Thirsty for Travel

by Michelle Maher (Ireland)

A leap into the unknown Australia


Thirsty for Travel - A Leap Into the Unknown. As dazzling sunlight streamed through the airplane window, I sat back in my seat, tucking into lamb wrapped in layers of pasta. It was the summer of 2014 and I had just begun the last leg of my journey from Cork to Sydney, soon to begin a twelve week adventure in the heart of Australia. Everything felt surreal, from the hilarity of eating roast lamb at five in the morning to the marvel of spending two and a half months in Sydney. As I stored my luggage in the lockers provided by the accommodation company, I grabbed my satchel and keys and made my way along winding streets and avenues of Darlinghurst. I found a grocery shop that would become a haunt for me, Woolworths. This shop introduced me to Neenish tarts, a popular cake... one half white chocolate, the other half milk chocolate and filled with mallow and jam, simply delicious! The chain of Woolworths shops are impressive; stocking everything from fresh fruit and vegetables and meats to light bulbs and cockroach spray! Thirteen thousand miles from home, I had come to Sydney for the culture, the history and the freedom. I became acquainted with the city by exploring on foot. It was June when I arrived which meant Sydney was entering its winter season. My flat was set in the heart of the city and my first port of call was Sydney Opera House! Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who developed the spherical structure by basing his design on an imaginary sphere, it took fourteen years to build! I trekked up the flight of stone steps, giddy at the thought of being inside the Opera House. I looked to my left, awestruck by the sheer size of Sydney Harbour Bridge looming in the distance. Sydney Opera House has several theatres at its disposal. The largest is the Concert Hall which has a capacity of nearly 2,700. The Concert Hall houses the Sydney Opera House Grand Organ which contains a total of 10,000 pipes! Next is the Joan Sutherland Theatre, named after Australian soprano Dame Joan Sutherland. This theatre stages everything from musicals to comedy. More on the Joan Sutherland Theatre a little later! While enjoying the guided tour of Sydney's Opera House, a visiting choral group from Japan joined our tour group. We met them in the Concert Hall and they treated us to an acapella performance of The Flower Duet from the Lakmé Opera. It was the most exquisite surprise! After long days of walking around Sydney, I preferred eating at local restaurants in Darlinghurst. One such cosy spot I found was the Coco Cubano. I enjoyed their southern fried chicken from the tapas menu while listening to Cuban music and watching the world go by! On humid days, I visited The Royal Botanic Gardens, which was an idyllic spot to stroll in. It is the oldest botanic garden in Australia, housing the Rose Garden Pavilion, and though it was winter, there were still flowers in bloom. I snapped countless pictures of white and yellow roses and brightly coloured plants. The Palm House and Lawn was another getaway I adored. Nestled deep within the Botanic Gardens, the Palm House offers a place to reflect while visiting its greenhouse, a serene contrast to the bustle of the nearby city. I love learning through interaction and the Australian Museum captured my interest immediately. From dinosaurs to insects and a skeletal exhibit, this museum had everything to spark curiosity! The Chapman Mineral Collection was the most memorable. Albert Chapman was a mineralogist in 1920's Australia. He and his wife Doreen spent their lives building this collection. It displayed unusual pieces such as Euclase; a navy blue mineral and Rhodochrosite; a blood red mineral to the more recognisable minerals such as Topaz. Verdi's Rigoletto was a coming attraction to Sydney in August 2014. A drama about the Duke of Mantua who flirts with the local noblewomen and the court jester who mocks their husbands, this performance took place in the Joan Sutherland Theatre and I was seated third row from the stage! I was astounded by the revolving set design and captivated by the orchestra performing in the pit beneath. In the years since I went to Australia, I travelled to Italy where I overcame my fear of heights and rode the cable cars to the top of the Dolomites! I experienced my first massage while visiting Lanzarote and soaked up the scenery during a gondola ride in Venice. I imagine voyages yet to be taken. Learning to cycle while discovering the Great Wall or taking a belly dancing class in Egypt. One thing is certain, my wanderlust will keep me thirsty for new horizons.