When I was a very young woman back in the 14th century, I made friends in London and Toronto with folks from Australia, England and Ireland. More than 40 years later, I have kept many of these friends, and that’s what took me to Australia, where most of them now live. That it’s also a beautiful country with nice cities and fascinating flora and fauna was a distinct bonus.
Primarily, it was my dear old pals Roseanna and Anna that brought me to Sydney. The three of us get together somewhere every couple of years—the last two times were in Paris and Tuscany. This time we chose Sydney, where Roseanna lives, because Anna, who hails from England, was going to be there for the wedding of Olivia, one of her quadruplet daughters. Phew. Confused yet? Never mind.
This is glory flower (Tibouchina spp.), which grows everywhere.
We stayed in Greenwich. Here is the view toward the city from Greenwich Point, where we caught the ferry for the 20-minute ride to Circular Quay in the centre of town.
The return trip takes you right past old and famous Luna Park. Dunno about you, but that face scares the bejeesus out of me.
The lovely old ferry boats are being phased out in favour of sleek and fast— but soulless— new models. Poo.
And speaking of boats, the Queen Mary 2 was in port. My heavens, but that’s one huge ship—so tall, it’s too big to get under the Sydney Harbour Bridge seen at the top of this post.
Sydney is a ridiculously picturesque city. Of course I trotted around to all the sights, and was surprised to discover that the “sails” of the Sydney Opera House are not white, but beige.
And they’re made from myriad, carefully patterned, shiny ceramic tiles that look like fish scales. Who knew?
Much like Toronto, Sydney is a city of neighbourhoods with a distinctive feel. Some buildings reminded me of the wild west
While other residential areas channelled New Orleans.
The Rocks is an old part of the city, and is known for its chic shops and markets.
Of course, I made arrangements to tour the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust in Sydney. The gardens alone span 33 hectares right on the edge of Sydney Harbour and very near the Opera House, the art museum—in short, right in the heart of everything. Here, exotics and agaves near one of the entrances.
General Manager Frances Jackson kindly took me around “behind the scenes” to the working areas.
Such as the greenhouses, where plants are propagated (eat your heart out, Paul).
These include some very old structures dating back some 100 years.
Before entering the greenhouses, we had to walk through disinfectant thresholds—smart idea.
I was surprised to find that some parts of the extensive gardens have a decidedly old-fashioned and European feel, with vast, immaculately maintained rolling lawns, and Victorian-style plantings—but then again, the gardens do date back to 1816.
I like this juxtaposition of the Victorian-era Levy Fountain and its exotic surroundings.
A highlight of my day was a tour with Leon, a dynamic member of the education department team, who gave me a glimpse into the world of native plants and how they are utilized by the aboriginal people (those from this area were known as the Cadigal). For example, the leaves and bark of various types of eucalyptus, tea tree and myrtle trees are used as medicines, poultices, and wraps and flavourings for food. Nothing is wasted.
A powder found between the layers of bark of the prickly-leaved tea tree (Mellaleuca styphelioides) is applied to wounds to disinfect and heal them.
Walking along, we saw the devastation being caused to trees by the flying foxes, which are giant fruit bats or megabats. These bats are easily as big as a cat. The gardens are trying to discourage them by beaming recordings of loud traffic noises at night into the trees.
Here’s a kookaburra (yep, in an old gum tree).
And a beautiful lorikeet feeding on nectar—love this shot.
Going into an interpretive gallery filled with carefully curated aboriginal artifacts, Leon demonstrated the didgeridoo, and skillfully mimicked the raucous sounds of birds and animals.
Wandering around on my own, I came upon vast beds of every kind of begonia you could imagine.
And this tree with magnificent leaves. It’s a Chrysophyllum imperiale and hails from Brazil.
The gardens have a beautiful fernery, and I tried not to be too jealous.
And tropical glasshouses. Ditto.
…where I saw this exotic pitcher plant, which sadly didn’t seem to have a label.
The National Herbarium of New South Wales, is also on these grounds .
After wandering around for some eight hours in the heat, my dogs were barkin’, so I hitched a ride on the gardens’ trolley. I was done for the day, and I’m done with this post, too. I’ll put up a bit more next week on the website about Melbourne. And if you missed my post last week on the fleeting nature of this year’s spring bulbs, you can see it here.
Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with this mini-rogues’ gallery of my other Sydney (and Canberra) pals, in case they’re reading this and feel left out. Happy Easter, Happy Passover, happy spring!