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Three Tours of Sydney

Open-top bus tours of Sydney and Bondi Beach plus a cruise of the Harbour

all seasons in one day 24 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

With only a limited amount of time in Sydney (and having got the Blue Mountains out of the way), I signed up for 2 days of touring Sydney and Bondi Beach by bus followed by a cruise of Sydney Harbour. Unfortunately for the open-top bus tour of Sydney it was raining, not only making the top deck seats wet but also weighing down the branches of the trees causing them to sweep the top of the bus! Sometimes when it rained we braved the weather, sometimes we dived downstairs for cover.

Open-top double-decker bus tour of Sydney - in the rain!

Open-top double-decker bus tour of Sydney - in the rain!

The tour started from the currently being restored Sydney Town Hall just across the road from the very ornate Queen Victoria Building, built in 1898 and full of speciality shops. The first place of note awe passed as we got underway was Scruffy Murphys, an Irish Bar on the edge of Chinatown. When I returned later in the evening it turned out to be a very friendly but basic rough local with good Guinness and lots of impromptu Irish singing and dancing!

Sydney Town Hall being restored

Sydney Town Hall being restored


Inside the Queen Victoria Building on George Street

Inside the Queen Victoria Building on George Street


Scruffy Murphys - the most famous Irish Bar in Sydney

Scruffy Murphys - the most famous Irish Bar in Sydney

Hyde Park (named after the famous park of the same name in London) is the oldest public parkland in Australia and marks the eastern boundary of Sydney's Central Business District (CBD). The focal point of the park is the Archibald Fountain overlooking the Roman Catholic St Marys Cathedral. The spine of the park is a pretty impressive looking avenue of fig trees.

The Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park in Sydney

The Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park in Sydney


St Marys RC Cathedral with the Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park in the foreground

St Marys RC Cathedral with the Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park in the foreground


St Marys RC Cathedral (note the fleet of vintage Rolls-Royce cars outside awaiting a wedding party!)

St Marys RC Cathedral (note the fleet of vintage Rolls-Royce cars outside awaiting a wedding party!)


The fig tree lined avenue through the centre of Hyde Park in Sydney

The fig tree lined avenue through the centre of Hyde Park in Sydney

On the south side of Hyde Park is the ANZAC War Memorial and Lake of Reflections. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed on Gallipoli on the 25th April 1915 during World War I and the day has been remembered as ANZAC Day in both countries ever since. Nearby there is a statue of Captain Cook to commemorate his discovery of the east coast of Australia in 1770 and there are also very good views of the 1,014 foot (309 metre) high Sydney Tower Eye amongst the city's skyline.

The ANZAC Memorial and Lake of Reflections in Hyde Park

The ANZAC Memorial and Lake of Reflections in Hyde Park


Inside the ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park

Inside the ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park


Captain Cook's Statue in Hyde Park with the Sydney Tower Eye  amongst the skyline in the background

Captain Cook's Statue in Hyde Park with the Sydney Tower Eye amongst the skyline in the background

Heading east out of the CBD we passed through Kings Cross, Sydney's red light district. It was originally named Queens Cross in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897 but nearly everyone got it confused with Queens Square on Kings Street so it got renamed. Dominating the area is the iconic 42 feet (13 metre) high Coca Cola Billboard sign originally erected in 1974, it's apparently the largest billboard sign in the Southern Hemisphere but isn't heritage-listed as most people assume. Kings Cross itself surprised me with how narrow its tree lined streets were although as expected nearly every second building seemed to be a strip-club or bar touting for business!

The Coca Cola Sign at Kings Cross, the largest billboard in the Southern Hemisphere

The Coca Cola Sign at Kings Cross, the largest billboard in the Southern Hemisphere


Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross - Sydney's Red Light District

Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross - Sydney's Red Light District

Continuing north towards the Harbour, we passed the main east coast base of the Royal Australian Navy on the east side of Woolloomooloo Bay and also past a peculiar piece of street art of a car crushed by a large rock in the middle of the roundabout. We then caught our first sight of the two big Sydney iconic landmarks of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge although I was to get a much better view of both of these while on the Harbour Cruise the following afternoon.

HMAS Newcastle and HMAS Sydney moored up at the Naval Base on Woolloomooloo Bay

HMAS Newcastle and HMAS Sydney moored up at the Naval Base on Woolloomooloo Bay


Street art in Sydney

Street art in Sydney


The Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Close by where the Hyde Park Barracks, built with convict labour in 1819 and now a world heritage site. Between 1819 and 1850 over 50,000 convicts passed through these barracks on their arrival in Australia, including potentially one of my ancestors (I found 2 convicts sharing my surname amongst the database of former inmates!). I also found the gallery on the Irish orphan women particularly interesting because of it potential relevance to my own family history. In the walls of the barracks was the An Gorta Mar, Australia's national memorial to the Irish Famine of 1845 to 1852.

Sydney's Hyde Park Barracks where 50,000 convicts were landed between 1819 and 1850

Sydney's Hyde Park Barracks where 50,000 convicts were landed between 1819 and 1850


Convict uniform on display in Sydney's Hyde Park Barracks

Convict uniform on display in Sydney's Hyde Park Barracks


Convict hammocks at the Hyde Park Barracks

Convict hammocks at the Hyde Park Barracks


The Court Room at the Hyde Park Barracks

The Court Room at the Hyde Park Barracks


An Gorta Mor - Australia's National Memorial to the Irish Famine

An Gorta Mor - Australia's National Memorial to the Irish Famine

Moving back towards the city centre is the Circular Quay, Built by convict labour in the 1850s this was the original main port for Sydney. Today it is mega busy with tourists boarding ferries going to all the different parts of the harbour as well as being where the big cruise ships (such as the "Carnival Spirit" that arrived while I was there) moor up when they are in town.

The Circular Quay from the Sydney Opera House

The Circular Quay from the Sydney Opera House


The view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the Circular Quay

The view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the Circular Quay


Aboriginal Cultural Performers on the Circular Quay

Aboriginal Cultural Performers on the Circular Quay

By the following morning the weather had returned to normal for Sydney without a cloud in the sky so I was able to take the open-top bus tour to Bondi Beach, 4 miles (7 kilometres) to the east of the city and one of the most famous beaches in the world. After enjoying a stroll along the beach for a couple of hours I caught the bus back to Sydney, catching fleeting glimpses of the city views that are the reason why this area has some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

My first view of Bondi Beach

My first view of Bondi Beach

The Lifeguard Lookout and Pavilion on Bondi Beach

The Lifeguard Lookout and Pavilion on Bondi Beach


Me by the Lifeguard Lookout on Bondi Beach

Me by the Lifeguard Lookout on Bondi Beach

Lifeguards on duty on Bondi Beach

Lifeguards on duty on Bondi Beach


Millionaires Row view of Sydney on the way back from Bondi

Millionaires Row view of Sydney on the way back from Bondi

Once back in Sydney I boarded a catermaran in the Circular Quay to do the Sydney Harbour Cruise. The first stop was Fort Denison, a martello fort about kilometre offshore built in the mid 19th century to protect Sydney. From there we sailed onwards towards the ocean past the net-protected Sharks Beach in Vaucluse before reaching the affluent suburb of Watsons Bay.

Sydney's Circular Quay

Sydney's Circular Quay


Fort Denison in the middle of Sydney Harbour

Fort Denison in the middle of Sydney Harbour


Shark Beach protected by nets

Shark Beach protected by nets


Watson Bay

Watson Bay

Watsons Bay was the furthest we travelled east towards the open ocean before we turned around. The views of Sydney, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge as we made our way back were stunning.

Looking beyond Watson Bay towards the Ocean

Looking beyond Watson Bay towards the Ocean


Looking towards Sydney on the way back from Watson Bay

Looking towards Sydney on the way back from Watson Bay


The replica of HMS Endeavour beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge

The replica of HMS Endeavour beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge


Me sailing past the Sydney Opera House

Me sailing past the Sydney Opera House


The 'Carnival Spirit' Cruise Ship berthed at the Circular Quay next to the Sydney Opera House

The 'Carnival Spirit' Cruise Ship berthed at the Circular Quay next to the Sydney Opera House

After brief stops at Taronga Zoo and the Circular Quay we passed under the Harbour Bridge and turned into Darling Harbour opened in 1988. The National Maritime Museum with its impressive fleet of historical ships (including a replica of Captain Cook's HMS Endeavour) occupies the west side of the harbour while the Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussaud's and more tourist boat jetties occupies the east side. Sydney also has a monorail which runs across Pyrmont Bridge at the bottom of Darling Harbour but this was due to close in June 2013 so I was probably one of the last to ride on it.

Replica of Captain Cook's HMS Endevour in Darling Harbour

Replica of Captain Cook's HMS Endevour in Darling Harbour


Darling Harbour and the fleet of historical ships of the National Maritime Museum from the Pyrmont Bridge

Darling Harbour and the fleet of historical ships of the National Maritime Museum from the Pyrmont Bridge

The Sydney Monorail coming into its Darling Harbour Station on Pyrmont Bridge

The Sydney Monorail coming into its Darling Harbour Station on Pyrmont Bridge


Pyrmont Bridge crossing Darling Harbour

Pyrmont Bridge crossing Darling Harbour

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches bridges churches buildings trains sydney museums beer boat forts cruise_ships harbours city tour videos prisons monorail aborigine solo irish_famine warships war_memorials opera_houses Comments (0)

The J Paul Getty Center

A visit to the billion dollar art museum perched high up in the clouds above Los Angeles

sunny 22 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

The J Paul Getty Center is the larger of two locations of the Getty Museum, the wealthiest art institution in the world. It is a $1.3 billion no expense spared campus built perched on top of a hill overlooking Los Angeles. Having parked in the underground car park next to the Interstate 405 Freeway at the foot of the hill we boarded the computer operated tram up to the Getty Center Campus. At the top we arrived at the Arrival Plaza and climbed the steps up to the rotunda shaped Museum Entrance Hall past a couple of pieces of modern art.

The computer operated tram arrives at the Getty Center

The computer operated tram arrives at the Getty Center


Me at the bottom of the Arrival Plaza up to the Museum Entrance

Me at the bottom of the Arrival Plaza up to the Museum Entrance


Looking across the Arrival Plaza to the Upper Tram Station

Looking across the Arrival Plaza to the Upper Tram Station

The Getty Museum is funded by a trust (currently worth $6 billion) set up by the oil millionaire J. Paul Getty in 1953. The Getty Center specializes mainly in pre 20th Century European art and was opened in 1997 so the collection could be more accessible to Los Angeles. The views from its location on top of a 900 feet (270 metre) hill are stunning and on a clear day you can see both Downtown LA and the Ocean.

Bust of J Paul Getty in the Entrance Hall of the Getty Center

Bust of J Paul Getty in the Entrance Hall of the Getty Center


Looking back down to the Lower Tram Station and Interstate 405 from the Getty Center

Looking back down to the Lower Tram Station and Interstate 405 from the Getty Center


The view east past Century City towards Downtown LA on the distant horizon

The view east past Century City towards Downtown LA on the distant horizon


The view south from the South Pavilion of Century City and the Interstate 405

The view south from the South Pavilion of Century City and the Interstate 405

Entry to the Center is free and it is famed as much for its architecture and gardens as for the art collection it houses. We began our visit with an Architecture Tour where we were shown the finer points of architect Richard Meier's design.

Looking towards the North and East Buildings housing the Conservation Institute/Foundation from the Museum Entrance

Looking towards the North and East Buildings housing the Conservation Institute/Foundation from the Museum Entrance


Looking back to the Museum Entrance and across the Plaza to the Research Institute from the North and East Buildings

Looking back to the Museum Entrance and across the Plaza to the Research Institute from the North and East Buildings


The outdoor area between the South and East Pavilions

The outdoor area between the South and East Pavilions


Looking across the Museum Courtyard from the West Pavilion

Looking across the Museum Courtyard from the West Pavilion

The Getty Center is a campus and in addition to the museum includes buildings for administration, conservation and research. The museum itself consists of the North, East, South, West and Exhibition Pavilions located around the central Museum Courtyard. We started off by looking around a fascinating exhibition on LA Architectural Design 1940-1990 (which unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of) but then moved on to an exhibition of medieval manuscripts which reminded me of Trinity College in Dublin.

A couple of medieval manuscripts on display as part of an exhibition in the North Pavilion

A couple of medieval manuscripts on display as part of an exhibition in the North Pavilion


Paintings on display at the Getty Center

Paintings on display at the Getty Center

Included amongst the paintings on display were a number of iconic paintings. These included Rembrandt's The Abduction of Europa, Van Gogh's Irises, Degas' Dancer taking a bow and Reni's Christ with the Crown of Thorns. As you moved between the rooms you could appreciate how techniques have developed over the centuries.

The Abduction of Europa by Rembrandt (1632)

The Abduction of Europa by Rembrandt (1632)


Dancer Taking a Bow (The Prima Ballerina) by Edgar Degas (1878)

Dancer Taking a Bow (The Prima Ballerina) by Edgar Degas (1878)


Christ with the Crown of Thorns by Guido Reni (1637)

Christ with the Crown of Thorns by Guido Reni (1637)


Portrait of Louis XIV by Rigaud (1701)

Portrait of Louis XIV by Rigaud (1701)

There was an interesting collection of paintings of Venice that came from the period in the 17th/18th centuries when it was popular for wealthy British to visit classical Italy (known as the Grand Tour), buy statutes as souvenirs and adorn their houses in what became known as the neo-classical style. In addition to paintings the art collection at the Getty Center also included many rooms full of tapestries, French antique furniture and statues.

Entrance to the Grand Canal Venice by Bernando Bellotto

Entrance to the Grand Canal Venice by Bernando Bellotto


Tapesteries on display at the Getty Center

Tapesteries on display at the Getty Center


French French Antique Furniture on display at the Getty Center

French French Antique Furniture on display at the Getty Center


Statues on display at the Getty Museum

Statues on display at the Getty Museum


Model of a monument to Alexandre Dumas (author of The Three Musketeers) by Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1883)

Model of a monument to Alexandre Dumas (author of The Three Musketeers) by Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1883)

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in USA Tagged buildings trains museums california videos Comments (0)

San Clemente and a weekend away in Mexico

Visit to a bonus country while staying at a Spanish Village by the Sea

semi-overcast 21 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

San Clemente describes itself as a "Spanish Village by the Sea" and is located on California's Pacific Coast about half way between Los Angeles and San Diego. It was founded by a former Mayor of Seattle, Ole Hanson, who envisaged it becoming a haven for Californians who tired of "the big city". Its most obvious landmark is its beautiful 1,296 foot (395 metre) long wooden pier original built in 1928.

San Clemente Pier

San Clemente Pier


Looking out along San Clemente Pier

Looking out along San Clemente Pier


Looking back along San Clemente Pier

Looking back along San Clemente Pier

Sat on a bluff-top above the pier is Casa Romantica, with a red tiled roof and white stucco arches it was the original home of San Clemente's founder Ole Hanson built in 1928 in the Spanish style and is now heritage listed. However what San Clemente is more famous for is La Casa Pacifica which was bought by President Richard Nixon in 1969 as his vacation home during his presidency and became known as the "Western White House".

Casa Romantica above San Clemente Pier

Casa Romantica above San Clemente Pier


Looking along San Clemente State Beach towards La Casa Pacifica with surfers waiting for waves and the Amtrak heading south to San Diego

Looking along San Clemente State Beach towards La Casa Pacifica with surfers waiting for waves and the Amtrak heading south to San Diego

Mexico was not a country I thought I would be able to include in my itinerary of my trip around the world so I was very pleased when the chance of a weekend south of the border arose while I was in San Clemente. We drove down to Rosarito Beach (Playas de Rosarito in Spanish), a Pacific coastal resort 30 miles south of San Diego in the Mexican state of Baja California that is very popular for its beaches and dance clubs. Our hotel, around which the surrounding town grew, was originally opened in 1925 but since then has had a lot built onto it including the 17 storey Presido Tower in which we stayed.

The Pacifico Tower at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The Pacifico Tower at the Rosarito Beach Hotel


Security Checkpoint at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

Security Checkpoint at the Rosarito Beach Hotel


The street outside the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The street outside the Rosarito Beach Hotel


Corridor in the old part of the Rosarito Beach Hotel

Corridor in the old part of the Rosarito Beach Hotel

In addition to bars, restaurants and a ballroom the hotel we were staying at also had a lovely golden sand beach and a quarter mile long private pier. Unfortunately the weather was not at its best while we were there so the pier was closed and there were few takers for the horse or quad bike riding however it was evident from the volleyball nets, stands of empty seating and other paraphernalia that this could often become a very busy beach.

View from the beach of the Rosarito Beach Hotel

View from the beach of the Rosarito Beach Hotel


Horses and quad bikes waiting for tourists on Rosarito Beach

Horses and quad bikes waiting for tourists on Rosarito Beach


The pier at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The pier at the Rosarito Beach Hotel


The beach at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The beach at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

We did venture south to Puerto Nuevo passing the enormous 75 foot (23 metre) high statue of Christ of the Sacred Heart (Cristo del Sagrado Corazon in Spanish) above the highway at the town of El Morro. Puerto Nuevo itself is known as "the Lobster Capital of Baja" and having been coaxed into a restaurant and chosen the crustaceans we wanted to eat we enjoyed lovely fresh lobster for Sunday lunch.

Christ of the Sacred Heart Statute above the highway at El Morro

Christ of the Sacred Heart Statute above the highway at El Morro


Entering the town of Puerto Nuevo in Baja California Mexico

Entering the town of Puerto Nuevo in Baja California Mexico


Street scene in Puerto Nuevo

Street scene in Puerto Nuevo


Lobster ready for the pot in Puerto Nuevo

Lobster ready for the pot in Puerto Nuevo

On the Monday morning it was time for us to return north across the USA border, experiencing the heavy traffic in Tijuana just south of San Diego on the way. Thankfully our hotel was part of the Border Fastpass Scheme and this enabled us to use a dedicated lane to avoid the chaos and often 2 hour delay crossing over the Mexico/USA border.

Entering Tijuna on the way back to the USA border

Entering Tijuna on the way back to the USA border


Traffic jam in downtown Tijuana

Traffic jam in downtown Tijuana


Following the signs in Tijuna to the USA border

Following the signs in Tijuna to the USA border


Chaos approaching the USA border, thankfully we had a Border Fastpass from our hotel :-)

Chaos approaching the USA border, thankfully we had a Border Fastpass from our hotel :-)

On our return to San Clemente we visited family in Valley Center just north of San Diego and managed to stop at Mission San Luis Rey de Francia founded in 1798 at Oceanside on the way back. The 21 Spanish missions in California are a series of religious and military outposts established by Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order between 1769 and 1833 to spread the Christian faith among the local Native Americans. Starting from San Diego they stretch north with each mission about 30 miles apart - considered a long days ride on horseback or 3 days walk. All told I saw 5 of the 21 missions while I was in California, including the Mission at San Juan Capistrano which I had visited on a previous visit to California and we passed as I got on the Amtrak train to Fullerton.

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside


Another view of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside

Another view of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside


The Mission at San Juan Capistrano

The Mission at San Juan Capistrano


My train pulls into San Juan Capistrano Station to take me to Fullerton

My train pulls into San Juan Capistrano Station to take me to Fullerton

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches churches trains hotels california piers missions mexican us_presidents Comments (0)

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