The city does not usually appeal to me. My heart yearns for the village and its ironies: how it is meager but boundless; sublime but familiar; hushed but audible.
But I married a city boy. And if the city had anything to do to raise such an amazing person, then I suppose there’s a good reason tucked somewhere– enough to enamor me like one city boy did.
Some months ago, a career opportunity enabled me and the husband to relocate to Australia (for free!). Fate ushered us to Sydney, the biggest city in the continent.
These days we spend most weekends taking the train and walking the length of the CBD. Primarily because driving around is chaos and is almost not an option; but also, because it seems, Sydney is specifically designed to be conquered on foot.
Let me walk you through how finally, one city has effortlessly endeared herself to me.
Sydneysiders take the train for one reason: driving around is madness. Thus, it is imperative that all forays into the heart of Sydney commences and concludes in the, duh, Central Station.
The Sydney Central Station is a tour itself. With 25 operational platforms, Central’s grandeur dates back to the early 1900s. The grand concourse flaunts an elaborate masonry wrapping its whole self around a 75-metre clock tower.
The husband is particularly stoked with the ant-like precision of commuters– the microcosm of how fast-paced life in the city is. I, on the other hand, lose myself in the chaos; seriously entertaining the thought of slamming myself against a wall I suspect to be Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.
If Central Station is indeed magical, then maybe Paddy’s Markets is the Diagon Alley. Reminiscent of our very own Baclaran in the Philippines, it is the Mecca of wholesale Pasalubong shopping. The tool of the trade? an “Australia” print on every matter imaginable.
Anecdote: Storekeepers are very aware of the Filipinos’ love for souvenir items. Replacing the usual “sale” signage is the all-too-familiar “mas marami, mas mura.”
Walking into the welcome arc of Chinatown is like stepping into another country. The atmosphere morphs into one with eternal festivity. There is food, music and discount flyers shooting from all directions. Everyone seems to be enjoying a chatter with a pal or two. Ah, asians and hospitality, it never gets old.
Further down the seaside is the aptly named, Darling Harbour. The park is a lucky dip of enjoyment for every member of the family, which by the way bokeh-ed into a an unidentifiable backdrop as soon as my eyes caught Hard Rock Cafe. I love alcohol. The sheer chance of having one sends me into apoplexy.
QUEEN VICTORIA BUILDING
Where in the world would one find shopping and history under one roof? Queen Victoria Building is a pleasant surprise when traversing the length of George St. The feeling is akin to a visit to an old house. There are interesting ornaments on walls, ceilings, halls, floors… There are surprises inside rooms, behind doors. Then there’s the basement, where all things magical are kept.
The Memorial houses the sunken garden of Sandringham on the forefront and the Lake of Reflection on the other side. I am a heart person through and through. Stories like that of ANZAC’s warms and breaks my heart at the same time.
“Lest We Forget,” as the emblem says. It speaks of remembering, of never forgetting. It also speaks of a love that transcends time and the thin line between living and dying.
Hyde Park is the bridge, the covered walk between The War Memorial and the Cathedral. It is lined with trees with arms outstretched.
Anybody who loves poetry, loves trees. Hyde park is the happy place of my subconscious. It is a catalyst of creativity, of inspiration. The husband is reminded of Central Park. I think of Carcar.
ST MARY’S CATHEDRAL
I doubt if there is any other church I have been to that is as ornate. It is arresting and ethereal, I f eel strange and welcomed at the same time. I do not know if the high ceilings and grand balusters have something to do with the way the wind move from the churches many doors and window, but one can hear singsongs of angels, or humming.
The walk to the altar is an altogether different story. It is long enough for reflection and prayer; long enough for God to deliver an answer by the time you get up close to the altar.
The gateway to the white sand beaches of Manly and blissful Luna Park, Circular Quay is the window that frames the grandeur of Sydney. This may sound too postcard-ish (and chances are, that piece of Australia you see in postcard is taken from Circular Quay.), but imagine yourself with a view of the Harbour Bridge on the left and the Opera House on the right. What’s not to love, right?
In the city, there is plenty of room for the grandiose and the humble, the art and the mess, the meek and the chaotic, and the two sides of every coin to coexist.
These days I put my feet up as soon as we get home from our many walkathons with a renewed sense of home. If anything, I am learning to get to know the parts of the city that are often overshadowed by the posh and the brightly-lit. There are stories. In those stories are characters that are just as interesting as the imageries in my village.
I married a boy who was born and bred in the daily grind of the city rush. That should explain a lot why while I take my slow sweet time in my safe and simple world, at the end of each day, I hurry home.
This is part of a Day Trip series that feature one day wonders and less than 24 hour trips.