Yes, you can climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge

That’s the Sydney Harbour Bridge behind me… and yes, it is possible to climb the arch of the bridge for a fee!

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is not just an iconic structure that can be photographed and talked about… you can actually climb it to the top. Yes, be 134 metres above the city of Sydney. This is an amazing experience… though the cost starts from 208 Australian dollars and can go up to around 300 AuDs.

The bridge climbing fee pamphlet

There are many who’d want to go and climb just the pylon which is high enough though probably not as adventurous as the actual arch climb.

What did I do? Well, I climbed the Pylon and then took a lot of pictures of other tourists who had opted for the bridge climb. The top of the Pylon is high enough and one can get a lot of lovely pictures of the city, the Opera House, and even the bridge! Had I opted to climb the arch of the bridge, I’d have had to leave my personal belongings back and this includes the camera! I personally think this was what made me opt out of the bridge climb… and no, it wasn’t the daunting climb fee surely!

The plaque on the bridge…

Entrance for those who wish to climb up the Pylon…

As you climb the narrow stairway, you see come across quotes and models telling you bits of the bridge history!

The Pylon is the concrete structure that supports the arch and there are four of them… the best thing is that you get to read all about the history of the bridge when you reach the top of the Pylon. There is a small audi too where you can sit and enjoy a short film on the making of the bridge. And lastly, of course, the souvenir shop here is a small cute area where you can buy the usual fridge magnets, key-chains, koalas and kangaroos!

Climbing up was a small group of school students and their teacher – I wouldn’t know if he was their history teacher – but he was explaining the importance of the artefacts displayed and was doing it with so much involvement and energy that I just stood there and listened to his monologue! This was probably the best history lecture I’ve ever attended in all my life. I almost wished then that all history teachers were like him and that all our school kids too went on discovery visits with the kind of seriousness that I noticed in the kids there.

The arch as seen from the top of the Pylon

 

The arch climbers… wow! now if that isn’t being brave, then what is?

 

Another picture of the arch climbers!

 

The top of the arch… and you cross over to the other side for your climb down…phew!

 

But let us get back to the climbing of the bridge… yes, it is steep and you naturally have to be in top shape to opt for it. Even the Pylon climb is pretty exhausting but you tend to go up the stairs from within the building and get to see the sights only once you’re at the top. The Pylon top has a convenient metal bench running all along the length and breadth of the boundary and you can climb it for getting the best angles while clicking the bridge, the city, or the Opera House. There is protective glass above the wall so don’t even think of leaning out to see how fast the Sydney traffic goes!

When I explained all this to my wife, she asked, ‘Hmmm, anything else associated with the bridge that is interesting?’

‘Not that I can remember,’ I said.

‘There are people who plan to get married on top of the bridge… and that must be breath-taking and charming!’ She then looked at me with that victorious smile that clearly states that she has been reading all the connected websites!

I admitted that I was busy exploring Sydney in person and had, therefore, not read as much as her.

‘Lovely pictures,’ she murmured, and then turned towards me and said, ‘I think we’ll climb the bridge arch together some time in the future!’

Now that’s the best suggestion anyone could ever have put forward… and I nodded in agreement, hoping that Expedia top bosses would think of send the two of us for a deeper exploration of this continent!

 

The sea viewed from the top of the Pylon…

 

The traffic going towards the main city… and the central hub of Sydney!

Another endearing view of the bridge!

 

The bridge viewed from ‘The Rocks’…

 

The bridge arch top and the north end of Sydney…

 

This blog post has been contributed by Arvind Passey on his travel to Australia. Read more about Arvind at http://passey.info/

Graffiti in Sydney

The spray paint artist whom I interviewed was Chefu… the video is towards the end of this post.

Graffiti can be both inspiring and intimidating… legal as well as illegal… accepted and unacceptable… creative and it can be just a mishmash of abuses hurled at you with a spray can from a wall! Sydney has its own dose of wall paintings or graffiti… and I did go in search of the best of the lot.

You cannot just stroll in the most touristy of places and expect some classic graffiti examples… though I did stumble onto a couple of them on The Rocks near the harbour bridge.

An interesting example of wall graffiti in The Rocks, sydney…

 

This one is awesome in its creative hug… loved it! Depicts the history of ‘The Rocks’ here…

 

..and this is creative graffiti… and a dead-end! 🙂

 

I was actually walking near the docks next to the Darling harbour area when I happened to meet this reticent local and we had a brief but interesting conversation.

‘I would love to explore some of the best wall art in Sydney.’ I said after the preliminaries of ‘excuse me, do you have some time?’ and ‘I am not from Sydney but I’ve been staying here for long enough to know quite a bit about the city’ sort of addresses were over.

‘Yes, you’ll need to take a tram from here to the Central and then get a train or a bus to Newtown.’ Sydneysiders do come to the point straight on and do it with a smile a lot of serious nods of their heads… or maybe, it is like this whenever any local is talking to a foreigner anywhere. Well, he did tell me how to reach the heart of graffiti in Sydney. I then remembered that somewhat similar information was volunteered by Dacey Nicoletti at the Expedia office on Kings Street and even that spray paint artist I had met on the Circular Quay on my first evening in Sydney. And, it will actually be right to watch that video interview I had with that spray paint artist before we wander further into the wall art of Sydney:

Talking of the characteristics that are normally associated with wall art, here’s what Oh Really Magazine has to say:

‘Even though Clover Moore has recognised aerosol art as legitimate, she obviously likes what street art represents, but doesn’t want to help the private citizens who genuinely would like to commission local artists.

What fat council worker, whose weekly culture consists of watching funniest home videos, has the power to decide what “Art” is and what isn’t. Based on a development application that costs hundreds of dollars? Sydney capitalism working at its best. Soon it’ll be just figurative painting, flowers, advertising and landscapes to be seen on the streets, Booorrhoooring.

If you ever wondered why Sydney’s street art has a playfully violent theme to it, just look to the authoritarian councils passing legislation to suppress it.’

I had actually read this passage before I went searching for some interesting samples of wall art in Sydney. I didn’t find many on the main roads anywhere… had to traverse to the bylanes of Newtown and I did discover great walls! There were times when I was the only person walking in silence, wondering if I was going in the right direction… and there was no right direction as you just come face-to-face with some stunning example if you’re actively searching for them. They can be high up on some terrace wall, or in a narrow lane with a car parked in front, or a transmission box, or even inside some Take-away!

Discovering interesting graffiti needs time, patience, and a lot of intuitive walking around with a brave face! Sharing a few of the pictures that I clicked of the graffiti that I saw in Sydney…

The Artists

The pencil artist I met near the Town Hall

 

saw him busy near the Circular Quay… he said he’s done a few walls as well.

 

Painting the Sydney harbour in his own way… imagine what this would look like on a huge side wall!

 

Some examples of  wall art in Newtown

The wall by the side of the main road there…

 

This one is in the main market street of Newtown, Sydney

 

Artworks can be complex at times…

 

They can be a vehicle for protest and can be perched high in their fight for more visibility!

 

…even as high as this one… and they can be vocal as well!

 

Does wall art enhance the aesthetics of a place? Does it make a statement on the current state of the people there?

 

Sometimes this is what people are talking about! This is what changes the fabric of a society!

 

Close-up of wall-art…

 

Another artwork that I liked for its sheer flow of intent!

 

This blog post has been contributed by Arvind Passey on his travel to Australia. Read more about Arvind at http://passey.info/

Sydney lights

Sydney lights from the window of Amora at Jamison Road… the hotel where I was staying

I stood on the harbour bridge in Sydney and looked out towards the city. The night was dark and the city lights gave me a view that was unforgettable. I turned my glance towards the Opera House and saw a ferry gliding over the calm sea with its lights creating reflected hues that seemed heavenly.

On another evening I walked towards the Opera House to see an entirely different sight slowly come to life… the bridge with its lights and the city that seemed quite magical.

I realised later that city lights and the dark skies generally come together to create the greatest show for human sensibilities… and in Sydney this combination was probably the deadliest!

No wonder then that the poet within me nudged me on to pen these lines:

You make me happy, Sydney lights

Far away and it’s just a speck

A room up there, down there a deck

Is someone also watching me?

I too would seem a mere speck!

See lights reflected by a boat

Who could this be who writes a note?

It’s dark and not much I can see

Just specks and what do they denote?

Light specks seem watchful in the dark

And also seem to love the dark

Do I see darkness dancing wild

With lighted steps making a mark?

Whatever be the game out there

Both don’t mind me stand there and stare

I walk and stop, then wait and look

And Sydney lights are everywhere!

(A poem written to remember the lovely Sydney lights.)

Well, Sydney lights do weave some sort of a magic on people… and I find not just me but a lot of others walking up and down the harbour side near the Opera House, or walking up to the bridge for a better view… and some even go up the Sydney Tower to look down and dream!

All that I can share with you are a few pictures and my words so saturated with my passionate

A twilight view of the harbour bridge from the Opera House… love this shot!


Sydney lights from the walkway of Opera House…

Was difficult… but managed this shot from my Sony point-and-shoot!

Like the tone of the picture he

The Vivid Light Show lights on the Museum of Contemporary Ar

See the Vivid Light Show effects on the Sydney buildings… and you’ll experience a fraction of the mesmerizing display

This blog post has been contributed by Arvind Passey on his travel to Australia. Read more about Arvind at http://passey.info/


Bus art in Sydney

Bus art_Sydney

Art attracts. Even advertisements, if done well, can add to the charm of any city. They can be placed strategically on the city transport as well… buses, taxis, trams, trains, city rail, intercity, monorail, rickshaws, and any other that may be there.

‘The buses here carry ads but in restricted areas,’ I asked a bus driver who had some time with him.

‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘though the hop-on-hop-off buses are painted all over. The other buses do have specified parts where the artwork can be displayed.’

During my stay in Sydney I did photograph a lot of buses and bus-stops and found that they had ads from a lot of sources and included technology, movies, television, travel, exploring, telecom, stores, insurance, loan, cosmetics, clothing, food, ice-cream, city, and even instructions for the commuter. The ads were vibrant and catchy… and were never ill-conceived or badly produced. They were certainly adding to the charm of this lovely city in NSW, Australia.

Instructional ads are at the right spot all over… even inside the buses, trams, and trains!

I personally loved these ads promoting a healthy life-style!

‘Do buses stop anywhere? I mean, even where there is no bus stop?’

‘No. In fact, there are times when the bus wouldn’t stop at all unless the people waiting there indicate that they want it to stop.’

I must’ve given a rather quizzed look, for this person who I was talking to while waiting for a bus, continued, ‘Buses here run on time and you can actually rely on the schedule that is there at all bus stops.’

This was indeed the truth. The schedule gave me not just the timings but also the bus routes and I was able to decide all by myself that I would get almost all the buses with a 4 and 2 in the beginning to reach Surry Hills from this stop near the Sydney Central. It was actually easy to understand and make use of road transport in this big bustling city.

I also remembered then that the driver of the cab that I took for the hotel from the airport was not wearing a seat belt. Interestingly, he told me that the cab drivers in Sydney were exempt from wearing seat belts during their work hours… that is, if they were on a personal trip, they would need to wear a belt. This exemption was not valid for any other driver of any other vehicle.

‘Why exempt just cab drivers?’ I asked.

‘Even I don’t know. But I can hazard a guess… could be because we have to get down to help our passengers so often and a belt would make us do our work just that bit slower.’

So obviously there are people who think and care for the working classes out there in Sydney. They don’t come out with regulations just because regulation-making is to be done… they do it because it would benefit everyone.

But let us come back to the subject of buses and the lovely ads on them. They are surely not an eye-sore and the pictures that I have taken will reinforce what I have said about them. And even Marshall McLuhan has remarked: ‘Historians and archaeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and most faithful reflections that any society ever made of its entire range of activities.’

Enjoy the pictures…

The fully art-covered Hop-on Hop-off buses of Sydney

Even bus-stops have lovely back-lit ads that add to the charm!

Large windows and a specified place for ads… all sorts of ads can be seen

Films, theatre, art… all feature on buses…

Ads here do make you think… and talk about them…

Another instance of a bus-stop ad blitz!

This ad is not going to hamper the view for a commuter sitting inside…

This blog post has been contributed by Arvind Passey on his travel to Australia. Read more about Arvind at http://passey.info/

Edinburgh in a day – Part 2

One of my favorite authors of fiction is Dr. Alexander McCall Smith who has written the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, and the 44 Scotland Yard series amongst others. I am addicted to his books and especially enjoyed the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series since I grew up in Botswana which is where the stories are based too. I had written to him and received a warm reply in which he told me about the event happening at St. Cecilia’s Hall. The evening started off with a small piece on the bagpipes by a student of the University of Edinburgh, followed by an introduction by AMcCS, a lecture on the works of the poet W.H. Auden by Prof. Mendelson from Columbia University, and ended spectacularly with a performance comprising of ‘The Willowwren and the Stare’ (a poem of Auden’s) set to tune.  After this, I met with AMcCS who interacted with me for a little while, took photos with me, and gladly signed all the books of his that I had brought with me from India! As you can imagine, I was over the moon 🙂

AMcCS with me after the lecture!

This was followed by a lovely dinner at the David Bann restaurant which came recommended highly especially for a vegetarian like me. The restaurant was another gem of a tip from my Expedia host from the London office. The travel pointers from the Expedia folks have been spot on and the Expedia experience a treat.  From here I walked most of the Royal Mile, back to Waverley through the market side this time, and on to Calton Hill. Here one could see the National Monument (based on the Parthenon), the Nelson Monument, etc., apart from fantastic views of the city, Arthur’s Seat, and the Firth of Forth. It was beautiful at sunset and I climbed down the hill with just enough time to visit the Mound for a view of the Edinburgh Castle after walking through St. Andrew’s Square. It was raining as I head to the Waverley Station for my Caledonian Express rain back to London, but who am I to complain after a glorious day outdoors? 🙂

Edinburgh in a day – Part 1

I had decided to make a day trip to Edinburgh from London and that was easier said than done. I ended up taking the day train from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley and took almost 5 hours. One could have reached Paris or Brussels in half the time from London. However, as it turned out, the trip was my favorite of the lot and worth the time and expense.  I reached Edinburgh around 1430 hrs and was taking the overnight sleepr train back. This basically meant that I spent more time traveling than actually being in Edinburgh. I ought to have named this post ‘Edinburgh in an afternoon’, me thinks!

When I mentioned to my host from the Expedia office in London that I am really keen to visit Edinburgh, she went out of her way to help me get there. She said that Edinburgh was a beautiful city to visit and gave me pointers on places to visit. She asked some of her friends for activities to be done there and places to visit. The dungeon tour described below came highly recommended and can be booked through the Expedia site with Mercat tours (under their ‘Things to do’ category.

The ‘dungeon master’ whose commentary for the tour of the underground was fantastic!

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Anyway, after getting out of the station, my agenda as proposed by a friend was to walk to ‘The Mound’ for apparently lovely views of the Edinburgh castle. I was half-way there, when I noticed a hoarding with directions to the National Museum of Scotland and the museum hound that I am, sniffed my way to the museum instead thinking I could swing by the Mound for the Castle view anytime while the museum closed at 5 pm. So, off I trekked to the museum across Waverley and the North Bridge, when I came across a tour of the so-called ‘underground city’ or dungeons of Edinburgh (which came highly recommended). They had a 5.30 pm slot open for the Historical and Ghost tour which I promptly grabbed. So after my visit to the museum and grabbing a bite at the ‘Piemaker’, I set off to the dungeon tour. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour which ended with some Scotch Whiskey and Scottish Shortbread at a pub called the Banshee Labyrinth. This was on Niddry Street and very close to St. Cecilia’s Hall which was the reason I was actually in Edinburgh.

London in a day – Part 2

From near the river Thames, we went to Westminster. After admiring the Big Ben and deciding to not enter the Houses of Parliament (there was a 2 hour wait) much to my disappointment (the architecture is breathtaking!), we went to Westminster Abbey. From here, we took the much recommended walk to Trafalgar Square along Downing Street.

In Trafalgar Square with a display in the background counting down to the Olympics 2012

After a quick walk through Trafalgar Square, we walked into the National Portrait Gallery. The gallery is absolutely fantastic. There was a special exhibition of Titian’s paintings on at the time I went in addition to their regular exhibits. From here we head to Soho for a late lunch at a quaint vegetarian cafe called Beatroot. This was followed by a visit to the Expedia office in Angel, Islington. The day ended with a walk along Regent’s Canal and an excellent dinner with friends.

We saw a lot of London over the next few days – Regent’s Park, the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, etc., and thoroughly enjoyed everything we saw, ate, and heard. The Expedia website has numerous sightseeing packages listed that one could book online for hassle-free travel — right from their Hop-on Hop-off tours to the Total London Experience, and themed highlights.

 

The party at the Expedia office in London

It’s party time at the Expedia office in London! 🙂

Sipping Sangria in the beach-themed party at the Expedia office.

The party at Expedia’s London office  is to showcase their latest research study on travel to beach destinations.

London in a day – Part 1

While I had more than a day to spend in London, I decided to see how much of London’s tourist attractions one could cover in a single day. As it happened, my best laid plans of leaving early took a flip and I ended up starting a tad later than planned. The Expedia experience has been fantastic so far and the arrangements excellent. It was only fitting to visit the Expedia office in London and meet the people behind the organization. This meant planning a day spent exploring London with the icing on the cake being a visit to Expedia.

I decided to check out the ‘Changing of the Guard’ at Buckingham Palace first before setting off to see the rest. We
took the ‘tube’ (as the London underground trains are called) from near the hotel to a stop near the Buckingham and an hour early for the ceremony. This helped get vantage spots for viewing. After a couple of hours at the Buckingham Palace, we left for our second stop making our way to the station through the attached Green Park.

Breakfast like a king! Especially when outdoors on a cold and frosty morning!

Next on the cards were the bridges across the river Thames. We walked along the Queen’s Walk and got good views of the London and Tower Bridges, as well as the HMS Belfast. We crossed over along the pretty Tower Bridge and walked the grounds of the Tower of London that has watched over the city on Thames for almost a thousand years now. The ‘beefeaters’ are the quasi-custodians of the Crown Jewels and also are tour guides for the Tower. We were in a hurry and didn’t take the tour. We proceeded from here (again by the tube) to visit the Big Ben area.

Expedia’s London Office

The Expedia office in London at the award-winning Angel Building. This is their European headquarters.

 

In the ‘London’-themed room inside the Expedia office with my fantastic host for the day!

 

Go Expedia! This is the most fun office I have been to in aeons!

 

The Expedia office in London reminds one of the Googleplex, especially the fun atmosphere. It has fantastic view too 🙂