Sydney, Australia

Castle’s Note:Looking at some of my files, I accidentally stumbled to this travel article I’ve written a long time ago. This is my first attempt at travel writing, after my family’s trip to Sydney. This was written around 2014-2015.

A CITY OF MAJESTIES WITH A BACKDROP OF OPPULENT STORIES

There are times in our life when we want to pause our hectic schedule. The responsibilities of work and commitments to our family and friends, though we can’t escape this mundane roles forever, once in a while we love to leave the world we breathe in. In these times of wanting to de-stress, we want the best for us. This is where vacation comes in. We call our friends, our family and set a destination haven.

We look for a great place where moments are cherished and a city name that will bring an intense nostalgia. A day everyone relives the moments given by that city, a memory that bring a smile in us.

Look no further as the city you’re looking for has a name, a name you would not easily forget. A name that will come in your head on social gatherings, convincing friends and family to visit a place so tender. The sweet name is Sydney.

Sydney is one of the most transcending cities of high sophistication, wealth and eloquence that even words are not enough to give justice. It is where history meets present; the ancient in harmony with modernity. Sydney, the name, the place, you’ve been looking for. A city that offers all spectrum the world could provide.

 Located on Australia’s east coast, the metropolis surrounds the world’s largest natural harbor, and sprawls toward the Blue Mountains to the west. Sydney offers everything one can craves in a dream destination: unique charm, striking sceneries and exciting activities. It creates excitement that never stops. It is a city with so many spectacles and grandiose.

Think of Boracay, Philippines with its white immaculate beaches and sands in your feet. Think of New York with high rise buildings. Think of Vatican City with its Italian Renaissance Churches. Now combined the three and you have Sydney.

As a testament, Sydney plays the setting to some of famous Hollywood films like: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Star Wars Episode III, Superman Returns, The Great Gatsby just to name a few.

As they say in Australia, `Good Day.`

Now let’s begin this journey…

Embrace Nature

-Bondi Beach

Start the trip by visiting Sydney’s glamorous and pristine beaches. Beaches of Sydney span in long lengths of the city.  One that is famous to many and is 8 km away from the city center is Bondi Beach. Feel this spectacular place of crystal clear ocean while having a sweet sip of a fresh shake. Watch as the sun sets in the horizon and listen to the gentle sound of waves, sluicing the rocks.

If you really can’t help it, or you can’t afford to get rid of a strict fitness schedule even while in vacation you can take a dip and swim in the waters, or join the locals as they jogged –even barefoot in the miniscule particles of sands.

All the beaches in Sydney offers a picnic shelter and toilets. 

Sadly, our stay in the beach only last for half an hour as we have to leave and go to other places.

Blue Mountains

A mountainous area found in the borders of Sydney’s metropolitan area and a 90 minute drive from the Central Business District. Listed as a World Heritage Site, the foothills range about ninety-six kilometers in length and the highest point, Mount Werong at 1,215 meters or 3,986 ft above sea level. The area is peppered by Eucalyptus trees.

Here is a story familiar to Australians:

Once there are three sisters in Jamison Valley named Meehni, Wimla and Gunnedoo. Think of three Aussies laughing and chasing each other in the thick of the forest, their soft voices echoed. Three brothers from a closer tribe heard the sisters and simple curiosity drove the brothers to the sweet source of the voices. They saw the three sisters and the brothers’ first attraction for the sisters couldn’t be denied. The sisters shared this same dilemma. But the boys and girls were hesitant, even for friendship, because the tribes they came from were not at peace with each other.

The sisters and brothers though, for some reason couldn’t help but enjoy each other’s company. Even if they were not allowed to interact, they still do so. Overtime emotion built up and their feelings for each other developed.

Every day the three sisters and the three brothers would leave their tribe to meet somewhere. They did their best to hide their passion from the eyes of their friends and family. They consider, perhaps, they could be a medium for their tribe to make truce. Why not? There were six people from a high class family. They were the chance.

But one day, someone saw. Someone found out the secret. Someone told and gossip spread like wildfire.

The couples decided to turn the situation to their advantage, not only for their own goods but for the benefit of their tribes. But law was law and the number of many were nothing against the number of six. The three brothers were devastated by the news of separation and angry to be strip away from their love ones. Then they decided to take matters into their own hands. They took the three sisters from the sisters’ camp. The ensuing events thickened the tension between the two sides and it resulted in a tribe war. Swords were clashed and the land turned into pond of blood. Day and night the two tribes fight. Many died. As the battle is happening the three sisters were transformed to stones by an elder, who used black magic. The elder was the only one capable of bringing back the three sisters to life, to their original form. Sadly, the elder was a casualty of the war. With the elder dead, the three sisters are eternally carved in stones, never to breathe life again.

This story is an indigenous Australian dreamtime legend.

Now, do not let this tragic tale distract you from the opulence of the place.

The Three sisters is one among the other jaw dropping sights found in Blue Mountains. Others are: Orphan Rock, Mr. Solitary and Katoomba falls which is best experienced through a scenic cableway

*Which was what we did*.

*The day when we arrived, the place was slightly foggy so the Three sisters are a blur in our sight. Nevertheless we still get to see the majestic views around us and the queue was worth the wait. The ride was a slow descend into a valley and also returned visitors to the top of the escarpment. Along the way you’ll get to see the jaw dropping views and water falling from a high point. The cable ride is the steepest and largest aerial cable car in the Southern Hemisphere so be prepared to be at the top, floating at a highest point and have the adrenaline rush only vertical cliffs could provide.*

Part of the ride is its stops where you can stroll in the 2.4 kilometer length trek of rainforest. The long walk could be challenging at times as you have to ascend and descend from time to time so don’t forget to bring your hiking shoes. This walks will not be complete if not for the stations you’ll get to explore. You would see statues and artifacts about the site’s coal mining history. Each of the stops has their own stories to tell. And while you’re taking photos, listen to the chirped of lyrebirds serenade you.

If you don’t prefer to walk, take another round trip back or wait for a cable car. Blue Mountains is great to visit anytime of the year so you’ll not have any problem setting the date.

-Hyde Park

There are public transportation but why ride when you can stroll in the wide pedestrian streets of the city to fully appreciate the scenery and have more freedom to explore?

The green space is a breath of fresh air, and also acts as a haven from the bustling sounds of megalopolis. This is where you wound time, lay and spread your arms in the garden. Read a book or play a human size chess with the locals or simply listen to the lovely Aussie accents chatting around you. You’ll be drowned by the leaves as Hyde Park has more than 500 tree-formed tunnel planted around.  You can also see butterflies circling your way. Be at ease and relax at this place. What’s the rush?

Surrounding the park are the composition lifestyles of Sydney – the St. James Church, Supreme Court of New South Wales on the north; Australia Museum, Sydney Grammar School on the east; Downing Centre on the South; Sydney’s Central Business District on the West.

A Walk within the Castles

Next Stop: Saint. Mary’s Cathedral

Take a few more steps from Hyde Park and you’ll find yourself in St. Mary’s Cathedral, a landmark of any Catholics in Australia. Saint Mary’s Cathedral is the greatest length of any Church in the country.

From the outside one can marvel at its yellow grandiose and gothic style windows as if the present suddenly went to the past, stole this architectural jewel and planted it to the present day then destroy whatever time machine was used. The doors are elegantly made in intricate high details because builders of that time demonstrate their skills through their craft in carving of stones and walls. Think of a Singing Competition, that was how local craftsmen showcased their skills in this era.

Once you walked inside be prepared to be transported centuries ago. The Cathedral has a dandelion effect lighting, resulted from the direct spotlights of the sun, pointing into golden sandstones of the interior.

-Queen Victoria’s Building

From the top one can see the different artistically domes on the roof of the building. This is a Victorian Romanesque architecture that survived threats of destruction over the decades. A structure like this will make someone assume it has been transformed to a museum or a church but the case was neither that. This facility was used for many purposes over the decades such as concert hall, city library and offices. Now the facility is a shopping haven for the luxurious and sophisticated, perfect for shopaholics.

It is no other than Queen Victoria’s Building or QVB to many.  The building was designed by Scottish architect George McRae and was constructed between 1893 and 1898 to celebrate the Queen of England’s Diamond Jubilee.  Wrought iron balconies, mosaic flooring, and vibrant stained glass windows defined this place.

Anyone who loves to go to a mall will be delighted by the wide array of selections. High end brands such as Calvin Klein and Coach can be find here. It is a prestigious center with a shopping experience of history. The place offers dozens of Sydney’s finest fashion boutiques and widest range of luxury.

For those who love to go to malls, what is the better way than to stroll in one of the oldest structure in the city?

*I say stroll because when we went here we didn’t really buy anything as most things are pricey and expensive, head to David Jones department store or Woolworths grocery if you are looking for a less pricey items.

MARVEL AT MAN-MADE CREATIONS

Let me tell you two stories about persistence and patience. One that takes decades, even century in the making…

Year: 1815

Two points had to connect. A man had to make bridge to cross. To ease travel a way has to be created and this is what Francis Greenway proposed. A bridge that would connect from the northern to the southern shore. He also believed that the bridge should be a reminder of this great city, just as Eiffel Tower is to Paris. But his suggestion was put on hold and even reached deaf ears. Nothing came to fruition.

Many years have passed before people realized a need to build a bridge. The city called for proposals and set up an `audition. ` Many submitted their ideas in 1990. Greenway’s vision seemed to be coming to form.

Someone won the competition but controversies continued to unfold, instead, the winner went to second place, to an engineer named Norman Selfe.

From perspective this should propel the start of something great. But political problems happened and though Selfe’s idea was good, there was a new government falling in line. Think of a change in leadership and its predecessor’s works entirely abandoned. The construction of the bridge never started. The new line of government has other plans.

In 1837 Francis Greenway died, but his vision for a bridge lingered. The idea for this bridge would persist as if fate had destined for this to be created and regardless of obstacles it wouldn’t be denied.

In 1914, ninety-nine years, almost a century since Greenway’s proposal, John Bradfield was signed as Chief Engineer of this bridge. This would be the starting point of something. The continually persisting creation of this bridge will come to form.

Greenway’s proposal was not taken seriously because there was no necessity back then.

Winners of the competition was put on hold, because of political change.

Now, when everything seemed closer than ever, when the requirements were set and plan was being drawn, time was not in their favor.

They were about to enter a crucial stage of human history.

An era that doesn’t side this vision but something that the rest of humanity was involved. The approval and plans came in a wrong time, in a wrong year.

The world had its full tilt. 1914 is the start of World War I. The mind of everyone was filled with dread and anxiety, and so for the dozen times the bridge was once again neglected. The Government prioritized the war and time passed.

But eventually like a bug that refused to die, the push for project intensified. Bradfield was still part of the team. He works on the specifications and designs of the project. He started looking for people that would put his sketchy designs into real world. The contract went to Dorman Long and Co Ltd.

Bradfield’s team was to oversee the entire bridge design and building process, while Dorman Long and Co’s Consulting Engineer is to carry out the detailed design and erection process of the bridge.

It was not an easy way though and it never was. The points where the foundations are to be set were inhabited by some locals. There were more than 400 families who protested for their own land. Where will they live, if the bridge was made? For a while the bridge seemed to be put on hold, again. But after a grueling and long arguments between the government and these inhabitants, the locals were forced to abandon their land.

Finally after decades of persisting, construction began.

More than two centuries after, this creation, this masterpiece that tries so hard, stands today. Greenway’s vision never get to see the results of his idea. People who were originally part of the plan were set aside and replace. But despite all, the bridge was finished.

That Bridge is named Sydney Harbour’s Bridge, signature style of Sydney.

Today Sydney Harbor Bridge is the widest long-span bridge and the tallest arch buildings in the world and the 5th longest spanning arch bridge according to Guinness World Records. An easy 15 minute trip from Sydney’s Central Business district.  It provides a combination of eight vehicle lanes, two train lanes, a footway and a bicycle lane.

Come at the right season–New Year’s Eve and you might as well witnessed a display of synchronized pyrotechnics, complimented with a themed soundtrack over the bridge.

But the story doesn’t end there…

Year: 1940, 8 years after Harbour Bridge completion

Feasts happened and when one need a gathering, one need a facility. They needed a place that would house entertainment events, specifically operas and concerts.

Eugene Goossens, a musician and performer saw this problem. In his eyes performers needed a stage and comfortable audience.  This can solved by building a facility where both necessity would be answer.

 In 1954, fourteen years after Goossens had this idea, he got the support of the government. The government called for designs and opened a competition, like what they did with the Harbour Bridge.

One of the judges was Eero Saarinen. His job was very delicate and he knew this very well.

There were other aspiring architects who wanted to be part of this great feat. They had ideas, even great ones. More than 200 renowned Architects from around the globe submitted an entry, wanting to be part of this mega-project.

The audition began and the panel of judges were tight in their seats. Eero had to admit there were a lot of excellent proposals but one design caught his eye.

Jorn Utzon was a Danish architect unknown in his field. He heard about the audition and immediately took the opportunity, he went on to submit his entry.

It was odd yet uniqueness is what caught the judges’ eyes, especially of Eero. Jorn’s sketches was something the judges considered for a long time.

After a long process and huddles from the judges, Jorn Utzon’s work was chosen to build the Opera House. But Utzon, though had a great vision only had a drawing. What could a drawing do? The long steps for this vision was about to begin.

Fortunately one person believed in Jorn Utzon. Cahill, the government leader of New South Wales supported the architect and gave the project a thumbs up to begin in 1958.

Ove Arup and Partners was the firm that would put Utzon’s drawings into reality. However, the firm started building the foundations without a finished sketch from Jorn. They started earlier, and because of this, the designs of Utzon’s did not match what the firm built. A disappointing setback as it had to be rebuild again.

A year after, the main supporter of Utzon, Cahill, died and more complications followed along the way.

Jorn’s drawings for the shells was a conflict on how to make it a reality. Seemed too advance to be built in this time. This problem lingered and took three more years before Utzon came with a solution.

In 1965, Sydney entered a new form of leadership and like any country that was going critical transformation Jorn did not get most of the support from the government. Robert Askin, the leader of the government was not only pessimistic, he became a critic of Utzon and soon more people went against Jorn’s plans. Utzon was question for his execution of his designs, failing to meet schedules and increasing costs of his project. All played a role in doubting Utzon’s competency.

Tension rose and thickened. Then Jorn requested Ralph Symonds to be the manufacturer of plywood for the roof, but the government, the ever obstacle of the Architect rejected the request. This was the breaking point for Utzon.

Because of so many conflict, he resigned from his job and abandoned his masterpiece. The Opera House was already in its construction so the Government was left to finish Utzon’s work rather than abandoned a project they had paid expensively.

Fortunately, the facility was completed and was opened to public in 1973. However, because of the conflict, Jorn Utzon, the creator of this feat was not invited in the opening. His name was not even mentioned.

It took years before wounds heal and Utzon was finally given what he deserved and recognized for his work. He was even ask to design the interior of some parts of his masterpiece. Also, one of the many performances rooms inside was named after him. Now, that is how you honor someone.

Pickup any guidebook today about Australia and the first thing you’ll see is Jorn Utzon’s creation, the Sydney Opera House. Sydney Opera House is the signature landmark of the country and another UNESCO World Heritage Site for Sydney. The facility attracts more than a thousand performances annually and attended by millions.

Sydney Opera House is a majestic feat in the world of architecture and most unique buildings back then and still continues to dazzle up to this day. Remember the three years it took the Architect to find the solution for the roofs? Had he hurried the creation of his work, Sydney Opera House might not be what it is now. The timing was right when Jorn had decided not to rush. The roofs are made of white shells and had the effect of layers being on top of the other, when looking from a far distance.  Jorn Utzon had taken inspiration from a mundane choir of peeling an orange skin.

The best way to experience the Opera House is to buy a ticket and watched one of the live high class performances. If you are into architecture and arts that wants to see and learn about the building rather than see performances then join a tour. A tour guide will make your trip very educational and you’ll learn a thing or two about their rich history. Sydney Opera House is a must visit for anyone going to Australia.

Both creations: Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House.

It wasn’t an easy creation. As is with every masterpieces, great feats take a lot of time.

From two different eras and yet along they intersect. As the other one was about to be finished, the other was about to begin. They meet in the present and cemented a legacy in the world of architecture and worldwide designs. The two masterpieces stood a close distance from each other as if in close bond of friendship that never meant to be separated.

Did the government at that time achieved their goal? The structures certainly exceeded their expectations as they became the signature icons, the landmarks of Sydney.

The vision: To make way; to house entertainment. To put Sydney on the map.

Together, the Duo make way for Sydney to be on top of the world in terms of aesthetic physique a city could possessed.

The idea of Greenway; the goal of Goossens finally achieved.

Darling Harbour

The journey has been long, after a long time of exploring and cherishing Sydney, finally relax at Darling Harbour where you can indulge in the peaceful night. Walk in the bridge that seemed to connect two futuristic islands. Gawked at the modern and glass architecture of skyscrapers both found ahead and behind you. Savored what it is like to be surrounded by a flank of yachts and boats, their own colors and creative designs add compliment to the tall buildings.

The sight is always better at night as there are a majestic effect of multiple layers of colors everywhere you look. The glittering blue of the water, combined that of the deepest scarlet light in the port and a streak of indigo in the rows of buildings. These illuminated field create a magical, romantic backdrop for strollers young and old.

Once you cross the bridge, dined at the finest restaurants in the area. Try a steak and wine overlooking the bridge where you came from. Then go to your hotel room and be grateful for the wonderful life that you have. Now that is how you end your day.

-TIMTAM

Before departing Sydney, it’s worth buying some TIMTAM, Australia’s very own biscuit product. The original bakery opened in 1865. The factory in Western Sydney produced about 3,000 TIMTAMS per minute. According to BUZZFEED, Australians eat 45 million packets of TIMTAM a year and one in every two households have a packet of TIMTAM.  They’re sold everywhere!

A friendly note: Though, you can still find some restaurants and shops opened after 10 in the evening, most of Sydney’s establishments closed as early as 6:00 pm. Don’t be surprised if you hear the rails roll down this time around. There is no national emergency. That is the schedule in Sydney. Unlike here in the Philippines, where malls closed until 10 in the evening and even up to 12 in the midnight, Sydney’s business closing time is 6 p.m. So better set your itineraries early if you have a lot of activities in mind.

As all things, the trip must come to an end.

Once we returned to our normal life, we find ourselves refresh and with a new perspective on the things around us. Travelling has made our brain clearer and because of that we make better choices. The city and the moments gifted is forever cemented in our hearts and brain.

Years after, someone will mention the name, you will smile, feel the exact emotions brought by that place, relive the moment. The excitement would built up and you can’t help but book another flight to Sydney or if you haven’t, explore the majesties and histories Sydney offers to you. And maybe this is just what we need right now, a break from our daily routines. After all, this is what we deserved. So what are you waiting for? Why not booked a trip to Sydney now, eh?

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