SHOTS AROUND SYDNEY

Our family loved Sydney. I get there frequently but have very little time to tour. I did click off a few shots while moving around the city from meeting to meeting a few months back. One meeting was held at Cockatoo Island, a place with a long and storied history.

Cockatoo Island, an UNESCO World Heritage Site,[4] is an island located at the junction of the Parramatta and Lane Cove rivers, in Sydney Harbour,Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

At 17.9 hectares (44 acres) it is the largest of several islands that were, in their original state, heavily timbered sandstone knolls. Cockatoo Island rose to 18 metres (59 ft) above sea level and is now cleared of most vegetation. Called Wa-rea-mah by the Indigenous Australians who traditionally inhabited the land prior to European settlement, the island may have been used as a fishing base, although physical evidence of Aboriginal heritage has not been found on the island.[5]

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The water taxi out. He was late. It was raining very hard …

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After my speech we headed down to the wharf for a ride back to Sydney. Luckily, it stopped raining for the walk.

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Someone marking time.

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The old ship buildings remain intact.

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There are a few unusual cottages at the top of the island, apparently for rent.

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With great views of Sydney and your own private tennis court. Hard to beat the view.

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Perhaps we will consider it for our next holiday.

BACK DOWN UNDER, AUSTRALIA

Spent last week in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. A whirlwind of a tour with very little free time but I did snap off a few shots.

Canon 5D Mark III with a 50mm Sigma f/1.4 – my only non-Canon lens, most handheld HDR.

On the redeye.

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Off the redeye.

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A war monument in Brisbane.

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I do like the way that Australia has preserved their buildings. So much character.

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The clock outside the Westin in Sydney.

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A few shots around the Westin.

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No time …. just 18,453 km.

A COUPLE LAST RANDOM AUSTRALIA PHOTOS

 

Most are handheld HDR.

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The sunrise .. the tide is out.

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I became quite fond of their beers. Australian beer is almost as good as Canadian beer. Almost.

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Moon overhead.

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Beautiful place.

AUSTRALIA’S GREAT BARRIER REEF

 

Getting to the end of my Australia posts.

One of our excursions was to the barrier reef. The boat ride out to the reef (we were heading to the outer reef) was beautiful as we wove through the islands to the outer reef.

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There are a lot of islands with no one on them.

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Arriving at the outer reef is an odd experience as it is not an above water destination. You look down and it is there. Fish quickly congregated off the back of the boat, obviously conditioned to our arrival. These fish were big .. and friendly.

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The coral was beautiful.

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It amazes me how the colors change over short distances. This is the same coral (as above) but from a bit farther away. Note the way the colors wash out. I have just started playing with underwater photos and the G12, but one thing is clear – closer the better.

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A beautiful pink coral.

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As luck would have it the trip was rather uneventful as snorkelling is all about timing and we didn’t see any fish life that were more interesting than what we saw in the reef off the beach. We had better luck in Belize, but one off the bucket list – we have been to the great barrier reef.

SNORKELLING AROUND HAMILTON ISLAND

 

The tide goes out in the afternoon providing excellent access to the reef system off the beach. You walk in ankle deep water for 300m and then make your way out to the system. The wind and waves will determine the visibility. On boxing day we spent a couple hours snorkelling with excellent visibility. I was swimming with my Canon G12 and an underwater case.

The coral is beautiful.

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I have no idea what type of fish this is but the camouflage was very impressive.

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There were a few jellyfish so you had be careful. Most people were not wearing a stinger suit.

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I happened upon this huge sea turtle grazing. No one else was around so I just hung out for 30 minutes swimming beside him/her and snapping shots. They are such magnificent creatures.

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He/she was not bothered at all.

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The turtle was over a meter long. Beautiful.

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Amazing experience.

TOURING AROUND HAMILTON ISLAND

 

Our first couple of days were rather spotty, filled with rain. As a big fan of Trip Advisor, I had planned using the tool and had a list of options. One of our first “rainy day” actions was to head up to Passage Peak, the highest point on the island. A 3KM hike in on and off again rain is very do-able when it is 27C out.

The view from the top.

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View of the hotel area.

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The vegetation goes from very lush to dry brown.

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We also went to Target Sports, which is a range. I grew up in Alberta shooting. My boys had never shot a gun. They did very well.

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And we stopped off at the Wildlife Park to see the koalas. I have never seen or touched a koala. We all took a turn holding “Elvis”. Their fur feels matted and wiry, and his “hug” very soft. Beautiful animal.

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As I mentioned it was raining. Here is how a Koala weathers out the rain.

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I found this fellow’s eyes piercing. He just stared right at me. I wonder what he was thinking?

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As the rain stopped, this fellow came out of his sleep.

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And a mother brought out her baby for a swing.

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The island does not have a weeks worth of activities but it was good for a few days. Luckily, the sun came out.

AUSTRALIAN WARNING SIGNS

 

They have taken their cigarette packs to a whole new level. I am against smoking but even I found this a little hard to stomach.

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And I have to admit that I was perplexed by the need for this sign in the bathrooms. Was this a problem at some point?

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HAMILTON ISLAND

 

For Christmas week we headed up the coast to Hamilton Island, just off the great barrier reef. Here is my simple take on Hamilton Island after much back and forth trying to get the straight goods around tourism in Australia:

  • A wonderful resort island with the barrier reef and other tours all over the place
  • A few great and a few good restaurants
  • Hot weather (a big plus)
  • Great beaches

But …. the one thing people need to be aware of is that Australia beaches are not like other beaches (see my other posts). Australia is a dangerous place with strong currents, different threats and with several different types of jellyfish kicking around including the Irukandji that can put you in the hospital for 3 days of excruciating pain – you need to be careful.

This isn’t Grand Cayman. I think that if my goal was to head to a beach only – it would be to Thailand or somewhere like that, not Australia. Once you accept that vacationing in Australia is an “adventure”, then you enjoy what is around you.

A few shots of Hamilton Island. The view from our balcony was spectacular.

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The cockatiels were very friendly and inquisitive. They are said to have the intelligence of a 3 year old. They were definitely looking for food.

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They were also quite comfortable around us.

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A few more views from our room at the Reef.

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AUSTRALIAN MARITIME MUSEUM

 

Our second stop (amazing how fast the day flies by) was the Maritime Museum. Every time I go to Sydney I stare out the office window at this museum, wanting to get over there and have a look. I have never been on a military ship before and it did not disappoint. I just wish we only had 90 minutes as it closed at 5p.m.

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Our first stop was the tall ship.

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The Endeavour is a replica built in 1988 (took 5 years) of James Cook’s original ship that was used to discover Australia and New Zealand between 1769 and 1771. It is rather cramped quarters and the tour (thanks to local volunteers) gives you excellent insight into what life would have been like. I would not have made a good seaman. Interesting point, the shuttle Endeavour is named after this ship.

Having quickly popped through that tour we made a sprint to the other ships as I really wanted on that submarine. Walking through it made it clear that I would never want to be on a sub either, but what a fascinating world of dials, tubes and cramped spaces.

The first volunteer talked all about the ships armaments, having been on a sub in the 70’s. At the other end of the sub are a host of other tubes that were decommissioned for torpedo storage and repurposed by the men to hold 48 cases of beer (smile).

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Some traditions are the same in all navies, the Captain’s china. The quarters on the submarine and the destroyer were of the same time period. Fun to see a TV with a dial and a VCR, which I am sure was state of the art in the 70s.

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I say old chap, is that a Canadian symbol on the wall?

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The engine room.

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Up we climbed onto the next ship, the “Vampire” destroyer. This shot is in the shell loading bay below the big guns. The instruction method to the loaders is quite straight forward.

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Big guns

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Unfortunately we didn’t have much time inside the museum which is 3 stories and chock full of memorabilia and stories. My only advice is that if you head here – you need 3-4 hours to truly enjoy it. Next time ….  One last ship, an odd looking one. It is a lightship built in 1917.

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HYDE PARK BARRACKS

 

Our first “tourist” stop in Sydney was the Hyde Park Barracks:

Constructed by convict labour by order of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the Barracks is one of the most familiar works of the accomplished colonial England-born, Australian architect Francis Greenway. As the principal male convict barracks in New South Wales it provided lodgings for convicts working in government employment around Sydney until its closure in mid 1848.

It has had many occupants since then. It was an Immigration Depot for single female immigrants seeking work as domestic servants and awaiting family reunion from 1848 to 1886 and also a female asylum from 1862 to 1886. From 1887 to 1979 law courts and government offices were based at the Barracks.

It is a beautifully maintained building, full of fascinating bits.

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Not knowing a lot about Australia’s history, it was a good first stop. The barracks walk you through one of the original intake buildings, detailed descriptions of the evolution of the colony and how it evolved from a penal to a proper society.

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What is most interesting is the collection of memorabilia from the rats, it makes up a huge part of the exhibit; all of these pieces that they stole away and were later recovered in the foundation and floor boards. Amazing.

While there I bought the book A Little History of Australia. I read it on the beach the week after and enjoyed the 10,000 word essay, although I found it a little too politically. I would have liked to read more about specific incidents that shaped the Australian society.

A couple interesting quotes/facts:

    • “South Australia women achieved women’s suffrage in 1894, followed by Western Australia in 1899” (remarkable).
    • (World War I) “by the end of a war in which 330,000 Australians had served, one in six had been killed, half wounded, and even physically unharmed would hear the guns of war for years to come” (Canadian’s can relate to the WWI loss, with 620K serving and 66,000 losing their lives on European soil for England).

I would highly recommend stopping here if you are in Sydney, worth the visit.

TOURING SYDNEY

 

On the Friday before Christmas I took the day off and we toured Sydney. The ride in was a) to the right location and b) beautiful.

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A beautiful building beside the ferry harbour. Love the big mirror.

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We decided to “big red bus” it. I love the big red bus in most cities (except Tokyo as it is all in Japanese). You get a sense of history, tour the city and can jump on and off. Sydney is a beautiful city. Reminds me architecturally of Montreal .. have I mentioned Toronto could learn something?

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I happened to enter this mall during the week (searching for a football) and it is beautiful.

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The library.

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Old against new.

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Growing a wall garden. I have seen a surprising number of these in Tokyo.

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Beautiful city.

LETS TRY THAT AGAIN: COMMUTING TO SYDNEY

 

Day two and instead of taking the Sydney fast ferry I took the Manly fast ferry. The same boat that I had taken the night before from Darling Harbour to Manly beach, or so I thought.  It ended in the same location – Circular Quay. So I started walking, again.

A few shots of Manly Beach in the morning. Good morning Mr. Hemmingway.

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There are a lot of 40’s themed murals around.

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We always struggle finding good surf shops for things like flip flops and bathing suits for our boys. Not so in Australia, every other store is a surf shop of some type.

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My exit point.

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Sydney has a LOT of military ships kicking around. This one was coming into port. When I shot a few photos, they waved.

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This shot was from the night before. A big port.

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Not to get too far off track, but these two shots were from the night before also. The clown creeped me out.

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And a very big cruise liner in port.

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I laughed at this sign. I really wanted to go in and ask where I could get a good cappuccino.

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This building has no scientists according to this article.

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According to this article, Leopold struck out on his own on January 4th, 1888 (right side of the page).

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Almost at the office.

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Another good walk.

MY CAMERA BAG

 

As a friend said “There really is no perfect camera bag”. I now have a couple bags and thought I had found the “perfect” one in the spring. After a few trips, I have abandoned it again for my trusty Maxpedition.

I don’t know why, but even though the Maxpedition isn’t a camera bag (I put gear in sleeves or cases and then neatly stack it in the bag with a few hand towels in there for insurance padding), it works. It is comfortable even with a bigger load (5D, 18-70 lens, 70-200 lens, 2X III extender, extra battery, cards and bits and bobs) and as our trip up Passage Peak proved – nicely water proof.

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I bought it years ago while we were still in England from their US website and after a good hose-down, it still looks brand new. Military tough.

Plus on the trek up the hill (3K up, 3K down) I slipped my iPhone into the back and blasted Christmas tunes via Spotify the whole time. Hiking AND singing Christmas carols, in a on/off rain (but warm!).

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Great pack.

THE COMMUTE IN TO SYDNEY

 

While staying at Manly Beach I commuted to downtown Sydney each day for work. Despite a significant amount of coaching and planning, I kept getting on the wrong ferry out of Manly Beach each morning (there are 3 every 30 minutes and many go to different places – a few permutations). The upside is that I got dropped off at different places each morning and had my camera, so I explored my way to the office with a little help from Google maps on my iPhone. The downside … it often took longer.

A few (quite a few) photos from Day 1’s wander to the office and the ferry ride in.

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A friendly ferry.

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No one honked while I stopped in the middle of the road.

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I have been to Sydney a handful of times and never explored the city. It has always been airport > hotel > office >  customer > office > hotel > airport. It was nice to walk through the streets. I was struck by how Sydney has preserved so many older buildings. Toronto and Sydney are similar in age, and compared to Sydney – Toronto falls way short. They would have torn most of these buildings down by now .. which is a shame. Well done Sydney.

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Someone told me this is a rubber tree. I think they are wrong, I believe it is a sycamore tree.

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Beautiful church.

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This fellow stopped to have his photo taken. He was charming the people exiting a long line of buses.

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During my “lost” wander to the office I stumbled upon a coffee shop that I had been to before. It happened to be the shop which serves the best cappuccino in Sydney (or the best that I have had so far). I asked about the froth – as I would love to get it that thick on my home machine. Alas, it is a special milk only delivered to the shops.

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The sky was very blue in Sydney. This is a zero processing handheld HDR. Well done Canon.

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The place where I should have gotten off each morning. I only got it right the last time. Which isn’t a bad thing.

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Thanks for stopping by.

MANLY BEACH AT NIGHT

 

A few shots around the beach.

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From our room. Nice view.

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LOOKING FOR THE RIGHT WORD

 

I cannot figure out the right word to describe this picture. Oxymoron? Doesn’t quite fit as the two are not in the same sentence. Contradiction? Feel free to help me out.

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Or perhaps I could sing that Sesame Street song “one of these things is not like the others”. Feel free to help me out.

SHOOTING AROUND MANLY BEACH

 

While in Sydney, I kept playing with the HDR on my 5D. The biggest lesson when shooting handheld HDR is ghosting is a pain, and simply doesn’t work when there is motion. The options are to keep the originals (The 5D has the option of just keeping the combined HDR or keeping all shots) or shooting with the knowledge that you will discard a few shots (or a lot of shots, depending on the situation). An example of the ghosting below.

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Despite the handheld challenges, I do like the way it brings out the colors.

Now on to Manly Beach in Sydney. We wandered around Manly late in the afternoon after coming off a very long – 18 hour travel through the night. As you would expect the seafood choices were fantastic.

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I enjoyed the Fish Shack .. and we had a chuckle at their Est.

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I am not a big beer drinker, but sitting on the beach makes it taste different. I have a new favourite brew, and it is from Australia: Little Creatures pale ale.

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A few shots from Manly beach.

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Great food abounds.

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A very purple bike. I cannot picture myself riding this bike (smile).

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A side street, with graffiti art.

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A very cool little town.

A DAY ON AN AUSTRALIAN BEACH

 

The Australians are a tough bunch. You have to be in an environment where it seems like everything is dangerous, the wildlife, the ocean and everything that the continent can throw at you. In fact, 2,433 tourists have died in the last 7 years in Australia according to this article. As one ranger points out …

Ranger Craig Adams, of the Australian Reptile Park, said: “Going bush here is a far cry from the urban European lifestyle. A mud pool can hold a five-metre crocodile. And while koalas are cute, people don’t realise one will give you a nasty bite or carve you up with its claws. A wombat can knock you over.”

While in Sydney I got a text from my wife (the family was out at Manly beach surfing and hanging on the beach while I worked) that both boys had been stung by a bluebottle (type of jellyfish), the beach had been cleared by a shark sighting, they had narrowed the swim area due to overly strong rip tides (a 27 year old man died the next weekend in a rip current) and they were busy announcing that a 7 year old was missing (he was with a school trip I imagine – and was found as there was nothing in the paper). Exciting beach.

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The lifeguard was collecting these after dinner, they were staked all along the beach.

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All along the beach were thousands of blue bottles, washed up from the strong winds and currents. Dangerous but pretty.

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But it doesn’t stop the Aussies.

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These help.

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Update (1/9): I continue to marvel at the number of tourist deaths in Australia. It is not like the Caribbean, it is definitely more of a adventure vacation. Found this cracked.com piece on Australia very funny. A small sample:

Ah, but the tropical beaches, you say! Surely the paradise on Earth that is the Australian beach makes up for an entire continent of biological weapons. And it’s true: Australia is known for having some of the best beaches in the world…all you have to worry about are the Saltwater Crocs, Great White Sharks, poisonous Stonefish, or being stung by the Box Jellyfish: The deadliest and most painful sting of any Jellyfish species in the world.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

 

Our first beach Christmas (smile). They say Merry Christmas in Manly Beach … the handheld HDR way.

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The trees decked for Christmas.

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In Sydney they say Happy Christmas and I did find a Christmas tree.

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A very Merry Christmas in the sun.

A TOUGH COMMUTE

When we lived in Canada my commute was a 45 highway drive with traffic and snow.

When we lived in the UK the commute was roughly the same amount of time through a host of winding roads.

This week I am in Sydney and taking a ferry to and from work. My kind of commute. Via iPhone.

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What I have not found is the energy to do is join the people on the beach at 5:00am either running, biking, playing beach volleyball or surfing as I am out the door at 620am.

However my boys were up and about early this morning for a 7am surf lesson.

Doesn’t hurt that it is 31 degrees and their summer. Very different than when I was here during their July winter.

Quite a lifestyle.

And as an aside, expect spotty blogging for the next couple weeks as I fill my camera.

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iPhone isn’t half bad on a sunny day.

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ST. JOHN’S CATHEDRAL PART 2

 

As is the UK tradition, the flags of a local regiment adorn the church. I always found this a fascinating oddity, to remember the wars in a church. While I understand blessing the troops, these flags are really a form of trophy. I do not know why, but it seems misplaced to me in a house of worship and peace.

These flags are no different than those in the UK, well worn and full of history. I do not know Australian military history well, other than knowing that it is a proud one like Canada. I happened to be reading all about Anzac and their memorials in the paper that weekend, which centers on remembering World War I:

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, originally commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who served and died in military operations for their countries.[1][2] Anzac Day is also observed in the Cook Islands, Niue, Pitcairn, and Tonga. It is no longer observed as a national holiday in Papua New Guinea or Samoa.

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It would seem that this church has a proud history of supporting women leading local churches (good on them – perhaps if others were not so militant on the subject they would be in better shape).

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From their website – the weekly reflection:

Most gracious and loving God,
who calls us all to embrace our calling
as bearers of your divine image and likeness;
we give thanks and praise for the vocation of women
to ordained ministry in your church,
and for twenty years of glorious work of women
ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Church of Australia.

May we continue to strive as women and men together
to bear witness to your boundless love for all creation,
which breathes us into being
and gathers us into one body;
through Jesus the Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Spirit,
one God, mother and father of us all. Amen.
(Collect from the Eucharist celebrating 20 years of Women Priests in Australia, St John’s Cathedral on 13th July 2012)

And as you would expect, beautiful glass work.

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Two last photos. The woodworking took a father and son team over 7 years to complete. It is beyond intricate and beautifully done.

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A donated sculpture of Jesus on the cross that I found holding my attention.

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You can read more here. What a wonderful place.

ST. JOHN’S CATHEDRAL PART I

 

While on the road over the last couple weeks I had almost no time to enjoy the surroundings, which is the ultimate truth of business travel: it sounds exotic but in reality is just a long commute filled with hotels and office meetings.

That being said, I did spend the weekend traveling from Sydney to Brisbane and had flex. It wasn’t quite as “wintery” in Brisbane so I went for a walk, coming across St. John’s Cathedral, the last gothic style church built in the world:

St John’s Cathedral is the Anglican cathedral of Brisbane and the metropolitan cathedral of the ecclesiastical province of Queensland,Australia. The cathedral is situated on the outskirts of the city centre and is the successor to an earlier pro-cathedral on William Street in the heart of the central business district which was predated by All Saints Wickham Terrace (1862), the oldest Anglican church in Brisbane.

I was surprised to see a building of this nature in “the new world”. I love walking through old churches, filled with history and majesty, bringing about an instant sense of reverence. This cathedral was breathtaking and it turns out, just finished:

William Webber – the third Bishop of Brisbane and previously a vicar in London – was instrumental in initiating the Brisbane cathedral project.[1] In 1885-86, he commissioned John Loughborough Pearson to make sketch plans for Brisbane cathedral.[6] The Brisbane cathedral movement began in earnest in 1887 as a celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee – St John’s was to be paid for by public subscription[6] but the construction of the cathedral in one campaign was found to be financially impossible. As a result, the building has been executed in three stages over two centuries between 1906 and 2009.[1]

The church is perched on the top of a small cliff. Construction of a downtown must have lead to the engineers blowing this side of the hill out.

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There is so much sandstone, the church had to buy their own quarry. As an aside, one of the few blue sky days I saw in a few weeks (And short lived).

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The central cathedral is European in scale. As spectacular as most that we saw during out time in the UK.

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End Part I.

A WINTER RAINBOW

 

My first. In Sydney, Australia – taken with my G12.

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It may have been pretty, but it didn’t change the fact that it was 30C in Toronto and cold, wet and wintery in Sydney. So odd being in a cold climate in July.

AUSSIE TAXI

 

I noticed while popping around Sydney last week that the front seat of the cabs were set back. It made it uncomfortable to sit in the back due to the narrow leg room.

So I decided to jump in the front seat (something you just do not do in North America) and ask “Do your customers sit in the front or backseat in a taxi?”

His first answer was noncommittal, “Wherever you like”

I asked again “Where do most people sit?”

He smiled and said “The self important ones sit in the back seat”

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