Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Views Around Sydney, Over a Museum, and Under an Aquarium

Another day's worth of photographs from last October's big holiday have now gone up on my Flickr photostream.

The 26th of the month was our last full day in Sydney and in Australia, and we spent it catching on a few things we still wanted to see in the city. Unfortunately, it was another grey day, so the photos aren't postcard-perfect, but it had its points of interest.

We started by heading down to the Hyde Park/Macquarie Street area, to look at a few of the oldest public buildings in the city (mostly from the outside), and the park (named after the one in London, apparently) with a grandiose quasi-classical fountain at the north end and its grand war memorial at the south. Macquarie Street, by the way, is named after an early governor of New South Wales, who managed, by dint of improvisation, luck, and employment of a convict fraudster who turned out to be a competent architect, to give the place a decent colonial-Georgian start in things like its first substantial church, its mint, a barracks building, and its hospital. Incidentally, the bookshop in the old mint building has the most substantial door I've ever seen in a bookshop...

Then we turned right to head towards Darling Harbour once again. This is one of those city-centre areas which is clearly designed to look good to visitors and to show what a cool city this is, and it's pretty good at this. The children's playground not only has lots of water features; it has a working hand-powered Archimedean screw (very educational); there's a really nice-looking Chinese garden (confession - with limited time in hand, we didn't pay to go into that, but got some nice pictures through the gratings in the walls anyway); and so on.

But we passed on through, because we were heading for the Powerhouse Museum, south-west of the bay. I can best describe this to British readers as an Australian combination of the V and A and the Science Museum, only smaller and newer than either. Hence, along with an interesting assortment of land and air vehicles, many of local relevance (the steam engine which pulled the first passenger train in New South Wales, Aussie-built aircraft, rocket nosecones recovered from the Outback down-range of Woomera), there were examples of Australian industrial design and the like (Speedo swimming costumes, for example). There were also a number of entries from an art competition which simply took "Lace" as its theme, some of which were definitely interesting - not least the wrecked, rusting pickup truck, its bodywork converted to intricate lacework by application of a plasma torch, and the pieces created using 3-D printers (which are, I get the impression, becoming the avant-garde designer-artist's toy of choice these days).

But in due course, we moved on and back to Darling Harbour - to take a very quick look at another transport-related museum, the Australian National Maritime Museum. This has much of the stuff that one would expect - including a boat made of beer cans as well as canoes, record-breaking speedboats, big models of battleships, bits of lighthouses, and (when we visited at least) an exhibition about immigrants sailing to Australia in the 20th Century. But it's the stuff outside, parked on or next to the wharfs on the Harbour, that really commands attention, including as it does a destroyer (HMAS Vampire), an Oberon-class submarine (HMAS Onslow), a trawler with a heroic war record (the Krait), and a small but complete lighthouse.

And then we crossed Pyrmont Bridge to the last serious tourist attraction of the day; Sydney Aquarium. This is, well, a fine aquarium, with a couple of big tanks where one can do the "walk around under the water" thing, one holding dugongs, the other sharks. The latter, incidentally, looked really good, and one had to read the labels quite carefully to determine that actually, none of them would be terribly interested in eating people. I can quite believe that some species suffer very badly from looking so much like man-eaters that they get killed on sight, despite actually being harmless shellfish-eaters. There were some other good things in the aquarium, incidentally (not to mention a Lego Moby Dick), but as the lighting was generally at aquarium levels, it was hard to get decent pictures.

Then it was back to the hotel (via coffee and cake at a place in the Queen Victoria Building) before heading out for dinner at the same Thai place up near the rocks which we'd visited before. Yeah, it was good Thai food.

No comments: