the Rocks District, the Bridge Pylon, & the Aquarium LEGOs…

Thursday, April 5

Now that I’ve become such a dab hand at getting around on the bus and the train, I found that I could even oversleep slightly, and still get myself down to Circular Quay by 9:30am. A momentary pause to decide which train platform to go to, and off I went.

After breakfast at Maccas, I decided that the easiest way to get to the Harbour Bridge Pylon was to walk there. Besides, it was a lovely day, and there was a cruise ship in the harbor. I walked to the left of the quay, and headed into the Rocks district.

I haven’t been on the Rocks walking tour, but I did come upon its museum, by accident, so I’m aware that it’s an area full of slightly more historic buildings than most of the high-rises in Sydney. Also, it was home to most of the working class of Sydney, for many, many years. But it looks like they’re trying to hang on to the historical buildings, and not let all their history get buried.

On the way to the Rocks, I passed a fun little sculpture that was labeled “The Children’s Statue”, or something like that. The kids seem to like this, and one little fellow was sitting on a metal turtle, steadily attempting to feed a lizard some leaves. Not sure how well that was working, but he was persistent, so maybe the lizard will eventually decide to swallow. If you look closely, you’ll see the echidna (looks a little like a porcupine) and a platypus, as well as several other creatures, hiding on the statue.

As I made my way along the wharf, I was attracted by the sights of both new and old. The Sydney Opera House and the Bridge were always in the background, the hotels were new, but the buildings on the edge of The Rocks were even older than the Bridge and the House. And amidst all that, was The Radiance of the Seas cruise ship. Boy, did that ship make me want to go for another cruise.

My assumption, as I approached the base of the Bridge Pylon, was that I would easily find signs to tell me where to go, to explore the Pylon itself. But no, I didn’t find any. So, I continued along the path, enjoying the view of the underside of this marvel of engineering. Also, as you can see, it was a perfectly gorgeous day, so no harm in enjoying the lovely weather.

After I wandered up the hill, I saw the remains of an old observatory, but beyond that, it was all construction. So, back down to the road, and then I worked my way uphill, again. Coming back under the bridge, I finally began to see signs that would lead me to the Pylon Lookout, but I was occasionally distracted by the people walking above me, as they did the Bridge Climb.

Now, some of you may be wondering why I didn’t do the Harbour Bridge Climb. Isn’t this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which I should take advantage of? Well, now that I’ve been to Australia, I have no intention of this being my last trip here, so I will be back.

The other factors that came into play… it’s expensive, you have to book ahead, and I decided that I just didn’t want to, this time. It really was as simple as that. Up until the last few weeks, I couldn’t understand why you had to pay to walk across the bridge, and you weren’t allowed to bring your camera. Someone finally explained that this was climbing through the “rigging”, not just the pathway, along the road. Well, I hadn’t known, and hadn’t cared enough to look it up and find out.

Anyway, my point is, I have no fear of the heights involved. It would be magnificent to be able to climb across that beautiful bridge. But I’d really rather do it with a friend, have a memory to share, instead of all these ones that I’m creating by myself. So, there you have it. I just chose not to do the climb. Next time, though.

As it happened, I found the Bridge Climb start point, before I found the Pylon Entrance, so I stopped in to ask directions. And bought a book about the Bridge, while I was in there. So, I have a bag that proclaims “I climbed the Bridge!”, and I’ve “tricked” one or two people today, making them think I’m so much more splendid than I actually am.

My confusion was that the entrance to the Pylon wasn’t at the ground level, it was at the Bridge level, so I had to to take a bunch of stairs up to a sloping walkway, which led onto the Bridge’s pedestrian walkway. Then, you walk to the bottom of the Pylon, and you’ve found your entrance.

The whole thing is only 200 steps, but I’ve been doing a lot of stairs, lately, so it was still felt like a workout. But well worth it. There’s a small movie theater, a gift shop, bathrooms, and lots of little museum bits, all inside that Pylon! Amazing.

When I reached the top, I enjoyed looking in all directions, but I was a little worried the wind might blow harder and I’d lose my hat. So, I was very careful while climbing around on the benches, which are there so you can actually see over the wall. Also, the glass has these really neat markings, helping you find local landmarks, even while you’re up so high.

I made my way back through The Rocks, afterwards, stopping to have some lunch. Then, back to Circular Quay, where I first went on an expedition to the opposite end of the Quay, towards the Opera House, looking to see if a certain gift shop had the Sydney satchel bags that I was looking for. They did, which made me happy.

Then, I decided to go to Darling Harbour, to use up some options on my iVenture Pass, so I took the ferry to get there, because that particular ferry takes you under the Bridge. So, you get some great views of the Bridge from another angle, and you get to see a good bit more of the harbor, as the boat makes several stops.

I made my way up and down the stairs of the ferry, several times, before I finally settled on the lower level, on the outside benches. You can see everything from there!

By the time I arrived in Darling Harbour, I was really starting to get tired. Don’t judge, I have been doing a LOT of walking over the last few days, and I’m usually lugging a bag or two around with me. Long days, lots of sun, even with a hat on. It’s draining.

I’m afraid I didn’t have enough energy left to fully appreciate either the Sydney Aquarium or the Maritime Museum. In the Aquarium, I was enjoying the LEGO statues more than the fish, as you’ll see. But the prize goes to the Moby Dick display, with the white whale made out of large LEGOs, but the background “painting” was made from an array of little ones. It reminded me of a cross-stitch pattern, where the pattern looks like it has too many varieties of color, but when you stitch it together, you see that every bit of color and variation was necessary.

The penguins were quite fun to watch, despite the crowd around that location, but the Shark tunnel was so very crowded that I only glanced in to take a picture or two. There were plenty of things that I’d already seen at the Aquarium in Townsville.

The paintings on the walls were quite cool, too. The mermaid and manatee picture made me think of a certain restaurant, back home, where the bathrooms are labeled for “Mermaids” and “Manatees”, when we always thought the guy’s bathroom should be for “Mermen”. But for some reason, the wall painting of a sea turtle made me think they used Darth Vader for a model, instead of Crush, from Finding Nemo. Something about the turtle’s expression. See if you can see the resemblance.

The Maritime Museum was near to closing. If I’d had any energy left, I think I would have found the museum and the boats enthralling. I had decided that I would use this visit for my last item on my iVenture card, but I’m afraid I didn’t make it quite as worthwhile as it could have been.

Outside of the building, there was a sign about the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic sinking, so I thought there would be an exhibit I would be interested in. And once I got through the door, I found that the bottom gallery was called The United States of America Gallery. It celebrated the ties between the American and Australian shipping industries.

Upstairs, I found the exhibit about the Titanic, but it was split between details about the actual Titanic and a costume exhibit from the movie. Now, I haven’t watched the entire film since it was in theaters the first time, so I didn’t recall right away that these outfits were even from the movie. But they are quite beautiful in their detail, and I believe the film’s costume designer was supposed to be very accurate in her historical detailing of the clothes.

There was a large gallery about some famous yacht racers of Australia, and lots of pictures and bits of memorabilia, from families that left Nazi Germany and Communist Russia for freedom in Australia. I really can’t imagine making such a trip, on a large ship, in complete exile from your home. These people weren’t convicts, but cast out for other reasons.

After the Tasman Light, you’ll notice what looks like a big painting, or you might suspect me of adding another Lego “painting”. But that image of a ship caught in a storm is actually a woven tapestry, though I forgot to take a picture of it, up close. An amazing bit of craftsmanship, wouldn’t you say?

In the Museum’s gift shop, I woke up enough to want to buy every book about the Titanic that they had, but wasn’t able to, because I don’t have any room in my luggage, now or later. I can see what the Barnes & Noble has, when I return home. But my, weren’t those books tempting!

More important needs came after leaving the Museum. I needed to eat and I needed to sit down. I had intended to take the Monorail, immediately, to get back to Newtown, but I was so tired of stairs that I took a shortcut through the shopping center, in search of an elevator or escalator. And I walked past a restaurant called Pancakes on the Rocks.

Now, would you have been able to walk by? I’ve been in Australia for a year, and excepting the occasional pancake that’s leftover from a Saturday breakfast (after I woke up), I haven’t had a plate of real pancakes since I left the United States. I kid you not.

Therefore, I looked at all the dessert options and the savory pancake choices… and still chose to get four huge pancakes with butter and syrup. Oh, yes. I didn’t want the extra sweets, I just wanted a bit of home. You wouldn’t believe how normal it is to occasionally visit Perkins, IHOP, or some other pancake place, when I’m at home. Then, I found that my eyes had been bigger than my stomach, and wasn’t even able to finish all of my pancakes. They tasted so good, though.

Finally, I had to give in and walk up several flights of stairs to reach the Monorail. I had to stop and really catch my breath, before reaching the top, so I hope it was just too many stairs, all in one day. It wasn’t even that bad when I was climbing the Pylon! I don’t really want to find out that I’ve got another “hypersensitivity” to something that’s keeping me from breathing properly.

My highly improved sense of direction got me off the Monorail at World Square, where you’ll see that funky swirl design over the staircase. Then, with only one or two checks of my map, I found my way back to a bus stop, even before I reached Railway Square! Meaning, I picked an unknown stop, got on the right bus, and it was relatively quiet and my journey back to the College was very easy. I think I’ve improved over this whole week, don’t you?

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