latitude = Los Angeles
Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Our tour today, which visited many beautiful spots we have seen before, made we wonder if I would be such a gypsy if I could live in such a lovely place with all the amenities that a big city provides. The city has so much coast line that many residents have the opportunity to perch on the hills and overlook the bright, blue water. It looked like everyone owns a boat. Even the central city has lots of parks and green space. I would guess that living here would cost as much as many other beautiful cities - Vancouver and San Francisco come to mind. Our guide told us that many of the best neighborhoods we drove through are much too expensive for young families. To be able to sit in your home overlooking the Harbor Bridge with fireworks exploding all around it on New Year's Eve, must surely be an ideal way to start the year off right.
Since there was nothing in particular we wanted to visit, we thought about taking the HoHo (hop on, hop off) bus, which has two routes, one downtown and the other out to the suburbs. The HoHo seemed rather pricey and we found a tour sponsored by an organization that gives a free bus tour and a free walking tour. The bus tour charged what it cost to run the bus and both tour guides relied on additional tourists' tips to make it worth their while. Not surprisingly, our guide was energetic and a good people manager and we were glad to tip him generously. He was from Kazakhstan, which gave his English a peculiar lilt. Australia is a country that welcomes immigrants and his story of leaving his country and family and never being able to return was moving. When he wants to see his parents, he goes to Uzbekistan and meets them on neutral territory.
Central Sydney has an interesting mix of traditional sandstone buildings constructed by the colonial British and modern glass and steel buildings. Perhaps an architecture expert would find the combination of the two side by side jarring, but I found the mix charming. The views of the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House continue to be breathtaking. The suburbs have a number of fine beaches, but Bondi has the best press agent. On this holiday weekend, it was a happening place and the sand was crammed with blankets, umbrellas and people enjoying the sunshine. However, when the guide talked about the shark attacks and the stinging jelly fish, I wondered how anyone dared to go into the water. If we had more time it would have been fun to take the 6km paved walkway that ties all the beaches in this vicinity together.
After the tour we went to the top of Sydney Tower which rises 1,000 feet over the city and peered down on what we had just seen from the ground. It sounded like all our fellow tourists there came from mainland China. The tower is part of a huge mall complex, which was closed because today is Good Friday.
Australia takes this holiday much more seriously than we do. We're fine with all the stores being closed, but we struggled to find somewhere to eat dinner. We ended up in Kings Cross, a quirky neighborhood we remember from a trip we took here with our students. It was an affordable place to stay, but is still full of strip clubs, back packer hostels and men holding hands and kissing. On this holy day restaurants are only supposed to serve liquor with a meal, but as we ate our dinner, the folks around us were drinking theirs. I feel much less nervous going into a dicey area in a country where few people carry guns.