Monday, June 17, 2013

Post-Sydney Review

My wife is one of those people who believe that vacations should be spent doing things. The idea of relaxing and taking it easy is foreign to her. Consequently, our stay in Sydney was planned with a thoroughness that would have done credit to the Normandy landings. I was, however, able to overrule her a few times, as you'll see.

Our activities in Sydney can be roughly grouped into three categories; adventure, arts and culture, and history.


The most impressive thing we did in this category was to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The bridge is impressive -- the longest single span bridge in the world -- but the story behind it is even more so. I don't have time to go into all the details, but it was built back in the 1930's. The engineer responsible for building the bridge (John Bradfield) was a visionary who was way ahead of his time. If you're at all interested in engineering and project management, do yourself a favor and do some research on Bradfield and the bridge. What he did was unprecedented and unimaginable. One appreciates the scale and magnitude of the bridge even more when you climb it.

It took about three hours for us to go through, up, over, and down the bridge. At its peak we were about 400 feet above the waters of Sydney Harbor, perched on a 3' wide step and posing for pictures. The wind was whipping us around at 25 knots or so, but we were tethered with a safety belt to a cable. Even that was an impressive bit of engineering. The tether was a connector at the end which rolled smoothly over the safety cable the entire way - splices, supports, connections and all. We were never unfastened until we got back to the landing.

The bridge climbing operation is very well run. Safety is paramount. Of course, it would be bad for business is they lost a tourist, so they take it seriously. But the guide also made sure we enjoyed ourselves, and helped us understand what a massive undertaking building that thing was.

Many, many thumbs up.

We were all the way up on top, where the flags are. It was a long climb, but the views were worth it.

Arts and Culture

Again, my wife is the culture fiend in our family. She goes straight for the jugular, dragging us to the most significant museums and cultural icons.I appreciate it in an abstract way, but prefer to wander around and soak it up in an informal manner. She won this round.

We toured the Sydney Opera House, perhaps the most recognizable manifestation of culture in Australia, if not the world. And much like the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the opera house owes its existence to the genius and drive of one man - in this case, Jorn Utzon. The man was undoubtedly brilliant, but I think he also had a major case of OCD. His attention to detail was staggering. Again, I don't have the time (or the skills) to do justice to this magnificent building, but I urge you to spend some time learning about it. Absolutely fascinating.


Here's where I came into my own. I insisted that we spend a fair amount of time exploring The Rocks, the birthplace of Sydney. This is where the original settlers landed (or more accurately were landed - after all, they were convicts) and established the first town in Australia.

To commemorate that, I took the family to the Fortune of War pub - the oldest pub in Sydney. To further educate them, we also visited the Australian Hotel, which claims it is the oldest continuously licensed pub in Sydney. The distinction is in the phrase "continuously licensed."

In any event, I thought the history lessons went extremely well. I certainly enjoyed them.

And so we bid a fond farewell to Sydney. There was something for everyone, we had a great time, the people were warm, welcoming, and wonderful, and the food and beer was fabulous. The only drawback was that is was quite pricey. Think New York prices with small town Texas friendliness.

There's so much more to tell, but I've run out of time. According to my wife's schedule, we leave in five minutes to go do ... something...


Old NFO said...

So, what's your beer of choice??? :-)

Toejam said...

Not Fosters, I hope?

CenTexTim said...

It's a toss up between Carlton Draught and Coopers Lager. But there's so many others to try...

Old NFO said...

Coopers is a GOOD choice! :-) I'll be having one Friday night in Perth!

CenTexTim said...

Enjoy! It's a shame we're both here at the same time but with different schedules. One of these days...