Thursday, June 6, 2013

Loving Sydney!

6 June 2013

We're having a great time in Sydney, and actually have booked another 2 weeks via - the artist whose room we're currently renting will be back from his travels by then, and we'll get the feel of another neighborhood in Sydney.  

And, despite our plan to not have a plan, we're looking at renting a camper or van or caravan or what have you, to travel up the Gold Coast and enjoy the small and big towns, beaches, maybe some diving around the Great Barrier Reef or the Coral Sea.............  You know, stuff like that.  Leisurely travelling, with not much of a plan but somehow ending up around Cairns by mid-August, when we need to leave the country again (according to the visa regulations). 

Sunday was unbelievably rainy - it rained much of the night and was absolutely POURING by the morning, with wild wind and torrents of rain.  Richard and I went out in the mid-afternoon for some lunch, during a lull in the rain - and found that the rain sewers were overflowing and turning manhole covers into mini-fountains!  The park we normally walk through was converted into a lake!  It truly was a sight to behold, the lovely grassy lawn just disappearing under all the water, and trees sitting in the midst of the lake!

So I made a nice comfort-food dinner for our host and the two of us, and we just stayed warm and cozy.

Monday dawned sunny and cold, and the lake in the park was receding - eucalyptus trees are known for the amount of water they can absorb, while at the same time being drought resistant - the perfect tree for this continent of weather extremes.  

The city or parks people have cordoned off the park lawn for the rest of the week, giving it time to dry out and not turn into a lawn of mud.  
Anyway, we've headed to either Newtown (vaguely south of here) or to Sydney CBD (vaguely north - and CBD = central business district) most days of the week.  

We aren't in a rush to see all the sights, or fit in all the places we want to visit.  We're both enjoying the urban feel of Sydney, home to over 4 million people.  It's a city of neighbourhoods, each with its own personality and distinctive features.

And the festivals!  There's Vivid Sydney, which is a month of light-up-the-city and paint-the-buildings-with-light.

There's the Sydney Film Festival - pricey, but with gorgeous banners and flags brightening up the streets. 

And of course there are the football and rugby games - last night was a big match between New South Wales and Queensland, and since we're in NSW the buildings and the Harbour Bridge were lit up blue, the team colour.  Bright blue.  We (NSW) won the game, by the way.  

We had a fun evening visiting a series of bars and pubs, playing pokies and having a pub dinner with the winnings, while we were surrounded by cheering footie fans rooting for their teams.  We ended the evening in a pub with mostly Queensland fans, and it was a somber mood when we left.  However, we met a very nice Aboriginal woman and her partner, who recom-mended some nice areas to visit in our travels, as we com- miserated with their footie loss.  But it was only the first game of the season, and our new friends were hopeful for the next game in the series. 

Or tonight, we went to a pub for dinner (which was very good, I had an excellent salade Niçoise) - the tables were full, so we sat at a table with four older men, who were playing the trivia game featured at the pub every Thursday.  Well, of course we ended up sharing answers with the men, who during a break talked to us about where we're from, where they live, etc.  (Quick, name six plays by Shakespeare that start with the letter M.)  Crazy, fun, get to know some more Australians a bit.

Anyway, that gives you an idea of how we spend our time - walking around neighborhoods looking at people and buildings, wandering
through parks, having brekkie or lunch or tea in cafés and chatting with people, and spending evenings enjoying the lights of Vivid Sydney or having fun winning on pokies, and talking with other people we meet.

Australians, like New Zealanders, are very friendly people!  And they, like their neighbours across "the ditch," have quirky senses of humour!  So it's fun to just hang out and talk - about politics, socialized government, perceptions of both cultures, history, our commonalities as well as our societal differences.  Most Aussies that we meet seem fascinated with what they perceive as the American gun culture - and, with both Richard and myself being adamantly anti-gun ownership and absolutely pro-gun control, we have trouble answering questions about the entire issue.  We see things from the Aussie point of view, not the pro-gun view.  Makes for an interesting conversation.

Last night, as the footie game was winding down, I was at a pokie and doing my usual talking to the machine - telling it that it could give me a big win, cheering it on, patting its side, and asking for the line-up of symbols that gives me free games.  The man next to me won big and went to cash out, pausing to ask me if I was okay - I said I was fine - he said, "I heard you talking to yourself, are you sure you're okay?"  I laughed and said, "Oh, I'm just talking to the machine, encouraging it to win big for me!"  He laughed and went on his way.  (I went on to win - not big, just enough to be satisfied.)  Anyway, that's the kind of friendly that we find - people willing to check that their neighbour at the pokie machines are doing okay!

So we spend a lot of time walking the city, just absorbing the sights and sounds and vibes.  As I said, we aren't rushing around trying to do everything - our goal in our travels is to see the sights, but also to get a feel for each location.  And in a city, that means not going to the tourist spots every day, but spending time doing the normal everyday things that people do when they live in a location.  Take in a movie.  Walk in a park.  Read the newspaper in a café over a cup of coffee.  Go to the same spot a few times, and chat with the staff or other customers.  Browse a bookstore or two.  Just hang out.  Fall into the rhythm of the neighbourhood, because most cities are just a conglomeration of neighbourhoods, and each one is unique.  Talk to people in pubs.  Cheer on other people playing pokies - I always yell YAY when someone hits a jackpot or wins free games, and most people give me a huge smile and maybe chat a bit.  Talk to the bartender or barista.  Just get to know the people who live where we're visiting.

We also had a lovely evening with Richard's cousin and three of her sons - one son is working for a year in Sydney, and the cousin, Wendy, and the two younger sons (all young men) were visiting the one living here.  They've been enjoying Sydney and had gone north for a few days, so we only had a small overlap of time when we could meet up - we enjoyed a wonderful dinner and a lot of talking, catching up on who is doing what, as well as the family stories reminiscing about Richard and Wendy's growing up, their remembrances of relatives, the usual family tales.  And this was the first time either of us met the sons, so that was great as well.

Plus there were the beautiful lights of Sydney below us, as the building we were in danced and pulsated in color.  (The computer running the lights is hooked into a platform - people dance on the platform and actually cause the lights to move and bounce in synchronization with the movement.  I haven't tried this yet, but it looks like amazing fun!) 

I did manage to get some photos of the light tunnel.  I haven't gone in yet, there's always a long line of people moving through this structure - and it seems to be lit on the side, so what we see on the outside is the opposite side's lights, seen through the grate on our side.  With the people walking through, and lit from within, rotating through a rainbow sequence of colors.  Weird and cool!  (Imagine a tube made of wire grating - then lit with colored lights on the inside - and then you walk through the middle of the tube.  That's what this light tunnel seems to be like.)  I haven't figured out how the lights change color - but it's an amazing installation, and draws a crowd every night.

Anyway - we seem to have reached Sydney at a wonderful time, and we're trying to absorb and enjoy as much as we can.  A month here should be good. 

And hopefully it won't get too much colder, and we'll keep having our small wins at the pokies!!

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