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Travel blog I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm intercontinental and I eat French toast (Beastie Boys) | | | Photos available at www.istockphoto.com/georgeclerk

Sydney and Canberra

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 24 August 2008 | Views [3754]

After Bali, arriving in the slick, ordered, affluent and surprisingly chilly world of Sydney's CBD was quite a contrast.  I stayed in a rickety old pub/hotel right in the middle of the business district, just a few minutes from the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge (locally aka The Coathanger!)

My flight arrived early in the morning, so I'd already had a look around before I was able to check in.  Straight away, it was pretty clear that Sydney has tonnes going for it, most strikingly the sparkling blue waters of the huge harbour itself.

A few days later I went out on a whale watching boat, and - hardly any distance outside the busy harbour - we saw a couple of humpback whales, happy to frolic about near to the boat for ages.

Billy Elliot's had a long run in Sydney.  Went to see that, and it was quite good, but the best bit was hearing the actors and dancers doing their best to pronounce words like 'frustrated' in a grim Northern miner accent!  

Being a victim of all the hype over here (since it was Heath Ledger's last film), I also went to see 'Dark Knight', but didn't think much of that... can't see what makes it any different from all the other superhero films, not sure why it got such high reviews.

I left Sydney on the day that Team GBR overtook the Aussies in the Olympic medal tally, which didn't go down very well at all here.  The media was full of references to the 'whinging pommies' somehow 'not doing as crap as we've come to expect'.  The wisdom of the pundits all put it down to 'Money, money, money mate - they're so worried about 2012 that they've been throwing heaps of cash at sports development.  And good on 'em I say.'  The Aussies are a sporting lot to be fair.

But that doesn't stop their papers suddenly starting to publish new medal tables which show medals per capita of population, where Australia currently comes 4th in the world compared to GB at 20th.  The article kept quiet about the fact that NZ come in ahead of them, but pointed out that 'The UK would be a gold medal certainty if gloating about beating Australia was an Olympic sport'.  Ouch!

But despite their bravado, I reckon they're really a bunch of jessies.  In their 'winter', all the New South Welshmen (yes, that's really what they're called) wrap themselves up in thick jackets and scarves, while the sun blazes down from a clear blue sky.  Fair enough, it's not warm at the moment, but it's not that cold!

Anyway, after just over a week in Sydney, I ignored advice from 'Sydneysiders'... 'Seriously, mate, don't go there, it's shithouse.  Nothing but massive roundabouts and bloody politicians' and headed to Australia's capital, Canberra.  

Still a bit of a national joke, the site of Canberra - at that time a sheep station - was selected in 1908 as a good place for Australia's capital city, being between Sydney and Melbourne.

At first it seems a bit like a Simpsons episode, with massive public buildings and statues dotted everywhere, a hands-on science place called 'Questacon' and a village of miniature buildings from all over the world.

It's also a bit like Beijing in it's massive layout and the fact that it takes absolutely ages to walk from one place to anywhere else, which seems a little over the top for Canberra's 325,000 people, compared to Beijing's 16 million plus.

Canberra seems to have a 'national' everything, including this National Carillon.  I didn't even know what a carillon was (turns out it's a bell tower)

Anyway, though Sydney was only quite cold, Canberra really was baltic, below freezing and windy at night.  

After a few days there I could see why it got it's dull reputation, and lots of boring looking offices for companies like EDS, Ernst & Young and SAP, presumably working on endless government contracts, didn't help.  But apart from that, there were some top notch art galleries and exhibitions, and apparently there's quality skiing and boarding not far away in the snowy mountains, so it's not that bad!

Tags: canberra, sydney

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