Thursday, September 18, 2008

Last View of Sydney...For Now

I’ve put off this post for a long time because it’s probably the last one I’ll do about Sydney. I’ve been busy back at school and trying my hand at sports reporting for the Columbia Missourian. I am still looking for my next opportunity to go back to Oz. Until then, one final reflection:

I actually cried for the city.

The plane had just taken off and I began to recognize the landmarks below. I could point out Randwick Racetrack, Centennial Park and the Sydney Football Stadium first. Then it was easy to spot the gothic buildings and green ovals of Sydney Uni. I could see Hyde Park and the beaches beyond it. Then we reached the harbour. Wouldn’t you know it, the plane started to turn just then, dipping the wing so I could get a full view of the bridge, Opera House and skyline one more time.

That’s when the tears came.

I’d been sad earlier that week when my all my friends left before me. I cried a little after they were gone and at a few points during the next two lonely days. But when I choked up on the plane, I wasn’t thinking about the people I’d miss or how fast the semester had gone. I honestly cried because the city looked gorgeous and I knew I’d miss living it.

The harbour was unbelievably blue as always, freckled with white sails. The Opera House and bridge were perfectly centered in my window. I didn’t have a camera, but I won’t ever forget that image. I can’t emphasize enough how blue it was. The harbour, the ocean, the sky. This was a view of Sydney begging me to return.

The plane continue to turn and I got a head-on look at Darling Harbour, Circular Quay and the Botanical Gardens. I loved that I could spot everything so easily. I’d been all around the city and looked at maps more times than you’ll ever know. I could see the Anzac Bridge, Luna Park, Balls Head Reserve. I got one last view of Manly Beach and the North Head, and then it was ocean for the next 13 hours.

As much as I wanted to stay, I am completely satisfied with my trip. I set out to explore and I did. There’s always more to see and do, but I think I got to know the city better than most. Hopefully the posts here will encourage travelers, and even residents, to get out and see new parts of Sydney. Or any city. Just explore.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Walking Shoes

Wherever I end up living, it needs to be walkable. Walking is definitely my favorite way to get around. And I don’t mind long walks because it just means there’s more to see along the way.

I loved walking in Sydney. It felt smaller and less overwhelming after the first week of exploring on foot. I realized it was only 15 minutes from my house to the mall on Broadway. Fifteen from there to Darling Harbour. Another 15 to Hyde Park, and by the end of an hour I could be at the Opera House or Botanical Gardens.

I walked to all the places people said were too far to walk to. A few miles to Paddington? No sweat. The walk back from Centennial Park? Got it.

I used public transportation enough, but I’m a bit impatient for all the stop and go. I’d rather keep walking, crossing on red and diagonalling through parks.

So walk I did. I can’t even imagine how much. I had to lay my denim Chucks to rest. I had those Converse high-tops since senior year of high school. I rotate through a few pairs of shoes, but these were the best for times when I knew I’d be walking a lot in the city. Even after the red soles were worn down and the backs had torn, I wore those shoes a few more times.

As much as I wish I didn’t have to, I left the ragged pair in Sydney. I think they would have wanted it that way.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

One Last Exploration

On my train ride to and from work twice a week I would pass Waverton Station, which has a big sign for Balls Head. After all the times I saw the sign and snickered, smirked or snorted at the name, I finally looked up Balls Head the last week I was there.

Balls Head is a little reserve in North Sydney with walking trails and picnic spots. I decided it’s be a great last exploration with my friend Becky.

It was a beautiful day so we wanted to enjoy the early winter sun. We wanted to do something we hadn’t done before, though I thought it’d be good to say goodbye to Sydney’s familiar spots.

Balls Head is right on the water a few stops over the Harbour Bridge so we got a new view of the Opera House and the skyline. It was a perfect panorama from North Sydney over the Harbour Bridge to the CBD and Darling Harbour, across the Anzac Bridge to Balmain and Rozelle.

It was a nice little walk and a fitting end to our adventures.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sydney Weddings

One of our hobbies in Sydney was taking photos of people taking wedding photos. Sydney is one of the most scenic cities I’ve seen, and there are just so many great spots to serve as your matrimonial backdrop. Argyle Park in the Rocks is a common spot.

So are the Botanical Gardens.

And just outside the Domain.

Balmoral is lovely.

As were these spots near the beach in Terrigal.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with iconic either.

(The last shot, probably my favorite, was taken by my partner in crime, Becca.)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Last Fish Supper

The last dish I made in Sydney was fish in green curry. As I’ve said before, I never follow recipes to a tee. For this one I sautéed an onion and garlic in green curry paste, then added what seemed like appropriate amounts of chilies, ginger, lemongrass and lime zest.

I continued to add coconut milk until the whole thing wasn’t unbearably spicy.

I threw in bamboo shoots, bell pepper capsicum and green beans. I mostly cooked the angelfish separately so it wouldn’t absorb too much heat when I tossed it in the pot.

We didn’t do anything fancy presentation-wise, but the whole thing was tasty with just enough bite. The fish was perfect in texture and flavor, so I thank the woman at the fish market upstairs above Paddy’s Market for telling me which one to get.

The real star was dessert, custard-filled puffs from Puffy at upstairs Paddy’s. I could watch the workers at the custard machines fill those baked puff pastries all day. I bought a dozen, and let me tell you, best $16.80 I ever spent.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Little Things

Journalism is all about the details. An amateur piece is filled with description but doesn't say anything. A good piece shows the big picture but misses subtle elements that stir readers’ emotions. A great piece includes meaningful details so people both learn and feel something when they read it.

I try to notice details all the time. Anyone who has walked with me knows I’ll stop several times to say, “Look at this,” “Feel this,” or “Hey, what’s in here?”

I’m always looking up and down and around because I know there’s more going on than what’s in front of me.

These are just a few of the tiny things I noticed on bushwalks. In the city it might be architecture or people that make me stop and look. A lot of times it’s a pastry display.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Love and Sydney

Someone asked me the other day what my favorite thing about Australia was. He prefaced his question with an apology because he was sure everyone had asked me already. Curiously — and thankfully — no one had. I’ve always been terrible at naming favorites. It’s so limiting.

You know when you love someone, there’s not just one thing you love about them. You love everything about them...And everything about them makes you love them more. I tried to think of what I loved about Sydney, but I couldn't pin it down.

I did fall in love while I was in Australia. Everyone was convinced I’d meet an Aussie boy and never want to come home. It turned out the boy part wasn’t necessary. I fell in love with the city.

I thought I’d travel the country more — and I’d still love to — but there was so much to Sydney and its surrounding suburbs that I didn’t want to miss. There are so many neighborhoods to explore, parks to enjoy, restaurants to try, markets to rummage, and views to admire. The beaches are beautiful. The city is so clean (which is remarkable because I could never find a trashcan when I needed one).

But I could list characteristics or even specific spots that I loved, and it still wouldn’t tell the whole story. Because love is never just about the object, is it? Love is about the way we feel. I’ve always thought we love people in terms of how much they make us love ourselves. I suppose the same is true for cities.

I liked the person Sydney brought out of me. I was positive; I was adventurous. Silly little things wouldn’t bother me, and yet, silly little things could also make me really happy. I felt mature and independent, but always let the little kid in me play. Most of the time I was there, I felt in balance. I met some great friends and had incredible times.

My favorite thing about Australia was that it inspired me to seize every day I had there, and I was rarely disappointed with what I found.

Friday, July 25, 2008

One Thing

There is really only one thing I wish I’d done that I didn’t while I was in Sydney: go on a boat.

Oh sure, I rode some ferries across the harbour, but I’m talking personal sailboat style. Every time I saw them out on the water, I imagined making friends with the owner and being invited aboard. It’s the type of thing that would have turned into what my friends would call a Brittany Story. (See: How I met Jane)

I even heard that on Sunday mornings at Rushcutters Bay you can often find people who will bring you along. They say it’s easier to get picked if you have sailing experience, but you’ve gotta learn somehow, right? I was convinced someone would let me on their boat.

Unfortunately, once I learned about Rushcutters, the weather got cooler and school got busier. We just never found a Sunday to wake up early enough and spend the day out there. Still, every time I saw a boat, I told my friends, “I bet they would take us on their boat.”

Next time...

Good Ol' Paddy's

The Paddy’s Market is the place for cheap anything. Souvenirs, sunglasses, electronics, knockoffs, plants, cosmetics, lingerie, stuffed animals, hardware, jewelry...It’s the place to go for any stupid little thing you need but don’t want to pay much money for. And don’t care whether it breaks the second time you use it.

My favorite reason to go to Paddy’s was the produce. Being the center of Haymarket, which is like Chinatown, Paddy’s is mostly run and frequented by Asian-Australians. The place is a bustle of bodies and shouting, with fruit and cash being exchanged at a dizzying pace. You will get bumped into and not apologized to.

But with a level head and a little practice, you can make Paddy’s work for you. I loved that no matter what I bought, I rarely had to pull out a bill. It’s easy to lose track of how much you spend when you’re paying with coins at each stand, but it never adds up to very much. Usually I was only buying ingredients for one night’s meal so the amounts I needed were so small that sometimes they wouldn’t even charge me.

My most expensive single purchase at Paddy’s came when I was buying for a big party fiesta: 21 limes for $7 (which is just slightly less in U.S. dollars).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Back to the Beginning

When I was abroad, the woman in charge of our house put me in contact with an American girl who’d be coming next semester through the same program I did. Now she’s in Oz, discovering Sydney and meeting all my friends from the house, and I have to say, I’m jealous.

Anyway, I thought I’d post these shots from my first evening in Australia during my study abroad orientation on the Mornington Peninsula of Victoria. I remember being baffled that Melbourne’s summer was colder than the 80-degree winter days I’d just had in LA.