On This Day: August 17th, 2016 – Barangaroo Reserve, Sydney
Finding any kind of decent real estate in Sydney is practically impossible but for decades, a strip of land on the north-western tip of Sydney Harbour remained an abandoned container yard. Finally, development was approved to turn it into parkland that can be enjoyed by all, known as Barangaroo Reserve.
Named after one of the key leaders of the Aboriginal community when the Europeans settled in Sydney over 200 years ago, the first stage of Barangaroo was opened to the public in August 2015, with more projects continuing along the foreshore expecting to be completed by 2023.
Click here for more information on Barangaroo.
On This Day: August 13th, 2015 – Edinburgh Fringe Festival
For years, I heard stories about comedians who honed their craft at the legendary Edinburgh Fringe Festival, making the annual pilgrimage along with thousands of other performers. I got my first taste of it in 2015. Initially daunted by the size of the program which resembled a phone book, we decided to just head to any act that took our fancy on the night, and we were not disappointed. Edinburgh, you were great and I will be back.
On This Day: August 12th, 2015 – Scotland
Thistles are everywhere in Scotland, so it’s no wonder this flower is the floral emblem of Scotland. Just as the rose is beautiful yet prickly, the thistle should be approached with caution. Legend has it that this flower became the symbol for Scotland when a barefooted Norse warrior accidentally stepped on some thistles during an invasion of Scotland, and it was his screams that alerted the Scots of the attack and saved the day. True or not, this purple beauty is a sight to behold.
On This Day: August 10th 2016 – Sydney’s Balmoral Beach
It is supposed to be winter in Sydney, but with the sun out in all its glory, the temperature rose to 26 degrees Celsius on this beautiful day. A visit to the beach with a good book helped beat the mid-week blues.
On This Day: August 8th 2015 – The London Eye
Since the London Eye was launched in 2000, this popular tourist attraction has become one of the most well-known landmarks in the world and offers visitors a bird’s eye view of London. My second visit to “the Eye” was no less exciting than my first, eight years earlier, and being somewhat sunnier was a bonus.
While in the queue (a long one no matter what time you visit, though the lines do move pretty quickly), I noticed someone ahead of us carrying a lot of photography equipment wearing a t-shirt with an Instagram logo that said “@London”. He was in the capsule next to ours and as our giant ferris wheel rose above his, I noticed he was taking a photo of the capsule that my friends and I were in. Naturally, I waved and poked my tongue out (because, why not?).
I told my friend, Lou, to wave and she said excitedly “Oh I follow him on Instagram! He takes amazing photos!” So I took a photo of him as well. Later that day, I contacted him (his name is Dave Burt) on Twitter (@Londongramer), we exchanged emails, and the result was a rare treat for us, and I expect, for Dave as well.
On This Day: August 7th, 2015 – Bletchley Park
Known as the “Home of the Codebreakers”, Bletchley Park is located just outside of London, looking unassuming and a little rural. But for anyone interested in how the Allies won the Second World War, approaching Bletchley Park gives you the feeling that something extraordinary happened here. During the War, this large estate housed Britain’s codebreaking operations (the Government Code and Cypher School), though to outsiders, this was known as a radio factory.
It was at Bletchley Park that Alan Turing (b. 23 June 1912, d. 7 June 1954) – considered the father of modern computing – built his “Bombe” machine and, along with his small team, broke Hitler’s Enigma Code and helped bring the War to a close. At the end of WWII, due to the high level of secrecy, all of Turing’s work was destroyed. Having signed the Official Secrets Act, anyone who worked at Bletchley were not allowed to speak of their work and achievements. It was not until the 1970s that some of what went on inside the gates began to emerge.
A local group of historians formed the Bletchley Park Trust in 1992 to restore the estate to preserve it as a memory of all the sacrifices and hard work that took place there. The Park’s popularity grew with a new generation of visitors in 2014-15 following the release of the film, The Imitation Game – starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Allan Leech and Mark Strong – which told the story of Turing and his role in the creation of the Bombe. An exhibition of props from the film were on display at the Park during my visit which made the experience even more surreal.
When you say “Australia”, a number of icons come to mind, but Sydney boasts the most iconic man-made structures in the country and they can be seen from the same spot: East Circular Quay. To those unfamiliar, “quay” is pronounced as “key”…nothing identifies you as a tourist quicker than asking a local “excuse me, can you tell me how to get to circular kway, please?”
There is no doubt that when the sun is out and the sky is blue, you can make any place look beautiful. I know I may be biased but Sydney Harbour absolutely glistens on a gorgeous day – no photoshopping necessary – this is Sydney Harbour and East Circular Quay at its absolute best – even the locals have now accepted the apartment building once known as “The Toaster” for its flat look and the hole in the middle (and admittedly, we were jealous of those who could afford to live there).
Australian Birdlife Outside My Window
Today has been a good day to be sitting on my balcony – the sun’s out and the Aussie bird life has been visiting me 🙂
Sydney Swans Experience Friday Night Football on Rainy Night
Sydney is accustomed to Friday night football but never for Aussie Rules football. And on a very wet Friday night, 29th April, 2011 , the Sydney Swans took on Carlton Blues at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The Blues had not beaten the Swans at the SCG since 1993 and the trend looked set to continue until halfway through the third quarter. The Swans lost by 16 points at the final siren. The match coincided with another very special event – the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. One of my fellow spectators obviously could not choose between staying home to watch the wedding telecast and being at the SCG to support her team – she solved that problem by bringing with her a portable TV set. I must admit there were certain times, especially in the second half of the match, when I am pretty sure I would have had more fun watching the wedding instead. 🙂
Happy 75th Birthday to Sydney Harbour Bridge (2007)
On March 18th, 2007, the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, or “the Coat Hanger” as it is more affectionately known, was closed to road traffic to allow Sydneysiders to walk across in celebration of its 75th birthday. I’m looking forward to its big 80th party in 2012!
Japan – Land of the Rising Sun
It was just over six years ago in February that I went to Japan for the first time. As a little girl growing up in Hong Kong it was my dream to go to Japan, for no other reason than because it was the country where Hello Kitty lived. Yes, the Sanrio cartoon cat that every little girl wanted in Asia (and as it turned out, those of us who have grown up with it still want it regardless of age). I’m sure if my parents had consented to take me there when I was just a little girl, that would have been all I cared about and nothing else. As it turned out, it was probably a wise decision to leave me at home (but don’t let my mother know this! :))
With all the technological advances and gadgetry that the country is renowned for, it is sometimes easy to forget that Japan is steeped in tradition and pride. Its culture introduced us to a time when samurais were honoured to be chosen to protect their emperor with their lives; the grounds of the palace littered with pebbles so that any would-be assassins could be heard on approach (unless you were a ninja who could just glide through the air without a sound). The precision involved in a Japanese tea ceremony is one you must experience. (more…)
Let’s Start From the Beginning – My Origins: Hong Kong
I thought it appropriate that my first travelogue should be about the country of my birth – Hong Kong. Although a popular tourist destination, Hong Kong has never held the same allure for me as it does many of my friends and the millions of tourists who flock there each year. Some go there for the cultural experience without too much of a culture shock (as English is still one of the languages spoken there, in addition to Chinese Mandarin and Cantonese), whilst others consider it a shoppers’ mecca. Many foreigners still live and work there given its status as a major trading centre for South East Asia. So this particular travelogue will not be so much a guide for tourists looking for travel tips as a walk down memory lane from my perspective.
Since my family emigrated from HK nearly 30 years ago, I have hardly looked back at Hong Kong with much affection, if any. I know it sounds harsh and many people may be offended by this admission, but Australia has been my home for most of my life and I hope will remain so for its remainder. The Hong Kong that I grew up in was polluted, crowded, noisy, dirty, smelly (ironically, the definition of Hong Kong in Chinese is “Fragrant Harbour”), and had signs in public parks that read “KEEP OFF THE GRASS”. So it is little wonder that I fell in love with Australia from the moment I stepped foot on the grassy pavements and the wide-open spaces.
Having said that, a lot has changed for the better in the tiny country, now formally known as Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region). Old buses have been replaced by new gas and electric-powered buses, reducing the pollution levels significantly; smoking indoors is prohibited; and with the outbreak of SARS in 2003 resulting in fatalities, hygiene has become a major focus in public areas. And so, in the last few years, my appreciation for this tiny island, or rather, group of islands, has grown. It is a country that is ever-changing, and I find that the more I travel around the world, the more I appreciate all the things that Hong Kong has to offer.