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Mix cows, six thou­sand people, truck­loads of impor­ted turf and lots of yummy food and you get the first ever Break­fast on the Bridge. Me and Ru Jih were lucky enough to score tick­ets to the event, where Sydney­siders were invited to pic­nic on the icon­ic Sydney Har­bour Bridge — closed to traffic — as part of Crave Sydney.

(Click on the images to enlarge.)

No end in sight... people queue to get onto the bridge

No end in sight… people queue to get onto the bridge

On the way up

On the way up

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Watch out Sydney: more pub­lic rela­tions cre­ations of Events NSW are com­ing our way.

This time round, we’re being asked to Crave Sydney — incor­por­at­ing such inter­est­ing events as, for example, eat­ing break­fast on the bridge. I do indeed crave eggs bene­dict togeth­er with caffè latte for break­fast but I must say I tend to prefer it sans car exhaust. And appar­ently, we will also be intro­duced to the “world’s fun­ni­est island”. No idea what that is — but could it be a ref­er­ence to how funny it is that this island con­tin­ent spans all of 4000 km from east to west, yet we can’t seem to get excited about any­thing hap­pen­ing in my own back­yard? (The Crave Sydney web­site doesn’t have any­thing sub­stant­ive yet as of writ­ing — but I’m not hold­ing my breath.)

Then there’s the ferry-hop­ping. Fort Den­ison does have some of the world’s best views, but there’s only so much you can do on an island on which you can walk from one end to the oth­er in about two minutes.

Appar­ently, Janu­ary this year was “Viva­city Sydney” (I didn’t even real­ise that exis­ted), but I do recall that Vivid Sydney was on in June (although noth­ing there was par­tic­u­larly attract­ive): take a look at the mas­ter events cal­en­dar 2009.

(Just put­ting it out there: these “mas­ter events” are prob­ably designed purely to lure tour­ists into the hole that is Sydney, but surely they could find some­thing that excites both res­id­ents and non-res­id­ents?)

And finally, to cap off this excit­ing year in Sydney, we have, accord­ing to this mas­ter events sched­ule, Rupert Bunny to look for­ward to in Novem­ber:

Rupert Bunny

Unfor­tu­nately, no, it’s actu­ally this guy.

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Min­im­al funds to fix Sydney con­ges­tion: no sur­prises here, but what will Sydney do? We can’t just sit here while Mel­bourne steams ahead. And what needs fix­ing about the Perth-Fre­mantle rail­way? When I was over there, I thought Transperth was almost a mod­el of per­fec­tion…

13 May 2009 | No comments

I don't think it's time for me to give up my day job yet.

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The metal­lic screeches of train wheels as a tin can enters the ever-pop­u­lar Air­port Line tun­nel. The smell of salt as you lean over the peel­ing rail­ings of a Sydney Ferry. A smat­ter­ing of the day’s rub­bish swirl­ing out­side closed shop-fronts early in the even­ing.

We enjoy the daily Sydney grind. We hope you do too.


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I was going with Ru Jih to Darling Har­bour last week (she hasn’t been there before!) when we ran into the Earth from Above exhib­i­tion, a series of breath­tak­ing aer­i­al pho­to­graphs dis­played along­side the path­way from Hay­mar­ket to Darling Har­bour (adja­cent to the so-called “Urb­an Stream”). Pho­to­graphed by Yann Arthus-Ber­trand, the idea behind the exhib­i­tion is to focus atten­tion on sus­tain­able devel­op­ment, and short fact­oids about the impact of human devel­op­ment accom­pan­ied the pho­to­graphs.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen any­thing like that at Darling Har­bour, or for that mat­ter, in Sydney — I was nicely sur­prised to come by it. Giv­en my recent com­ments on how Sydney feels like a dough­nut, hol­low in the centre, com­pared with Mel­bourne, I’d have to say this is a pos­it­ive step for­ward, in bring­ing some sense of “cul­ture” back into the city. Dani­elle didn’t seem to think so; on hear­ing about it, he com­men­ted, “this would be high cul­ture… what about the cul­ture that devel­ops nat­ur­ally. the vibe of a city”.

I guess you can’t please every­one. I just wished that I had known about it before — but it’s there till 26 Decem­ber if you’re inter­ested in see­ing it.

In any case, Darling Har­bour will have to wait anoth­er day; we used up all our time look­ing at the pic­tures.

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Sydney and Par­ra­matta — the Lon­don and Par­is of the Great South­ern Land? A laugh­able pro­pos­i­tion by any meas­ure.

As part of the Sydney Design fest­iv­al (the exist­ence of which I was not aware of before this event — it’s rather telling that I know more about the fest­ivals cur­rently on in Mel­bourne than in my home city), the Lord May­ors of Sydney and Par­ra­matta (Clover Moore and Dav­id Bor­ger respect­ively), togeth­er with three pan­el­ists, presen­ted their vis­ions of their respect­ive cit­ies before a minus­cule audi­ence. I went with Daniel, and he has already made some com­ments.

Firstly, the concept of Par­ra­matta as a city dis­tinct from Sydney, as a city with a dis­tinct role, cul­ture and vis­ion, was for­eign to me. I had known that Par­ra­matta was grow­ing in import­ance as a centre of gov­ern­ment and busi­ness, and I had viewed it as a region­al centre, but I had always per­ceived Par­ra­matta (along with Liv­er­pool), as being merely region­al centres of the lar­ger entity known as Sydney. Borger’s vis­ion of Par­ra­matta being the com­ple­ment of Sydney, as being the hub of west­ern Sydney — per­haps inspired by self-interest as he is the May­or of Par­ra­matta — made little sense, for eco­nom­ies of scale and the innate attrac­tion of the lar­ger city centre (Sydney), will deprive Par­ra­matta of the fuel required to make it truly great. Per­haps the prob­lem is in the defin­i­tion of “city”. As Daniel noted, the two may­ors’ speeches focused almost exclus­ively on inner-city liv­ing — on the devel­op­ment of the City of Sydney and the City of Par­ra­matta — but hey, Sydney is more than that. What Sydney (as a met­ro­pol­it­an area) doesn’t need is for such a lim­ited vis­ion restric­ted to two cent­ral busi­ness dis­tricts and their imme­di­ate sur­round­ings. That is Sydney’s prob­lem — a frag­men­ted, loc­al­ised approach that lacks coher­ent over­sight. For­tu­nately, at least in Borger’s case, he recog­nised the need that the exist­ing gov­ernance struc­ture of loc­al gov­ern­ments in Sydney is prob­lem­at­ic. Sydney is a whole, liv­ing, breath­ing organ­ism — and it deserves an author­ity with the jur­is­dic­tion of the entire great­er met­ro­pol­it­an area.

My oth­er cri­ti­cism relates to the May­ors’ vis­ions them­selves. Put­ting aside the fact that clearly neither of the two May­ors could be bothered com­ing up with decent speeches, the vis­ions (presen­ted as a Uto­pi­an vis­ion of Sydney in 2030) lacked gen­er­al­ity. We heard plans for a theatre here, the demoli­tion of a car­park there, and the spe­cif­ics of the envir­on­ment­ally friendly solu­tions in a build­ing some­where else, but there was no under­ly­ing con­text in which to place these ideas. You walked out of the talks feel­ing as if Sydney’s going to be going on with the busi­ness of just get­ting things done by 2030, but I left the Town Hall without the excite­ment that I’m liv­ing in a city that has a goal: a united goal that all Sydney­siders will be proud to take part in, a goal that will cause Sydney, as a whole, to shine brightly. The motto was that Sydney was to become a city of vil­lages (ignor­ing the fact that that is simply copy­ing Melbourne’s repu­ta­tion) but there wasn’t any sense of that either. It’s true that large vis­ions can often be a pan­acea for hav­ing real con­crete plans, but if done cor­rectly, it will motiv­ate the people of Sydney to take own­er­ship of their city’s des­tiny.

Update: An extract from Dav­id Borger’s speech can be found on the SMH site: here

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Let’s see if all this devel­op­ment will inject some life back into the city, giv­en my pre­vi­ous com­ments. The swing towards non-office build­ings is admir­able, although shop­ping doesn’t still define a city — I won­der what will dif­fer­en­ti­ate these shop­ping centres from every oth­er shop­ping centre that’s already there? Also, there’s no men­tion of how long it’ll take to fin­ish build­ing it all — but at least with com­mer­cial devel­op­ments, you don’t have 4 year elec­tion cycles that cause short-sighted scrap­ping of pro­jects.

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I prom­ised to write a little more thought­fully about my trip down in Mel­bourne, but I’ve been a little lazy and it’s been over a week. Appar­ently, the longer you leave it, the rosi­er your memor­ies become, so I may very well be extolling non-exist­ent vir­tues of Mel­bourne.

So, the hard ques­tion first up: is Mel­bourne bet­ter than Sydney? In some respects, yes. Just like this Heck­ler heckles, Sydney’s CBD is becom­ing increas­ingly hol­lowed out by the dearth of things to do in the heart of the busi­ness dis­trict — this is none more evid­ent than in the area just south of Cir­cu­lar Quay. (For those of you who don’t know me well, the ample abund­ance of club­bing does not count.) Mel­bourne, on the oth­er hand, lives up to its repu­ta­tion as being a “net­work of vil­lages” — pock­ets of life are sewn togeth­er by a car­pet of res­taur­ants and cafés that spill out into the street, odd pieces of street fur­niture, often slightly eccent­ric, and the well-designed pub­lic spaces that make you want to appre­ci­ate the city’s beauty at night. Clearly, it hasn’t worked every­where though; the Dock­lands was some­thing I was look­ing for­ward to see, but although the sleek, mod­ern build­ings com­ple­men­ted the smooth tran­quil­ity of the water­front, it was devoid of life — but per­haps it was just the wrong night for that. Dur­ing the day, Melbourne’s full of the hustle and bustle that you’d expect to find in a city that’s con­fid­ent of itself and how it can make its own way without blandly copy­ing what oth­ers have done before — it’s easy to get lost just wan­der­ing around the shop­ping centres (Mel­bourne makes shop­ping centres sexy) and the alley­ways that the city is fam­ous for.

The oth­er thing that I’ll com­ment on is the trans­port, and for this I’ll drop the rosy lan­guage and get a little more object­ive. Trams are a fant­ast­ic idea, but I can see why it might not work so well in Sydney. Trams steam ahead without being forced to start and stop and start and stop by the rest of the traffic on the road (buses in Sydney make me think of pri­or­ity inver­sion), but in order to achieve this, you need ded­ic­ated tram lanes — Melbourne’s main streets are notice­ably wider than than those in Sydney (say, com­pared with George, Pitt and Cast­lereigh Streets) and thus you can afford to give an entire lane to trams. If you’re hop­ping around the CBD, you don’t really have to walk a lot because of how the lines are set up — which is how pub­lic trans­port should be — hop on, hop off at will. Trains were bewil­der­ing though. I don’t under­stand how you can run a train sys­tem where you can get from A to B by train, but there’s no way to get from B to A without tak­ing a tor­tu­ous route (the sta­tion staff just told us to catch a tram instead). Seem­ingly obvi­ous (to tour­ists at least) routes between pop­u­lar sta­tions just don’t exist, and if you’re just hop­ping around the CBD, you’re best off pre­tend­ing the trains don’t exist. South­ern Cross sta­tion, how­ever, is one impress­ive piece of archi­tec­ture, and it just shows how Sydney has fallen too far in favour­ing util­it­ari­an func­tion over form.

Will I be vis­it­ing again? Yes, def­in­itely, if I’m after a break in civil­isa­tion (as opposed to a break with rocks and trees and things), Mel­bourne is the place to be. As you prob­ably noticed, we spent the entire trip basic­ally in the CBD — next time, I’d be sure to have a look a little fur­ther out, and see what gems lie out­side the (attract­ive) stain­less steel and glass jungle.

Lots of pho­tos: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

P.S. Wikitravel is quite use­ful and clearly con­tains tips from every­day loc­als who know best: see, for example, the Mel­bourne entry.

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So did you turn off the lights for an hour on March 31? I cer­tainly did, and felt all the bet­ter for it… and it appears from the stat­ist­ics that quite a few Sydney­siders thought the same way (although they com­pared the elec­tri­city con­sump­tion for the hour with the con­sump­tion aver­aged over the last three years for that hour… I think the stat­ist­ics work is just a little dodgy).

I took it as an oppor­tun­ity to go out to the back­yard and try out the bin­ocu­lars people got me for my 21st 🙂 and what I saw did make me won­der what kind of amaz­ing things await me if I (ever) decide to head fur­ther out from the city. One annoy­ing thing that I haven’t worked out is how to use the bin­ocu­lars prop­erly with my glasses on…

I’ll upload my pics some­time soon, but for the time being, there’s the Flickr group for Earth Hour, and a screensaver with some per­son­al­ity.

Update: My Earth pho­tos are here. Look­ing at how small the moon turned out, I can’t believe I for­got I have a tele­photo lens.

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