Clocking the QVB, braving the waves of Bondi, oriental smiles – and a Very Happy Hour!
Monday 16th March 2020. Next on the list: The weather’s windy and more rain is forecast – so let’s go to the beach… Really? Remember, this section of the epic adventure was under Elaine’s governance, and Bondi Beach sat at Number 3 of the iconic spots she had down as a ‘must-see’. The research had been done yesterday while passing through Circular Wharf. “Is there a bus, and where do we catch it?” The answer was “No worries… Number 333 goes from the end of the block here.”
So, our second day started much like our first. We walked across the Pyrmont Bridge, braving the winds that were at least pushing the clouds away. (Brollies were unlikely to cut it, even if we did catch some of the wet stuff.)
A diversion beckoned on the way to the bus. Our route yesterday had taken us past a magnificent looking building next to the stop where we boarded a tram to Circular Wharf. While we had no intention of doing the same today, the Queen Victoria Building (or QVB, as it is known locally) looked to be worth a peek inside.
Occupying an entire city block, the QVB houses over 180 of Sydney’s finest fashion boutiques, jewellery shops, cafés and restaurants. It’s been there since 1898, and is as splendid inside as its exterior.
You can see its appeal from the above. There are two sections like this, separated by the area under the central dome, and above each half hangs an elaborate timepiece. The detail and the mechanical animations are best observed from each of the upper balconies, but this will give you an idea of the scale and elaborate nature of one of them, known as the Great Australian Clock.
We arrived at Circular Wharf just in time to wave goodbye to a Bondi Bus, but only had a ten-minute wait before another showed up. The skyscrapers were soon left behind as we drove east through the suburbs for thirty minutes, thankful that the rain had not yet put in an appearance.
I’d like to say Bondi lived up to expectations, but let’s face it, the expectations (mine) were not set very high. The weather was not on its best behaviour, it was the start of autumn, and neither of us had brought a surf board. But it was a nice stretch of beach.
Not as pale and fine-grained as Glenelg, the sand was still appealing, while it appeared the water could still draw a few keen surfers.
But the beach interlude was necessarily brief, as neither of us had remembered to bring the factor 50 or even a towel, so we browsed the few shops opposite the promenade instead. Which was when the rain appeared with a vengeance.
Shivering in the shelter of a café serving coffee with cheese and ham panini’s, we decided we’d seen all we needed to of Bondi, and made a dash for the next bus back to the CBD. The rain did its damage just before we boarded the 333, and drifted on elsewhere to find more victims – leaving us half an hour or so to dry out and then ponder our route into Chinatown.
We alighted at Hyde Park (no, not that one) and headed south and west until my mental compass and the proliferation of oriental symbols told us we’d reached our destination.
Exploration of an indoor market kept us occupied for at least an hour, especially the assortment of Asian ‘street food’ on offer, but we eventually settled on an authentic Chinese family-run restaurant. The friendly smiles won us over – as well as the temptation of dishes of duck and beef, with noodles and proper China tea. Filling? Tick. Tasty? Tick. Doggy bag? Sadly, no.
We wandered north again, in the direction of Darling Harbour. There’s a Chinese Friendship Garden here – all very feng shui and lovely, but there’s a charge to go in and only half an hour until they close – maybe another time. Instead we continued through Tumbalong Park, which combines grassy lawns with fountains and unusual water features. Suitable for adults and children alike, it is a popular area for public relaxation, and with the wind and rain now a distant memory, we did as others were doing. Watch the water flow this way. Open the gate. Now the water flows that way. Close this one. R-e-l-a-x.
A female voice carried across the air in song. Somewhere nearby a girl strummed a guitar, soothing the whole of Darling Harbour with her melodies. We walked on, taking in the ambience by daylight – so different from the firework spectacle two nights ago. Almost every bar was indulging in Happy Hour, and we found a seat with a view at one with a longer hour than others. White wine at $5 a (large) glass… Dusk was not deterred by the occasional flurry of rain, and neither was our female songstress. Maybe just one more?
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