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Familiar but strange

This is a photo I never thought I would ever take! There is usually a mass of people walking here, with waiters dashing back and forth across the flow from the restaurants on the right to the outside seating beyond the pillars on the left.

On Sunday I ventured out of my immediate neighbourhood for the first time in weeks. I took the ferry from my local wharf (I’ve never seen more than a handful of people of that route, so social distancing was absurdly easy) to Circular Quay, where I stepped into an alternative universe: the buildings were all there, but the vast majority of people had been stripped away. My goal was the botanic garden (still open in the lockdown, although all its buildings and cafes are closed) and the easiest route is to walk along the quay and past the opera house. All so unthinkingly familiar — but this time, also so very strange.

I generally scurry along this stretch, dodging dawdlers and tourists. No need for that now.

Where are the hundreds of restaurant tables?

The next shock was the forlorn, stripped-down Opera Bar. This place I avoid like the plague — so noisy, so crowded!

Opera Bar — no tables, no chairs, no bar, certainly no people.

Looking back at Opera Bar from the other end. I’ve never taken a photo with all the people; the one on the right, below, is from https://www.sydney.com.au/images/circular-quay-restaurants1.jpg.

I then walked around the opera house, rather than crossing in front. At the harbour end, I encountered one other person; there are usually dozens here.

At the harbour end of the opera house.

It was time to head for the gardens. My ferry is only hourly, and this eerie ghost town with its memories of happier times was not somewhere I wanted to have to kill time if I carelessly missed my return. I took one look at the hordes on the main path that runs along the water and chose another route.

And indeed, away from the harbour, the gardens were fairly deserted, and as lovely as ever.

Bridge and birds of paradise.

Something bushy sticking through a fence.

Bonus points if you spotted the man up the tree!

This is the approach to the cafe. A lovely spot, with good food (and it’s licensed).

These chairs and tables are usually spread all over this area, full of people.

This looks like a painting, doesn’t it? The reflections give everything an undefined look.

More reflections.

Clumps of plants, backlit by the low autumn sun.

The various little buildings where you might sit with a group are closed.

But the benches are still open! I sat here for a while.

This protea caught my eye while I was sitting. Protea Cyanoides ‘Little Prince’, according to its sign.

Usually, after a stroll around the gardens I’d finish off with a glass of bubbly at Portside, another venue at the opera house but much quieter and more civilised than Opera Bar.

No bubbly at Portside this time, alas. Certainly quiet, however!

So it was back on the ferry and home again.

Heading home.

Posted as part of Jo’s Monday Walk. (I see she has a cheese fest this week, oh yes!)


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The Walk to Work

No, this is not where I live! But I do pass this grand Victorian residence, protecting its privacy behind exuberant growth, and try to imagine a life that includes living in something like that.

In August I moved from ocean-side Bondi Beach to harbour-side Double Bay (both Sydney suburbs), which has brought me closer to where I work — so close (4km) that I can walk it in 55 minutes, door to door.

These magnificent jacarandas dominate this curve in the road.

It’s a very up and down route, and Google Maps has a nifty feature that shows just how much.

Up and down and up and down …

This church (St Mark’s, built 1848 to 1880) sits at the highest spot on the map above, just after “home”. With no tall buildings, there must have been vast views when it was built — but on the other hand, there wasn’t much to look at in 1880s’ Sydney!

I always pause here and marvel that so many people have this view. The horizon looks murky due to smoke from bush fires.

Time to head down from the lofty heights of the church to almost sea level. This road is, fittingly, called Loftus Road. I first encountered it walking home from work so had to slog UP it — after that, I changed the route home. 😉

Down, down, down. Hard on the knees.

Not only jacarandas are in bloom now — so is jasmine, and it’s everywhere. The scent hangs on the air.

Of course, there’s more to life than jasmine!

Red bougainvillea against a white wall.

At the bottom of the “hill from hell” sits Rushcutters Bay and the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. The CYC was established in 1944 and hosts the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race that begins on Boxing Day (26 December).

This is the expansive park beside Rushcutters Bay. At this time of the day, it’s full of joggers, walkers, exercise groups, and dogs (though it looks empty in this shot!). See that tower (like a yellow blob on a stick) on the horizon? That’s two blocks from my destination.

A lovely cafe, but no time to stop. (Sorry Jo, no cake on this walk!)

The Beast of Bodmin Moor? The Hound of the Baskervilles? No, just an elderly Newfoundland dog with his summer haircut. I see him most days.

Anyone for cricket?

I almost didn’t include this photo, as it’s hardly attractive. But it’s part of the walk, and the start of the long uphill stretch to King’s Cross.

Still heading up, but beside a more attractive street. This area is King’s Cross.

This pavement sign is hard to read even when you’re standing beside it. The whole text says “August 1929 Kellett St | Riot | Sly Grog Traders | Kate Leigh vs Tilly Devine | Rival Gangs in Violent Stoush | Razors Guns Bottles Stones | Wounded Do Not Identify Attackers to Police”. (Read about these two fascinating (if scary!) women.)

King’s Cross is gentrifying these days, but it still has its areas of sleaze, crime and violence.

The heart of “The Cross”.

I don’t like this alley (I usually have to flatten myself against the wall as cars go past) but it’s convenient.

I don’t know if this street is officially in King’s Cross or Woolloomooloo, but its character is very different to the streets where the walk starts and ends.

Now we’re definitely in Woolloomooloo — the signs say so! Originally home to dock workers, the area still has an air of non-prosperity despite being only 1.5km from the Sydney Central Business District.

More of those jacarandas. I can’t help smiling at such shameless flamboyance as I walk under the gentle drift of petals. And there’s that tower again …

You can see more photos of the jacarandas of Woolloomooloo here.

Yet more jasmine!

If you’ve read any of my other walk posts, you’ll know I hate stairs. However, this being the city not the bush, there’s a lift here too. 🙂 The stairs/lift take you up to a walkway over six lanes of busy commuter traffic.

The tower is visible again, closer now! And that’s the train I catch when I don’t walk. From the angle of the colourful wall, you can tell I’m going up, again.

Past the art gallery.

Another appealing cafe to march straight past.

This is The Domain, where you could graze your animals back when that was a thing.

Through the grounds of Sydney Hospital and Sydney Eye Hospital.

Stepping through the gates beside the hospital, you leave the world of the suburbs behind.

At the top of Martin Place. It’s all downhill from here!

I often top up my travel card and buy my (losing) lottery tickets at this little kiosk.

Past the cenotaph.

Trams are running on George St — at last! Still in ‘testing’, but at least the years of wretched construction are over. This tram is just about in front of my office building.

Last glimpse of that tower, from in front of my building.

And here’s the end of the walk, in the lobby of my building.

I hope you managed with all these photos! It’s a varied walk and I wanted to capture the different areas along the way.

Posted as part of Jo’s Monday Walks.


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Jacarandas of Woolloomooloo

Jacarandas in Woolloomooloo

Jacarandas in Woolloomooloo

Jacarandas in Woolloomooloo

Jacarandas in Woolloomooloo, with two iconic Sydney buildings in the distance.

It’s that time again in Sydney when the jacaranda trees are in bloom. One argument holds that the first specimen in Australia was planted in 1864 (source) — not in Sydney, but they have since been planted here with enthusiasm.

A carpet of fallen jacaranda petals.

A carpet of fallen jacaranda petals.

My journey to work includes a short train ride from Bondi Junction to Martin Place. Just after the train leaves King’s Cross, you can see dots of purple off to the left — but look right, and you are treated to large pockets of intense purple. Last weekend, I took the train to King’s Cross and had a good wander around this area, known as Woolloomooloo (pronounced by Aussies as “Wullamulloo”). It’s a small suburb that originally grew up around a wharf (Finger Wharf) that juts into the harbour.

In this screengrab from Google Maps (satellite view), Finger Wharf is clear. I’ve outlined in yellow the rough borders of Woolloomooloo.

These next photos give a flavour of the types of original housing: rows of small, cramped accommodation for workers and their families (with and without jacarandas!). Walking around the area, you can see that many of the houses have been smartened up, but many still look, shall we say, less smart. It’s an interesting mix.

 

In this shot, you can see the corrugated metal roof of the building behind the flowers.

Jacaranda and corrugated metal roof.

Jacaranda and corrugated metal roof.

The dock work is long gone. The wharf itself (400m/1,310ft long and 63m/210ft wide, standing on 3,600 piles) now houses an upmarket hotel, luxury apartments and assorted eateries. Built between 1911 and 1915, in its day it was the largest wooden structure in the world. (source)

Interior of Finger Wharf. You can get a good idea of its size!

Let’s finish off with more of those flamboyant jacarandas.


Jacarandas and roses.

Jacarandas and roses.

I’m linking this to Jo’s Monday Walks, but I think she’s still in the Algarve as her site hasn’t been updated in a while.


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The Indivisible Curves

Sculpture by the Sea is on again in Sydney. Apparently, it’s the world’s largest free sculpture exhibition, and it runs along the coast from Bondi Beach (where I live) to Tamarama Beach. Two friends and I braved the inevitable hordes of people today to check out this year’s offerings. It was a beautiful early summer day, with a cloudless sky and a temperature around 26C (79F), and ocean breezes to take the edge off the sun.

Remembering that this week’s theme is curves or rounded, I was on the lookout for a sculpture with no straight lines.

Finally, towards the end of our walk, we came across this one. A sensous swirl of curves twining around itself, with no beginning and no end.

And if you’re wondering why I titled this post “The Indivisible Curves”, it’s because the piece is called “Indivisible.”

When I get my other photos sorted, I’ll post about some of this year’s other sculptures. You can see my other related posts from previous years here.


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The Goods Line

Undated photo on a display board. Looking north to Darling Harbour.

Undated photo on a display board. Looking north to Darling Harbour. Hard to believe this is now an urban walking route and playground!

A chance reference to “The Goods Line” in a news article last week sent me straight to Google. What was this elevated railway-turned-pedestrian walkway in Sydney, and why had I not heard of it before?

Rather than rewriting what I’ve since learned, I’ll simply quote. “The first railway in New South Wales was laid on this route in 1855 to transport goods from the wharves of Darling Harbour to the railway goods yard at Redfern … Today the entire length of the re-invigorated rail corridor is only 500 metres – basically from Central Station’s Devonshire Tunnel under George Street to the southern boundary of the Powerhouse Museum. Yet this was once one of the most lucrative commercial arteries in the British Empire.” (source)

I somehow managed to miss the reference to the tunnel under George Street, so wandered around at street level until I finally found a map of the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) (which grew up around the original train line) and was able to join The Goods Line at the halfway point, where it crosses Ultimo Street.

The black and white photo below is part of an information display above the bridge. I was unable to match the angle of the old shot because, as you can see, there is quite a bit more traffic on Ultimo Street now! The only shared landmarks in these shots are the rail bridge and the tower behind. The tower is the restored bell tower of the Sydney Markets, now standing outside the Markets Library of the UTS; the bridge is the oldest iron bridge in Australia, built in 1879. What I find most striking about the old photo is the complete lack of trees.

The Goods Line rail bridge crossing Ultimo Street, then and now.

The Goods Line rail bridge crossing Ultimo Street, then and now.

Now that I’d found the line, doing only half the walk would have been cheating (not to mention absurdly short) so I headed back to the beginning. This is where the tunnel from Central Station, which I should have followed, spits you out.

The start of the walk, at the southern end.

The start of the walk, at the southern end.

If you go down the stairs and look over your left shoulder, you see this. Aren’t you itching to know what’s behind those locked gates?

Train track to ... where?

Train track to … where?

Looking north, you see the rail line, and the walk, stretching arrow-straight ahead of you. The last goods train left Darling Harbour on this line in 1984, and until redeveloped as a pedestrian link (at a reported cost of A$15 million) and opened last September, the land and infrastructure were unused (apart from the occasional steam train taking things to the museum).

Train tracks and walking route, straight ahead.

Train tracks and walking route, straight ahead.

I certainly hadn’t done anything requiring a rest, but there was no shortage of benches.

Bench after bench after bench ...

Bench after bench after bench …

This extraordinary structure sits at the corner of Ultimo Street and The Goods Line. It’s the first building in Australia designed by globally renowned architect Frank Gehry and belongs to the UTS.

The nature of the walk changes dramatically at the bridge, from concrete hemmed in by buildings in the south (below left), to meandering paths, greenery and play areas in the north (below right).

If you compare the view north now (above right) with the view in the undated b&w photo below (displayed above the bridge), the only common feature is the twin peaks of the roofline of the power station (now housing the Powerhouse Museum).

The red box indicates the power station / Powerhouse Museum building.

The red box indicates the power station / Powerhouse Museum building.

Strolling towards the museum, you’ll pass a number of diversions, such as ping pong areas (BYO paddles!):

Anyone for ping pong?

Anyone for ping pong?

… a child-sized interactive fountain …

… old railway objects …

… flowers and little gardens.

The Goods Line leads you to the Powerhouse Museum …


Powerhouse Museum

… where the walk ends abruptly, blockaded by a solid grey barrier.

A grey barricade marks the end of the walk.

A grey barricade marks the end of the walk.

Welcome to the pedestrian hell that is the Darling Quarter/convention centre construction site. Here’s a small sample of what’s going up:

Yet more Sydney construction.

Yet more Sydney construction.

The brave walker pushing on to Darling Harbour, as I was, must negotiate this blot on the landscape.

This was a very short walk (I walked at least as long trying to find the start!), but it revealed to me a part of Sydney’s history that I hadn’t known about. You can discover where other people have been walking on Jo’s Monday Walks.


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Sculpture by the Sea 2015

dust - Norton Flavel

dust – Norton Flavel

The annual outdoor display of sculptures is on again in Sydney. With artworks dotted for 2km along the coast from Tamarama Beach to Bondi Beach, this free two-week event is hugely popular.

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There are over 100 artworks on display — but don’t worry, I didn’t photograph every one. 😉

A few sculptures that caught my eye

ashes to ashes – Kim Perrier

bath – Vince Vozzo

bath - Vince Vozzo (detail)

bjf13 – Ben Fasham

city dreams – Gao Xiaowu

city dreams - Gao Xiaowu

fun! – Naidee Changmoh

fun!- - Naidee Changmoh

intervention – Mike Van Dam

intervention - Mike Van Dam

kakashi – Zilvinas Zempinas

kakashi - Zilvinas Zempinas

man on ball – Wang Shugang

listen time passes – Barbara Licha

listen time passes - Barbara Licha

tree spirit eggs – Mark Eliott

tree spirit eggs - Mark Eliott

undulation – Benjamin Storch

undulation - Benjamin Storch

quotidianity the brothers – Fabio Pietrantonio

quotidianity the brothers - Fabio Pietrantonio

These “sculptures” were created by Mother Nature — eroded sandstone.

A few other things that caught my eye

I deliberately took a day off work so I could avoid the crazy crowds on a weekend, but look at all the people on the path! I’ve put this post in my Strolls around Sydney category because, believe me, a strolling pace is as fast as it’s possible to move.

It’s important to stay hydrated and safe in the Sydney sun (when the sun actually shines, that is — it’s been very wet here for the past few days!). There was free water …

… and free sunscreen.

And someone has to keep the artworks looking clean!

Keeping it clean.

Keeping it clean.


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Doors to eternal rest

These doors are from a few of the many family vaults in Waverley Cemetery, in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. I was intrigued by the variety of styles, materials and adornments.


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Bench with a view: Coogee and Clovelly

Late afternoon, Coogee Beach.

Late afternoon, Coogee Beach.

You know the saying: every dark cloud has a silver lining. My particular dark cloud for the past two days has been having to endure a “corporate team-building event”, a peculiar mix of stultifying boredom and the stress brought on by the need to hide such boredom. My silver lining was that the event was held at a hotel in Coogee, which is a beach suburb just a few kilometres south of where I live. Free (at last!!) at 4:45pm today, I headed home along the coast path, savouring the treat of a weekday walk as the sun set.

I knew there were a number of benches en route, but not until I started to photograph them did I notice that they were not all the same. Wooden benches, metal benches, art benches — all with a view. Just the thing for another post for HeyJude’s Benches with a View!

A bench with very long legs! Late afternoon, Coogee Beach.

A bench with very long legs! Late afternoon, Coogee Beach.

This couple was more interested in each other than the view from their bench.

This couple was more interested in each other than in the view from their bench.

This bench looks down on Gordons Bay, a popular swimming, snorkelling and diving spot.

This bench looks down on Gordons Bay, a popular swimming, snorkelling and diving spot.

A row of sinuous metal benches at Clovelly.

A row of sinuous metal benches at Clovelly.

Near the lifeguard station, Clovelly.

Near the lifeguard station, Clovelly.

I had hoped for a more dramatic sunset, but the peacefulness of my last shot almost makes up for the lack of drama.

Watching the sun set, Clovelly.

Watching the sun set, Clovelly.

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moorhen at Centennial Park
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Walking home from work

I admit it: that heading is misleading. Walking all the way home from work would take hours. On nice summer days, though, (assuming I’ve remembered to bring shorts, etc) I do like to get off the train one stop early and walk from there. Click here for a map of the route.

Leaving Edgecliff station, I head along Ocean Street in the Sydney suburb of Woollahra. Much of what is now Woollahra was once part of the 1130-acre estate of the Cooper family. The name Woollahra is believed to be based on the Aboriginal word for ‘lookout’ and was chosen by Daniel Cooper for his proposed house in 1856. There are many lovely old houses along this tree-lined street.

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Now I leave the suburbs of the rich behind, and head into Centennial Park through Woollahra Gate.

Woollahra Gate Centennial Park

Woollahra Gate

The area where Centennial Park was built was originally swamps. In 1827, using convict labour, construction began on an underground tunnel to bring the fresh water to Sydney. Lachlan Swamps served as Sydney’s main water supply from 1837 to 1859. The Centennial Celebrations Act of 1887 set in motion the construction of Centennial Park. (By the way, the centenary being celebrated was that of the founding of the colony of New South Wales in 1788.) Centennial Parklands, as it is known today, has an area of 220 hectares. (Refer to the walk map for an idea of its size.)

Now we come to my favourite part of the walk. Behind one of the ponds is a small planting of pine trees, which are rare in Sydney. At this time of the day, with the early evening light slanting low and golden, it’s a beautiful, glowing spot. The wind in the pine trees creates a sound quite unlike that of rattling palm fronds or rustling gum leaves.


What would a park be without birds and flowers?

If you’ve enjoyed this walk through parts of Sydney that tourists rarely discover, be sure to check out Jo’s Monday Walks.

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Location shots


In Your Sights
In Your Sights is finished, at last. The Kindle version went live on Amazon on 10 December, the paperback will be on Amazon by the end of this week, and over the next few weeks the e-book will trickle into Apple, Sony, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc.

Much of the novel is set in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, the area in which I have lived for the 10 years I’ve been in Sydney. I love the proximity to the ocean, the carved cliffs on whose edges I can sit and watch the ocean, and the often-poignant decay of Waverley Cemetery.

I worked all these things into In Your Sights.

I was surprised, though, at how my mind tricked me. I would write lines about seeing this or that, and then a few weeks later I would walk over a path or cliff and think, “Hang on, so-and-so can’t actually see that!” So I took a number of location shots that I could refer to while writing.

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