As we had the previous day, we started with breakfast, followed by a workout at the hotel gym. Chris’s workout included 60 floors worth of climbing on the stair master, an exercise choice she regretted by the end of the day. We then made plans to take a walking tour of Central Sydney that is suggested by the Lonely Planet guide to Australia. The tour starts in Hyde Park and goes through the heart of Sydney, ending up on the north side of Harbour Bridge.
We took the monorail from the station right next to our hotel around to the station close to Hyde Park, then walked to the starting point of the tour, Museum train station. We walked past the Anzac Memorial, a memorial to Australian soldiers who died in conflicts overseas. We would have gone inside to see the exhibits, but a sign said it was “Closed for Urgent Repairs.” The memorial wasn’t the only thing under construction. Everywhere we looked in Sydney we could see scaffolds, earth-moving machinery, and construction workers. The city is vigorously getting ready for the Olympics, and that means face lifts, new construction, and demolition in every part of the city.
There is an avenue of trees that runs straight through Hyde Park from the Anzac Memorial to the north end of the park. We walked along it, enjoying the shade and the smell of fresh mulch that had just been spread around the trees. We took advantage of one of the many benches that line the avenue to rest our feet, read up on some of the other sights along our route, and watch people go by.
Once out of the park, we headed up busy Mcquarrie Street, past modern office buildings on one side, and colonial buildings on the other. Most of the colonial buildings were originally government offices, but are now being used for hospitals, offices, and museums. We eventually passed the entrance to the Royal Botanical Gardens, and reached Circular Quay. By this time, we were hungry, so we decided to get lunch in a café on the lower concourse of the Opera House.
From there, we crossed Circular Quay — where we had left for our lunch cruise the day before — and entered a section of the city known as “The Rocks.” The Rocks is the location of the original settlement of Sydney. Very few buildings remain from that time; some were leveled due to bubonic plague, and others were demolished to make room for the Harbour Bridge. As we walked up George St. through The Rocks, Chris noticed that all of the nice window displays were on the other side of the street, so we crossed. As we continued up the street, we quickly left the window shopping behind, and Chris noticed that the nice displays were now on the side we had just come from. Rather than chase the displays from one side of the street to the other, we just stayed on our side.
We walked under Harbour Bridge, down a little side street, then climbed Observatory Hill. This hill overlooks the harbor and the city, and there is even an old observatory there. When we got to the top of the hill, we found a shaded bench and sat for a while.
As we sat there, a man exercised by repeatedly running up the hill to “our” tree, then walking down. After a while, he started running up backwards, then walking down. It made us tired just to watch him. He was coming up with new exercises even as we left, to climb up to the Harbour Bridge walking path.
Sydney Harbour Bridge is about 7/10 of a mile across, including the approaches. It was opened in 1932, becoming the first bridge to span the harbor. The bridge pylon that is on the walkway and nearest to the southern shore has a small museum. You can climb 200 steps all the way to the top of the pylon and get great views of the city in every direction. You can also watch the adventurous folks who pay to walk up the outside of the arch of the bridge to the top. They all wear gray jumpsuits and are attached to a static wire that keeps them from building up an electrical charge in the constant wind. We spent quite a while at the top of the pylon, taking pictures and looking at the city through binoculars. We were even able to pick out the football-field-sized water tank we had visited the day before. Then we descended the 200 stairs and continued across the bridge.
Once we were over the bridge, we found ourselves in a neighborhood called Kirribilli. We sat on another shady bench resting our feet and drinking lemonade. When we were rested, we climbed up to the train station and got tickets to Museum station. The train arrived within 5 minutes, and after one change of trains, and about 15 minutes, we were back where we had started our tour. It had taken us about five hours to walk as many miles, not counting the stairs.
Museum station is underground, and, as we were making our way to the exit, we noticed the phrase MIND THE STEPS painted at the bottom and top of each flight of stairs. Let’s see, 60 flights on the stair master; steps up to the top of observatory hill; steps down and under the bridge, then back up to the walkway; 200 steps to the top of the pylon, then back down; steps up to the train platform; more steps up and out of Museum station. Mind the steps? Yes, I think we do!
We climbed the steps out of museum station, walked to the nearest monorail station (which had a lift, so we bypassed the steps), and got on. We had thought about visiting the Chinese Botanical Garden, but decided instead to get off at the hotel, and go sit by the pool. That’s exactly what we did, after, of course, climbing the steps from the monorail station up to the hotel level. After forty-five minutes by the pool and a quick dip, we returned to the room to get ready for dinner. While Chris showered, I called the concierge to make reservations at the revolving restaurant 1,000 feet off the ground at the top of the AMP tower. She told me the name of the restaurant is “The Summit” and made reservations for us for 8:30. We relaxed, made our first purchase from the room’s minibar, and I typed up the previous day’s travelogue.
At 7:30, we started for the restaurant, figuring to have another drink at the bar if we got there too early. Onto the monorail again and around to the station nearest Centrepoint, the shopping center at the base of the AMP tower. We found our way to the restaurant lobby at ground level, and discovered that it isn’t named The Summit after all. We had reservations at the wrong place. A very nice man from the restaurant noticed our concerned looks, and asked if he could help. We explained the situation to him, and he got us a reservation right away. He even called The Summit and canceled our reservation there. We were whisked to the restaurant in the elevator and shown to our table. Our table was right next to the windows, giving us a spectacular view of Sydney at dusk. (We had missed the sunset by about 20 minutes.)
We had been told not to expect too much from the food at the revolving restaurants, but my roast duckling was quite good, as was Chris’s lamb. We were at our table for nearly two hours, watching the sky darken and the city lights come on. During that time, the restaurant made about 1 1/3 complete turns. We finally tore ourselves away from the view and left. By that time, the shopping levels below had closed, and we had a tough time finding a way out. We managed to escape and find our way back to the monorail station, and settled in for our final ride of the day.
At the stop just before the one for our hotel, six men dashed through the turnstiles and into our 8-seat monorail car. They were all dressed in black pants and shirts, hanging all over each other and giggling like schoolgirls. They must have come to town for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and were getting a head-start on the celebrations. The one who seemed to be the ringleader introduced himself as Derrick as the train left the station. In the two minutes it took to get to our station, several of the others introduced themselves. One of them was wearing a lip ring, and Chris said “Doesn’t that hurt?” He promplty pulled the ring off, and Chris said, “Oh, it’s a clip-on!”, which got a big laugh from everyone. The clip-on wearer then said, “Yes, it’s a fake, but this isn’t” and stuck out his tongue, giving us a view of both ends of his tongue stud. As we pulled into our station. I said “This is our stop. No, really.” and stood up. As we tried to leave the car, Derrick pulled Chris over, gave her a big hug, and said “No, we want you to stay and play.” We all laughed, Chris wriggled free, and we managed to get out of the car before the train pulled out again. Because of the black clothing and the name of their leader, Chris dubbed them Derrick and the Dominoes.
Exhausted, we climbed the stairs to the hotel level (again), got back to the room, and fell into bed, knowing it was going to be hard to get up at 6:00 to prepare for our 8:40 flight to Melbourne.