Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sydney, Australia: One hot town

I’ve always loved Sydney. My dearest and I flew in yesterday, pale from a Canadian winter, and were soon immersed in the sultry, humid, vibrancy of this iconic city.

We went for a long walk from our hotel at the south end of Hyde Park, passing Chinatown and wandering the crowded booths of Paddy’s Market. Next was Darling Harbour with its monorail and ultramodern shops and trendy restaurants lining the water front. Soon after we entered The Rocks, one of the first settled areas in Australia. The modern city transformed to small sandstone terrace houses, brightly painted and decorated with wrought iron. At the Lord Nelson, the oldest pub in Australia, we sipped chilled pints of Nelson’s Blood and Quayle Ale, the glasses slippery with beads of condensation.

Next was Circular Quay, the throbbing transportation heart of the city. Ferries skittered here and there under the elegant sails of the Opera House. The Sydney Harbour Bridge (aka the Coat Hanger) punctuated the skyline with tiny dots (humans who have shelled out $200 each!) climbing slowly up and over. Aboriginals with didgeridoos, mimes and fire eaters entertained the happy crowds. And right beside us, towering into the sky was the Queen Victoria, one of the biggest cruise ships I’ve ever seen.

The Botanical Gardens drew us, green, verdant and lush. Birds cawed and sang, the air was heavy and it felt as though we had descended into the Jurassic era. We wandered around Government House and its gardens, then headed south past the historic, sandstone Parliament House -- its flags flying at half mast for the victims of the devastating Victoria fires -- Sydney Hospital and the Barracks.

We ambled through Hyde Park with its glorious avenue of large Hills fig trees forming a cool, shady canopy. Nearing our hotel, we were forced to sit and rest our feet at the Crown Hotel while cradling a cool glass of Toohey’s New.

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