Sydney - City Life
With the 2000 Olympics, Sydney received a lot of exposure. All over the world, TV shots showed the spectacular harbour, the clean city, breathtaking beaches and the everpresent sunshine. Visitors expressed awe and delight in their surroundings. But is Sydney all that the cameras showed during those two weeks last September?
Sydney encompasses much more than the cameras captured. It is one of the only major cities left in the western world which is affordable, modern, presents opportunities, possesses a great climate and has successfully retained an overwhelming natural beauty.
Sydney has its million dollar waterfront homes. In fact due to the amazing natural harbour, it has more than its fair share of architecturally stunning waterfront estates. However, unlike other major cities it still has affordable properties. For instance, you can rent a spacious modern 2 bedroom apartment with harbour views, within 25 minutes walk from the Sydney Opera House, and 5 minutes walk from Sydney Harbour Bridge, for just US$900 per month. And, this is expensive by Australian standards. If you move further out but within 30 minutes commute to the CBD, the price goes down to more like US $500 - $600 per month for a 2 bedroom apartment rental.
Sydneysiders will tell you that they pay extortionate rents and mortgages and they do compared to the rest of Australia. But in world terms, relative to incomes, Sydney is easily one of the most affordable major cities. In Manhattan, NY or Knightsbridge, London, a 2 bedroomed apartment is likely to set you back anywhere from US$2000 to US$5000 plus.
Possibly due to its late development, Sydney seems to have avoided the mistakes made by earlier urban conurbations. It is modern, clean and in the majority runs with enviable efficiency. This is exemplified well in two aspects; firstly by the Olympics and secondly through their transport system.
The Sydney 2000 Olympics were without doubt superbly organized. For a country that depicts itself as abundant with laid back easy-going types, the Olympics ran with precision, smoothness and accuracy. Whether it involved getting to the Games, catering, finding events, or watching the events themselves, all were achieved with simplicity and an unexpected ease.
Transport in Sydney is comfortable and can in many aspects be described as pleasant. Why? Because Sydneysiders take full advantage of the harbour and many commuters reach the CBD via the various ferries most of which run at least every 20 minutes.
Imagine sitting on a ferry, reading the newspaper or watching the incredible views, temperature at 27C, sun shining with a gentle breeze and arriving 15 minutes later in the centre of town. Certainly beats your head in someone's armpit in the overcrowded, oxygen depleted ovens otherwise known as subways, metros, tubes and underground systems.
Sydney does have a rail system which caters well for the further afield and those not live close to the water & ferry systems. City Rail has double-decker air-conditioned trains which run frequently, every 5 minutes for popular stations. Buses, the monorail and trams make up the rest of Sydney's effective public transport system.
Work itself presents opportunities for markets which are not yet saturated. Undeniably in most cases Australia does not have the same world presence as US, Japanese or European business but in the home market and in Asia-Pacific, Australia has the chance of becoming a major force. Competition is tough however and the dedication, work ethic, intelligence and aptitude of some of the emerging economies in Asia-Pacific cannot not be underestimated. Still, the opportunities are there, the priority paid to them will ultimately play a large role in the degree of success.
Australians as a nation and Sydneysiders are no exception, have a balanced attitude to life. Work is important but free time, spending time in the outdoors and with family and friends are also of high precedence. With the naturally seductive climate, going to the beach, walking, hiking, surfing, water-sports and sports in general are seen to be significant parts of life and be given the appropriate attention.
There are at least 10 beaches in easy reach of the CBD, with Bondi being the closest at 6km away. If you wish to avoid the more commercialized haunts of Bondi, Coogee and Manly, it is easy to find a quiet array of golden sand at the other beach locations to relax and enjoy the good weather.
If you want to take part in sports whilst in Sydney, there are hundreds of opportunities. The Time Out Guide to Sydney lists associations to contact as do the local phone directories such as City Search. For sports, Australia is not just an elite nation but one of mass participation for all ages. For example for just the northern suburbs section of Sydney, there is a local women's basketball league which has four divisions. This is characteristic of the Australians attitude of having a go.
Another feature of Sydney which is conducive to activity and exploration is the care paid to preserving natural areas of the environment. Sydney is very green, it's sub-tropical climate provides suitable conditions for palm trees, citrus trees, banana plants and a vast collection of plant species. There are plenty of parks to walk and enjoy nature in with two of the most pleasurable being the Botanical Gardens near Circular Quay and Kurang-gai National Park to the north of Sydney.
The Botanical Gardens are free, stand adjacent to the CBD, a stones throw from the Opera House and are a haven for plants and wildlife. An interesting feature & known to startle a few unsuspecting tourists, are the fruit bats that inhabit the tropical section of the Gardens. The wild beautiful white cockatoos, the cheeky Rainbow Laurakeets and the Ibis add superbly to the spectacle of the gardens.
Kurang-gai National Park is approximately 15km North of Sydney's CBD and is an untamed habitat of Eucalyptus trees, waterways, views and the infamous Bushland. If you have a boat it is a great place to sail and fish all within the city boundaries. There are also a number of Bush walks some of which lead to ancient Aboriginal Carvings. These are not well sign-posted so it is easy to miss them, keep your eyesfor rock clearings as these are often home to the carvings.
There are many excursions out of Sydney which are well-worth a trip, these include the Blue Mountains, the Hunter Valley and dolphin watching at Port Stephens.
With all this, are there any downsides to Sydney? Why would people ever leave? Well often they don't. But if there were criticisms to be made it would probably revolve around food, the harsh sun, the creatures of the ocean and the distance. Restaurants in Sydney are plentiful but the quality is often questionable. There are good restaurants but you have to know which ones they are otherwise you can be in for a disappointment.
The sun in Australia is fierce and anytime you are out for more than 10 minutes you should have sun protection on in the form of cream and preferably a hat. Government warnings predict that skin cancer will affect 1 in 5 Australians in their lifetime.
The oceans are beautiful but also contain lots of nasties, the most irritating being the jellyfish who at certain times of the year, can prevent enjoyment of the sea. Sydney beaches are netted to help prevent keep out unwanted guests such as sharks and in fact, according to statistics you are much more likely to encounter a shark in Florida than you would be in Sydney.
Probably the biggest issue with Sydney is the distance from everywhere else. Besides New Zealand on the doorstep, to travel even to other parts of Asia is at least an 8 hour plane journey. Los Angeles is 14 hours non-stop and London is around 27 hours on a good flight. This can be off putting in both time and expense for visitors.
However, for those many that can endure the travel, Sydney is a spectacular city destination and visitors take away wonderful experiences of a very refreshing city life.
Photos courtesy of Photo Reality whose web site will be available shortly.
Lonely Planet Sydney. Lonely Planet Publications.
Lonely Planet website
The Rough Guide to Sydney. Rough Guide Publications.
Rough Guides website
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