The Old Fogies go to the Sydney Harbour Bridge

To anyone arriving in Sydney, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House are fascinating iconic sights which dominate the harbour.

The bridge is nicknamed “The Coathanger” by locals and is in some ways similar to Tyne Bridge in Newcastle. This is not surprising because they were both built by the British firm Dorman Long and Co Ltd, of Middlesbrough.

Soon after we arrived in Sydney, we thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at the bridge and on a clear bright morning we made our way up to the Rocks area to find a way up to the bridge. Although there is a number of signposts, the stairs up to the bridge near Cumberland Street are tucked away behind some buildings.

When you reach the same level as the road, you get some idea of the enormous scale of the bridge. The arch has a span of 504 m (1,654 ft) and its summit is 134 m (440 ft) above sea level. The total weight of the steelwork of the bridge, including the arch and approach spans, is 52,800 tonnes. About 75% of the steel was imported from England, however the bridge is held together by six million Australian-made hand-driven rivets made in Melbourne.

It is only when you reach the bridge that you realise it is actually quite wide carrying trains, cars, bicycle, and pedestrians between the Sydney central business district (CBD) and the North Shore.

Although this stretch between the North and South shore is a natural place to build a bridge, it was not until 1932 that the bridge was finally opened. Previous to this date, plans to build a bridge across the harbour were put on hold due to lack of funds or the technical difficulties involved. The undertaking of building the bridge in the depths of the Depression provided some badly needed employment to thousands of people and is another reason why Australians are so proud and grateful for the bridge.

Walking across the bridge is often quite blustery and the side fences which have been added to prevent people from committing suicide by jumping from the bridge mean that the wonderful views of the Opera House are achieved by peering through the fence.

Whilst on the bridge, you can occasionally spot groups of climbers which ascends to the top of the bridge, each climb takes three-and-a-half-hours including the preparations. The four pylons on the bridge have no functional role but are used for various things including a museum and tourist centre.

Needless to say we were happy to wander across under our own steam rather than join the Bridge Climb, until we decided it was time to return. On the way back, we made the slight detour to the southern end of the bridge which is located at Dawes Point in The Rocks area. Here is a great view from under the bridge and you can see the rather bizarre large painted face that is the entrance to the Luna Park amusement park at Milsons Point on the North Shore.

Bridges are not only useful but often serve a symbolic purpose, this is certainly the case with the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Harbour Bridge is an integral part of the Sydney New Year’s Eve celebrations each year and is generally used for other major celebrations such as the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

 

The Old Fogies go to Sydney

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After the high humidity of Hong Kong, it was with some relief to arrive to clear blues skies in Sydney. We arrived in early morning and the short train journey from the airport bought us to Circular Quay which provides wonderful views of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

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We thought we would take a wander around the Royal Botanic Gardens and have breakfast before starting our day sightseeing. We found a café in the gardens and settled down to enjoy our breakfast, Mrs Nice was tucking into a muffin when I noticed a large bird perched on a chair behind her. ‘Big pigeons they have here’ I said nodding to the bird, Mrs Nice nearly dropped her muffin and let out a small shriek. The bird it turned out was a Australian White Ibis which are popular scroungers around the outside eating places in gardens and the nearby Domain.

The weather was quite warm in the day but at night the temperature dropped considerably and was quite chilly. One of the pleasures of Sydney is that it is an outdoor city where you can sit and watch the world go by. The array of bars cafes and restaurants near the Opera House did good business and provided a good variety of food and wonderful views of the harbour. The only downside was the legions of seagulls that hovered looking for food and would often swoop for a tasty morsel. Many regulars do not sit on the tables near the front, we learnt the hard way when a seagull perched on Mrs Nice’s head.

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With so much entertainment around the Sydney Harbour, we decided to explore this area first, from the Circular Quay we made our way to the Rocks. Both the Circular Quay and The Rocks are historically interesting being where the First Fleet arrived in 1788 and where the first British colony of New South Wales developed. Thankfully the violence and disease that the Rocks were infamous for over 100 years ago have been replaced by cafés, bars and restaurants with an eclectic market every weekend. After walking around The Rocks, we decided to take a closer look at the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

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Climbing up the roadway that goes across the Bridge, the traffic was racing past but it is possible to walk across the Bridge along the pedestrian paths. Walking over the Bridge, you can really admire the engineering of the ‘Coathanger’ as it is known to the locals, the views over the Opera House and the harbour are spectacular, although wire fences which have been put up to deter would-be suicides ruin the effect a little bit.

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During our stay, we explored the very attractive Darling Harbour which is full of cafes, restaurants and attractions including Madame Tussauds, Sea Life Aquarium, Wildlife Sydney and the Australian National Maritime Museum which has a fleet of interesting historical ships in the harbour.

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Unlike most cities, the city centre is not the first port of call for visitors but still has a number of interesting sights including the Sydney Tower, the Town Hall, the poignant Anzac memorial, the Victoria Shopping arcade, St Mary’s Cathedral and the Australian Museum.

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We thought we would have a day out of Sydney and travel to Paramatta on the River Cat ferry. The fascinating trip up the Parramatta river illustrates how many people live near the water and have boats to enjoy the waterway. The ferry stops at a number of places including the Sydney Olympic Park. Another reason for going to Paramatta was that it is close to Rosehill Gardens Racecourse where we enjoyed a day at the races.

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Thinking we could not come to Sydney without visiting one of the famous beaches, we packed our swimwear and headed to Bondi Beach. Surprisingly it is quite difficult to get Bondi Beach, you have to take the train to Bondi Junction and then take a bus that snakes down to the beach. We went at the weekend and the queues for the buses were quite long even in the early morning, later in the day, they were all around the bus station.

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When you do arrive, you are stunned by the scene, Bondi Beach is famous for its bathing, swimming and surfing, the size of the waves are enormous which forced us not to practice our non-existent surfing skills. An added bonus was the annual Kite flying festival was taking place with hundreds of kites of all sizes filling the skies.

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We had high expectations of Sydney and were not disappointed, the laid back approach to life was illustrated by the numerous cafes and coffee shops dotted all around the city. If you would like to hear more of our Sydney adventures, read the upcoming Sydney articles on the blog.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.