Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Sydney, Australia - The Chinese Garden of Friendship

Tucked away in the back corner of Darling Harbour is, to my mind, one of Sydney's best attractions.

The Chinese Garden of Friendship was a gift to Sydney from its sister city, Guangzhou, in southern China. It was designed and built in the 1980s in recognition of the large Chinese community living in Australia and also as a celebration of Australia's bicentenary. It is a glorious oasis of peace, calm and beauty.

The dragon wall depicts Guangdong, the brown dragon and New South Wales, the blue dragon
 They are playing with the pearl of friendship.

Covering one hectare the garden has been laid out using the Taoist principles of Yin and Yang and the five elements of earth, fire, water, wood and metal.  The idea behind these principles is to emphasise Qi, that is the force of life and energy. Everything in the garden has been chosen to reflect the five elements and the life force which, when combined together, create harmony .

Surrounding a large central lake, fed by a gushing waterfall, the garden provides everything from a tranquil black bamboo grove, a bonsai corner, carefully placed rocks and sculptures, to several pavilions for viewing the lake, the koi carp and the lotus blossoms. At the highest point of the garden is The Gurr, or Pavilion of Clear View which provides a panoramic view of the garden and is embellished with intricate wood carvings, a golden roof and an ornate lantern, a symbol of prosperity.

I love this garden.  It is a perfectly formed, serene, corner in a big and bustling city. At $6 admission, little more than the cost of a coffee, you can spend a quiet hour soaking up the beauty of nature and enjoying refreshments (for an extra charge) in the large traditional tea pavilion on the edge of the lake. It is the perfect place to just pause a while. The afternoon I was there I saw only a few other people, apart from a Chinese wedding party having photos taken against a background which, no doubt, made them feel at home.  I have visited these gardens twice and intend to make them an essential part of any trip I make to Sydney.

www.darlingharbour.com  #chinesegardenoffriendship

Monday, 6 November 2017

30 Hours in Sydney, Australia

It had been 15 years since I'd been to Sydney and although I have been there several times before I was really looking forward to my stop off in this beautiful city. Arriving by cruise ship on a romantically misty morning, sailing down the sublime harbour through its quiet sleepiness, staring, once again gob smacked, at the spectacular Opera House and admiring the heritage wharves, this was the perfect way to arrive.

I had a check list of things I wanted to squeeze into my extremely short visit, things that held good memories for me, things I had enjoyed with my husband and my son.  I thought the best way to get around the city would be by Hop on Hop off bus so jumped aboard and paid my $50AU for a day long ticket.  This turned out to be a big mistake. Why? Because it started to rain and the downstairs part of the bus was crammed to bursting with people fogging up the windows, hence no view. The only option was to go upstairs - but there is no roof! So there I sat miserable and cold with my umbrella up and rain dripping everywhere. Added to this the bus made lengthy stops at some of the bus stops and that, together with a lot of road works hold ups made for a slow and unpleasant trip.

HANDY HINT : Do not take the Sydney Hop on Hop off bus on a rainy day, it will be full downstairs and there is no roof upstairs.  You would be better to get a day pass for the train and go from destination to destination.  At least the bus commentary was good, although, due to roadworks, we didn't follow the normal route so  the commentary didn't fit some of what we saw.

Above and  below right: The Rocks

My first stop was at The Rocks, a beautiful part of Sydney and a place held dear by my late husband.  On his many business trips to Sydney he stayed there and he and I stayed there  together on a couple of occasions.  It was also at The Rocks that we celebrated our eldest son's 30th birthday. The Rocks was first settled by convicts in 1788 and although having had a colourful past is now gentrified, charming and character filled. Australias oldest pub, Fortune of War (1828) is located there too. Fortunately the rain eased and I enjoyed strolling the familiar, timeless heritage streets, picking and poking around the Sunday market, a great place to buy some good quality Australian arts and crafts.

I took the complete circuit on the bus and then decided it would be better to walk the streets from my Darling Harbour hotel.  Darling Harbour is a great spot, packed as it is with restaurants, bars, shops and with a safe sheltered boat harbour, the starting point for many  harbour cruises.  There are also a number of attractions there - Sea Life Aquarium, Madame Tussauds and Wild Life Sydney Zoo. It is an easy walk up to the central city from the harbour.  I love walking so spent several hours enjoying a close up and personal look at Sydney.

Part of the GPO in Martin Place 
The many grand, heritage buildings which are lovingly protected and give the city so much character are very impessive.  Martin Place boasts some of the finest, including the GPO which is 374 ft long and dates from 1866.  They don't make them like that any more! My own city of Auckland could take a leaf out of Sydney's book.  In Auckland, it seems,  many old buildings get ripped down with little respect for our heritage, our past.  It really grieves me.

Queen Victoria Building with the Town Hall tower on the right.
Something else of note is the huge amount of attention and respect the city pays to the ANZACs, that is the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian armed forces who have served in wars around the world.  There is even a daily ceremony to remember them at the large, impressive ANZAC memorial in Hyde Park.

The Queen Victoria Building or QVB, what can I say?  It is exquisite with it's sumptuous interior of stained glass, heritage tiling and chandeliers.  I walked around and up and down several times not wanting to leave.  If I'd had a companion I would have had high tea at a cafe purely so I could linger.

Then back down the hill to visit the Chinese Garden of Friendship, which is stunning and will be the subject of my next post.
Darling Harbour - not a bad view from my hotel room

Complimentary bubbles in my room overlooking the glorious Darling Harbour rounded out my day and left me longing for more time in Sydney.  I am determined to go back, for longer next time.  There are numerous museums and art galleries I wish I'd had time to see.  I would've loved to have had time to spend at the National Maritime Museum, since I work at New Zealand's. And I'd love to see Sydney, once again, in the sun.

It was interesting to note that the Sydney newspapers were full of exactly the same things New Zealand's are....the cost of housing, the housing shortage, population growth, immigration etc.  These topics are not unique to New Zealand, despite what many may think, or Sydney, or anywhere, they are universal problems. The population of Sydney is projected to be 8 million by 2050...the population of the whole of New Zealand won't even reach that!