05 September 2013


Paul and I were blessed last weekend as we for the first time since moving to PNG visited the first world. Our experience in the city was nothing short of amazing as we enjoyed a stay on Circular Quay with a hotel room overlooking the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour.

Paul and I have each spent time in Sydney - I with British bestie Nicola Brown and Paul on business just before moving to PNG - but this was our first trip to the Land Down Under together. Nic and I spent a lot of time wandering around Circular Quay so I was quite familiar with the area.

After Paul picked me up at the train station and, gentleman that he can be, walked me to the hotel a few blocks away, he was excited to show me the view upstairs. I won't lie, it felt incredible to look out the window and see tall buildings, lights, great architecture, boats in the water, people walking around and lights illuminating the darkness.

Following my last Sydney visit, I had no pull or desire to live in the city, though I did find it a nice place to visit. It didn't take me long time, however, to long to live in a city just like Sydney with buildings and bars and entertainment. I had only been in the city a few hours and I was already captivated by the commotion below.

Since Friday and Monday were travel days, we really only had two full days to do what we needed to do. Paul's primary objective: buy as many items as possible. As a woman, I supported this shopping goal. We had a running list of needed items that included Starbucks lattes for me, shoes, swim trunks for Paul, makeup for me, an external hard drive, a house phone, a potential cell phone and a new laptop since mine was going to die of exhaustion any day.

Saturday morning we hit the shops just before 10 and really worked to find everything listed. We walked to the shops around Market Street, comparison shopped and, one-by-one, checked items off the list. By noon the courtyard had filled with entertainers and onlookers and sounds of guitars and male voices filled the air. Some artists played for tips and other left buckets out for CD purchases.

Sydney is also full of street artists like this one who set up shop on the courtyard:

In the middle of all of the mid-day Saturday, beginning of spring shopping, crowds gathering and pedestrians walking, a few lone people sat on blankets in among all the commotion. The individuals were scattered, some at the apex of a street corner and others acting as sudden road blocks, halting pedestrian traffic, in the middle of ongoing shoppers who did not expect to see them. They were not like the others who rushed around them, not dressed like them, not motivated like them, not on a mission. They were disheveled and quiet, there to observe not there to purchase, some were just there to be. Some seemed to want attention, holding signs, while all of them drew attention if only by location.

This man, offering shoe shine services, positioned himself at a mall entrance, directly in front of escalators

This man sat on a corner, just reading the paper. There are more than 100,000 homeless individuals throughout Australia.

Since Paul had previously mentioned how small the Opera House had looked from our hotel room, I took him on a walk to see the epic Sydney landmark. He admitted that it was definitely a lot bigger up close.

For dinner, at Paul's suggestion, we walked to a neighboring old-world Italian restaurant that just happened to be across the alleyway. After such an exhausting walk 20 steps from the hotel door, we were thrilled to sit at one of the 20 or so tables in the exposed brick dining room.

Photos and wine bottles hung on the wall and a man played everyone's favorite songs on the piano. Occasionally the piano man wandered from table to table, greeting guests and asking which songs they might like to hear.

There were people seated at five tables when we arrived near 7 but the place quickly filled throughout our dinner.

A man we suspected to be the owner came to our table, ever so kindly advised us on the evening's specials and, throughout the night provided a bit of history about the building. Paul wondered about the building's previous business genre, given the exposed brick walls and wooden carriage doors along the exterior wall. We noticed exposed stairs leading below the dining room and an incline above that indicated stairs leading to a level above.

We learned that the building is said to be Australia's oldest commercial building still in use. Bulletin Place is an old-world building hidden on a tucked-away side street that was constructed in 1816 and was originally used to house wool. More recently the space, still boasting its original Scottish bricks and English-made doors, was a popular wine house before settling as a respectable Italian eatery with a piano man and, on occasion, opera singers in the streets.

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