Sydney is a (nice) City

I am a fan of open spaces and remote vistas. However, I realize that as an animal we humans are very social and city life agrees with something in our nature. That being said, I find few cities to be designed to accommodate the broader array of human associations – cities are designed one piece at a time to solve a specific problem and that doesn’t usually sit well in the bigger picture. Sydney is the same as other cities in most ways; it is not laid out like Salt lake City and doesn’t have the older charm of a Tallin or Prague. But I find Sydney to be OK. There is a great deal of water and that allows for lots of open space, or a feel of open space, so the city never really closes in on you. There are people from all over the world here, especially Asia, and it is vibrant; the foods, the shops, and the ambiance of the city feel rich and young. So, it is a nice city.*

The iconic Opera House of Sydney actually has five different presentation halls and is busy on many levels all year. It is stunning from a distance but a tour of the inside is even more impressive. Design and construction may have ended up at fifteen times original budget but it was a work of new technology as well as a work of art. The rest of the city is a mix of convict-built sandstone buildings from the late 1700’s and 1800’s and modern urban skyscrapers.
* Keep in mind that Australia is part of the South Pacific. The nearest neighbors are Borneo and New Guinea. The biggest trading partners are China, South Korea, and Japan. The school kids learn Chinese and Indonesian in school rather than Spanish and French. This is really Australia not a distant Britain.

William Bligh, Captain Bligh that is, was not only mutinied in the southern oceans, he was later appointed Governor of New South Wales and was later ousted from the position. Lieutenant Cook (Captain Cook later) fared much better, though on his third trip around the world he was killed.  As the map below shows Cook was only in Australia the one time, but he was the first and the most famous visitor. He seemed to have a passion for New Zealand and spent a great deal of time here in the southern Pacific.

The Opera House is quite a bit larger than my head despite what you see above.

Sydney is a city of harbors; small harbors off medium harbors off larger harbors. There is nothing here but ocean-front property. It is a rather lovely city; both inside the town and in the surrounding area. As I mentioned there are dozens of bays off the major waterway into Sydney and this openness helps abate the clutter of a very urban landscape. The harbor’s outer edges, where it meets the Pacific Ocean (or Tasman Sea) are sandstone cliffs edged with heath habitat and vegetated by tea trees (not drinking tea) and a couple kinds of Banksia. The view below is one of many that can be taken near either north or south head – which frame the mouth of the harbor.

Australian wildlife is generally unique to Australia. The Kangaroos, Wallaroos, Wallabies, Pademelons, and tree kangaroos are all in the same group. There are really only four large kangaroos – the image below is of an Eastern Grey Kangaroo. The baby in the pouch moves around a lot and the view this one is getting is not routine. This baby can get out and hop around on its own easily. The female can have a baby out of the pouch, another in the pouch, and a third (as an embryo) waiting to be “started”. This is an adaptation to the driest times when the young die.

 The koalas that we saw were usually asleep; actually almost all were always asleep and looked like a gray pillow in the tree. This one was being moved and at least looked alive.

One of my lectures for the Smithsonian Journey travelers is actually a walk in the Royal Botanic Gardens. These 1037 acres are right in town and adjacent to the Opera House and (of course) water. The images below are very typical of what we see as we wander through the greenery. The Sulfur-crested Cockatoos are eating in the grass or flying about, the fruit bats do little during the day except hang around, and the palms provide roosting sites for Royal Spoonbills and many other birds.


The Olympic Stadium (2000) is still well used. There were 46,000 volunteers involved in the planning and events and they commemorated them with these posts and their engraved names. A very nice gesture and a nice array. There was only the one Clapp.
The beaches along the coast, even the most famous of them, are small by east coast standards. They are rarely two miles in length and are usually crescents bounded by rock heads. Here is Manly Beach (much like Bondi Beach) with surfers, boogey-boarders, and waves lined up and ready to go. The trees along the beach are Norfolk Island Pines! Yes, the same plant we keep in pots.
Well that is probably enough for today. We are off to New Zealand the day after tomorrow (very early) and the last day in Sydney will feature the Royal Botanic Garden outing, a tour of the Opera House, and the choice of several short-term displays and features that Margaret has located. I will probably photograph in the gardens and may post some wildlife tomorrow. Cheers.
PS – I mentioned that I had a snake up in Kuranda the first full day in Cairns – here is a photo of it… still not sure what it is.

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