Sydney, the largest gateway into the country, is truly a melting pot of culture. From the Indian-origin boy at the 7 Eleven till to my extremely talkative Bangladeshi taxi driver who thought five cars at a signal was ‘heavy traffic’, you find all sorts in Sydney.
Take a bow
The iconic Sydney Opera House plays host to the best plays and performances in the world (to my great joy, George Bernard Shaw’s plays were a regular feature the week I was in town). But the beauty does not lie in just the theatrics. Regular tours are conducted through the Sydney Opera House, regaling visitors with tales of the making of the building, right from design selection to the acoustics of each auditorium, as well as the heart-breaking tale of what made the designer leave without ever seeing his masterpiece complete (No spoilers!).
The Sydney Harbour Bridge, fondly known as ‘The Hanger’ among locals due to it’s strange shape, does the noble job of connecting the CBD to the suburbs across the harbour. But the builders were not satisfied with just that. As a result, we found ourselves in protective gear, strapped to the railing of the Bridge, climbing the multitude of steps that took us to the centre, a viewing deck from where we enjoyed a stunning view of the city on either side of the harbour. What we embarked on was the twilight climb, one that starts towards sunset, so by the time we reached the summit, the city was all lit up. Mind you, it is rumoured to be the most romantic climb of the day, so you probably shouldn’t climb it alone like I did!
Walk it off
While there is an abundance of tours in Sydney, my favourite were the walking tours around the city. I took two called ‘I am Free’, run by volunteers born and raised in the city that works entirely on tips. A day tour has them walk you to all the heritage buildings while narrating entertaining stories of the place’s significance. An evening ‘The Rocks’ tour takes you through the precinct of the same name, and shows you all the bars vying for the position of ‘oldest bar in Sydney’, and tells entertaining (yet disturbing) stories of the mobs that functioned in the region. My favourite was the one about a man being cooked alive (Please don’t judge me!).
Queen Victoria Building
The Queen Victoria Building, a heritage structure, stands proud in the centre of the CBD, and houses some of the most prestigious shops and cafes in town. I walked, on the insistence of my colleague Jennifer, into the Old Vienna Café at the top floor, and straight into an Enid Blyton induced coma. The scones and tea I had only read about in books unfurled in front of me in the form of tea. For those, like me, who only visited England through the pages of a book, should definitely pay a visit.
By the water
At the risk of sounding clichéd, one of my favourite evenings in Sydney was meeting an old school mate at the Harbour, and settling down at one of the waterfront restaurants overlooking the Sydney Opera House. With the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge all lit up, and a platter full of delicacies in front of you, is the way to spend an evening out in town.
You could walk through the lanes of Sydney and find the strangest sculptures and works of art where you least expect them. At a quiet corner of a square full of shops is the sculpture of man on a bench reading a newspaper. In one of the smaller lanes, you suddenly hear birds chirping and look up to see about 50 bird cages strung up to signify how trapped we are in our worlds.
And finally, the one that baffles me the most – on a busy road in The Rocks area, an American artist, who had bought himself a compact, cherry red car, parked it in the middle of the street, drew a face on a large boulder, and proceeded to drop said boulder on the car! Although I doubt anyone understood the significance, the car still stands in the middle of that street, a roundabout created about it so cars can drive past.
My cousin took me on to Surrey Street for great vegetarian food and delicious ice cream, followed by a walk down Oxford Street. You will recognise it immediately when you start walking down a lane that has scrumptious men in their knickers at the doors of every bar! It’s easy to believe that it’s also the road that hosts the annual Mardi Gras parade!