Let's get back to ... Sydney, AU -- Monday, 12/5/16

I managed to squeeze in a short swim early this morning, a pastime I dearly love.  Next came the buffet breakfast in our hotel -- very good spread.  Following the morning's lecture on Australian history and settlement, we took off on a field trip to South Head, part of Sydney Harbor National Park, to view the narrow entrance to Sydney Harbor, and learn all about its defense facilities.  We like hopping on the coach for field trips; in new countries, you never know what you'll get to see!

The Australian Magpie is curious, nearly tame, and just as vocal as it's US counterparts.

While we were off the coach to explore and learn about South Head history, a couple of us were looking at birds and plants (yep, I'm one of the guilty ones)! At this striking view of South Head, above, you can see across the 2km-wide strait to North Head ("The Heads"). The South Head peninsula is really a site of true natural beauty, but it’s also one of the continent’s top suicide spots. The Gap is a steep cliff that overlooks the Tasman Sea, and each year, FYI, about 50 people leap to their death there.

I think it's great that efforts have been made to convince potential jumpers to turn back. An inward-facing security fence provides a physical barrier, and a number of Lifeline telephone booths have also been installed along with security cameras.  We spotted this phone booth as we walked long the path looking at flora.

Intrigued about this cool-looking thing, we asked what it could possibly be.  It's the flower of a Banksia tree, endemic to Australia.  I looked it up and discovered there are around 170 species in the family.  I'm not sure which Banksia this is, but the flower spikes were approx 4-6" tall.  

Macquarie Lighthouse, aka South Head Upper Light, was the first, and is the longest serving, lighthouse site in Australia.  Looks like a classic, doesn't it?  We didn't stop here, I caught this on the fly as the coach drove by; wish we could've toured inside.

Nearby, we stopped at Bondi Beach ... pronounced Bond-eye, so we were informed.  Part of our itinerary for the day, it was just a beach, no big deal, but we ate lunch at one of the clubs here.  Afterwards, we were back on the bus.  The rest of our day was free to do with as we chose.  Jimmy and I, along with Bernice and Ibby, asked to be dropped off near Sydney's Australian Museum.  We'd been given easy-to-use Opal cards for public transportation on trains, buses, ferries or light rail, so we were all set.

We wandered through the museum, skipping the frightening spider exhibit altogether (eeek!), and eventually running into Carolyn and Larry on the 2nd floor.  The museum is full of Australian exhibits, animals and reptiles, minerals, First Australian galleries, dinosaurs, and so much more.  

From "stuffed" Koalas to

Native spears

to Tutini (Pukumani grave posts) on display,


Australian Moths and Scorpions, 

One of the world's largest crocodiles, and 

this marvelous mask.  A terrific museum!

* * * * * * * * * *

The four of us walked through Hyde Park toward the towering Gothic St Mary's Cathedral, a landmark easily seen from much of the city and a sanctuary we wanted to tour (uh-oh, as we approached, we noticed that ominous black sky).  Wowzers, what an extraordinarily grand monument!  If you'd like to know more about it's construction, click on the link.  I will tell you that the Archbishop commissioned William Wilkinson Wardell to design a new St Mary's following the fire of 1865 which ruined the original cathedral.

Massive and beautiful.

Outside the cathedral, more than one couple was having wedding pictures taken, but the bride and groom above agreed to be photographed by us, and then our little group proceeded up the steps and inside. We spent quite a bit of time walking about and taking pictures, admiring the beauty and workmanship, and about the time we were ready to leave, we heard thunder.  Rain.  Crashing, LOUD thunder and then a gully-washer was upon us.  We settled in a pew to wait out the storm.  The bride, smart girl, was wearing flip-flops, but her dress surely got wet.

* * * * * * * * * *

Despite having the Opal card, once the rain quit we walked back to our hotel; it wasn't that far, and we were enjoying the Sydney afternoon.  

Dinner was on our own tonight.  The four of us decided to eat Asian food, since Chinatown was a block away.  The evening was warm and kind of muggy.  I wish I had a video of the four of us checking out which restaurant to eat at, 'cause we peeked in windows, even sat down in three different restaurants, deeming each either too hot or too noisy, got up and continued our quest for the best one.  We finally settled on Xi'an Grill, upstairs and air-conditioned.  

That's when the fun began!  The restaurant was packed and loud, full of young Asians, and we were the only Anglos present, and old ones, to boot.  No one was speaking English and everyone was using chopsticks.  It took us 20 minutes and three different young people (two were practicing their English) to decipher the menu and what to order, and only 10 minutes to devour the Barramundi with mushrooms and eggplant, and whatever else the cook wanted to throw in the dish for four, tho not exactly the "sides" we thought we'd ordered.  As soon as we'd placed our order, the waiter brought forks to our table!


It was good, too.

I know these posts are long, but our days are jam-packed, and I like sharing each of our Downunder days, hoping you enjoy seeing NZ and Australia through our eyes.  Here we are, Bernice and me, above, still smiling after our long day and challenging dinner experience! Tomorrow we're in for a real treat.  Actually, more than one.  Can't wait to show you.  Well, that'll be the next post or two.

The End.  Sorry, couldn't resist it. 😏

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