“Though you may travel the world to find the beautiful, you must have it within you or you will find it not.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sometime at the end of 2014, Bucharest, Romania
Much of the activity of our family is spreads around Rotary (mother just handed over the Presidency of her Club) and Rotaract, of which I am a proud (inactive for now) member. In a trip around Australia, at the end of 2014, with the occasion of the Rotary International Convention in Sydney, my mom sent me an amazing picture of the Sydney Opera House all covered in amazing lights. Waaw, I was really impressed and I thought that’s beautiful. She still has it as profile picture.
Back then I was still a rising lawyer in a Bucharest (top) law firm and although I knew I would get to see it one day – like I know I would get so see ALL the world one day – I did not think it would be that fast and in such setting. Well, life is an interesting journey.
Just a few months later I was embarking on the journey of my lifetime and not long ago the company opened Sydney as a new destination.
Sometime in May 2016, Doha, Qatar
But, knowing that VIVID SYDNEY – Light. Music. Ideas Festival is on between May27th and June 18th 2016 I did not think twice and ask for the flight in June, until the 17th, of course.
What is Vivid Sydney? Well, pretty much easy to tell. It’s a festival, a vivid, lighting and light installations festival. A festival of ideas, of music, of creativity, of lights, of color, of joy. In Sydney, every year. Or you thought the Opera House is wearing light projections every day of the year? No.
This year, they extended it to 23 nights and mainly from 6PM onward, the whole city is filled with thousands of people and tens of thousands of lights.
June 13th 2016, flying to Sydney, Australia from my home in Doha, Qatar
My life is a rollercoaster – I’ve said it so many times. I’m a girl like any other, but I like to do things differently and I don’t hesitate to assume my decisions and amuse myself about the astonished faces of the ones watching (with popcorn and some envy), like I would change their lives. Well, to some extent. People like to know you are where they left you, where they knew you were.
I’ve written about this in the past. Getting out of your comfort zone means taking the ones around you from THEIR comfort zone and not everyone (actually most of them are not) is ready to step out. Did you know that most of the people love their unhappiness? They stick to it, like they do with abusive relationships and aggressive men. Why? Because it became their comfort zone.
We arrived in Sydney somewhere in the afternoon and headed towards The Circular Quay, where the Sydney Opera House is located. Actually in this area there are a lot of other attractions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, The Royal Botanical Garden which hosts The Government House, The Sydney Harbour Bridge etc.
On the way (train 8 Australian dollars return for most city areas) I notice the graffiti that makes my eyes smile and have done so in Perth and Melbourne also. If I had to make a top, Perth is no. 1, then Melbourne and Sydney. Sydney is the most cosmopolitan, modern and with a chic and a little snobbish fragrance. Melbourne is very friendly, welcoming, cozy, modern, has a bit of everything, art is great, going out is impressive. After all, it’s the 5th time it was voted the most livable city in the world. Perth is very peaceful, a peace you feel deep down, it comes from the air and not from any particular aspect. Nightlife is good, walking down the streets is zen and I loved the Caversham Park
for kangaroos and koalas. I mean, it’s a opened huge park where you see tens of animals. In Sydney the roos and koalas are crammed in a glass building in modern district Darling Harbor. Not the same for sure and the price is triple in Sydney. Told you!
If you visit Sydney once in your lifetime, you have to do it during Vivid Sydney. The city is under the sign of holiday and from little kids to senior citizens, they are all impressed with the lights. This festival heals your inner child and believe me I know what I’m talking about.
We started by Circular Quay Station, where everyone stops to see the 3D mapped projections based on Sydney’s flora and fauna on the Customs House, talking about Sydney’s Hidden Stories in orange and purple. Then we followed the walking flow – although countersense, haha – towards the greatest attraction of Sydney, the Sydney Opera House, where there are light projections of various inspirations, from aboriginal art to geometrical motifs and animal and vegetal world elements and also live music programs.
It’s breathtaking – the novelty of the surroundings, the fact that I’m in Sydney, that it’s night and I’m by the Sydney Opera House watching the impressive projections so beautiful I cannot stop admiring them, that everyone around me is in the same state of dreaming, that the whole city is shuddering with joy, that there are…tens of thousands of people, gathered here, in the wide quays by the Opera House to see this miracle.
Most of my colleagues did not know about the festival – I know, not everyone has such a fancy jet-set mother. When I told them about it they asked almost without exception: “Same like in Singapore, no?” No! Same same, but different. The light and sound show at the Marina Bay Sands is impressive, too, but you cannot compare it to this festival, literally taking over the whole city.
The skyscrapers, the office buildings, the hotels around the harbor, The Museum of Contemporary Art are all wearing rainbow colors lights from first floor to last. Most of the lighting starts from 6 PM and lasts from 9 to 11PM depending on location.
In the hotel lobby I appear in a pencil animal print tight skirt mid-calf long (yes, this is my length), a cream DKNY (stolen from my mom’s closet, haha) party blouse with high neck that ties in a huge ribbon making it look very sophisticated and the wide cut leather jacket I got from…Perth, zipped up to the huge ribbon, tight on my waist. Pony tail and pearl earrings. Colleague asks me: where are you going, to the opera? Well, yes! Come on, it’s not like it’s the first time you go out with me, I add. First time I was wearing a backless black tight jumpsuit at a home/pool Halloween party where I showed up with abaya looking trench and hijab, leaving all confused whether it’s my clothes or a costume. I love to confuse people!
After hundreds of shots with the opera, we walk towards the Vivdid Sydney at the Royal Botanical Garden Sydney – Queen Elizabeth II Gate. Here the lawn, the bushes, the trees, the water, the handrails towards the water everything is lighted. My favorite is modern art piece light tunnel (Cathedral of Light by Mandy Lights) and the snake reflection on a huge tree. Plus the amazing views from this side of the Opera House. As I walk through I say: “Tunnel of light, not of darkness”.
Here only a part of the Gardens is opened and you follow a trail which takes you through the tunnel where there are tunnel traffic controllers asking you to take your photos and selfies on the side and keep walking. “Good job with that selfie, keep walking!”
I loved the restaurants on the Quay between the Station and the Opera, right across The Museum of Contemporary Art from where you can watch the boats/yachts sailing around with huge light letters saying Vivid Sydney.
Steak ing wine ing by the Opera, more lights and good night!
June 14th 2016, Sydney, Australia
Australia means silence and peace for me. Worriless mornings as this one. A short walk in the morning breeze to the Darling Harbour. By the way, here, at night there are Laser-Dragon Water projections, which, indeed, are very similar to the ones in Singapore.
It’s Saturday morning, the terraces are just opening, the water in the Darling Harbor are mirroring the glass buildings around, the pigeons are sitting in the sun and walking by the tables hoping to steal some food, but there’s nobody here yet. We stop somewhere on the left side of the harbor, before The Australian National Maritime Museum, right in front of the Novotel and Ibis Hotels, facing the wheel looking like the London Eye. Sun is still shy, but the reflections in the clear water are bliss.
Darling Harbor – and Darling, Darling staaand, by me, oh yeee, stand, by meee! Oooohhhh staaaand by me! – I sing in my mind thinking about…Berlin! He knows why.
I love to be in the silence of huge cities before they “wake up”, seeing them get to life over breakfast by the ocean.
Passed the bridge towards the city and started some sustained walking up to the Sydney Harbor Bridge, looking at the somehow familiar Australian urban architecture, admiring the novelty elements, enjoying the sun, the ships, the water, the lighthouse, the countless sails.
On the other side of the bridge bordering the Cockle Bay from the Darling Harbor is a complex comprising of bars, restaurants, shopping places, tourist agencies advertising cruises, whale watching. Wait a second! Whale watching? Totally in! What time, good, we’ll be here. The agency has a paper saying “This is a great day to see the whales”. So excited! Two hours left.
Cupcakes with blue crabs and green turtles tiny and sweet decoration, The Sydney Markets, wooden wide docks, the beautiful sun in this early Australian winter, the Lamborghini looking boats, my shiny hair, silver stork sculptures fountain in front of The Cockle Bay Whare.
Walking, walking, walking.
Now on Sussex Street.
Many of you ask me how I remember all these details. Well, I write as I look at the pictures – and I take a lot of pictures. Yesterday I discovered one new education institution (I keep it a secret for now) I am thinking about applying for. There are 21 days left. It made me think a lot about it and I even had a somehow related dream last night. It’s a 2 year program and that means it’s not short. It means tying me to Qatar. Which I don’t mind at all.
I wrote the question “Should I apply for … program?” on a paper and put it in my T-shirt, close to my heart. And continued my life waiting for a sign. Well, what I’m trying to say is that I found a picture from Sydney with one word, which is exactly the name of the university…
This happened to me before – many times. I had signed up for Work and Travel in US and I had picked the location and employer based on pictures. I chose the bigges hotel and the brightest one. It turned out to be Lake Placid, New York, but I still had some doubts, I was not sure I would get there, if this is the right thing to do, I was at a crossroad in my life, had just destroyed (total damage) my mom’s car in a stupid accident, I was in a wrong relationship – wrong relationships, university life was really low and my life was just not going the right direction.
One sunny afternoon I was walking on Victoria Avenue and stopped at the Kretzulescu Library, next to the Kretzulescu Church. That is a place where I often found peace of soul which I so much needed. As a parenthesis here, you might say I have a crazy life right now, because it’s very public through this blog and social media, but my previous life – as I like to call it – was very tumultuous, contradictory, by the edge, dangerous, with shadows and demons, rebellious against the world and many times against myself. Never spent there less than one hour. The idea is that, like never, I chose an album on skiing resorts and opened it randomly. Guess where? Right at the page showing the hotel where I spent what I call the summer of my life.
Needed to listen to Caruso sang by soft female voice to calm myself from the agitation I got from remembering all this. I must explain I had a very good life, I had everything, I was going up in my early career, I was in the cultural life and the nightlife of the capital, I was doing charity work, studying law and working at the same time, I was there when something big happened, I got invited everywhere, had lots of men sizzling around me. But I had my path to go, my ways, my deepest darkness and utmost light. Most of the times they came at the same time and I felt like an ant in a huge world. Kept going always. Maybe this is where I got my strength from. I’m not afraid of the storm, I am the storm.
We keep walking on the streets and stop – inevitably – in a UGG Boots Australia shop. In my opinion these are the ugliest and least gracious shoes on the planet, but I take a look at their furs and I’m attracted by some rabbit fur and red leather smooth gloves. I spend quite some time with baby boots, which I will buy for sure, in different prints – roses, animal print, shattered paint. I put one on my belly, but there’s such a long way to that. So long until that small spirit will choose me.
Pass by another travel agency and step in, leaving my friends behind asking if I can take a picture with their amazing wall representing a stylized map with big letters saying “Sydney, what’s your adventure?”
Carla Zampatti huge ad on a wall outside inspires woman power. Black and white, clear cuts, big, square shoulders.
The Sydney Tower between tall buildings and a bombardment of 11s in many forms. I’m thinking of D. and our meeting and when this 11 festival started. Well, it started when I was born, but that’s a too long story.
The psycho killer story in the gay pub is hitting the first pages of the newspapers. Could someone tell what was going to happen the following month – the attacks in Istanbul airport, in Dhaka, in Baghdad, in Medina, almost each day? I’m sure there are people who could. Kent Street 333. Numbers and subtle messages.
The dried leaves are sweeping the street where an old SUV is parked with the cover of the spare wheel saying “Which way today?”. Pure me.
We’re in The Rocks, the historical area of Sydney. It was established soon after the formation of the colony, back in 1788. It’s pleasant to walk by the old terrace houses, looking like downgraded London houses, with the streets opening to the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
Lord Nelson Hotel, Sydney’s oldest hotel, since 1842 and a short stop on the square rocks by the park to look at the harbor and at the residents either jogging or…practicing yoga.
Later that day, somewhere on a speedboat in Sydney, following whales
It’s time for the highlight of the day, the two hour speed boat whale watching time!
Back in the Darling Harbor to take the boat. Soon we are at sea (oh well, at ocean) and the adorable whales start appearing. Sometimes 2, sometimes up to 4. They jump and sneeze and throw the water up in a waterfall, they sink back leaving a huge whirlpool and everyone on the boat cheers with joy.
Right before going back, at sunset, we go to see them do some flips, somewhere in a further place. It’s time to say goodbye to the kindness of Sydney, to the colored lights of the night, of the whales, of the gardens and also time to reflect at dusk (listening to The Prayer – Andrea Bocellli and Celine Dion as I write this).
I was laughing at people seeing the one in each relationship, but I don’t want to waste my time with any random guy who’s not the one…Funny, right? Contradictory. Queen of Contrasts.
Want to fly straight to Bucharest after the flight. As I said, this month will either cure me or kill me.
June 15th, 5AM, landing from Sydney
Apparently, we’re delayed and then the gate given by air traffic control was wrong (WTF), so more delay and the system does not recognize my request to leave the country. No big deal, it’s not meant for me to go today, I need to solve what I need to solve in Doha (!!!). At least, I can sleep.
54098 km flown…this month so far.
In a nutshell: Sydney is a great place and although it’s a too long flight for me and this will be the last time I will have requested it, I hope I will return one day. There are so many things to do and places to see. Just to give some examples, The Hyde Park Barracks ($10) – an UNESCO World Heritage site, opened in 1819, where around 50.000 convicts passed in around 30 year timeframe, Museum of Sydney ($10), trying the Lyrebird Pass – fly in an electrical glass bottom skyway, walk in the rainforest, trying the Cockatoo Pass – experience aboriginal culture, Australian Museum, walk in The Sydney Olympic Park, the Jazz Nights at the Opera Bar Café, tan at Bondi Beach, attend the a Boat Festival – there are more, all around April, see…Vivid Sydney 2017 – May/June?
Tip: Search for the Souvenir Edition Vivid Sydney (A3 format) which tells you all the activities available in every day of the festival, the shows, the locations, the timings, comprises maps and pictures, prices, guiding for transportation means from bus to sea plane, sports, musicals, family activities.