SIZING UP SYDNEY
DAY 63 - 14 MARCH 2023
Queen Mary 2 World Centenary Voyage
102 days, 31 ports, 18 countries.
Ellen Frazer-Jameson reporting from Queen Mary 2
Sydney is the capital city of the state of New South Wales, and the most populous city in both Australia and Oceania. Located on Australia’s east coast, the metropolis surrounds Sydney Harbour and extends about 70kms (43.5 miles) towards the Blue Mountains to the west, Hawkesbury to the North, the Royal National Park to the south and Macarthur to the south-west. Sydney is made up of 658 suburbs and residents of the city are known as Sydneysiders. Population of Greater Sydney is 5,231,150 and - home to 66% of the population. Nicknames include “Emerald City” and “Harbour City”
Dawn is breaking as hundreds of passengers crowd the ship’s rails and jostle for space on every available look out point as Queen Mary 2 begins her stately entry into Sydney Harbour. Like no other city, except perhaps New York, the anticipation of arrival generates an excitement and sense of expectancy that fills the air and exerts joyous feelings of having reached a longed-for destination.
As children, many of us Brits believed that if we were to tunnel directly down through the earth, we would reach Australia and be welcomed in that mythical Down Under Land. Australian was our distant and mysterious faraway cousin, strangely familiar yet exotic, on the other side of the world. Sydney generates this feel-good atmosphere as soon as the world-famous Harbour Bridge, affectionately known as “the coat hanger”, comes into view as shipping passes from the Tasman Sea into Sydney Harbour.
The first sight of the Sydney Opera House’s gleaming white shell-shaped roof structure is breath-taking, however many times you have sailed past its raised staircases leading from terraces visited by more than 8.2 million tourists a year. It is an awe-inspiring building that rightly deserves the over-used title “iconic”.
Proudly located at the mouth of Sydney Harbour, it is widely regarded as one of the world’s most famous and distinctive building and a masterpiece of 20th century architecture. Home to five theatres, rehersal studios, two main halls six bars and a souvenir shop; the multi venue performing arts centre was opened by Queen Elizabeth !! on 20th October 1973 and this year it celebrates its 50th birthday,
This weekend, having been to Sydney several times before, I was finally able to secure a ticket for a performance in the classic Joan Sutherland Theatre. Opera Australia’s production of La Boheme was spectacular. Featuring a world class, international cast, the staging was extravagant and glamorous with a red velvet night club scene reminiscent of Moulin Rouge instead of a rustic artist’s cafe. Musetta, in a silver sequined gown and cloak, and the suspender clad black stockinged dancing girls added passion and drama to the story of the fragile, Mimi.
La Boheme at Sydney Opera House, it will be hard to surpass this as a World Voyage extravaganza. Leaving the Opera House after the performance, Queen Mary 2 awaited her returning evening guests, bathed in bright coloured lights, as we crossed the Harbour to return home. A Night at the Opera – a Night to Remember.
Australian is a member of the British commonwealth and when he is crowned on 8th May this year, King Charles will become King of Australia. Many Royal watchers believe that this may be the beginning of the end of Australia’s connections to Britain. It is time, say just less than half of Australian’s, to become a Republic.
If such a change is planned, there will still be plenty of reminders of Australia’s loyalty with statues and place names bowing to British monarchy all over the city of Sydney. One such building is the magnificent Queen Victoria Building which occupies an entire block on Sydney’s George Street and has over 180 of Sydney’s finest fashion boutiques, jewellery shops and homeware accompanied by elegant faces and restaurants. Built in the 1890s, restored and re-opened in 1986, QVB, is a five- level shopping centre decorated with mosaics, stained glass windows and intricate cast-iron railings.
On the upper level is the Royal clock, a castle themed time-piece that opens to display scenes of Royal life. This is offset by the Great Australian Clock which cost $1.5 million Aus and displays 33 scenes of Australia’s aboriginal and European history.
Queen Victoria Building is a perfect place to observe the Sydneysider ladies-who-lunch and It Is home to the ‘tea set’ of designer brand shoppers to whom afternoon tea is best served in china pots while a classical musician plays the baby grand piano. Sydney knows how to put on the style and as a young, hip city, chic is fashionable.
Australians as a nation are known for not giving a **** for anything or anyone. Built on the hard work and enterprise of distant and not so distant, ancestors of the convict colony transported from Britain and settled on The Rocks area of Sydney back in 1788 and 1868, the city thrives and continues to expand as a vibrant and exciting metropolis.
A tour of Sydney’s broad, tree-lined and well-laid out inner city roads is filled with images of magnificent Colonial buildings, regal statues, sky piercing high rises and artist’s bohemian communities leading to expensive and exclusive suburbs. The Sydney light rail system operates trams starting at Circular Quay and onward to surrounding areas though the city streets, popular with residents and visitors for their fast and efficient service.
Many visitors are familiar with the Big Bus Hop On Hop Off services which runs in cities all over the world, and here in Sydney the open top vehicles make regular circuits of the city landmarks and travel out beyond to Bondi Beach and the Bay areas. For a quick overview of a city, the Hop On Hop Off service is a tried and tested way for first timers to sightsee and identify areas that may merit a longer visit.
The first governor Arthur Phillip bestowed the name Sydney Cove in January 1788 to the small inlet on which the colony’s first settlement in New South Wales was established. World famous, Bondi Beach goes by the aboriginal name meaning “water breaking over rocks” and that is still true with pounding surf crashing onto Bondi’s pristine white sands.
In case you’re wondering. the name Kangaroo given to Australia’s favourite creature, Is also aboriginal. The story goes that due to a misunderstanding, when Europeans asked a native settler the name of the jumping animal the answer was “don’t understand ” that became “Kan-go-roo”.
Time to say goodbye. Queen Mary 2 enjoyed a spectacular departure from Sydney. As darkness fell, the constant streams of commercial and recreational vessels that had circles the ship all day, finally retreated and it was time for QM2 to make her dramatic exit.
Watched by almost the entire complement of passengers, Captain Hall masterfully reversed and then took the ship on a graceful slow spin to face direction of travel and sail slowly away from Sydney Harbour Bridge and give a final salute to the magnificent Opera House.
Thank you, Sydney - our visit here has certainly been memorable.
Sad to say, G’day, Goodbye.
* * * * *
Happy Sailing... Ellen
NEXT PORT OF CALL:
KANGAROO ISLAND (PENNESHAW) - 16 MARCH 2023
Current position of Queen Mary 2: Melbourne/Australia
Time since arrival 14 hrs 13 min from Sydney/Australia (at 07:00 h local time)
Time until departure 3 hrs 13 min to Penneshaw (Kangaroo Island)/Australia (at 18:00 h local time)
Traveled distance since Sydney: 657.97 nm (1,218.56 km)
Photo of the day (from the archives of JD Schwartz)
Further updates will be posted as soon as we get them from Ellen onboard Queen Mary 2.