Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sydney Days 2 & 3

After our trip to the Blue Mountains we were pretty pooped, but I wanted to see the Paddington Markets, and they are only on Saturday, so we got up and took the train in again.  I think Daniel spent most of his time just sort of wandering around, and at one point walked across the Harbor Bridge.  His big victory of the day was discovering a Hungry Jacks (what Burger King is called over here) that had free refills.  He bought a paper and just sat and guzzled soda for a half an hour.  This was probably the highlight of his trip so far.

So while he was in carbonated beverage heaven, I went shopping.  Well, window shopping anyway.  First up was Paddy's Market.  The info I read on it promised boutique like stalls where up and coming designers get their start and a large produce market.  The produce market part was true.  Here's a particularly funky looking fruit I saw at several stalls called a Custard Apple.  They look nothing like an apple, and have a hard time believing they taste like custard, but they did give off an aroma similar to an apple.  The orange fruit next to it is a persimmon, just in case you aren't familiar with them, but we do have them in the States.

So the produce market was fun and actually had pretty good prices, but the rest of the market was just flea market junk, so I didn't stay long.  Next I was on to the Strand Arcade.  It's an old shopping center with expensive Australian designers and jewelers for the most part, so again, I was window shopping.  The building itself was pretty enough to keep me interested.  Here's a pic:

I went there mostly to see Dinosaur Designs, a famous type of Australian jewelry or jewellery as they spell it here.  They are known for their chunky resin bangles in particular.  It was fun, but a pair of stud earrings that looked like a piece of plastic were $75, so I just looked.  If you'd like to picture it, click for their website here.  I didn't stay there too long either, and then went on to the Queen Victoria Building.  The QVB is a goregous building, again, of upscale shops, although the building connects with walkways to Westfield Sydney (more upscale shops, but in a modern mall setting), and a couple other mini malls that started to get down right confusing.  I took some more pictures so you can see the pretty architecture outside and the main dome inside.  They also had Art Deco ironwork, stained glass, and giant clocks suspended from the ceiling.  

Shopping here was fun because you got to see all kinds of pretties I, at least, don't normally get close enough to touch--Versace dresses, Chanel bags, Prada and Louboutin shoes, Omega watches, Hermes scarves, etc.  I still didn't touch them because I didn't want to be forced to buy them should I smudge them in anyway.  Still it was nice to be close enough to do so.  Probably the cheapest store I found was actually GAP.  I went in mostly just because it felt like home.  That's weird, right?  Still, it wasn't the GAP I was used to I noticed because a pair of jeans was ON SALE for $100.  I even got to wander into expensive chocolate boutiques and steal some yummy smells :) Still, after awhile I got tired of just window shopping, so I headed over to Hyde Park.  It was very pretty and right on the edge of it was St. Mary's Cathedral (which was unfortunately closed) and a temporary ice rink they had set up for winter.  It was funny to watch people ice skate in 65 degree weather.  They had these seals you could push kids around on, which I thought was infinitely smarter than trying to actually get a kid to skate.  

Hyde Park was pretty big, so I walked a good stretch of it, taking pictures of flowers I will not bore you with.    I even sat in the sun for a bit.  Here was a nice memorial garden that was part of it named for some King or two.  You can see St. Mary's in the back.  I apologize for the color on these pics, but it was very bright out, and it tended to wash out the sky and background.

They also had a fountain with turtles that spit water, which I enjoyed especially.  At the other side of the park was at the ANZAC WWII memorial, which oddly enough seemed to be a hang out for skateboarders.  There were plenty of kids chasing bubbles and an old lady feeding birds from her hand--just nice stuff.  Plus, as an added bonus I got to witness a marriage proposal.  She said yes.  Here's a pic of the happy couple right after.  

At this point I joined back up with Daniel at Hungry Jacks and we headed home.  Sunday I went to church again in the morning (Daniel had too many busy days in a row and slept).  The morning service wasn't too different from the evening one expect I sat in a pew.  A few of the people from the previous week were there and said hi.  I discovered where all the families had been hiding--the morning services.  I stumbled upon the nursery by accident, and boy were there a lot of kids.  It made me feel like I was back at Eway :)

After church we headed back into the city, this time to see the Botanic Gardens.  They were sort of like Hyde Park with interesting little gardens, fountains, and people enjoying the sun.  It was much larger, though, like Central Park size.  Again, more pictures of flowers I won't bore you with, but we did spot some more wildlife.  In addition to several of these Australian White Ibis:

I discovered by the women's restroom a tree with weird hanging stuff.  It took me a while to realize they were lots of bats, sleeping during the day.  I ran back to tell Daniel he had to come look.  He was sitting on a bench where he had managed to find a paper to read while I took pictures of flowers.  I was about to tell him he need to come with me when I looked up to see that several more bats were directly over him.  I told him to look up.  He got a little weirded out and quickly got out of his seat.  They were dead asleep, though, so they didn't move as I took a picture.

We decided to hunt up some dinner before our show at the Opera House started.  We headed to the Rocks where they were having Aromafest--a coffee festival.  We were hoping for some good local street food, and it didn't disappoint.  We got Japanese pancakes called Okonomiyaki.  They make them from mung bean flour with veggies like cabbage, carrot, and onion, and then throw in meat of your choosing.  Daniel got a seafood mix and I got beef.  Then she suggested I top it with mayo and BBQ sauce.  It was pretty good, if a bit greasy.  

Finally, it was on to our show.  We went to the McDonald's Ballet Scholarships--which was a dance competition that had already gone through a couple of semi-finalist rounds, so this was the big deal where they crowned the winners, decided by a distinguished panel of adjudicators (never once did they shorten that to judges).  It was MCed by a local celebrity we think was a Melbourne news anchor.  Because he needed no introduction, we were left in the dark.  Daniel said he reminded him of Troy McClure on the Simpsons.  

The dancing was really good, done by mostly 16-19 year olds that because of the school system here, where already in full time dance schools to become professionals.  We saw 4 jazz and 4 contemporary groups compete, and 8 soloists in classical ballet.  Some of the contemporary ones were really weird, for you SYTYCD fans, think Sonja Tayeh, then kick her up about 10 notches and add really obnoxious music.  I enjoyed the rest of it, though, and even the weird ones had incredible technique.  They also had some guest performers while the judges decided, including an inner city kids hip hop group.  This was very funny.  Clearly, they don't have inner cities like we do, cause these kids had zero swag.  It was a bunch of white kids and a few little Asian girls smiling widely in Harry Potter costumes.  This was no gritty urban dance troupe crumping.  I said to Daniel, "Hey, where's the kid that still has a bullet in his shoulder or something?"

I thought the evening was very fun, but I'm sad to say the inside of the opera house is not very exciting.  You can see it here:

We had tickets in Box D, which were the cheapest because you were to the side of the stage, but I thought they were fantastic.  You were right on top of the dancers.  You can see our view here.  They wouldn't let you take pictures during the performance.

Finally, I had to share this.  While we were waiting for the train home, I spied this very funny bit of graffiti.  Daniel said as long as you are going to do that sort of thing, you might as well have fun with it.  

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