El albergue

El albergue

Monday, December 23, 2013

City Tour

A few weeks seem to have interfered with the telling of my parents’ visit, and Christmas is now practically upon us… oops. Let’s get back to that, shall we?

So, the seventh day of Mom and Dad’s stay was dedicated to a walking tour of the city. That’s one of the things I love about big cities with high tourist traffic – most of them have really great free walking tours that are generally very informative in a personable way and allow you to pay whatever you are able to. This one we took around Sydney was no exception. The guide was a friendly local who herself had been all over Europe and so knew what kinds of things would be interesting to us poor foreigners.

This public art exhibit from some year gone by has remained
to poetically remind passersby of the empty space left by native
birds forced from their habitat by encroaching developments.

She showed us the model of the city at the Customs House, dished the dirt on the old Governor Macquarie who thought enough of himself to get his name put on every other street and building, explained the Australian coat of arms, and illustrated the beauty of the impressive Queen Victoria Building with her brief history of its development. She also told several stories that we found particularly interesting and amusing.

The QVB - not bad for a shopping center, eh?

The first was this: Long ago, the staff of the old Hero of Waterloo pub used to lure poor sailors in and start giving them free drinks until they were dead drunk. Once unconscious, the unlucky fellows were trundled off to a ship down at the nearby docks. When they groggily woke up, they found themselves basically kidnapped and forcibly conscripted for hard labor aboard the ship. Bummer!

The second had to do with the Opera House. Apparently, the original designer never got to finish overseeing the building of his brainchild because a new ministry refused to pay all the rising expenses. He resigned and returned to his native Denmark with all his family. He was not invited to the grand opening and his name was not even mentioned until years later when he got asked back to oversee the remodeling of a few interior sections. That’s rough!

So pretty... 

The third story was a bit more positive and made us smile… One of the first hospitals in Sydney was actually funded and built by rum merchants! England refused to fund one for the young colony, so the governor convinced all the merchants to build it in exchange for control of the local alcohol market. Who ever thought rum would be the answer to one’s health problems? Haha.

Martin Place, here uniquely decorated by a public art exhibit,
has been the stage for several famous films, including
The Matrix and Superman Returns.

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