Our last night in Sydney

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Our stay in Sydney ended too quickly. We could have stayed longer. There was a lot more to see and do but we had to go over to Canberra for the Conference and I had a meeting to attend and a half day seminar to run on Sunday.

To make the most of our last day, after our trip to Manly we headed back to the apartment to have a rest, freshen up and do some packing. Then we headed out for one last visit to the Circular Quay.

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We ended the evening with a drink in the Endeavour Tap Rooms, a pub on the Rocks where they brew their own beer, before catching the train back to the Town Hall and returning to our apartment for the final time.

A Scenic Walk in Manly

On our final day in Sydney we took the ferry from Circular Quay across the Harbour to the seaside resort of Manly. On one of the headlands at the entrance to Sydney harbour it has beaches facing both the Harbour and the open sea.

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The ferry journey takes about half an hour and gives a great view of Sydney from the water

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Arriving in Manly, our plan wasn’t to spend time lounging on the beach, but to follow part of the Manly Scenic Walkway up on to the North Head, one of the headlands that form the 2 km wide entrance to Sydney Harbour

We set off along Manly Beach where groups of schoolchildren were taking surfing lessonsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was a strong offshore wind and the sea was quite rough. The lifeguards were broadcasting stern warnings for bathers to stay within the flags or the beach would be closed.

We followed the coastal pathOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApassing artworksOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand local wildlifePC012643.JPGalong to Shelley beach, a more secluded inlet with calmer watersPC012647.JPGWe than began the climb up into the wilder country on the on North HeadIMG_4059.jpg

 

 

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Although only a short distance from “civilisation” it felt as if we were going up into the “bush”

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Due to it’s strategic position overlooking the entrance to Sydney Harbour, there had been military installations on the North Head for a good part of the 20th Century. We soon cam across evidence of this – abandoned gun emplacements.

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We carried on following the path through the bush

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A little further on we reached the Modernist style former army barracks

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Our route took us straight across the parade ground

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Today, the buildings are occupied by a private school and various small businesses, including an art foundry

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We stopped for a while to look at some of the art works on display.

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Carrying on through more bush

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views of Sydney opened up

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A short distance further on and we reached some more former military buildings where the North Head Visitor Centre is located as well as a café, so we stopped for a brew overlooking Sydney Harbour

Rejuvinated, we continued on with our walk, the route taking us along Australia’s Memorial Walk, a paved pathway with five monuments to remember the major military conflict periods in Australia’s history.

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Carrying on through the bush towards Fairfax Lookout at the end of the headland and looking out over the Harbour and open sea

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Having reached our objective it was time to head back. We could have followed the loop and walked back down to Manly, but we cheated. There’s a road up the North Head and there’s a regular bus service, so feeling hot and a little tired, we waited a short while and hopped on the next bus that took us back to Manly and the ferry back to Circular Quay.

 

Darling Harbour

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In the evening after our walk from Bondi to Coogee we ate at our apartment and then walked the short distance to Darling Harbour.

At one time a busy part of the Port of Sydney, it declined and became derelict in the 1980’s but, like many former harbours round the world, it has been redeveloped and reinvented as an area of leisure pursuits and tourist attractions. This has been a gradual process. When I was in Sydney three years ago it seemed quite a soulless place despite the siting of tourist attractions – the Australian National Maritime Museum, a Sealife Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World and a branch of Madame Tussards. Since then further development has clearly taken place and it seems to have become much more lively. That was certainly the case during the evening we visited. On a warm evening the bars and restaurants that line the quays were bustling.

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Pyrmont Bridge crosses the harbour from east to west connecting Cockleshell Bay to the suburb of Pyrmont. Once a working class area occupied by dockers and industrial workers, with the change in the character of the area it’s become gentrified.

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The International Convention Centre stands on the west side of the harbour and opened in December 2016

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The modern building was designed by two architectural firms, Hassell and Populous.

Connected tot he convention centre is an Exhibition Centre

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and the ICC Sydney Theatre.

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All looked very impressive lit up after sunset.

A night at the Opera

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Sydney Opera House is one of the world’s iconic buildings; designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon who, at that time, was a relatively unknown young architect.  His dramatic concept, caught the eye of the judges of the international competition held to decide on a design.

Last time I was in Sydney (3 years ago) I joined a guided tour and also went to see a play  being shown in the Drama Theatre, one of the 4 smaller venues in the “basement” of the building, but wasn’t able to see a production in one of the large auditoria. So before we set out for Australia we checked the Opera House’s website and were able to get tickets for a night of opera in the main auditorium, the Concert Hall.

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We had a meal in one of the restaurants that line the east side of the Circular Quay and then headed over to the Opera House to have a look around inside the building before the start of the concert in areas only accessible for concert goers or on a guided tour.

There were views over the harbour from the large windows at the end of the building

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Inside the auditorium, ready for the concert to begin

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The main piece was a on Act opera by Bela Bartok based on the rather gruesome story of Bluebeard. A quite heavy piece and not exactly a light hearted pre-Christmas concert, but enjoyable nevertheless. I’m not really up to critiquing a serious Classical  concert but this review sums it up I think.

And after the concert

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A good experience and an enjoyable evening.

Rembrandt and the Dutch golden age in Sydney

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Although entry to the collections at the Gallery of NSW is free, as is often the case there’s a charge for the major temporary exhibitions. While we were queuing at the desk at the  to buy tickets for  Rembrandt and the Dutch golden age – Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum we got chatting with a couple of locals. Recognising that we were English they remarked that they were surprised that we were paying to see works when we could nip over the channel to Amsterdam to visit the Rijksmuseum itself. That’s true for although it isn’t just around the corner (!) we have been to Amsterdam a few times lately and have visited the museum we explained that we still felt it was worth it. The Rijksmuseum is huge and there is so much to see that it’s hard to take everything in. so here was a chance to see a good curated collection that we could take the time to look at. This turned out to be the case.

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There were two “star paintings” – one by Rembrandt and the other by Vermeer – that were included in the exhibition, but many of the other 76 works were less well known.  Of course, Australians being so far from Europe and with only limited numbers of works by major European artists in the country, don’t get much opportunity to experience so many paintings from the Dutch Golden Age all together in Sydney.

The exhibition included examples of all the different types of paintings from the Golden age including portraits, landscapes, winter scenes, genre paintings and still lives. There was a free audio guide included in the entrance fee narrated by Miriam Margolyes.

Surprisingly for an exhibition of this nature, photographs were allowed and I took a few shots. This almost certainly wouldn’t have been allowed at galleries in the UK. Here’s a few shots I took

A portrait by Frans Hals – we’d missed out on visiting the gallery devoted to his work in his home town of Haarlem during our trip to the Netherlands in October.

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“Portrait of Feyntje van Steenkiste” (1635) by Frans Hals

A couple of winter scenes

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“View of the church of Slotten in the winter” (c 1660) by Jan Abrahamsz Beerstrate

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“River view in the winter” (1655-60) by Aert Van der Neer

Included in a room full of naval paintings, a model ship (there’s plenty of these in the Rijksmuseum)

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A flower painting

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“Still life with flowers in a glass vase” (c1665-70) by Jan Davidsz de Heem

A portrait by Gerard Dou

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“Portrait of an old woman reading” (c1631-32) by Gerard Dou

Then there was a room full of Rembrandt paintings and a selection of 16 etchings.

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and then this beautiful little painting by Vermeer.

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Although busy, the exhibition wasn’t over crowed and it was possible to get close to the paintings and spend some time looking at them. Later on a few tour groups turned up and, as is usually the case, they all grouped around the key paintings while their guide wittered on, preventing others from getting a view. But they soon moved on.

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A visit to the Art Gallery of NSW

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On the morning of the third day of our holiday in Sydney we decided to visit the Art Galley of new South Wales. It’s located in The Domain on the road to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and close to the Royal Botanic Gardens. The Gallery has a good collection of Australian art as well as an International collection. There was also a temporary exhibition we thought we’d like to see.

We were particularly taken with the paintings by indigenous artists. During my previous visit these were relegated to the basement gallery but I was glad to see that although there was still a good selection there, there were a good number displayed in the main galleries devoted to Australian art in the main galleries on the ground floor.

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Most of the works by indigenous artists were contemporary pieces painted using the traditional techniques but using modern materials. Here’s a selection of some of my favourites.

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It was also interesting to see works by other Australian artists, most of whom I had little previous knowledge. Here’s a selection

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Here’s some works by a contemporary Australian artist Mikala Dwyer from her exhibition A Shape of Thought.  Some rather weird and a little scary, others interesting, particularly the balloon like objects

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Here’s some works by contemporary artists

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There were several galleries showing pre-21st century works by Australian and International artists. Some were of interest but they  largely lesser works. I did rather like this little sculpture though

"Veiled female bust" by Agathon Leonard

The temporary exhibition we decided to see featured a selection of works from the Rijksmuseum. Report to follow.

Bondi to Coogee Walk

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I’m going to divert from writing up my recollections of our recent holiday in Australia in sequence. It’s grey, cold and miserable outside, and so I’m going to go through my pictures of hot, sunny beaches in Sydney to cheer myself up.  I think some of my regular readers feel the same!

To be honest, I’m not a beach person. I soon get bored sitting on the sand, even with a good book to read. But I enjoy walking along the coast – beaches, cliffs, salt marshes etc. That’s much more my style. So on the fourth day of our stay in Sydney, we caught the train from the Town Hall to Bondi Junction and then took the bus to the famous Bondi Beach, our plan being to take the coastal path over to Coogee. It’s a classic Sydney walk and one I’d done before.

On the previous occasion, it was a grey day when I set out, turning sunny as I got nearer to Coogee. This time it was hot and sunny from start to finish

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Setting off along the bay

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Some expensive houses up on the cliffs

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Looking along the coast

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Swimmers and surfers in the sea

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Around the headland we came to Tamarama Beach

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Where we stopped for a drink while enjoying the view

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A little further along we reached Bronte Beach

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Waverley Cemetery – unfortunately the residents can’t enjoy the view!

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Clovelly Beach, a safe beach for swimming

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Carrying on along the coast

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passing more expensive houses

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Approaching Coogee we passed the memorial to the Bali bomb victims, a number who came from this area

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Finally we arrived at Coogee. Time for an ice cream!

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Susannah Place and the Rocks

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The Rocks is a historic area of Sydney just to the west of Sydney Cove, established shortly after the colony’s formation in 1788. It was originally a notorious area, the narrow streets and alley ways frequented by drunken sailors, thieves and prostitutes. But over the years it became an area of working class dwellings – small and cramped, crammed together with inadequate  sewerage and water facilities  –  a “Classic Slum” (to borrow  the phrase used by Frederick Engels‘ to describe Victorian age Salford).

In the 20th Century the area underwent major changes. Slum clearances followed the outbreak of bubonic plague in 1900, during the building of Sydney Harbour Bridge and during the 1950’s for the construction of the expressway that cuts through the area leading to the bridge.

In the 1970’s however, there was a kick back by local residents who didn’t want to be forcibly relocated, and who formed The Rocks Residents Group. With the support of Jack Mundey and his New South Wales Builders’ Labourers Federation a “Green Ban” was imposed to stop the demolitions. In 1975, a compromise was reached and the bans were lifted. All buildings north of the Cahill Expressway were to be retained, conserved and restored.

Today, the Rocks has undergone “gentrification” with gift shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants bringing in the tourists (including us!), but the area still contains a significant proportion of Housing Commission properties.However, the City Council policy is to sell housing as it becomes vacant to private owners, leading, no doubt, to local people being priced out and the area further gentrified.

There remain a large number of historic buildings in the Rocks, including Susannah Place, a row of four terraced houses built in 1844 which were occupied right up until 1990. We went past the houses, now preserved as a “living museum”,  during our walk over to Miller’s Point on our first day in Sydney. As we couldn’t get on a guided tour, we returned the next day.

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No attempt has been made to renovate the houses. They’ve been left just as they were when the last occupants vacated them. However, furniture has been installed typical of that found in the houses during the different periods they were occupied.

The Trust that owns the museum has conducted research into the lives of the residents and during the tour we were taken through the houses while the well informed guide told us their stories.

To someone who grew up in a town of working class Victorian Terraces, the houses were very familiar. Other than the use of corrugated iron sheeting used for the roofs and some other parts of the fabric of the buildings, I could have been back in Northern England. The houses were very typical, small “two up two down”. And the way the residents used the houses was similar to back home. For example, the front room was used as a “parlour” or “best room”. The residents lived in the back room, which was also the kitchen, while the front room was kept “for best”. This was exactly the same arrangement adopted by my grand parents and other relatives of their generation.

There were many other features that were reminiscent of terraced houses in Lancashire. They had small back yards where there was a wash house with a “copper”

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and a “privvy”. My grandparents also had an “outside toilet” which was still usable when I was a child (although they had modern facilities indoors too).

Here’s a few photos from inside some of the rooms

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It was an excellent visit – definitely worth making the effort to return for the tour. Very educational and interesting to learn about how several generations of working lass residents of the Rocks lived, brought to life with stories about real people related by an informative guide.

Afterwards we took a stroll through the streets of the Rocks

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I rather liked this monument to the early settlers, convicts and their guards.

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We also visited the (free entry) Rocks Discovery Museum which is housed in a restored 1850s sandstone warehouse in one of the old narrow streets. They have good, interesting exhibits about the original Aboriginal people who lived in the area, the establishment of the English colony and the history of the area right up to the protests by the residents, supported by the Trade Unions, in the 1970’s.

One of the things we learned during the visit that the roads of Sydney used to be paved with wooden blocks and that a section of  this had been recreated on George Street, not far from the museum. So after our visit we went to have a look.

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MCA Collection: Today Tomorrow Yesterday

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After disembarking from the ferry at Circular Quay, we walked the short distance to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). The Gallery is located on the west side of the Quay in an imposing six-storey building originally built as the offices of the Maritime Services Board (MSB). It’s a late example of the Art Deco Style, having been constructed between 1947 and 1952. The main entrance, reception, stairwells, lifts, café and shop are in a modern extension, the Mordant Wing, which opened in 2012.

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I rather liked this art work painted on the wall on the staircase by the Harbour side entry to the building.

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As its name suggests, the Museum is devoted to contemporary art, with the main emphasis being on work by Australians, including a good selection of works by indigenous artists.

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We visited the free exhibition featuring works from the Museum’s collection, Today Tomorrow YesterdayThere was quite a lot to see and I was particularly impressed by those works by indigenous artists. Here’s some examples.

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I also liked this giant clock, even if it wasn’t showing the correct time!

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On the water in Sydney

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The roads in Sydney seem to be permanently congested. Even crossing the road in the Central business District seems to take forever as you wait for the pedestrian lights to turn to green. So getting around on the bus can be a slow process. Sydney is built on the water, which is a big contributor to the congestion, but the city take advantage of this by having a network of cream and green ferries centring on the Circular Quay. It’s a fun way to travel too, providing a different perspective of the city from the water.

On the second morning of our time in Sydney we walked over to Darling Harbour to take a look at the redeveloped docklands and also to catch the ferry round to the Circular Quay.

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Darling Harbour, which is to the west of the Circular Quay, used to be part of the port of Sydney and the site of the NSW Railways central marshalling yards and freight consolidation centre. In the 1980’s when the port declined the harbour became largely derelict. However, in recent years, like many former harbours round the world, it has been redeveloped and reinvented as an area of leisure pursuits and tourist attractions. So today it’s the location of tourist attractions including the Australian National Maritime Museum, a Sealife Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World and a branch of Madame Tussards. It’s also the site of the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre and a number of hotels. The quays are also lined with bars and restaurants.

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We walked along the harbour to the ferry terminal at Barangaroo. A lot of (controversial)development with glass and concrete skyscrapers is taking place at this eastern end of the harbour which was once lined with dock labourers searching for work

We didn’t have long to wait for a ferry and set off on the route that called at Balmain East, McMahons Point, Milsons Point and then Circular Quay.

It was a lovely, sunny morning, although with a stiff breeze the water was a little choppy. but I managed to snap a few decent photos.

Looking back to Barangaroo

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The Harbour Bridge and Opera House from the west

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Coming in to  McMahons Point – lots of fancy yachts moored up here.

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Luna Park at Milsons Point

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Sailing under the bridge

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Past the Opera House

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Approaching Circular Quay

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We took the ferry back to Darling Harbour a couple of times and also sailed the longer route across to Manly. An inexpensive way to take a tour of the Harbour!