When we awoke after a good night’s sleep at the Sofitel Darling Harbour we drew open the curtains … and the city was still there, although blanketed under dull skies. We went off for a pleasant and socially distanced A La Carte breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant – buffet options are still off the menu due to COVID – and then checked out, once again leaving our overnight bag in the lock up room.
Before I take you off on walk around the city, I would like to bring your attention to the Pyrmont Bridge. I know some of my followers will be interested in its engineering. (Others may prefer to skip ahead.) When Bill and I lived in Sydney, our apartment was a few blocks to the left of the below image, and every morning I would walk across the bridge to my office a few blocks to the right. I became quite attached to the bridge, and spent many hours watching its operation. Until the early 1980s, I even used to drive across it! This steel version was opened in 1902, and it is an electrically-operated swing bridge. All the gearing is located inside the circular base support, and is operated by the pilot sitting in the little house you can see on the bridge. The white markings are where the pedestrians are to stand behind the gates as the section of the bridge that has the arched steel girders opens. Nowadays there is little shipping to pass through, but it still operates several times a day for tourist fun.
PS A clarification. The Pyrmont Bridge does not swing up. It does the twist. So that the open span ends up ninety degrees to the roadway. But you don’t see the cylindrical machinery that is making this happen as it is all inside that circular pylon.
If you look carefully, you will note that section has a longer unsupported span than the other parts of the bridge. At one time we had a monorail that used to run overhead, and when the carriages were fully loaded, you could discern the track dipping slightly as it had to make the distance unsupported. Intriguing huh?
This shot through a rain spattered 20th floor window also shows more of the Maritime Museum on the left, and the Aquarium, Wildlife zoo, etc, on the right. It was taken just around 9am, and whereas the bridge had been very busy with workers heading in either direction a half hour earlier, the foot traffic had then reduced. Working 9-5, hey!
We headed off to the right, away from the bridge, following the curve of Cockle Bay past the construction of the new IMAX/Hotel and on to the marina and waterfront restaurants opposite the hotel. I paused to take a photo of the Dancing Brolga Fountain, “a spiral dancing water feature, designed and cast in stainless steel by Terrance Plowright in 1998”.
We were now on the city side as if we had walked across the bridge, and now we continued our walk along the boardwalk towards Barangaroo One, the building I featured in yesterday’s post. This takes one past the Aquarium and so on, and past many upmarket restaurants and bars in a section called the King Street Wharf. Once a year I meet some girlfriends here for what always transpires to be a very big lunch if you get my drift. Continuing on, we got our first upfront look at the newly developed area called Barangaroo. My goodness! So much concrete, steel and glass, but set amongst beautiful golden Sydney sandstone. It ‘s quite a gleaming metropolis and very modern. It’s almost a second Sydney, and the huge office towers must have sucked a lot of business tenants down to this end. In fact, we went inside one just to see who those businesses were. All the internationals are here, the corporate accountants, consulting, legal, etc, etc, firms. There is also a new branch of the upmarket David Jones department store (at least it used to be). Then dozens of coffee shops and artisan foods. It struck me as a city within a city. But there are apartment buildings here too, and one had a unique awning for the balconies. They slide around on tracks, so the occupant can adjust according to the path of the sun, but from the outside, pedestrians view an attractive wave shaped pattern. Hopefully the below photograph illustrates it. Just across the road, you have this massive office block!
As we circled that massive casino edifice that I remarked on yesterday, I saw the area behind it has been officially named The Hungry Mile. This is a reference to the plight of casually employed wharf labourers during the Great Depression, and even for many years later. They trudged from wharf to wharf along this road hoping to get a day’s labour. The Shipping Company’s foreman picked heads from the gathered crowd. The “Bulls”, the strongest, were in demand. The chosen were given a token, and when the foreman was done with his favourites, he’d simply throw the rest in the air for the lucky to catch. Even though he was casually employed, Bill was fortunate to escape this system. By the early 1970s it was replaced with a rotating roster, and men went to the “pick up” centre to await their turn. I think it’s great they’re remembered. I just think it’s odd that a casino, with its connections to capital exploitation, sits right in front of it.
The land along this peninsula, once the sole domain of wharves, seafarers, maritime union offices, and wharfies’ (longshoremen) pubs, is low-lying. The more established part of the city is higher up, and many crossing over points have been constructed, and also a network of connecting tunnels, which was handy on this showery day. . . no photos.
We popped up some five blocks south-east, and crossed George Street, the north-south running spine of the city, into Martin Place. This is a wide pedestrianised mall covering several blocks inclining up to Macquarie Street. Very pleasant to walk through, it is lined on both sides by stately heritage buildings built around the 1900s+ to house important banks, the central post office, and so on. The cenotaph constructed after WWI is here.
I had not before noticed this relatively-new statue. The explanation is on each side of the base plinth. “James Martin (1820-1866) 12 years old, striding off from home in Parramatta to High School in Sydney”. Strewth! Hope he didn’t do it every day. It’s 20klm (about 15 miles). “Raised in servant’s quarters, this Irish-born boy overcame poverty and discrimination to become Premier and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.” The discrimination would have come from him being Irish, in a colony of English ruling class.
Well there you go. I had no idea that was who Martin Place was named after. Here is a link with further information if interested.
Macquarie Street, modestly named so by the visionary 1810-17 Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie, was the most important street in Sydney, filled with civic buildings, specialist doctors and other professionals. From the top of Martin Place, it runs downhill north to the Opera House at Circular Quay, passing the Sydney Hospital, State Library and Botanic Gardens. You can walk through the grounds of Sydney Hospital to pass through the Domain Park to reach the Art Gallery. We turned right, heading south towards Hyde Park, on the way passing The Mint, and Hyde Park Barracks – all important colonial-era buildings. After the modernity of Barangaroo, this part of Sydney is now like the “old town”, like certain parts of European cities. The Sydney Mint, built between 1811 and 1816 as the southern wing of the Sydney Hospital, and then known as the Rum Hospital (in place of the real thing, rum was a currency in our fledgling colony) seemed to be having some running repairs. It began minting gold sovereigns in 1854, and these are a valuable and readily-convertible collectible.
Oh! I forgot to mention Macquarie Street is the home to our State Parliament. Gosh. Oops. No photo, sorry. It’s between the hospital and the library 🙂
Hyde Park has a north and south section, both are very interesting and beautiful walks, with the north end boasting the Archibald Fountain, and the south, the War Memorial. We didn’t go in on this day, and stuck to the left hand side of the road, which took us past St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, where my aunty was married “behind the font” in 1937. It was a “mixed marriage”, Anglican-Catholic.
We’d arrived at our destination, the Australian Museum, the oldest in Australia, packed full of natural history and anthropology. Neither of us had been here since primary school, but it had recently been extended and re-opened, so off we went to join lots of young families, there for the dinosaurs. The builders have done a good job merging the building and blending the external walls with the existing sandstone, and I’m still a sucker for the old styles. The collection inside is vast. It’s really one of those places where one gallery per visit best allows you to understand it all. Oh, and the viewing windows weren’t bad either!
We spent an interesting couple of hours in the museum, but, fortified only with a coffee since breakfast, we were thinking about a late lunch. We’d been promising ourselves a seafood platter at the fish market, and even though lots of restaurants in Darling Harbour had them on offer, we’d practiced restraint. There was a bus stop right outside the museum that would carry us back over the water to Pyrmont, and we alighted at a stop that was less than a ten minute walk to the markets. It’s not terribly well sign-posted, and hardly a glamorous entrance, but anyone would be able to point you in the right direction.
Now we were a hop, skip and a jump from our former apartment in Sydney and we were very familiar with the markets. If you want fresh fish and shellfish, this is THE place to go. In fact, a few years ago when we were in Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, we were very confused to discover that it was mostly restaurants selling cooked seafood. We couldn’t find the raw stuff for love or money. The Sydney fish markets also cooks on site, and on a good day, you carry the proceeds outside and eat at tables around another side-arm of Sydney Harbour. The weather was not nice enough for that today. so that kind of pushed us towards choosing from only one of the providers, (rather than a bit from this one and that one), and eating at their inside tables reserved only for their patrons.
In the past, the offerings have been great. At a nearby table, a group of four hoed into a big basin of fresh cooked crab. Our selections, unfortunately, were nothing like that. Others have since told us that they also have had below par food in recent times. So if you are reading this blog as a tourist guideline, I would suggest you only eat the cooked seafood if it has been prepared immediately in front of you. Otherwise assume it has been in the Baine Marie for a long time, and prepared by cooks who think they will never see you again. Your best bet is a couple of kilos of prawns, some fresh bread from the bakery, some nice accompaniment from the upmarket delicatessen, and all washed down with a crisp white from the liquor shop. There is also a fruit and vegetable store on site if you would like a fruit platter to go with your prawns.
Minutes from the fish market there is a light rail – a form of tram. The track runs back to Central Station, and right through Darling Harbour. So we jumped on that back to our hotel, grabbed our bags, and then jumped back on the light rail to get to the Central Station terminus and board our train for the ninety minute ride down the south coast to Wollongong, which runs alongside the east coast, providing views of magnificent beaches and national forest. Sit on the left side if you are heading south from Central. It’s an hourly service, and with a little time to kill, we had a glass of wine each at the station restaurant called Eternity. This is another tribute, this time to an eccentric Sydney character, Arthur Stace. Born in 1885, Stace had a terrible poverty-stricken, orphan upbringing, and by the age of fourteen had become an alcoholic and petty criminal. In 1932, after hearing a sermon based around Eternity, he reformed, and spread his message of hope by chalking the word on footpaths in and around Sydney, to the suburbs and eventually country NSW before travelling on to Melbourne … (let’s gloss over that this café serves alcohol which seems an oxymoron with its name. Also I’m not accepting any comments from wags who say it really means you wait an eternity for your train to arrive 🙂 ).
And on that uplifting note, we arrived home around 5pm, in time to share another glass of wine with several of our neighbours in our community bar. The next day, to console ourselves from the Fish market disappointment, we had a wonderful home-cooked seafood lunch 🙂