Friday, January 16, 2009

Moving On

Lou and I have spent the last 3 months or so in Sydney since leaving New Zealand in September. It has been largely worthwhile in terms of our time in Australia since we were lucky enough to house share with a sister of a great friend from Christchurch and avoid the pain and misery on the wallets that a lot of other renters face when they move.

As previously stated in a previous posting, all of the flats that we looked at when we were searching for somewhere to live were shoebox studio apartments that were vastly overpriced and likely to cause long term depression.

For the most part of our time in Sydney the majority was spent fitting in with the rat race, aquiring jobs and working relatively longer hours in comparison with back home and Christchurch, mainly due to travelling times considering the size of the city and it's many suburbs but it was by no means a bad experience. It has nevertheless reinforced a shared outlook that we would both want to settle down somewhere of a relative size of Christchurch i.e. somewhere where, if we choose, we can walk to get where we want.

Whilst in Sydney, we held back on a lot of tourist activities as we were waiting for not only my parents but also Lou's sister who both flew out in December.

When they arrived, we spent the best part of the month ticking off a list of what we would have done ourselves if we were only staying for a short vacation including the Sydney Harbour bridge climb, a few days in the Blue Mountains soaking up the scenery, a day trip to both the Taronga Zoo and to the Hunter Valley wine region to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes and to the Maritime Museum where we had a guided tour aboard a destroyer and a submarine. Lou and Rosie also squeezed in a surfing lesson at the famous Bondi beach.

Our last few days in the city culminated with the long awaited NYE celebrations and the midnight fireworks. After careful consideration of which park to go to, we chose McKells Park at Darling Point and set up our camp at midday and set ourselves up for a 12 hour wait.

In eventuality, the time passed quicker than expected and the park didn't start to fill up until late afternoon although all the 'good' spots were taken including those right along the front where people must have arrived in the early hours of the morning and a few set up a gazebo for themselves.

There were 9pm fireworks for the kids which were a prelude of what to expect and they did not let us down. You probably have never seen such a firework display before your eyes and it lived up to what I thought it could be which was amazing. Every year at home they are shown on the news as Australia is one of the first countries to bring in the year with a serious bang.

These were all great experiences but we were also keen to see what else Australia had to offer and so our next port of call was Melbourne via Canberra.

Everything you will probably read about Canberra arguably states what a boring capital city it is and I'm afraid to say that it lives up to its reputation. One night on our way to Melbourne was more than enough. It's functionality in its well laid out streets and clean decor unfortunately do not come anywhere close to make up for the fact that there is precious little to do or see. We did have a nice evening dinner as the sun set by the lake which was a nice end to the day but we had no hesiatation about getting up early so we could leave as soon as possible.

The Princes Highway between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne is not for the traveller looking for sights and places of interest to stop along the way. It's function is to get you between cities in the quickest possible time through some of the countrysides continually undulating and unchanging landscapes.

There are some classic Aussie views along the way - small farms and vineyards with rotarary fan blades whirring in the warm wind of the afternoon heat while the cows seek shelter from the sun under the trees. We drove alongside a supposed lake although there was not a drop of water in sight so I can only assume it's dried up or is a seasonal lake dependant on heavy rain to fill it.

Melbourne itself looks similar to any city skyline on approach and when driving through the streets, it has a run-down feel about it. However, after a few days, I realised that many bars and cafes and shops purposely took this design of flaked paint in order to give it a weathered look which in some ways does add charm although a few of these buildings really do need a makeover.

In contrast to the more upmarket and trendy side of Sydney, Melbourne has a more laid back and retrospective air about it. A city that doesn't take itself too seriously and isn't bothered what other people think of it. So after a few days feeling uninspired about the lack of things to see, I realised that Melbourne is a city of doing, feeling and living in order for it's inner workings to be appreciated - not just it's outer glamour which is just a facade to cover its short-comings.

Much of the citys charm lies in the back street pubs and cafes which proliferate the inner city CBD area so you can't just dismiss an alleyway as it might hide your favourite little place for a coffee or cold beer. The joy is losing oneself and walking almost aimlessly around looking for these hidden gems and underground places to relax and reward yourself for finding it.

A much easier building to find is the old gaol. The icon itself is most famous for housing the outlaw Ned Kelly and it's also the place where he was hanged. However, there is a much richer history to the building and most cells have information boards and videos to look at which give you a flavour of how the prison worked, who it's most interesting prisoners were, their life and how they met their demise - mostly by hanging. There's also a strange young lady dressed in period clothes that wanders around sweeping the floor and singing forlornly which is rather eerie when you hear the singing approaching the cell and look out as the voice approaches to see her walk past - quite unexpected.

We also took part in an unusual guide of the newer part of the jail which only closed its doors in 1994. We were lined up against the walls, men on one side and women on the other, given instruction on how a more detailed search would have taken place and then led to the holding cells, 10 at a time, where the lights were turned out and we all sat in the dark feeling miserable. It was a horrible place and I suspect it was one of the reasons it was closed - although prisons shouldn't be holiday camps should they?

Next stop....Tasmania!

1 Comments:

OpenID suzy2110 said...

My Aunt spent six months in Tasmania and really loved it- have a great time! I really enjoyed reading this, and feel more up to speed now. Love to you and Lou!

10:22 pm  

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