The best travel experiences often arrive when you least expect them. The same goes for meeting new people and making friends.
I have always had great experiences meeting my readers, and yesterday’s meet-up with reader Lucinda was no exception. What Brett and I thought would be just a nice lunch and a long chat with a Sydney reader of the blog turned out to be a day of exploration for us in an area of Sydney we might not have visited otherwise, or if we had, we wouldn’t have appreciated anywhere near as much for its history, culture, and sense of place in modern Sydney. Lucinda has a deep knowledge and understanding of The Rocks neighborhood’s history, its current incarnation, and its future direction. Plus, talking with her was like catching up with an old friend you hadn’t seen in a long while, and we never ran out of things to talk about the entire time. The whole experience took the day from being merely a good one into one of the best days we’ve spent during our travels.
The Rocks neighborhood sits down under the south end of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. One of Sydney’s earliest settlements (1788), the area came to be where Sydney’s great shipping wharves were located, and the neighborhood was filled with men and families that worked on the docks or the merchant service, something Australia sadly no longer has (all merchant activity is now contracted out to other countries, and Sydney Harbor is almost purely used for recreation now). Along with the sandstone houses that gave the area its name, The Rocks was filled with hotels, pubs, and other related businesses, and was known as quite the rowdy part of town. These days, many pubs remain as a reminder of The Rocks past life, several of them claiming to be “Sydney’s oldest pub.” Other buildings related to The Rocks’ maritime past have been converted to other uses, and most sad of all, homes that workers’ families had lived in for generations have been and are being converted into million-dollar residences – gentrification in full force – while the families who formerly lived in those homes were moved out to the far west side of Sydney, away from the harbor and neighborhood they had lived by and in for so long.
We met Lucinda at Circular Quay, and started our visit with a walk along the Cahill Expressway, on a path that looked out to the harbor and out over The Rocks neighborhood. She showed us little paths and stairs that descended into the neighborhood, and we walked around for a bit while Lucinda explained what we were seeing and how places were in the past as well as how they fit into Sydney today. We eventually found our way to the Glenmore pub (in the former Glenmore Hotel) where we enjoyed lunch up on the rooftop, shaded by large umbrellas and cooled by a lovely breeze. It was quite a hot day, in the mid- to upper-80s, and while Brett and Lucinda each enjoyed a couple of beers, I decided to go with a couple of glasses of tasty Australian white wine. Let’s just say I was a bit sloshed by the time we finished – the wine glasses were big, and the pours generous.
I eventually got myself righted and we headed over to the Harbor Bridge. There are stairs to climb up to the bridge, but these days there are elevators as well, so we took one of those and started off across the bridge – the pedestrian path is on the side that faces the Opera House. The views along the way were nothing short of spectacular – poor Brett and Lucinda had to stop every few feet so that I could look out and snap a picture of the changing view of the Opera House as well as the views across the harbor. It was especially lovely up on the bridge because of the cool breeze that blew the entire time and kept us cool.
When we got to the other side we stopped for some gelato, and then it was time to say our goodbyes. Brett and I hopped on our train back to the south side of Sydney and home while Lucinda headed in the other directions.
Brett and I agree yesterday was one of the best days we have enjoyed during our travels because it had it all: good weather, an interesting location, history and local color, good food and drink, and best of all, delightful company and wonderful conversation. We only hope that some day in the future we can return the favor and show Lucinda around one of our favorite neighborhoods or cities.