Monday, May 9, 2011

Sydney, Day 1: St Mary's, Art Gallery, Botanic Gardens, Opera House, Pizza in The Rocks

Woke at 8am Sydney time. Hurrah! The Angel works Tuesday-Saturday so today is like her Sunday, therefore waking at 8am is acceptable. Anyway...

I had an awesome day yesterday. First we went for brunch at a nice cafe: I was attracted by the ricotta hotcakes, but in the end decided on the steak sandwich. Though the food took a while to come, it was very good when it did come, especially The Angel’s risotto.

Next we took the bus into the city and wandered down some streets in the general direction of the Botanic Gardens. I was struck by the scale of everything; I felt a bit like I’d been shrunk when crossing the roads or walking beneath the shop verandas or looking up at the buildings. We were distracted on the way, first by the ANZAC memorial, then by St Mary’s Cathedral and then by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

St Mary’s is magnificent, with beautiful stained glass windows and stone carvings, soaring wooden beams and well-worked paintings. The light glowed gold from high amber windows. There were windows into a dark passageway above the main church, and I wondered what it would be like up there, and who would use it.

I very much enjoyed the art gallery. In an inner foyer a violin/guitar/voice trio was playing These Boots are Made for Walking in French while two little kids drew as fast as they could on easels – they had until the end of the song to finish their drawings, and then the next volunteers would have a turn. We went into the wing with oil paintings from the 15th-19th centuries and spent at least an hour admiring the works. There was a beautiful one of a woman in a dark salon rethinking her fit of pique, and I was particularly struck by the play of firelight across her dress. I can’t remember the name of it, or the painter, but I might go back and check (it’s FREE!).

Next we went into the wing of 20th century Australian art, which I think was spoiled by going into the 15th-19th century wing first. Many of the painters in this wing were trying to make statements and (in our uneducated opinions) might have been trying out different techniques just to be different. Art critics shoot me now. We liked the more modern, fully abstract artworks better. A set of rooms had found-object and audio-visual works, which were interesting: one involved Ken in a finned American car with his hair blown back by a fan, and a video showing (live) classic film shots of Ken and the car. The tv on another looked like it showed the view out a plane window (random aside as I write: I can hear a FROG!), but it was actually the wing off a toy aeroplane, with a disc of crinkly plastic turning in behind. Quite cool.

And then, just as the sun was drawing towards the horizon, we got to the Botanic Gardens. Lots of beautiful trees and lots and lots of bats – in places it smelt a bit like a zoo. We came out by the harbour and The Angel pointed out a fort on an island that was too small to be used, because if you fired a cannon it rolled back so forcefully that only a few people could be on the island, and they had to be at the other end of it.

We walked around the harbour to the Opera House, and I took lots and lots of photos. As we got to the Opera House the sun was going down, so I took some photos on Sunset Mode (I wonder what settings Sunset Mode uses?). There are lots of nice (expensive) shops along Circular Quay, including a Guylian restaurant where they serve $8 hot chocolate.

We were aiming for the hotel where my Arty Aunty is staying, and walked through a bit of the Rocks and under the Harbour Bridge to get there. I decided I would take no more photos because I had lots and it was getting dark, but kept seeing things that needed to be recorded for posterity. So I recorded them.

We felt a bit underdressed in the hotel foyer, but Arty Aunty came to save us and took us out to dinner at a proper Italian pizzeria in the Rocks. It was lovely to see her, and put off the goodbye hug just a bit longer. The pizza was great, the conversation scintillating (I really just wanted to use that word) and my rich Italian hot chocolate amazing. Was sad to say goodbye.

I was thinking of limiting my posts to 500 words. I’m not sure that’s going to happen. Have a great day everyone!

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