Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Summer Events in Sydney

Everybody comes out for summertime in Sydney.  Despite this year’s ridiculously wet weather, the parades, festivals, exhibits, and shows have gone on.  Here is a small sampling of what I’ve been up to over these busy few weeks.

Rally for Marriage Equality

Kicking off summer in early December was the Rally for Marriage Equality.  The gays and supporters were out in full force to march through the city and end up at the Labor Party’s National Conference in Darling Harbour.  Australia’s party in power voted to add marriage equality to their party platform, but only with a conscience vote, thus diluting its impact and delaying the inevitable for no good reason.  But, it was a step in the right direction and great to see everyone out.  Overall, it was a good day:

New Year’s Eve

The fireworks on Sydney Harbour are pretty spectacular. Fireworks shoot off of the Harbour Bridge and from several barges strategically placed all up and down the harbour.  If that wasn’t enough, several of the skyscrapers in the city shoot fireworks off their roofs.  Not bad.  And what was even better was our new apartment’s view of it all.  The photo quality isn’t that great at night on the iPhone, but you can totally see the bridge and the opera house:

Chinese New Year

A few weeks after New Year’s was Chinese New Year.  Having a large Asian population, Sydney has a massive Chinese New Year Parade.  Watching the news about it earlier in the week, the parade is actually more pan-Asian than strictly Chinese.  All sorts of groups take part, and news estimates put the crowd at around 100,000.  Not bad.

We watched about 30 minutes of the parade before both my mate and I were ready to go.  There were just too many people out.  And besides:  I’ve been to China now.  I’ve seen the crowds and the giant, ornate dragons first hand.  I don’t need a parade.

Sydney Festival

Most of the month of January is dominated by the Sydney Festival.  The three-week or so long festival consists of arts, live music, and all sorts of other performances.  There’s something on every day and night.  Last year, my mate Todd and I went to a light and sound show at the Chinese Garden near Chinatown.  This year, I decided to check out opening night with a few of my mates.  There were stages set up all over the city with all sorts of different acts.  After walking around the streets of the Sydney CBD, we ended up in The Domain – a big park right next to the city.  The crowd was massive:

Notice the stage on the right side of the photo.  There were too many people for us to stick around too long that night, but we went back to a few days later to the Symphony in the Domain.  It was still packed, but not like sardines.  A picnic, a few friends, and a symphony later, it was a splendid event.  Best part:  it was free!

National Maritime Museum

There are also tons of exhibitions at museums all over Sydney.  The National Maritime Museum had been advertising their Aqua exhibit as “a journey into the world of water.”  From the creators of Cirque du Soleil, I thought the exhibit must be excellent, and it was a great opportunity for me to finally check out the museum which I had been meaning to do for ages.

Well, the journey into the world of water turned out to be a journey into the world of a waste of money.  Short, lame, and hugely uninformative, the exhibit was a let down.  Luckily, the museum had a boat made of beer cans:

That was the highlight of the museum.  The rest of the inside was a snooze-a-palooza (unless you’re old and boring, in which case the museum is awesome!)  The saving graces were the submarine and destroyer on display outside in the harbour.  I’m pretty sure you can get separate admission to just the submarine and the destroyer at a much more reasonable price.  The submarine was a quick walk through for me and Charlotte:

But we ended up on an 80 minute guided tour of the destroyer led by a very ancient naval veteran who took a particular liking to Charlotte because she was from his hometown in England.  It was ok though, because this grandpa-like fellow had tons of war stories and made the tour quite real.  He served on a ship identical to the destroyer we were on, so he was a wealth of information.  A+.  Also, torpedoes.  Torpedoes!  I tried to nab a few as “gifts” for all of those lovely places that I love so much (you know, like Iran, Syria… the Vatican  Utah… France…)  but they were too hard to sneak off the ship.  Next time.

Oooo – and the museum’s gift shop also had some treasures:

Finding Antarctica

I needed an awesome exhibit to make up for the crappy one about water.  The State Library of New South Wales had an exhibit called Finding Antarctica: Mapping the Last Continent.  It was several rooms full of maps of Antarctica.  The maps started in the 1500’s when people first thought that there might be something down there.  As most of the maps were world maps, they also featured Australia.  It was incredible to see how both Australia and New Zealand slowly appeared on maps, bit by bit, over the course to decades and centuries.  It was crazy!  For an amazingly long period of history, people thought that Australia was connected to New Zealand AND Antarctica… AND Tierra del Fuego – the island shared by Argentina and Chile right off the bottom tip of South America.  Because people back then thought that there must be as much land below the equator as there was above, the massive land mass of Australnewzealarticdelfuego was believed to have existed.  Later on, it was of course discovered that these were all separate and of varying sizes.  Incredible.  As the exhibit was chronological, it also had all sorts of newer information about manned exhibitions to the frozen continent and Australia’s role in exploring the last continent.  Fantastic!

And yes:  I’m a nerd.  $25 for some fucking 2-minute uninformative exhibition on water – which was offensively half in French I might add – is no match for a FREE exhibition showing the history of maps of Antarctica.  FREE!  I’d pay $25 for that one.

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