A vibrant city with an electric charge that tingles long after! With its fantastic ocean-side setting, stellar beaches, fabulously beautiful people, breathtaking views and remarkable architecture, Sydney is truly a visitor’s dream. Sydney is as dynamic as Melbourne is reserved. It has all the vigour of a world-class, multi-cultural city, which opens its arms to people from around the world. We landed in Sydney on a Sunday afternoon and began by paying a tribute to one of the world’s greatest harbours.
Sydney Harbour is the pulse of the city and its people are proud of the polyglottal, multi-cultural cauldron that has grown up around this blue-green expanse. The harbour offers a magnificent view of the sea, and its jagged jaws are filled with a flotilla of racing yachts, ferries and cabin cruisers. The U-shaped pier called Circular Quay has the iconic Sydney Opera House on one end and Sydney Harbour Bridge on the other.
The place was buzzing with activity when we reached — some people were strolling, jogging, cycling or skating along the pier; some were hanging out at the pier-side cafes and eateries; while others were crowding around the various acrobats, musicians and dancers who were performing along the harbour. And there were tourists like us, gaping wide-eyed and open-mouthed at all the action! Sydney’s a young city — toned and trendy — everyone is fashion-conscious and likes to dress up, not down. Shorts, sandals and backpacks are a strict no-no here — wish someone had told us that earlier!
Dressed in our dead give-away tourist attire, we walked along the pier, soaking in the atmosphere, when suddenly, my attention was drawn to a young, Afro-Australian guy, standing on a make-shift podium outside a café, singing I Just Called To Say I Love You. His endearing rendition of Stevie Wonder’s all-time classic almost moved me to tears. He followed this up by tap dancing to Michael Jackson’s Jam.
That earned him thunderous applause and some good bucks too! As he began belting out another ballad, my husband couldn’t take it any more and retreated to a corner where a scantily dressed aborigine was seated on the ground, rhythmically blowing into a long, wooden pipe, called a ‘didgeridoo’, as another accompanied him on clapsticks. My husband was so fascinated by their duet that he bought an entire CD of that Aboriginal music! Phew! Talk about weird fixations!
We then walked till the end of the pier to Sydney Opera House. Though we’ve seen this world-famous Australian icon several times on TV, nothing could have prepared us for the splendour of the real thing. This glorious, white-roofed, $102-million cultural powerhouse is at its gleaming best when seen from the deck of a harbour ferry.
But when we came up, close & personal, it took our breath away. Since there was no performance at the Opera House that day, it was almost empty, with just a few scattered tourists. After circling the structure, we sat down on the steps at the entrance to enjoy the balmy, evening breeze. And then we saw them — a newly married couple posing for pictures in front of this magnificent structure, with the setting sun as the backdrop. It was a picture-perfect moment, one that I’ll not forget in a long time.
As darkness descended, the Opera House looked even more dazzling, lit up against the night sky. At the other end of the harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge looked equally resplendent and provided a perfect photo-op from the waterfront. As we stood staring at the massive structure, we could make out the outlines of several people, tied to a harness, climbing up the bridge to its highest point 430-feet from the ground. For a moment, I thought of trying this dare-devil feat too, but changed my mind when I found out that climbing the bridge can cost up to $300 per person! Why pay Rs 12,000 to risk my own life?
The next day we opted for a walk on the wild side — our style. We took a ferry from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo, also called the ‘zoo with a view’. Its beautifully-manicured hilltop grounds house the largest collection of native and exotic animals in New South Wales. The zoo has three divisions — Wild Australia, Asia + Africa and Great Southern Ocean — and the animals are kept in faithfully recreated natural habitats, unlike the stuffy cages we see back home!
We came face-to-face with native Aussie fauna like kangaroos, koala bears, wallabies, platypus and Tasmanian devils, along with non-native animals such as Andean condor, West African pygmy hippos, Sumatran tigers and Alaskan brown bears.
It took us over five hours to see the entire zoo, but we still had the energy to return to Sydney Harbour and explore the malls along George Street! That’s when we came across the beautiful Queen Victoria Building (or QVB) — where history, culture, architecture and style converge in a unique retail environment. Amidst a backdrop of startling Romanesque design, QVB houses the best of Australia’s contemporary fashion, health, art, food, jewellery, houseware and antiques.
From the ceiling of QVB’s central dome, hangs the world’s largest, $1.5-million, animated turret clock, which tells the story of Australia from the perspective of Aboriginal and European settlers. We were awe-struck by QVB’s grand architecture, ornate tapestries, high-end shops and boutiques. But the exorbitant prices left us even more speechless!
A breath of fresh air was called for; so we headed for Darling Harbour.
Though it’s intended to be one of Sydney’s ‘buzz’ places, we found it lacking in character (and greenery). A former dockside area, the small harbour has been transformed into a convention and exhibition centre, which houses the Sydney Aquarium, Wildlife World and Australian National Maritime Museum.
An old naval war ship, submarine and a replica of Captain James Cook’s ship are also docked at the jetty. Though the view and ambience at Darling Harbour are nothing compared to Sydney Harbour, it has one thing the main harbour doesn’t — the Lindt Café at Cockle Bay Wharf. Here, the mouth-watering array of pastries, milk shakes, ice-creams and other desserts made with Lindt chocolate is worth dying for!
So, on this tempting note, we wrapped up our short and crisp Down Under trip... with a promise that we would return some day to relive the Magic of Melbourne and reignite the Spark of Sydney...
6 months ago