the Royal Botanic Gardens & the Manly Ferry…

Monday, April 2

After a lovely lunch at the Studio Café, under the Sydney Opera House, I was debating what to do with the rest of my day. Between all the stairs in the House, all the stairs in the dorms I’m staying in, and all the walking down Bennelong Point, I figured I would need to do something less strenuous, eventually.

Of course, not quite yet, but the Manly Ferry was on my to-do list for later. First, I walked back down the point, and made my way up the hill, looking for the entrance to the Royal Botanic Gardens, where I should be able to see Government House.

When I found the entrance, I also discovered that Government House only has tours on weekends, so I took a few pictures, and then left. While I was looking at it, though, I kept feeling like I was looking at a toy castle. Not fancy enough or old enough to be like palaces in London. And considering I’ve been to the Biltmore House in North Carolina, this place was tiny.

Right near the entrance was a lawn covered in broken bits of a building. I couldn’t decide if it was supposed to be decorative or if a bomb had blown something up, back in the day. There were no signs to explain what the point of it was. It made me think about what I remember reading about the Elgin Marbles, in England, but I don’t even know if these are similar, or if I imagine they would be. If anyone knows, feel free to tell me. What do you google, “broken building bits outside botanic gardens”?

As the sign said that we were welcome to walk on the grass, I took advantage of that, and walked down to the water. This was Farm Cove, on the other side of Bennelong Point, across the water from Mrs. MacQuarie’s Chair. I keep meaning to look up some more history on that landmark.

On the way to the water, I passed some Aboriginal sculptures that were only meant to be looked at, though one of them looked like it was a playground. I guess if they’re Aboriginal, you’re not allowed to call them “hippie droppings”, like my family calls weird art sculptures, back home? They went to a school that specialized in art and engineering, so it was full of “interesting” works.

After examining the signs, I headed back towards the Opera House, to get a few more photos from a different angle. Then, going in the opposite direction, I followed the signs to the Garden Gift Shop, wanting to see what they’d have for sale there.

Along the way, I tried to get some pictures of the beautiful rainbow lorikeets that were making so much noise in the trees. If there’s something you’ll notice about the birds in Australia, they’re often noisy, and they’re often beautiful. Lots of parrots flying around, which you would never see at home. But they can be quite destructive, too, doing a lot of crop damage… or so I’ve heard.

I passed some kids feeding the birds, and watched a bird fly from a spot right next to me, to the top of a pretty statue’s head. I’d hoped to get a shot of him taking off, but it never happened. The gift shop was nice, and I wanted to get all sorts of things, but reason prevailed, and I just got some more postcards.

Lots of interesting statues and beautiful trees and other plants were all about, as I headed for the exit to the gardens. When you look at the pictures of the Cupid statue, I know some of you are going to try and suggest I was just getting a close-up of his bum. There were plenty of other nude statues around, though, if that were my goal.  : P

But if you look closely, can you see what’s sheltering under Cupid’s wing? The bird was even looking at me, when I took his picture, but didn’t fly away. That’s probably because that circle of water was keeping everyone outside of his “personal space bubble”.

Finally exiting the gardens, I made my way to the ferries, and swiped my pass, in order to take the Manly Ferry. Taking the ferry to Manly is one of the best ways to get great view of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. So, away I went, for a half hour boat trip. I’ve since learned that Manly is not an island, but it’s located on a strip of land that’s quite close to the Outer Harbour, and the open ocean. A big destination for beach-goers, but it looks like there’s some amazing rocks and landscapes to hike around, too.

When I arrived, despite having lunch at 1pm, I was starving (it was 4pm), so I must’ve worked it off during all my walking. I grabbed a sub, and then Gloria Jean’s Coffee really saved my life. A white chocolate mocha was just what the doctor ordered.

After feeding my face, and savoring my coffee, I began talking to an older couple who had stopped in for coffee, and ended up talking to them for almost an hour. I’d have suspected Mr. S might be trying to pull my leg, but his wife was so sweet, I couldn’t believe they’d both make up any stories for my benefit.

They told me about some great places to go see on the Inner and Outer Harbour, though I don’t know if I’ll be able to. He told me about some of his trips on-board a merchant ship, and how he and his wife had traveled around the world with his job. And then, I’m still not sure if I have the story right, but because of his help, in Perth, with a shipload of Italian sailors, when he and his wife were next in Italy, they got to meet Pope John Paul II.

But the kicker of the story is that the Italian gentleman that told them they needed to meet “Papa”, he said they needed an appointment. And Mrs. S thought it so odd that you needed an appointment to visit your parents. They had no idea that the man meant “Papa John Paul”, as he told them later. This couple was quite young, then, with one small son. They ended up at a large audience come to see the Pope, and then they got to meet him afterwards. Mrs. S was somewhat mortified, knowing that she’d only come in a plain skirt and blouse, instead of dressing up a bit more.

Oh, our talks about Australia and America were quite fun, though the loudness of the wharf sometimes made hearing difficult. His sister married an American sailor, and he never saw her again, though his brother did. I found the first part romantic, and the last a bit sad. But back then, a plane ticket for two of them was way too expensive. The really sad part of the story is that his brother found out that his sister was dying of alcohol poisoning, when he visited her. She had taken to drinking, after she found that all of America wasn’t as “glamorous” as Hollywood.

Yes, we had some talk about what the rest of America is really like. You know, how most of us don’t like being compared to Hollywood, though the rest of the world still judges us by what they see in the movies. When we just wish that the Hollywood actors would keep their political opinions to themselves, and stop giving most of America a bad name. My, haven’t times changed! But back in their day, they thought all of America was just like Hollywood and that we all lived like movie stars. I’m sure Red Bluff, WA is quite beautiful in its way, but if you’re expecting the glamor of the Hollywood elite, you might be disappointed.

At the last, they expressed the hope that just like a boomerang returns to you when you throw it, that I will come back to Australia again, someday. Except they expressed it better than I just did. And for all those people that say they “wish they could visit Australia, some day”… well, if you do nothing but wish, you’ll never do it. Now that I’ve been here, one visit (even a year-long one) will never be enough. I’m coming back.

Finally, I had to get going, and caught one of the Fast Ferries back to Sydney Harbour, so it didn’t take half an hour to get there. The sun was going down, so I got some really pretty pictures of the Bridge and Opera House. Yes, more of them. But if you’ll picture me racing up and down the steps on a “wobbly” boat, as I tried to get pictures from different angles, before they were out of sight, maybe you’ll forgive me for more of the same.

Once back in the Harbour, it was time to return to Newtown, but I couldn’t find a bus stop labeled with the right letter, for the place I wanted to go. Giving up, I headed into the train station, and got on a train for Central, worrying the whole way about what might go wrong this time. Once I was on the train platform in Central, down the stairs I went, and back up another set and… yes, I was back on a train platform again. I went down the steps, and stopped the first guy I saw, and asked “How do I get out of here?”, and didn’t even try to hide the slight wail in my voice.

It was probably not the first time he’d ever given someone directions, but he cheerfully led me up to his train platform, and pointed me the way out. I was so happy to have freedom in sight. Of course, my happiness was a little dampened when I got a soda out of a machine, dropped it, and then wasn’t careful when I opened it. So, a soda fountain erupted in my hand. Sigh.

I asked the train ticket guy (a much more cheerful individual, this time!) where the bus stop was, found it in a different place than last time, and managed to get on the right one. And though I probably should’ve swiped my bus pass, but didn’t (maybe that’s why the bus driver was glaring at me), another girl was nice enough to get off at the same stop as mine, so I didn’t have to hit the “Stop” button before getting off. I exited at the correct street (hooray!), and made my way back to my building.

Only a text message away, and my friend let me in the side door. Glorious showers and chocolate-covered sultanas awaited me. And now, my fingers, along with the rest of me, are very tired, and I have another day ahead of me.

I’m meeting a friend, tomorrow, who happens to be a Sydney native, but she’s been living in Emerald, and goes to the same Bible study with me. Barring any problems, this time, I have to get to Central Station, and we’ll probably have breakfast at Hungry Jack’s (that’s Burger King, for those Americans that are interested).

And now, bedtime! Hooray! And before someone calls me on it, “hooray” is one of the two correct spellings for that word. And since I tend to say it that way, that’s how I spell it. So there.

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