Day two of our stay in Sydney began by a visit to the Anzac Monument. The monument is situated at one end of Hyde Park, which in turn is only a block away from the Travelodge Hotel where we were staying, so it made sense to put it first on the agenda.
To say the Anzac Monument is a masterclass in monuments and presentation is an understatement. From the outside, it is an imposing structure, flanked by a shallow lake on one side and a series of simple, but effective waterfalls on the other. The waterfalls actually split into two, and a gradually decsending walkway between the two of them leads you into the underground body of the building.
This was the first surprise; just how much of it is underground. For such a modest-looking structure, it harbours a warren of rooms beneath it. There’s a central, circular area where the walls are tiled entirely with plaques, each with the name of a fallen soldier. Alongside each name is a small glass container containing soil originating from the area in which they lived. Off to the side of this is the next surprise; two large exhibition rooms packed full of static and advanced interactive displays telling the stories of those who fought and are still fighting. Museums and war memorials are not generally my thing, but I have to admit that I could have spent hours in there.
But that was not all… a flight of steps led us up into the main body of the memorial building, where further displays greeted us, and a central, closed-off area containing a dramatic sculpture. By sheer coincidence, we arrived at that point at exactly 11am, a time at which each day they have two minutes silence and play the Last Post. Very moving.
Eventually, we pulled ourselves away from the Anzac memorial and headed off across Hyde Park to our next destination; St Marys Cathedral. We spent a while there, and paid a few dollars to go down into the crypt, before moving on.
Hyde Park Barracks and The Mint are two buildings a little further on from the Cathedral, built more or less alongside each other. The Barracks currently has an art installation around the outside of it (a patterned floor), whch we took a look at, but didn’t bother to pay to go inside. We still had a lot to get in, and figured that we might come back to it later on the way back, if we had the time (spoiler alert… we didn’t).
The next building we took a look inside was The Mint, which is an old colonial-style building that now houses a cafe upstairs and not much else. Or if there was more to see, then we didn’t find it…
A little further along, we came to the Parliament Building of New South Wales. Again, this was free to enter; we had our bags and clothes scanned upon entry, and were allowed to wander around its corridors and look into rooms at our leisure. A very helpful gentleman offered to take us into the debating chamber, of which there are two. As it turned out, though, they’d just broken for lunch, so there wouldn’t be much to see other than the interior of the room, which is known as ‘The Bear Pit’, he explained due to the aggressiveness of the debating that goes off in there. In another room, which we could peer into through a glass door, another debate was in session, which was also being televised live at that moment (TV screens dotted here and there showed what was going on)… a little like the House of Commons on TV at home.
We spent a bit longer in the next building, the State Library of NSW, which was impressive inside, and had a few art galleries, before grabbing lunch at a little ‘Piccolo Me’ Kiosk, located on the edge of the Botanical Gardens, which we would come back to later.
All of which led us, eventually, back to the harbour, and Sydney Opera House.
The Opera House is an interesting piece of architecture, familiar to anyone who has ever picked up an encyclopedia of the World or watched travel programmes on the TV. We might have paid for a tour of its insides if it wasn’t for the fact that there was clearly quite a bit of maintenance work going on, so we passed on it. We did spend quite a bit of time walking around the outside of it, however, and also pausing to take photographs looking back across the bay towards the Harbour Bridge, where we went yesterday. In fact, this area of Sydney is clearly Selfie-Heaven.
Having looked at the Bridge and the Opera House from all available angles, we realised that there was just one more view that we needed to get. This required walking around the next cove – Farm Cove – to Mrs Macquarie’s Point. Mrs Macquarie was the wife of a Governor of Sydney back in the day, and used to like sitting at that point and looking winsomely out across the bay. As a consequence, the Governor had a special chair cut into the rock for her, which is now known as Mrs Macquirie’s Chair.
Once we’d taken the obligatory photos of us sitting in the rock chair and taken our final photos looking back across the bay towards the Opera House, with the Harbour Bridge right behind it (because you have to… it’s the law…) , we started heading back towards the city, through the Botanical Gardens. Here, we got briefly rained on rather spectacularly, but the gardens were otherwise quite delightful and relaxing to walk through.
What do you think of this beauty?…
Once again, we paused in Hyde Park by the Archibald Fountain to watch the bats again before finally trudging wearily back to our hotel, where we had the remains of our Pizza + Crisps + Cake for dinner (we know how to live!).