Terra Cognita

Friends, it’s been an incredible week and I feel like I’m not going to be able to adequately describe it for you. But this would be a lousy blog indeed if I didn’t at least try.

On Saturday, I departed Seoul and headed out, after a short layover in Kuala Lumpur, to Sydney. I arrived in the evening and it had been raining all day. I was staying with a friend I met in the REC course in Ireland who lives in the city, and she picked me up. Straight away, she took me to the so-called Mrs. MacQuarie’s Chair (named after the wife of the first governor of New South Wales) for my first iconic view of Australia–a red-illuminated Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

The rain continued pretty heavily through the night, so the next morning I decided to check off a few indoor activities. My friend lives quite in the center of the city, so it was a quick walk to the Australian Museum first thing. There were a number of beautiful and interesting artifacts, mostly from Australia and Oceania but also around the world. I learned some about Australian history, especially Aboriginal culture and modern treatment. There were also lots of animals, dinosaur bones, and a super cool mineral collection.

By the time I emerged, the rain had mostly cleared, so I took the opportunity to walk through Hyde Park and see all that’s there, including several neat statues (importantly one of Captain Cook) and a gorgeous fountain. Next, it was on to the State Library for a quick look at what I heard was a stellar reading room–it did not disappoint! Importantly, there was a monument outside to Matthew Flinders, an explorer, and beside it was a monument to his cat, Trim: “the most affectionate of friends, faithful of servants, and best of creatures.”

Then it was down the road to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. There was a special exhibition on featuring The Lady and the Unicorn, which I wanted to see. The gallery itself is in a wonderful building, as it ought to be, and the collection of Australian and international art was superb. The exhibit was super interesting, on a collection of medieval tapestries that are pretty mysterious but likely represent allegories of the six medieval senses (the sixth being that of the heart or reason).

Just cross the street from the gallery and you’ll be at the Botanical Gardens. Most of my Australian friends highly recommended it and, I’ll tell you now, I spent quite a bit of my limited time there. They were absolutely stunning. The trees, the flowers, the birds, the sun, the water. It was all pretty incredible. Pictures won’t do it, or the view, justice so you’ll just have to trust me unless you can see it for yourself.

After the gardens, it was back into the city a bit, around Cockle Bay and Darling Harbour and up an old quarry to see Anzac Bridge. I feel like I’ve written quite a bit and that was just day one but I’m not sorry and I’ll keep going.

Tuesday morning, I started relatively early to walk around a different part of town and over to Barangaroo Reserve, a lovely and relatively recently done bit of nature (not that Sydney is lacking nature). I walked around the water and across the Harbour Bridge for some more excellent views of the Opera House. Then I took the ferry (I love ferries) to Manly (supposedly so named for the very masculine aboriginals seen there by Europeans entering the harbor) for an afternoon at the beach (parenthesis parenthesis parenthesis). Manly is a wonderful and cute beachy town and I didn’t even get that sunburned!

I called it a day fairly early because that night I was due at the opera!! I had never been and I figured a world-famous landmark would be an appropriate place to see my first. It was Carmen and it was incredible though I had forgotten, spoiler alert, that Don José kills her! A terrific day and night.

On Wednesday, I met with another friend and we drove out to the Blue Mountains to see the Three Sisters. A stunning view over the valley and forest. Absolutely gorgeous countryside. We had planned on doing some more exploring but were running short on time so we just had lunch in a cute/wacky little café in Katoomba and then drove back. I left my friend in Newtown and walked back through a fun area filled with little shops and cafés and all sorts of neat places.

That night for dinner, the friend I stayed with took me to a pie place (the savory kind) apparently legendary among sailors. It’s right on the water near the naval base. So we had pies with mash and mushy peas before heading into the gardens for a deeply beautiful sunset over the city.

When I travel, I typically try to find the things that really annoy me so that I can get a balanced assessment of the place and think about whether or not I could live there. For Sydney, definitely the number one struggle would be the heat (it wasn’t even that hot for my time but I was Hot). But I think, after weighing as much information as I could, I would totally be willing to live in Sydney. So get me a job there or an Australian husband (because that’s a thing there now, yay) so I can get a visa ASAP.

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I’ve been blessed in my life to have a number of dreams come true, and the upcoming couple of weeks are going to be another one. Though in different ways and for different reasons than Croatia, I’ve long hoped to visit New Zealand and that’s where I arrived this afternoon. I’m very, very pleased to be joined by my sister and her boyfriend and we’ve quite an exciting itinerary planned. Stay tuned for adventures that will, in all probability, be beyond my description of them.

 

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