Thursday, 12 March 2009

Our Parting Thoughts On Sydney (For What They're Worth)

Long before we arrived I had imagined Sydney to be some kind of perfect city where the sun always shines, everyone's happy and every corner provides a new perspective from which to view stunning man-made wonders of the world. I expected to arrive there and never want to leave. We did have a great time, but it wasn't the Utopia I had created in my head.

Architecturally, it was a bit disappoinitng. Other than the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, we felt that the rest of the city could just have looked so much better. There were signs of fantistic old (relatively speaking) buildings but most seemed run-down or had been swallowed up by newer uglier stuff. Even the Circular Quay area which should be the city's jewel in it's crown had the least inspiring construction you could imagine along one side (housing restaurants and bars) and the renovated warehouses on the opposite (The Rocks) could have been so much better. Then on the third side of the quay a huge elevated expressway had been allowed to spoil the view - although the view had already been spoiled by tower blocks which somehow didn't seem to look spectacular or interesting like the ones we'd seen in Singapore.

To be fair, there were really nice bits, the Botanic Gardens and Hyde Park, and the Queen Victoria Arcade spring to mind and every city will have it's share of unattractive buildings. But it did seem that huge commercial expansion had been carried out by people who didn't think (or care) about the visual effect it would have.

But it was probably the rush hour traffic which finally convinced me that leaving Sydney wouldn't be the wrench I'd expected it to be. If you fancy sitting on a bus in a bus lane which is in a state of gridlock, largely because of the huge number of other (mostly empty) buses, then go to Sydney. We wondered if we were just unlucky and we'd hit an unusually bad jam, but it became clear from the mutterings of our fellow passengers that this was quite normal. It was tempting to get off and walk, but even walking around the city can seem to take ages - as a pedestrian you keep thinking "why do the crossings seem to be weighted so heavily in favour of cars?". But when your bus has just moved two feet and then stopped again, you think "how come the pedestrians get so many opportunities to cross". The truth is, no-one seemed to be getting anywhere very quickly and I'm not sure I could have put up with that on a regular basis.

I don't want to sound too negative, we really enjoyed our visit, but if we had to choose a place to live in Australia, we'd definitely choose Cairns over Sydney.

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