Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sydney 2013 : Day 2 - Of Biking & Fireworks

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Sydney 2013 : Day 2 - Of Biking & Fireworks
 28th September 2013
After a nice and slow first day that warmed us to the city, today is going to be adventurous and colourful. The adventure will be in a cycling tour of the city and the colours will be fireworks in the evening; it will be a good and well balanced day. So let's go riding first!

Cycling Around Down-town Sydney

Graeme of Bike Buff & the me.
I have a passion for cycling (see AhPek Biker's blogs), and of late, I have made it a point to cycle in any country that I visit. Taking a slow ride around Sydney by myself would have been lovely, but realistically I was on a short 5-day holiday with my wife. Taking some time off for cycling was already a luxury. So while Lynn was off shopping, I was a "bachelor" for half the day and joined Bike Buff for their cyclo-tour of the city.
Graeme, the ride leader, was surprisingly sprightly for a man his age. And here I was thinking that I am old; he is proof that cycling does give good exercise and keeps one physically fit.

L-R : me, Simon, Carolyn, Toby and Bindy.
My new biking  friends and companions for half the day were Simon and Carolyn from another part of Australia; Bindy and Toby from southern most tip of South Island, New Zealand.

We met at the Old Garrison Church at Lower Fort Street, it's a small church but looks old and lovely. From there we cycled upwards to the Old Observatory. Situated on one of the higher spots of the city, this place offers a very good panoramic view of the sea and the South Sydney's city skyline on the opposite side.

It was a short ride from there to the Harbour Bridge. To get to the deck level of the bridge, we had to climb up some stairs. With my poor back, I was a bit concerned about having to carry my bicycle up. Fortunately, Sydney is a very cycle-friendly city, at the centre of the stairs was a narrow ramp where we could push I bicycles up as we stepped up.

At the top of the stairs we made our first physical acquaintance with this landmark bridge and soon we were riding on the dedicated cycling lanes of the bridge itself, on the iconic mid-span and over to the other side of the Parramatta River.

At the mid-span, the bridge looks like any other steel bridge from the early 20th Century. From close up it is no beauty, just a connection of large black steel piers and beams. The Sydneysiders "lovingly" call it the Coat-hanger, it does look like one!

I wonder then, what makes the Sydney Harbour Bridge stands out from so many around the world? Perhaps it's very outstanding position on a wide blue river amidst beautiful surrounding that makes it easily recognizable. From most part of down-town Sydney, the bridge is very visible.

The superb location of the bridge gives us an all round bird's eye view of the the city, from the towering skyline of it's business district, to Opera House and to the quieter residential area. All is a nice balance of green and blue.

Over on the other side, it was cycling under the bridge now, on the grassy lawn of the Olympic Park to head for the riverside.

And a good panoramic view of the Opera House.

Over at Milson's point next to the Luna Park, we took turns to do the butterfly jump. Toby did a great one, with his arms well apart and legs too. It looked like he had just jumped off from the bridge.
When it came to my turn, I looked more like a clumsy frog than a dainty butterfly (see topmost photo); but still it's a photo that I will treasure dearly.

Graeme knew his route well, taking us through small coves and through a hidden tunnel that led to steps that went upwards to...

... a secret garden! This is Wendy's Secret Garden, a fairly large garden on gentle undulating slopes planted with semi-tropical trees, bushes, ferns, etc. This place was transformed from a derelict piece of land into a very fine garden by Wendy Whiteley at her own expense and time.

If I found this place amazing, the locals here must find it enchanting. Imagine, just a few hundred meters from the Harbour Bridge is this large garden so well planted that it resembled a forest. It's much more than a park, with many of the trees growing in a seemingly uncoordinated natural beauty.

In this peaceful garden, under the shady trees, we had a simple picnic, chatting and getting to know each other better.

From that quiet, serene garden we popped over to the Kirribilli flea market. It's a hopscotch of stalls selling food from all over the world - Russian Blynis, Dutch Poffertjes, French Macarons, etc.

I had the Turkish Gozleme as my brunch, it's a very thick sausage in a long bun and garnished in spicy sauce.

We are riding back on the Harbour Bridge again, crossing back to North Sydney. This time a train came whooshing by. The bridge has several lanes, with some for motorised vehicles, one for the train, and on one edge a lane dedicated for cyclists. On the other edge is a lane dedicated for pedestrians. It is a fine example of sharing the roads without clashing of traffic!

The profile view of the Opera House from Dawes Point is one of the best. Here we took turns to pose sexily with the Opera House in the background. Are my curves better than that of the curved roofs? There's no argument there, definitely mine! - *smirk embarassingly*

We rode right into the grounds of the Opera House. Up close the building looks even more majestic, like an eagle on its aquiline perch. Even today after decades, it is still one of the most modern looking structure in the world.

The Royal Botanic Gardens is just right at the doorsteps of the Opera House. We did some pushing as cycling is not allowed inside the gardens. The nice, strong cooling wind blowing in from the turquoise sea was made it too tempting, we just had to cycle there.  But as we rode, our eyes were on the look out for park rangers, there is a hefty fine of AUD200 for this offence. Nevertheless the breezy ride was enjoyable and we were ready to jump off our bicycles at any instance of spotting a ranger!

Cutting across down-town Sydney, we reached the Darling Harbour, the colourful fluttering flags greeting us and cheering us on. Cycling around Sydney is a great way to see the city; within one morning we had seen most of the major iconic sites, a good sampling of the places for further visits (read more at Cycling Sydney blog).
AND later in the evening, I will be back to Darling Harbour but then it will be with my own darling. This teaser visit was thus a fitting close to our cycling adventure.

Fireworks At Darling Harbour

After the exciting biking stint, back at the apartment, I met up with Lynn. She had been busy too! She went shopping for some clothes for the kids and lots of chocolates for friends back home.
We took a short rest, but I was eager to show her Darling Harbour - to show her how nice and colourful the place is.

In the evening we proceeded there; from Market Street we took a nice, leisurely dusk stroll on the Pyrmont wooden bridge to cross over to the other side of the harbour. The fluttering colourful flags in the breezy evening slowly building up our excitement to see more.

This being a Saturday night, the partying crowd was out in full force.... and in full regalia too, dressed to kill like these vampirellas.

At one of the many eateries there we had a simple dinner with a good beach side view; eagerly waiting for what is to come next...


The fireworks may not be one of the best, but it does add to the gaiety of the place. If you do visit Darling Harbour, do it on a Saturday evening - that's when the music, lights and happy crowd comes out. It's a colourfully happening place!

It has been an energetic day, one of adventure and lights. Tomorrow will be a calmer day but none-the-less interesting too. Good night.

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