Thursday, March 22, 2012

Exploring Sydney

We had two days to explore Sydney before the Sydney Retreat. What a great city! To me, Sydney is a wonderful mix many of my favorite cities - New York City, Boston, Paris, London... I loved the old stately buildings mixed in with the shiny new ones. I loved the beautiful parks and churches, the buskers (street musicians), the outdoor cafes, the fancy shop displays, the pie and kebab shops on every corner, the kids in their school uniforms roving the city starting at about 3pm, plus the friendliness and helpfulness of every person we met. I loved hearing the accents and seeing shops and products that took me back to England where I used to live (Woolworths, Cadbury's, McVitties biscuits, muesli...)

April, Alia, Ashton and I stayed at a good hotel right in the center of it all and walked all over that beautiful city thanks to a great free walking tour (check out the I'm Free tours - one of the best tours ever and we used the free map like crazy as we did a lot of wandering on our own and visited most of the recommended free attractions- I love free stuff so much). We explored the Rocks (the oldest area of the city), Australia Square, Martin Place, Pitt Street Mall, Town Hall, the botanical gardens, the Art Museum of New South Wales, the currency museum, St Mary's and St Andrew's cathedrals, and Hyde Park plus we walked across the beautiful Harbor Bridge and explored the fabulous Sydney Opera House. We were busy - and happy - so happy.

In that collage above, you'll see the word "Eternity." Here's the story. In the early 1900's, the word "Eternity" started appearing all over the city of Sydney - written in chalk on sidewalks, buildings, you name it, always in the same handwriting. They'd clean off the writing and then the next morning, it would be everywhere again. Officials finally found out who'd been doing all this writing. An illiterate alcoholic petty criminal became interested in religion. He was sitting in a church service when the minister started talking about the concept of eternity. This man was taken with the beauty of the word and the concepts it represented and when the minister suggested the word should be written on the hearts and minds of every person, this convict took it upon himself to write "Eternity" all over the place. The word became very important to the resident of Sydney and is now found here and there in the city plus it's been emblazoned on the Harbor Bridge during their big harbor fireworks display for New Years and was featured in the 2000 Olympics opening ceremonies in Sydney. I love the concept of eternity and the idea that one person, no matter how humble and broken, can really make a difference.

Here's an overview in photos:

taking the train into the city from the airport

at the old Mint with Alia (April's daughter) and Ashton

"The Strand" - the oldest mall in Sydney

The "golden bucket" tower - landmark you can see from almost everywhere
Pitt Street Mall
The Harbor Bridge
The only images I really had in my head of Sydney was its iconic Opera House. I learned there's a whole lot more to Sydney. But it was very cool to see that opera house I've seen in photos all my life! Ashton and I went right up by it and explored the inside parts you could go in w/o paying the huge tour fee - the bathrooms alone were pretty impressive - light-up alcoves for the toilet paper, curved wood doors to the stalls.... There are actually 3 buildings there that look like one from afar - a restaurant, a concert hall and an opera house. The architecture is truly amazing. Totally interesting to learn about its history. Jorn Utzon, a relatively unknown architect from Denmark, won the international competition for an opera house design for Sydney. Then the building project went way overtime and way over budget and by the time it was finished, the architect was totally out of favor and wasn't even invited to the grand opening. Crazy! But now, according to the World Heritage Committee, "The Sydney Opera House stands by itself as one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th century but in the history of humankind." I guess that sometimes projects that are larger and harder and longer and more expensive than anyone could have anticipated can turn into truly wonderful successes - and the tough stuff fades away when you see the beauty of the final product.The Sydney Opera House sort of reminds me of The Power of Moms in some ways. I've seen the hard, long work that has often involved lots of overtime and has stretched the budget. And I've seen some exciting success in the emails we receive about Power of Moms changing lives. I do hope that this organization will be a thing of beauty for 1000's of mothers both now and in the future!
The Opera House - SO exciting to come around a corner and see it in person!

view of the city

Ashton's favorite food in Australia were the meat pies. With a "Pie Face" shop on every corner in Sydney, he was in heaven!
Here's Alia with a girl in her school uniform. They wear full-on school uniforms - matching hats, dresses, socks, shoes, everything. Made Ashton complain less about his school uniforms!

Here I am blogging (or trying to blog - bad internet connection) on the rooftop of our hotel while Alia and Ashton had a nice little swim.
View from the rooftop of the hotel - that's Hyde Park and St Mary's cathedral - the largest cathedral in the world built in modern times.
Ashton and I in Hyde Park
St Andrew's cathedral. I love cathedrals. I love the coolness, the calm, the quiet, the stained glass, the hard work and faith they represent. And the fact that they're free to visit is pretty nice too.

This picture in the Art Gallery of New South Wales totally reminded me of the gorgeous Gold Coast beaches were we'd just been. So beautifully painted.

Beautiful Aborigine art - sad to hear about how their population was almost totally wiped out by European settlers - sort of like the American Indians. Loved seeing their art and culture celebrated many places we went. The sound of the diggery doo from buskers was a great thing to hear as we walked around the city.
Ashton presenting the Sydney Opera house as we headed up to walk the bridge
walking across the harbor bridge just before sunset - amazing views, perfect weather, great times

After our walk across the bridge, Ashton and I sat down on a bench to watch the opera house light up on one side of the harbor while the sun set behind the bridge on the other side of the harbor. We enjoyed some great take-out Thai food and Ashton turned on a perfect song on my phone - "Good Life" by OneRepublic. It was so beautiful - a crystal moment. As we sat there smiling and tried to get I said I wished Jared could be there with us and Ashton sighed and said, "I'm going to bring a girl here some day and do this same thing. Maybe I'll even propose here." Clearly the magic had sunk in.

We tried to get some decent photos (none of mine worked out so the one above is one from Wikipedia that looks just how it looked as we sat there together) but I really can't capture the feeling of being with my wonderful boy in such a wonderful place after days of enjoying so many exciting adventures together and building memories that will last forever.


charity said...

wow, ashton! awesome about the proposal and also he needs to smile with his teeth! :) what a great adventure sar! i'm so jealous (obviously). love you!

Rachelle said...

What an amazing trip! You've got some beautiful photos, thanks for sharing the magic!

Corrie said...

Oh I just love all these photos and what you got up to. Being a Sydney girl I'm so proud of my hometown and forgot how beautiful it is!

So glad you enjoyed your stay!

gorgeous photos and so glad the weather was so nice for you too!


kelly said...

Beautiful glad you had a lovely time in Sydney..its such a gorgeous place..

emily ballard said...

Great pictures! That's awesome that Ashton said that about bringing a girl there someday :) And that rooftop pool picture is so pretty it almost looks fake!

Eyrealm said...

I'm so happy for you both! You sure learned a lot more than we did while we were there. I guess we've got to go back! Wonderful pictures and deep thoughts!

shawni said...

Oh it all looks so amazing! I wish I could have been with you especially for this because you're SO good at figuring out the best things to fit into traveling. This is so beautiful!


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