As I previously mentioned, my hotel window overlooked Hyde Park in downtown Sydney, and every night this gorgeous building was illuminated and shone through the trees. Walking up to it during the day, it loomed over the lawns and water features and was a stark reminder of Australia’s war efforts from the turn of the last century up to today. On my second day there, I venture inside and this stunning bronze sculpture of a fallen soldier (Sacrifice by George Rayner Hoff – 1934) greeted me as I entered the lower exhibition halls…
You could feel the solemnity and national pride in the coolness of the marble halls. I viewed a number of WWI and WWII displays as well as Vietnam exhibitions and was overwhelmed by the photos, artifacts and information posted in the display cabinets. I had to sit down and rest for a bit just to absorb what I had seen and felt. All my school history lessons came flooding back and I only wished I had paid closer attention back in the 60s – this memorial brought history to life!
I spent nearly an hour in the gift shop, talking with a lovely gentleman who volunteers there regularly to assist with informing visitors as well as sales & donations. I purchased a beautiful pendant with a tiny round glass case of red dirt from the heart of Australia, a golden keyring in the shape of an Aussie digger’s hat made from an old genuine penny (handcrafted by the Vietnam Veterans Association), plus a series of postcards – my contribution to the upkeep and fundraising for the memorial. Stepping outside into the bright daylight, I headed towards a very unusual sculpture….a group of giant bullets and casings!This stunning and massive art installation is a tribute to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who served in the Australian military. If you visit Sydney, I strongly recommend you visit Hyde Park and the ANZAC memorial to learn how important Australia’s war efforts were to all previous wars and how many lives were sacrificed so we may enjoy our freedoms. www.anzacmemorial.nsw.gov.au
Touchdown! It was late in the evening when my plane landed at Kingsford Smith airport in Sydney (named for a famous early Aussie aviation hero), and the first thing I did after passing through customs was….get a meat pie! Yummmm…I’ve been jonesing for an Aussie meat pie for years and fortunately there was one café open in the airport and yes, they had meat pies!I hopped in a cab and headed with my pie in hand to the Hyde Park Inn, a modest hotel located in the downtown core, overlooking the famous park. What a great view I had.. My first morning in Sydney started with a bucket of latte from Starbucks (below) 1 block down from the hotel. Friendly staff ended up taking care of me for 4 days and got my coffees just right! BEWARE: in Australia there is no such thing as drip coffee. Everything is based on espresso and boy are their coffees (all styles) super strong. I learnt quickly to request 1/2 strength in cafes – fortunately in nearly all the hotels I stayed there were kettles and packets of instant coffee which was just fine for me. Anyway, my daily breakfasts were ham and cheese toasties (toasted sandwiches) which were delicious, fast and convenient.
While waiting a few days for my friend and travel companion, Suzi, to join me, I decided to do some touristy things including a sightseeing trip around town on the Big Bus. Although it was a bit chilly (it was late spring Down Under), I took a seat up top in the open upper deck. I loved seeing the bus stops with shout-outs to indigenous language and recognizing the land and tribe associated with the region.
The city of Sydney has a very distinct vibe: high-energy, raucous, fight-or-flight. I’ve become used to Toronto’s noise and chaos but Sydney is a whole other world! In fact, I couldn’t wait to get outta town and start my outback adventures. I did love visiting the Queen Victoria Building, filled with exclusive boutiques, lots of cafes and sweet/cake bars, filled with olde worlde charm and stunning architecture.So many other great old buildings to admire and the wide pedestrian-friendly sidewalks…The next day, I decided to visit the big ANZAC memorial in the park opposite my hotel…I’d been looking at it from my window for 2 days so it was time for me to explore and learn about the Australian New Zealand Army Corp. history from WWI thru Vietnam and the middle east. I knew it would be an emotional journey so…..it deserves its own blog post (tomorrow).