I had two more days to spend in Sydney before heading to the EAPSI orientation in the Australian capital of Canberra. The majority of the time was spent wandering around the sprawling city. After taking the ferry back from surfer paradise Manly beach, we visited some historic buildings including St. Mary’s Cathedral (a magnificent sandstone structure where we heard the mysterious singsong of the choir) and Hyde Park Barracks (the first government-funded prison built in Australia to house early convicts).
Around lunchtime we were having difficulty finding a decent place to eat until we saw this discreet sign that said “Food on Level 5”. We boarded this long, narrow escalator thinking we would end up in some modest restaurant. Oh, were we ever wrong. “Food on Level 5” must be code word in Australia for “largest food court you will ever see in your life”. Around every turn there were more and more restaurants serving every possible type of cuisine. It became so overwhelming we just chose an Asian place half-way through (and the huge bowl of Laksa soup hit the spot). After that we wandered through the large Westfield shopping center (which is funny because that’s the same mall brand as in my hometown of Strongsville).
Across the street was the Queen Victoria Building (known endearingly as QVB) – a beautiful shopping mall. Unfortunately it is the kind of place where I don’t even bother entering any of the stores because they’re all way out of my price range. It reminded me of the Cleveland Arcade (which was actually built eight years earlier in 1890) but with actual stores and, well, people. I then managed to trek out to the famous Bondi Beach just as it began to downpour. The area seems super hip and I can imagine it would be great on a hot, summer day. The waves were wild (there were high surf warnings that day, which even violently rocked the huge ferry boat we took from Manly) so some surfers were loving it. There is also this awesome ocean-side pool where the waves splash into it with dramatic flair.
It was still raining after returning to the CBD, but that didn’t stop a lively jazz festival from filling the streets with music. Later that evening we visited the Art Gallery NSW which featured mainly Australian and Asian art (not much European art as they were a bit too late to the party). It also had a wide variety of modern art including the creepiest display I have ever seen in any museum . It’s painful for me to even recall the imagery in my mind, but I will try just for you. It was a life-like sculpture of some ape-girl-creature holding a baby made out of human adult hands. We took a picture of it, but decided to immediately delete it for obvious reasons… That night we strolled around the harbour to take some cool night shots of the Vivid art display (which was a light-show of sorts) before heading back to the hostel. I’ve had an incredible experience in Sydney and I hope the rest of my Australian adventure lives up to this extraordinary start!