Saturday, 30 January 2010

Australia Day

January 26th is the national holiday. It was sunny and bright, so we took the train down to the harbour to take in a few of the festivities. We arrived on the steps of the Opera House just in time to see the end of the traditional ferry race by several of the old Sydney boats, painted in cheerful red, blue and yellow.

It was quite an obstacle course for the skippers through a churning mass of spectator boats. Both they and the ferries themselves proceeded through clouds of foam, more noticeable in the camera record than it was to the naked eye.


There was a fireboat spewing water...


and a sail-past of tall ships.  Although we missed this, there were a number of the vessels still competing for space in the harbour.

Some spectators brought their own protection from the sun,

while others found the Opera House sails provided handy triangles of shade.

Millions of photos have been taken of the harbor from the platform around the Opera House, but there's an attractive view in the other direction, too,  into the Royal Botanical Garden which curves around the waters of Farm Cove, the spot where the First Fleet anchored in 1788.


Unlike many botanical gardens, it's free. Signs at the entrances encourage the public to enjoy its many attractions, while also hoping for donations.

Today some of the larger trees were also being sought out for the shade they cast. The tall tree in the centre of my picture above is a Norfolk Island pine, broad enough to shelter quite a crowd...

although not as effectively as the spreading Moreton Bay figs ( Ficus macrophylla) that share this park-like area,


and have the added advantage of providing seating for some.

From under this one's spread we watched a demonstration by a search-and-rescue helicopter,


which dropped two men into the water,

and winched them back up again.

Note the quintessential Aussie Akubra hat on the man in the second photo.

To reach the nearest train station on our way home, we headed for Macquarie Street, which runs directly south from the harbour. A prestigious downtown address, it is lined with medical specialists' offices on one side, the state library and parliament buildings on the other.

Closed to traffic on Australia Day, it becomes the site for an open-air vintage car display. Every car you can imagine is represented, from Armstrong-Siddeleys...

to Hudsons... 

to Morris Minors ...

to Australia's own iconic Holdens (this one complete with matching vintage caravan.)

There were woody wagons...


and weird little Italian cars I'd never heard of.

There were even a few recent models, surrounded by admiring men.

I, of course, was more interested in the reflections of palm trees in the shining paintwork.

At home that evening, we could hear the ubiquitous fireworks exploding over the harbour. It hardly seems any time since the last lot. In fact, if you look at my first photo of this post, you'll see a grid hanging from the arch of the Harbour Bridge, part of the scaffolding for the New Years' Eve display not yet taken down.

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