Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sydney Sojourn

Well, it seems I left the Twin Cities just at the right time. My Minnesota home is currently experiencing one of the biggest blizzards on record! According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune (from which the photo at right was taken), the snow storm has "pretty much paralyzed the metro area and much of the rest of Minnesota."

It's (literally) worlds away from Australia, where the summer weather is . . . well, I won't rub it in for my snow-bound Minnesota friends reading this!

As you can see from the opening image, I arrived from the U.S. into Sydney. That was just this past Friday morning, December 10.

Left: A welcoming banner at Sydney International Airport. I guess if I could humorously personalize it, it would read "Welcome home, Homo!"

My flight from Los Angeles landed at around 7:30 a.m. After clearing customs I caught a city train to Sydney's Central Station where I purchased my train ticket to Port Macquarie for the next day. I was also able to leave my big suitcase at Central so as to go out and wander around the CBD (central business district) of the city. I had several hours to spare before meeting up with my good friend Garth and his wife Jenya later in the day.

Above: The beautiful blooms of a jacaranda tree outside Central Station. No, it's not something you see in Minnesota at any time of the year!

Above: The art deco facade of the Great Southern Hotel, between two very different architectural styles – a rather ugly modern one at left, and a stately federation style at right. I like capturing images showing contrasting architectural styles and components. I took a number of such shots while walking around Sydney's CBD last Friday. I think by far the most interesting is this one . . .

Above: Irish sculptor John Hughes' stature of Queen Victoria, located at the southern end of Sydney's popular Queen Victoria Building (or QVB).

The statue originally stood outside the legislative assembly of the Republic of Ireland – Dáil Éireann in Leinster House, Dublin – until 1947. It was given to the people of Sydney by the Government of the Republic of Ireland, apparently to prevent its destruction by the IRA. It was placed on its present site in 1987, after the restoration of the QVB.

Above: The Queen Victoria Building – Friday, December 10, 2010.

Notes Wikipedia:

The Romanesque Revival building is 190 metres long by 30 wide, and fills a city block, bounded by George, Market, York and Druitt Streets. Designed as a shopping centre, it was later used for a variety of other purposes until its restoration and return to its original use in the late twentieth century.

Above: One of two mechanical clocks inside Sydney's Queen Victoria Building. This one is called the Great Australian Clock.

Notes Wikipedia:

Designed and made by Chris Cook, the Great Australian Clock weighs four tonnes and stands ten metres tall. It includes 33 scenes from Australian history, seen from both Aboriginal and European perspectives. An Aboriginal hunter circles the exterior of the clock continuously, representing the never-ending passage of time.

Above: Australia’s first skyscraper!

Yes, from 1967-1976 this iconic circular tower was the tallest building in Sydney. Now you'd be hard pressed to spot it, given that so many taller buildings surround it. It’s officially known as the Tower Building and is the main feature of a retail and business complex known as Australia Square.

About the Tower Building Wikipedia notes:

It was the world's tallest light weight concrete building at the time it was built. The Tower Building is approximately 170 metres tall and occupies only one quarter of the block. The original proposal included 58 floors however this was reduced to 50. On the 47th floor is a revolving restaurant called The Summit and the 48th floor houses an observation deck. The building contains one of Sydney's largest basement car parks with spaces for 400 vehicles.

The large abstract steel sculpture at the base of the Tower Building and which can be seen in the photo above, is by American sculptor Alexander Calder.

Above: Another interesting collection of contrasting architectural styles in Sydney's CBD. I took this photograph as I was walking down George St. toward Sydney Harbour.

Above and below: The historic area around Sydney Harbour known as The Rocks.

The area known as The Rocks has an interesting history, as Wikipedia documents:

The Rocks became established shortly after the colony's formation in 1788. The original buildings were made mostly of local sandstone, from which the area derives its name. From the earliest history of the settlement, the area had a reputation as a slum, often frequented by visiting sailors and prostitutes. During the late 19th century, the area was dominated by a gang known as the Rocks Push. It maintained this rough reputation until approximately the 1870s.

By the early 20th century, many of the area's historic buildings were in serious decay. In 1900, bubonic plague broke out, and the state government resumed areas around The Rocks and Darling Harbour, with the intention of demolishing them and rebuilding them. Part of the area was demolished, but redevelopment plans were stalled by the outbreak of World War I. During the 1920s, several hundred buildings were demolished during the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. However, the outbreak of World War II once again stalled many of the redevelopment plans, and it was not until the 1960s that serious attempts to demolish much of the area were revived.

In 1968, the state government gave control of The Rocks to the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority, with the intention of demolishing all the original buildings, re-developing them as high-density residential dwellings. In February 1971, a group of local residents formed the Rocks Residents Group to oppose the plans. They felt that the new dwellings would result in increased rents, which would force out the traditional residents of the area. The residents' group requested a Green ban from the Builder's Labourers Federation, who had become increasingly active in preventing controversial developments over the previous four years.

By 1973, the union had imposed the ban, and after discussions with the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority, a 'People's Plan' was developed. By October 1973, it appeared that the redevelopment would proceed as originally planned, using non-union labor. For two weeks, demonstrations by local residents and unionists followed, with numerous arrests being made. Liberal Premier Robert Askin was in the midst of an election campaign, and used the protests as a means of conveying his law and order message to voters. However, the green ban stayed in place until 1975, when the state union leadership was overthrown, and was ultimately successful, as can be seen in the buildings that survive today. Instead of demolishing The Rocks, renovations transformed the area into a commercial and tourist precinct.

Above: The Orient Hotel at The Rocks in Sydney. I also visited the nearby "Fortune of War," reputedly Sydney's oldest pub!

Above: Office workers enjoying their lunch break by Sydney Harbour. The city's famed Opera House is in the background.

Normally, some huge ocean liner is docked at the Overseas Passenger Terminal pictured above. But not last Friday. Instead, one had a clear view of Sydney's Circular Quay, located on the northern edge of Sydney's CBD on Sydney Cove, between Bennelong Point and The Rocks.

Above: Looking across Campbell's Cove to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Above: The Sydney Opera House, which was conceived and largely built by Danish architect Jørn Utzon.

In 2003 Utzon received the Pritzker Prize, architecture's highest honour. The Pritzker Prize citation stated:

There is no doubt that the Sydney Opera House is his masterpiece. It is one of the great iconic buildings of the 20th century, an image of great beauty that has become known throughout the world – a symbol for not only a city, but a whole country and continent.

Above: My friends Garth and Jenya at their Newtown home – Friday, December 10, 2010.

Above: On Saturday morning, December 11, Garth and I visited the Eveleigh Farmers' Market, housed in the renovated railway workshop at Sydney's historic Eveleigh Railyards.

We also spent time taking in the sights of Newtown -- including King Street (above) and the many rows of colorful terrace houses (below) that can be found throughout this inner-city suburb (or neighborhood, as they'd say in the US).

Above: Newtown's Imperial Hotel, which was featured in the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Right: An advertisement in the window of the Imperial, attesting to the fact that it isn't just a gay establishment in the movies! Indeed, the Imperial is described as an "iconic venue within the Australian lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual community."

Mmm . . . I'll have to check it out sometime!

Above: Newtown's Enmore Road.

Above: The Union Hotel on King Street, Newtown.

My Great Aunt Phyllis (my Dad's mother's sister) worked as a barmaid at the Union in the 1940s and '50s. She also worked for many years at the nearby Stanmore Hotel.

I'll close this post with some photos of Aunty Phyllis . . .

Above: Aunty Phyllis (right) and friend. This photo was probably taken at the Stanmore Hotel sometime in the 1950s.

Above: Mum with Aunty Phyllis, standing in front of Phyllis' Newtown terrace house on Union Street in 1960.

Above: Phyllis holding me as a child in January 1968. This photo was taken when Phyllis visited my hometown of Gunnedah for my older brother Chris' 5th birthday.

Above: My parents and I pictured with Aunty Phyllis and her longtime partner Frank in 1983. We're at Phyllis and Frank's apartment in Ashfield, an inner city suburb of Sydney not far from Newtown.

Garth first met Aunty Phyllis and Frank in 1992. Pictured above (from left) Frank, Jeremiah, Phyllis and Garth.

Phyllis passed away on June 8, 1996 at the age of 83. Frank died on the same day seven years later in 2002.

As a child, my father lived with Phyllis in Sydney during the Second World War (see here). Throughout my childhood and adolescence, my family made numerous trips to Sydney from Gunnedah to visit Phyllis and Frank. As a young adult, I often visited them from Goulburn and stayed with them in their Ashfield apartment. In many ways they were my family's connection to Sydney. And to this day it feels strange to be in Sydney and not have them there.

Still, I had a wonderful recent sojourn in Sydney – in large part due to the warm hospitality of my good friend Garth and his wife.

At 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, Garth drove me to Central Station where I boarded a train to Wauchope – the town on the North Coast Line closest to my parents' home in Port Macquarie. It's about a seven hour train ride from Sydney to Wauchope – and a very scenic one. Even before leaving the States I was aware that large areas of New South Wales have been recently subjected to heavy rains and major flooding. This was evident in the overcast skies, soggy fields and swollen rivers observable as the train traveled northward from Sydney.

My parents were waiting to greet me at the Wauchope train station. And it was great to see them again after almost a year!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Newtown (2008)
"Harbour City" Sights (2008)
Last Days in Australia (2007)
Travelin' South (2006)


Brian R said...

Thanks for the tour of now my old home. I will be returning next Monday but was there in August as I am only across the ditch in NZ. Am not looking forward to the humidity which was a reason for leaving but family want me home for Christmas. I will have to have a good look at that clock in the QVB. Must have walked under it 100's of times but knew nothing about it. By the way it is Enmore Road. Sydney is a nice place to visit (when not too humid) but I much prefer Dunedin.

Carol said...

Hi Michael,

It was good to take a trip to Sydney in between shovel sessions!

Mick said...

You left MN just in time. Sydney and you seem like a perfect match.

Noelle and the gang said...

So glad to hear that you made it over the blue yonder. We miss you already.

You left your hat, but at this frozen moment in time, and I mean frozen, you don't really need it.
We have a foot of snow on the ground and the dogs are somewhat confused about it. Wish you were here!!!!

Please give our love to your parents. They have raised a wonderful gentleman.

Happy surfing!

Mareczku said...

I looked at the pictures this morning but just now finished reading all the commentary. Great job as always, Michael. I wonder if I will ever make it to Australia.

Phillip Clark said...

So glad to see you were able to get back home for the Holidays. But I have to ask...have you thought at all how you're going to face what awaits you when you get back to the States...? =P But for now, I wish you a blessed and fulfilled duration of the remainder of your Holiday - have a Merry Christmas!