A couple of years ago I came up to Sydney with James to visit a friend over the NRL Grand Final weekend. During this trip we all travelled over to Manly Beach (who happened to be one of the finalist) to take a look around. When we arrived, we were surprised to find out that a huge Jazz Festival was in progress all over the town. By the looks of things the Manly Jazz Festival is an annual event held over the Queen’s Birthday Public Holiday weekend and so seeing that I was in town I thought that I would revisit and take in as much of the music on offer as possible.
It was a long day yesterday, but I was still up early this to help Lawrence make breakfast before Barbara left for work. I was expecting a busy day down at the harbour with the naval review still going on, fans arriving for the Grand Final and of course people heading out to Manly on the ferries. Therefore, I bagged a lift down to the train station from Lawrence at 10:00 so that I could get into town and, hopefully, avoid the worst of the crowds down at the pier. I still wanted to watch the NRL Grand Final, so I arranged to meet Lawrence back at the Panania RSL club in time for the start of the match.
As I descended the stairs from the Circular Quays train station, I knew I was in trouble, as I could see the queue for the ticket booths for the ferry to Manly snaking along the water’s edge. Numpty! Should have bought a combined train, bus & ferry day pass back at Revesby station when I boarded the train. Luckily, I knew that there were two ticket offices and most people start queuing at the first one they come too without realising that there’s a second one on the other side of the pier. Getting the ferry ticket was only part of the battle now I had to queue up for the ferry itself, I joined the back of the queue just as one of the ferries was approaching the dock. However, I soon realised I had no chance of getting on this boat and so it proved as the crew closed the barriers just before it was my turn to go through them.
I eventually got on board the next ferry and found myself a decent seat outside at the front, where I was hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the navy ship that I thought were out in the harbour. Unfortunately, they had all gone, so I had to be content with a couple of Tall Ships and the approach into Manly Wharf. On leaving the boat it looked as though the whole of Sydney had travelled over to Manly for the festival, as the place was packed. However, I soon found a space at the first stage I came across and settled in to see a couple of bands, the second of which was the New Zealand naval jazz band! On the other side of the boardwalk, where the main Manly beach is located, was where the main stage had been set up. On this stage was a massive ensemble of musicians, who were having a whale of a time in what looked like a jam session, as one by one, each member came to the front to do his or her stuff in front of the audience.
Time for a swim I thought, so I jumped over the wall onto the beach and started to get ready for the surf. Just as I was about to into the sea, I heard a load of music coming from a group of musicians just along the beach with a large crowd surrounding them as they made their way along. The roving band stopped right by where I was getting changed and proceeded to get everyone dancing along with them in the surf. Once they had finished I managed to get into the water for my swim and after drying off I returned to the main stage to watch some more of the bands on offer. Looking at the program, I realised that there were several more stages dotted around the town and so I wandered off to take a look at what they had to offer.
Watching all this jazz made me hungry and when in Manly, it’s practically the law that you have to buy fish and chips and eat them on the front overlooking the beach/sea. Feeling a bit full after lunch, I decided to take a stroll through the street market with stall selling all sorts of stuff, which I found interesting but was never going to buy! Except, I was in the market for a hat and in amongst all this was the most perfect Panama hat that I paid well over the odds for, but fulfilled the main task of keeping the sun off my every expanding bald patch on top of my head and made me look cool into the bargain (Well, that’s what the stall holder said!)
Remembering that I had to get back to Panania for the start of the NRL Grand Final, I left Manly on the 16:00 ferry which got me back into Circular Quay 30 minutes later. Still time for a quick look around The Rocks and visit a pub that I’ve been meaning to go to for ages. The Glenmore Hotel up on Cumberland Street which runs along the top of the Rocks is an old pub that was being refurbished every times I’ve walked past it previously. Today, I was in luck as it was opened and I wasted no time in heading up to the rooftop bar, grabbing a drink and taking some of the best viewed to be found in Sydney. I timed my departure from the pub so that I could take a look around the rocks archaeological dig underneath of the Rocks YMA building and still catch the train back to Panania.
I thought that was a little late in meeting Lawrence at the Diggers RSL club, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the big match didn’t kick off until 8pm, so I had time to grab a quick bite to eat in the restaurant before settling down to watch the game.
There’s one thing I’ve come to learn in Australia, Sydney knows how to throw a party!
From the New Year’s firework display and the annual Vivid light show through the the many smaller events held in and around the harbour area, there’s always something going on. This weekend, they’ve got something happening that’s potentially bigger than anything that’s been seen on before. It’s one hundred years since the Australian Navy was established and to celebrate there’s been a gathering of many of the ships in the current day navy, as well as warships from many overseas nations such as the UK, USA, New Zealand, India, Spain, Norway and China to name a few. In fact the International Fleet Review is going to be a week long event, that will include a ceremonial entry into the harbour, an official fleet review by that ultimate party animal, Prince Harry, a massive firework and lights show spectacular and many other events and ceremonies involving mariners and their craft.
So this morning I found myself driving up to Sydney at the crack of dawn in order to meet Barbara and Lawrence for a trip into town to soak up some of the atmosphere before taking a trip out on the Sydney Show boat (remember that!) to watch the firework and light show from the water in the middle of the harbour. The cruise was due to leave the pier at 17:30, so we grabbed a lift to the train station from their eldest daughter Zoe at 15:00 and the then jumped on a train into the CBD. As expected the train was packed with families heading into town to join the fun, but a journey that normally takes 45 minutes only took 20 or so as the train bypassed most of the stations on the way in. The only problem was due to the congestion at Circular Quays, it was not allowed to stop at the station there, so we found ourselves jumping in a taxi outside Central Station.
After a short taxi ride down to Darling Harbour, we had plenty of time to take a look round some of the Tall Ships and warships that were moored up along the water’s edge. Of course, seeing that it was a warm day and all that, we had a drink or two in one of the many bars and restaurants that also line the water. Finally it was time to board the boat for the evening’s cruise, but being old hands at this sort of stuff now, we know that we could wait until the last of the passengers were boarding before we made our move, safe in the knowledge that we had a reserved table waiting for us on board. Sure enough, we had a window table in the main body of the boat which was perfect for watching the entertainment on the stage located at the front and also for seeing what was going on outside on the water. Unfortunately, the cost of the tickets for the cruise did not cover all the drinks like it did last time, but the three of us still had a couple in front of us by the time the first course of the dinner arrived.
It was another excellent dinner served up to us tonight and in between courses I managed to go up on the top deck to grab a few pictures of the various boats we were passing on our way out the middle of the harbour. Once out there, we joined a number of other craft in what looked like the designated area for passenger boats to watch the fireworks from the water.
At the appointed hour, the firework and light show spectacular kicked off with a fly pass of several military helicopters that came into the harbour directly over our heads and flew round the whole harbour area in a wide arc, before departing. Unfortunately, we were a little too far away from the opera house and bridge to see what was going on with regard to the light show (apparently there was a whole theme going on, all set to music and dialog, which was broadcast over the radio!). However, when the fireworks section of the show got underway, we were in the perfect to see everything up to and including the totally awesome, finale which the pictures below don’t do justice too.
Once the pyrotechnics area was deemed safe by the water police, our boat made its way slowly back into Darling Harbour past all the naval ships lit up like Christmas trees, the Opera House, where the band was still playing and under the bridge, where we very nearly overrun a yacht sitting underneath the bridge with no lights on. Luckily a few of the passengers and crew spotted it and all alerted the captain who slowed the boat down in time to avoid a disaster. The air was blue for a time afterwards as various people gave out their opinion to the people on board the yacht.
There were still plenty of people milling around the pier area when we docked at around 9:30 but as it had already been a long day, we thought it was better to find a taxi back to Central Station and jump on a train back home.
Barbara on the train
Warships and cruise boat at Darling Harbour
Tall ships and warships at Darling Harbour
Waiting to board the Sydney Showboat
Leaving Darling Harbour in the evening sun.
A warship moving into position for the night.
Passing under the Harbour Bridge on the way out.
One of the warships moving into position.
Sydney North Shore CBD
A warship waiting for the night’s festivities
The Opera house at sun down
Heading out into Sydney Harbour
Sydney CBD at night
It’s all going off!
One of the warships lit up at night
Coming back into port past the Opera House and CBD.
Passing under the bidge looking back towards the Opera House
However, I was up early to take a quick walk up and down Red Hill and was back in time to help Lawrence prepare breakfast. The weather was a lot better than yesterday with no wind to speak off and after rolling up at the Floriade gates in the early afternoon, we were soon exploring the tented village at the front of the show grounds. We managed to avoid purchasing anything from the myriad of stalls offering everything from herbal tea to foot massaging machines, knife sharpeners to tree loppers. As it was the Public Holiday weekend, the crowds were larger than usual and this coupled with the warm weather we got, made our progress through the various displays very slow, although we made the most of it by taking frequent breaks for coffee, ice cream and the like.
At the back of the event, they usually set up a community area where this year’s theme was gnomes. It looked as though every school in the ACT had been given a number of large gnomes to paint in any colour and style they wished. These had then been set out in a large display over an area that they had named ‘Gnome Knoll’. Of course, there were gnomes available to purchase, which could then be painted on site and then either taken home or placed in amongst the display. The knoll was full of kids (young and old) busily perfecting their own masterpiece.
For the past two years I’ve been travelling up to and staying at Lawrence and Barbara’s place in the suburbs of Sydney. So I thought it was time to invite them down to Canberra to see what the Capital could do for them. We’ve been discussing it for a while now and seeing that this weekend is the first of two successive long weekends we get around this of the year and owing to the fact that Floriade is still on, we decided that this would be the perfect time.
Actually, they drove down yesterday and a arrived at my place in the late afternoon. Last night was spent in the Hellenic Club over at Woden and this morning we had a lazy English breakfast on the balcony. The stiff breeze blowing in the trees should have warned us as to what to expect later in the day, for as we ventured out to take a quick tour of Canberra, we soon realised that the planned trip to Floriade in the afternoon was out of the question, due to the high winds. Fear not, there’s always a contingency back-up plan! and today’s was a trip over to the Old Parliament House Buildings for a look round the building that housed the Australian seat of government until the New Parliament building was completed 25 year ago.
We took a look round the House of Representatives and the Senate by ourselves, but then we joined an organised tour which took us round the remainder of the building. We finished off by taking a look around the Museum of Australian Democracy which not only charted the history of democracy in Australia since the first settlers, but also the highs and lows of each Australian Prime Minister from Edmund Barton in 1901 to the latest incumbent, Mr Tony Abbott.
Taking a look around the debating chamber
Inside the House of Representatives
Lawrence inside the House of Representatives
Barbara inside the House of Representatives
The Prime Ministers office inside the Old Parliament Building.
You’re not supposed to smile!
He’s not happy!
I could never wear a wig!
Looking down on the House of Representatives
Lawrence & Barbara outside the Old Parliament Building
As part of the ‘Windows to the World’ events that have been occurring all around the embassies and diplomatic missions in Canberra over the past few weeks, the Royal Thai Embassy held a Thai food and Cultural day at their compound today. I was supposed to meet Glenn and his family in the gardens, but apparently they had already been and gone by the time I arrived. I turned up on my bike, as I was on my way down into the Parliamentary Zone to watch some professional cycling later. It was a good job that I did, as all the roads around the embassy were jammed packed with cars, some of which looked as though they had been dumped!
Inside it was just as packed, with hundreds of people milling around the various food stalls that had been set up around the perimeter of the grounds. In the centre of the compound the Thai embassy staff had set up a couple of stages, one of which was reserved for a cover band who were pumping out western pop/rock classics from down the years in a unique and strangely peasant Thai style. The other stage was being used for more traditional performances of Thai dance, music and martial arts.
As you probably expected, I had to try some of the food and drink on offer and with so many food outlets on show I had a difficult choice to make, but in the end I went for some satay chicken washed down with a bottle (or two) of Singha beer. I wanted to stay longer, but the cycle race I had ridden down to see was about to start, so I jumped on the bike and rode down to Federation Mall, which is location in between the Old and New Parliament buildings to catch it.
Lots of people at the food outlets
One of the food outlets
Food outlet serving up some fantastic food.
Balloons in the Royal Thai colours
Thai band playing some western tunes
The Wishing Tree.
The bunting was out
Members of embassy staff serving iced tea
The two compares presenting the Cultural section of the day starring …
A band playing traditional Thai music…
for the Thai dancers…
Close-up of one of the Thai dancers
The ambassador blesses the martial arts performers
Over the past couple days, Canberra has been host to a series of races in which many of the best male and female cyclist in the country have been competing in the 2013 National Capital Tour, which is part of a national road race series. Yesterday both groups completed a road race starting in the centre of Canberra and finishing 120km later out in the Namadgi National Park.
This morning, they took to the roads around Lake Burley Griffin for a quick two lap spin in stage two of the event and this afternoon I popped along to watch the exciting finale (Stage Three) called a Criterium. This consists of riding around a set lap (today it was a near perfect 1km loop of the road between Old and New parliament Houses) for 1 hour plus 5 laps with the winner being the rider completing the most laps in this time. The women were first off and the 36 riders cut a spectacular sight as they raced around the track at speeds in excess for 45kpm. The group mainly kept together with a couple of riders initially breaking away at the front, but near the end these two were caught and it was an exciting brunch finish to establish the winner.
If I thought the women’s race was good, I was totally blown away by the men’s. Over 130 bikes lined up at the start and straight away the pace was set at an incredible speed by three riders from the same team, who looked as though they wanted to set up the win for their ‘main man’. The rest of the riders were left trailing in a long line behind these three and soon they started to catch up and lap some of the back markers. When this happened, the organisers pulled the lapped riders out of the race. At the bell (One hour mark), the breakaway group were still clear, but the main group were catching fast and the pace got even hotter over the final five laps. However, the breakaway group just held them off enough to deliver their man to the finish line. The average speed of the winner was around 45kpm and the man on the tannoy was telling us during the race that they were reaching speeds of up to 65kpm on the downhill section of the lap.
I hung around for the prize giving ceremony and then rode my bike (at a considerably slower speed than these guys had just done) back home.
Being part of the Commonwealth, the Australian head of state is still technically The Queen and her representative in country is the Governor General, who happens to be woman by the name of Quentin Bryce. Of course, being The Queen’s representative in Australia means you get to live in a nice house on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra and by way of showing off this abode, they have a Government House Open Day every year. This year, seeing it’s Canberra’s centenary, the public were invited to bring a picnic along and enjoy all that was on offer.
As always days like these are dependent on the weather and with this technically still being winter, the organisers must have been a bit worried as to what we were going to get. Do not fear, as I woke up early this morning the sun was shining and forecast was for a beautiful day in the ACT. So beautiful in fact, that I decided to go for a ride round the lake first and then call into Government House on the way back! Judging by the numbers of bikes parked up outside the gates, a few people had had the same idea. As soon as I entered the gates, I headed over to where the Sky Whale was teetered, passing a Pony Club demonstration on the way. Apparently I had just missed GG herself, so I contented myself by taking pictures of the balloon, plus the two helicopters nearby.
After chatting to the crew of both helicopters and taking lunch whist watching one of the bands on stage, it was time to explore the many static displays that had been set up around the main lawn of the residence. Suddenly, there was a movement in the sky and a single RAAF Roulette plane was giving us a masterful aerial display before leaving as quickly as it came. I decided against taking a look around the inside of the house after I saw the size of the queue waiting to enter it and in any case the large Naval Sea Hawk helicopter was scheduled to take off with several members of the Army Parachute display team on board in preparation for their ‘jump’ later in the day. The four members of the team were very accommodating with their time and were very happy to pose for pictures with the large crowd that had gathered around both them and the Sea Hawk.
At the allotted time, the crowd was cleared back to a safe distance and the helicopter was started and warmed up ready for take-off. The parachute team were called forward to board and after a deafening roar it took off and was soon just a mere dot in the blue sky above. I took up position at the edge of the lawn where the display team were due to land and like everybody else looked upwards to catch a glimpse of them leaving the Sea Hawk. Suddenly, there they were free falling down towards us and after performing a couple of manoeuvres in the air, they broke off and deployed their chutes in order to glide in to a near perfect landing.
This was the cue for many people to start packing up and heading for the exit and as I’d seen everything I wanted to see today, I did the same. Outside the gates there was a bit of a traffic jam of free ACTION Buses competing for space with the many cars parked alongside the driveway into the house, so I was glad that I could simply jump on the bike, find the cycle path that headed my way and ride home.
Young rider on the pony Club display
The Sky Whale made an appearance
Great display from this RAAF Roulette Solo stunt plane
A Seahawk from the Royal Australian Navy
The SnowyHydro Air Ambulance
Display of sheep shearing
Looking up from the lawns towards the back of Government House
The Big Boss Groove Band
One of the vintage car on display with the picnic area in the background.
One of the Red Berets Parachute display team.
The Red Berets climb aboard the helicopter for their lift up above.