, so good – train journey in was lined with beautiful little wild west Victorian colonial cottages again; and our apartotel upgraded us to a one-bedroom 27th floor apartment with hella nice view. And – we’ve just discovered it’s Pride weekend here. Gonna be fun!
Meanwhile – random pictures of the preparations for Chinese New Year. Taken very seriously here – apparently, it’s the biggest in the world outside China.