Rachel Down Under!

Happy Spring!

Posted in Australia, Sydney by rssmith218 on September 7, 2010

Spring is in the air here in Australia! In fact, the Australian spring actually started this past Wednesday, September 1st, though it is unclear why Australians don’t begin spring on the vernal equinox like the good majority of the world (New Zealand and South Africa are the other two rebel nations; similarly, summer begins on Dec. 1st, autumn on March 1st, and winter on June 1st in these countries).

September 1st also marks National Wattle Day here in Australia. And what exactly is a wattle? A wattle is a plant of the Acacia family and the Golden Wattle is Australia’s national floral emblem. Here is a picture I found online (I have yet to see a wattle myself) of a beautiful blossoming wattle:

Wattle Day has been celebrated since the early 1900s and according to the National Wattle Day website, the Sydney Morning Herald from September 1st, 1910 suggests that, “To many Australians the wattle stands for home, country, kindred, sunshine and love- every instinct that the heart most deeply enshrines.”

I can’t think of a nicer way to welcome in the spring than with a celebration of this flower! That said, the National Wattle Day website offers more information than you would ever think to know about wattles, and also includes suggestions of things you can do on Wattle day (for example, greeting one another with the phrase,‘Happy Wattle Day’) in addition to a free mp3 of a Wattle Day Song. Did you know that the rose is the floral emblem of the United States (thanks to Ronald Reagan in 1986)? Makes me wonder why the US doesn’t have a similar holiday….

It has been cold and rainy these first few days of  “spring”, but I have been trying to make the most of this dreary weather. I went to my first UNSW ultimate frisbee practice and had a couple of drinks with the team at the university’s bar, the UniBar. What? There is a bar at the University? Yes. According to the UNSW website, the UniBar is “a great place to go after a hard day of lectures. You can…kick back in the beer garden, soak up some sun, fresh air, and free entertainment.” Why didn’t we have this at Northwestern? Rarely did I “kick back” or casually, “soak up some sun” in Chicago. No wonder students here seem more relaxed, calm, and less stressed out!

On the weekend, I met up with Aisha for a daytime adventure around Sydney. We met at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, had a quick coffee, and set off to explore the museum. The museum space is awesome and it is filled with Australian and Aboriginal art. By far, my favorite was this piece (sculpture?) of hanging bats- I love the bats here- they are called flying foxes!

Afterwards, we made a quick stop by the one-room Museum of Australian Currency Notes, as Aisha had picked up a free pass (!). We were followed around by an enthusiastic guide, and learned about Australia’s colorful currency. For example, did you know that Australia was the first country to develop a polymer-based bill? Cool.

As we were leaving the museum, my eye caught a glimpse of purple and white and I thought I was delusional when I spotted a guy in Northwestern wildcat sweatshirt! A closer look revealed that he was also wearing a Northwestern t-shirt- this guy was practically bleeding purple! My first Northwestern alum abroad! I obviously had to approach him. My hopes were so high- and yet he turned out to be the most unfriendly person I have thus encountered in Australia! His one-word responses to my eager questions made me remember why most Northwestern girls spend significant amounts of time complaining about the NU male dating pool. I had hoped for better from the NU class of 2010!

In the wake of my disappointment, Aisha and I headed to the Queen Victoria building (QVB) to do some shopping and I have never shopped in a more beautiful place! The building was built as a produce market in 1898 and continues to house shops and boutiques today. Here is the inside…

And now the outside!

Hungry, Aisha and I turned to our tour books for a good place to eat and ended up on a wild search that took us through Darling Harbour to the edge of Chinatown. The restaurant we were looking for, Zilver,  was, according to my guide, supposed to boast “Classic Chinese cuisine…with interesting and delicious food choices and complementary fruit,” with “legendary” custard tarts. After passing just about every other restaurant in Chinatown, we came to a large office building that had the address we were looking for. The main entrance was locked, but we managed to sneak through a cracked door to enter the building. Once inside, we were met with a remarkably packed Zilver restaurant, and we settled into delicious dim sum. Aisha was able to grab a subtle snapshot, shown below.

Mmmmm. Note the “legendary” tarts in the background.

On Sunday, I ventured out on another solo walking trip, this time to Watson’s Bay, which ended up being a bit further away than I had expected. But what a beautiful walk! Below I’ve pieced together several Google maps from mapmywalk.com so you can get an idea of the geography.

To the left of the point is Sydney Harbour and Sydney city proper! To the right is the PACIFIC OCEAN!

I had originally intended to follow a guided walk from my tour book, and so I walked from Bondi to the book’s suggested start point, the Macquarie Lighthouse, the first lighthouse built in Australia. I then followed a coastal trail along a series of cliffs all overlooking the ocean. So pretty- here are some pictures!

First, the real starting point of this walk- Macquarie Lighthouse!

And cliffs:

Rach on a cliff:

The thing about Sydney is that from one second to the next you never know if you’re going to find yourself:

1. In the bush

2. In the city (well, at least viewing the city)


3. At the beach!

Or more specifically, at a nudist beach:

Haha. Anyway, my walk took me past more views than can be recounted here, but let me say that Sydney continues to impress me with its beauty!

Another marathon post! And I still have not updated on the research side of my life!  Again, I’m afraid that will have to wait for another day. For now, suffice it to say that lab is keeping me busy, happy, and excited about science! Off to get some sleep before work tomorrow!


5 Responses

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  1. PJ Wagner said, on September 8, 2010 at 12:00 am

    Great pictures, Rachel! I love reading your entries- it’s like coming along for the ride and it’s a really fun ride.
    BTW, I bet the “Northwestern” guy didn’t really go to Northwestern and was just embarrassed to admit it. He’s a Northwestern wannabe. A mere imitation.

  2. Sunny Reed said, on September 8, 2010 at 1:23 am

    Wow! Great photos and adventures Rachel! Thanks for sharing so much. We think of you down under often!! We’re going to be in Evanston the first of Oct. and going to our first concert at Pick-Staiger. Wow!

    I agree the NU guy was definitely a nerd!


  3. Lenore said, on September 8, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Yeah, Rachel, don’t pick on those poor NU boys – Sunny married one of them, didn’t she?!
    Is it really as pretty there as it looks in your pictures? What did you buy at the fancy shopping center?

  4. Thomas said, on September 8, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Wattle you write about in your next update?

  5. Tara Woodruff said, on September 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Awesome Indeed!

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