Downtown Sydney: The Rocks, Sydney Observatory and Chinatown

The Rocks, on the southern shore of Sydney’s inner harbour, is the place where the city began, established in 1788 after the colony’s formation.

Convicts, colonialists, sailors, hookers, and all manner of disreputable and dubious characters lived in this quarter and many of the old sandstone buildings, after which it’s named, from that era have been fixed up as hotels, pubs, restaurants, and shops, as well as galleries for local art.

We wandered through the narrow cobblestone streets, following the Nurses and Surgeons Walk, and spent some time in the Rocks Museum looking at the artifacts taken from the old houses. A small section of the museum provided material for creating one’s own display and so Ty left behind a classic British Columbian memento …

We also tried some vertical planking in interaction with local art works …

The colonial buildings here have been beautifully restored and give an idea of what the town of Levuka in Fiji might look like (since it’s buildings are the same vintage) if Fiji had the money to fix them up.

One harbourside building, a three story structure formerly used as a sailors’ dorm, is now an gallery featuring the work of Sydney artist Charles Billich; the building is fabulous, the art not so much … I did enjoy seeing the aboriginal art on display in another gallery – mostly abstract with bright colourful patterns, and painted digiridoos (one of which I’d love to have if they weren’t about 9 feet long and a bit hard to pack in the ol’ suitcase).

From the Rocks, we walked up to the Sydney Observatory, built in 1858 and now a museum featuring old astronomical and meterological equipment, maps, and navigational tools. It has two beautiful copper domes, each with a still-operational telescope. Read more about the Observatory here. (This town has an incredible number of guns and references to war …)

After walking around the harbour for a bit,

we hopped on a bus and headed down George Street to Chinatown, where we had a coffee at Starbucks (the first we’ve seen on our trip) and then dim sum at Marigolds, a cavernous Chinese restaurant on the top floor of a building across from Paddy’s Market. Here we gobbled down what seemed to be about 20 prawn dishes (well, 5 anyway) in 5 seconds – it’s amazing how much food one can consume when it comes rolling by on tiny plates …

Sydney seems to be more adept at keeping and upgrading their historical buildings than Vancouver is; many of the 18th and 19th century buildings in the downtown area are incredibly ornate and really beautiful and contrast nicely with the more contemporary skyscrapers.

See more pictures here.

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