Monday, October 29, 2018

Cool time in Olde Sydney Towne

Stepping off the plane Thursday it all came rushing back. We had just arrived in Sydney and after the long flight across the Pacific all we wanted to do was grab a big Aussie breakfast. Right from the very get-go, we wanted to absolutely immerse ourselves in everything Sydney had to offer and we hit the ground running and we haven’t stopped. All right, we have had a couple of laid back afternoons but for the most part, I can honestly say I haven’t walked this much in years. Sydney does this to you as it draws you away from wherever you have landed to see the sights and to soak up the atmosphere. It’s one of the few places on earth where the weather is absolutely perfect and even as our first few days saw cloudy skies overhead, it was still a great time to be out and about!

Five long years had passed since our last trip to Australia and the mere thought of this we both found quite shocking. It had never been our intention to delay our return by this amount of time but now that we are here, it seems like we never left. However, let me just clarify that somewhat. The city we left back in 2013 was a familiar place, but when we stepped back onto Sydney’s thoroughfares, so much has changed. It’s not just the changing shape of the city’s skyline as that’s always been in a state of flux but rather, it has been the little things. The suburban trains look different. Mind you, they look nicer and the walkways go further than I recall. What is standing out is just how crowded Sydney has become. There are masses of people everywhere you turn and when you travel along the main transportation corridors, there are high-rise apartments and flats going for miles. What has been built around the 2000 Olympic Games Stadium is mind-blowing.

Our time in Sydney kicked off immediately upon arrival. There was a huge industry convention that was being held at the Sydney International Convention Center (ICC) for the banking industry and I was going to be writing articles for a daily magazine. I had initiated the conversation with my colleagues at Banking Tech / FinTech Futures and they welcomed me as part of the writing team covering the event. As the convention progressed I found several of my feature stories included in the daily publication, with at one point one story being promoted on the publications front pages. It was tiring but it was engaging all the same.

For the duration Margo came with me to the conference, spending her time at a coffee shop inside the mall straddling the shores of Cockle Bay to the south of Darling Harbor. Whenever the opportunity presented itself, I would walk from the ICC to the coffee shop where we would then walk to one of the waterfront restaurants for lunch. In one way, it was a pleasant and gradual way to step back into the hustle and bustle of Sydney business life. On the other hand, we ended up walking miles before finding familiar landmarks and eateries we had once known so well, but with the convention wrapping up just a short time ago, it’s back to living as we do back in Windsor Colorado – working with my clients from early morning through to the afternoon and then spending a leisurely afternoon visiting one attraction or another.

I have always viewed the world as one homogeneous environment crisscrossed with many well-worn pathways established long ago just for the purposes of visiting new places. I have always thought of myself as part of the planet more so than just being from one country or another. Put it down to having done eight international moves but also put it down too to my wife, Margo who brings a distinctly European perspective to life.

Having lived more of her life in cities and inner city suburbs, she is very much at home checking out the displays in delis as well as sampling the local coffee, beer and yes, very strange meats, cheese and olives. Not for her is a fixed routine but rather, a life liberally sprinkled with “tasting times” where samples of other’s daily routines can be enjoyed.   Be it an early morning walk to a coffee shop visited by locals about to board commuter trains or the local ferry boat or a night out on the town, Margo has always been up for the occasion.

This time, in Sydney, we are thoroughly enjoying the hospitality provided by my brother Greg and his wife Robyn. Set up as we are with an office and easy access to a variety of shops, working life has taken on new meaning here in Sydney. Whereas my colleagues in North America are hunkered down for the winter, summer is just around the corner here and that means festival time in Sydney as company after company begins their annual holiday celebrations that for the most part, are celebrated on the waters of Sydney Harbor.

And it’s hard to argue against an invite to join friends, colleagues and associates for a little bubbly along with a couple of Moreton Bay’s ever popular bugs. Talking about bugs, if your preference is for more local fare you can try their cousins, the Balmain bugs, but either way, Sydney-siders fuss over them the same way our friends in the Chesapeake fuss over soft shell crabs and folks in New Orleans fuss over their crawfish; you just have to be here and try them before you pass any judgement over our taste in crustaceans. 

Then again, we have already eaten our fair share of John Dory and Flathead fish grilled and deep-fried and, barely a day ago, we had a late afternoon lunch at a restaurant right beside Manly’s famous beach. There is something tantalizing and simply guilt-laden to be enjoying so much sunshine as we devour yet another fish lunch accompanied by a good dry Hunter Valley rose. I know this may not be everyone’s cup of tea but on this occasion, it was a perfect lunch for the both of us.

After lunch we strolled around to Shelley Beach only to find the Kiosk has been replaced by something serving up much lesser fare. Oh well, Sydney life continues to evolve and businesses keep changing hands. Elsewhere I have posted about the ever changing Sydney skyline mentioning in passing how even though in general it looks familiar, close up so much has changed and there are a lot more changes on the way judging by all the cranes we saw dotting the landscape. While the SIBOS event was being held, we made it a point to count how many cranes we could see and on no occasion did we count any less than ten cranes surrounding us.

But then again, could we have expected anything less? Sydney continues to invest heavily in infrastructure and it shows. It is still very early days in our Australian adventure with a side trip to Hobart, Tasmania, as well as Auckland, New Zealand, very much in the plans, but about those trips I will write in another post. As for right now it’s back to our temporary office to wrap up a couple more articles I need to complete before the weekend arrives. All I want to add at this point is the photo below just as a reminder to all those hunkering down, experiencing the coldness of the onset of winter in North America, down-under, as summer approaches, Sydney is every bit as beautiful and warm as any postcard depicts. Only better in many respects! Only possible regrets to be heard being expressed by Margo or me – we should have made this trip a long time ago!  It’s just so cool to be back in Olde Sydney Towne.

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