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Sydney and then back again

April 14, 2008

After yesterday’s drive, is was great to pull back the hotel room curtains to be greeted by a splendid view of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge behind it.  Last day in Oz so to make the most of it!

Pack on my back (I’d abandoned most of my luggage at the airport) off I set across the district of Potts Point, and was soon down by the harbour side walking through The Royal Botanic Gardens and on to the steps of the Opera House. 

Next stop was the ferry terminal at Circular Quay, with it’s vibrant street entertainers to watch whilst waiting for a ferry to Manley.  A relaxing 30 minute ride on one of the old ferries, with a bow at both ends, across and down the harbour was one of  the better recommendations  from a local that I took.  Another was to walk across the narrow point that is Manley and out on to the beach. Manley has a wonderful relaxed seaside feel about it. The half hour trip back on the ferry to the terminal in the shadow of the bridge, was equally enjoyable, watching the jet boats weaving in between the other ferry and sailboat traffic trying to get their passengers wet.

A walk around the local street markets proceeded another,but much shorter ferry hop to Milsons Point where Luna Park, with its traditional entrance, like the one in St Kilda Melbourne, sits right behind the ferry stop.  A short but steep walk up the hill brought me to Milsons Point station, where I caught another double-decker train back across the bridge an then underground to the central station to change on to another one out to the airport.

I’m tapping this in to my PDA, whilst the excellent Emirates cabin crew serve yet another meal at 35,000ft above the snowcapped mountains of eastern Europe.  Only an other couple of hours and I’ll be back in Brum.  This flight home seems never ending, going via Bangkok and Dubai.  The worst bit was watching the little plane icon crawl so slowly diagonally across Australia on the map – it took forever.

Australia was a great place to visit, populated, if a little sparsely, by great friendly people who were interested in what I had to say.  Which can be no bad thing, as after all that was the reason I went.

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Canberra to Sydney by the scenic route

April 14, 2008

The trip from Canberra to Sydney, before flying home, was the only bit of this trip I could do by car, so no contest I had to do it.

An early morning pick up from the airport, and I was on the road before eight.  Heading due east on a main road that was definitely not a freeway – more like a British A class road.

Miles and miles of farm land eventually gave way to forest before the road dropped down the mountains  to the coast at Batemans Bay.

I turned south a little until I found a quiet bay, where I could walk along the sand, and Twitter home to make the folks envious.   Then back to Batemans Bay for breakfast on the Quay under a glorious clear blue sky.

I then headed up the coast for a couple of hours taking in the views and the beaches.  My lunchtime stop was in a place called Kiama.  There is a famous blow hole here where even a slight sea causes a spout to shower up through a fissure in the rock.

Then it was on north again towards Woolongong, which looked good as a stopping place on the map, but I somehow managed to drive through without realising.  Just north of Woolongong, things get a bit industrial, where there is a massive zinc smelting plant.  After this stage  I thought I had had the best of the trip, but I was very wrong.

After a while I found the road increasingly squeezed between  the sea and the cliffs.  Eventually ending up on an impressive bridle which holds the road above the sea as it follows the curve of the cliff.  I wanted to stop and take a photo, but couldn’t find anywhere safe until I was well past it.

On impulse, just after the Sea Cliff bridge, I followed a sign to take the road via the Royal National Park.  What a good decision that was.  The rolling hills which end as massive towering cliffs are covered in forest.  The road meanders 5hrough the forest, climbing up and down the valleys, occasionally almost cresting the cliff tops.

Although it was late Friday afternoon, the road was virtually deserted.  I can recommend no better way to approach Sydney by car, especially in the late afternoon as the sun is sinking below the tree tops.

Darkness brought me to the Sydney suburbs and on to the airport where I abandoned the car, and my main case at a left luggage place, and headed in to town on one of their double-decker trains.

The view from my 6th floor room in the Potts Point Holiday Inn, was spectacular, encompassing both the Opera House and the bridge.

A welcome rest after a tiring but excellent 400 Km drive. Recommend it to anyone who can spend a day getting from Canberra to Sydney.

Sea Cliff Bridge picture by EÖnn in flickr

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Canberra

April 14, 2008

So I arrived in Canberra a flight before my luggage did.  To be fair to Quantas, I  only just about made the connection in Sydney, so I wasn’t over surprised that I ended up looking at a empty luggage carrousel at Canberra airport. By the time I got back to my hotel, my case was waiting for me, so all’s well that ends well.

Canberra is a strange place – like most cities that are created, it seems to have no atmosphere.  Wide avenues where the buildings on the other side are too distant for you to have any connection with them.

The National Library is impressive,and the their auditorium in which I presented was excellent.  On the first evening  Mark Corbould gave me a lift to my hotel.  He went via a circuitous route so that I could get a view of the city, and a view of many of the embassy buildings.  Because it is a new city, each country has built it’s own embassy building.  It was good fun trying to guess which was which, purely from the architectural design. 

Instead of flying from Canberra, I hired a car, which I attempted to pick up the night before.  I failed in this because I left my driving license back in the hotel room.  Guess who felt a right pillock in the Eurocar office!

Picture of National Library by Luke Shingle, from Flickr.

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Hobart – Mountain & River

April 11, 2008

I’ve already mentioned the excellence of the Greek food in Hobart – so what about the rest of the place.

Looking back on my two days and three  nights there, the words that come to mind are, clean, relaxed, historic, and friendly.

The first day was a getting to know the place day.  As a tourist there was the almost, but nevertheless enjoyable, bus trip up Mt Nelson.  This reminded me somewhat of my trip up Table Mountain in Cape Town a couple of years back – I got to take pictures of the inside of a cloud there as well.

Still the clouds were only on the very top and there were some spectacular views of Hobart and the Derwent River. 

Back down the mountain, followed by a relaxing time by the harbour-side, I finished off the afternoon with a ride around the bay in the local water taxi.  The driver waited so that we could watch a largish ship go under the bridge.  Comfortingly, or not, we were above the wreck of the similar ship that took out a couple of spans of the bridge in the disaster a few years ago.  It promptly sank, overloaded with bits of bridge, killing several people in the process.  It’s hardly surprising that they now stop traffic on the bridge, even though such ships clear it with ease.

I enjoyed an excellent dinner, of local fish, in a place called The Drunken Admiral with some library folks from the University as a close to the day.

Day two was a business day with the Tasmanian State Library, before leaving for Canberra.

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A circular tram ride and one to the beach.

April 6, 2008

I flew in to Hobart today – for one of the best Greek meals I’ve had in along old time. Purely on speculation I ended up at Mezethes Greek Taverna – If you every find yourself down Tasmania way I can highly recommend you look them up.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  Yesterday was a tram day for me in Melbourne.  After a lazy start to the morning, I strolled a couple of blocks then hopped on the Circle Tram service, which runs around the city.  The free ride, complete with tourist commentary is a great way to get the feel of the place.

One of the many places I hopped off at was the impressive Victoria State Library, home of that infamous half buried library sign that Evangelists like me keep using in their presentation slides an to liven up their blog postings.  Also at the library is the library is the stunning La Trobe Reading Room – yet more material for my slides as you can see.

Later in the afternoon I caught another tram – number 96 to St Kilda Beach, home of Luna Park, the amusement park with the iconic entrance through a mouth.

A twilight stroll along the beach, followed by a meal in one of the many roadside restaurants in the center of town made for a pleasant evening.  I wonder if the meal was as much fun as for those on the several restaurant trams that use St Kilda main street whilst I was there.  Note to self to find out if I’m ever this was again.

Another tram ride back to my welcoming bed, to sleep through yet another change of the clocks for daylight savings, brought my enjoyable few days in Melbourne to an end.

Lets see what Hobart will bring.  Must finish Thursday’s presentation for Canberra before I leave, so it won’t all be fun.

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Breezing in to Melbourne

April 5, 2008

 

It’s been a bit busy since I flew in from Perth on Wednesday – but what a day to fly in!  I landed as the worst storm they had had in years was just building towards full strength.

The Quantas jet was not equipped with a camera on the nose to show you the landing, like Emirates do, but in this case that was probably a good thing. Watching the end of the runway pan in and out of shot, whilst the pilot did his best, would have been most unsettling.  The valiant attempts of the pilot, were matched by the skills of the driver of the hotel [very mini] shuttle bus, trying to mostly stay in one lane on the motorway.

21 floors up in the Rydges hotel gave me an amazing view as the centre of the storm swept cyclone-like through the canyons  between the tall central Melbourne buildings.  It felt as though it deliberately paused outside my window, just to throw some extra hard rain at me before drifting on across the city and away, leaving a trail of fallen trees and power-lines in it’s brown dusty wake.

Looking for something to do, to keep my brain in the right time zone (we lost another couple of hours on the flight from Perth) I spotted the show playing at the theatre over the road.  I’ve always fancied Monty Python’s Spamalot – now was my chance.

Apart from a couple of Ozzy in-jokes and a chorus from “Neighbours”, I presume the show is as it is performed in the West End and on Broadway – very silly, very funny, and a great evening’s entertainment .

Victoria State Library, MelbourneThursday brought two 2 hour seminars, back-to-back, on the Semantic Web and libraries at the RMIT University Library.  The plan was to get back to the hotel eat and get my head down, as I had a recoding of The Library 2.0 Gang to do at 3am the next morning.  Which idiot organises a podcast recording at 16:00GMT, when he knows he’s going to be in Australia at the time? – This idiot!

Anyway so much for the plan, whilst catching up on email, I suddenly realized it was way past midnight and not worth getting my head down at all.  So some more emailing, presentation uploading and the like, got me to 3 am.  The Gang recording went well, connecting folks in the US, Israel, and the UK (one of which was Australian and should really have been up in the middle of the night like me).  The main subject was the new Google Book Search API, our guest was Frances Haugen a Google Product Manager from the Book Search Team – a great guest in a great show which will be published on Tuesday.

As expected Friday was a feeling strung out day……

 

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Perth a welcoming State Capitol

April 1, 2008

After my day in Dubai I arrived in Perth the State Capitol of Western Australia on Saturday evening – food and bed was the items on the agenda that evening.

Sunday I was picked up by library blogger Kathryn Greenhill her husband Stewart and their two young boys, for a guided tour of Perth and nearby Fremantle.

Up on the Kings Park hills overlooking the Swan river there were some quality views of the City, and a treetop walk.  Views inland were enhanced by a climb of the DNA tower.

Fremantle on a Sunday afternoon is a vibrant place, a particular highlight was a street entertainer claiming the honour of being the only sword swallower in Western Australia.   The highlight for the Greenhill boys was the ice cream shop where the crush your favourite chocolate bars and mix them on a cold slab in to your choice of ice cream before loading the resultant mush in to a cone. – The ultimate mashup!

A high speed visit to the Perth Zoo, as they were about to close, brought me in to close proximity with some Australian animals, koalas, kangaroos and a numbat to name but a few.  Back home to my hotel at the end of a long but nice first day in Oz.

Stewart, a researcher at Curtin University of Technology, is working on a project to track an analyse peoples movements from the pictures they take and the mobile phones they carry and come near to. So it was interesting to feel tracked as we walked around Perth and Fremantle – at one point he logged a phone with the bluetooth name of ‘bad Chinese food’ – I wonder if this is a subtle form of anti-advertising?

I needed to wear a hat on my Sunday trip to protect me from the sun – I needed it again on Monday, but this time because of the rain.  The wet stuff falling out of the sky is an unusual event in Perth featuring high on the news bulletins.  I just felt at home.