Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sydney Aquarium & Racing Day

Tuesday was overcast yet again, so I headed to an indoor activity: the Sydney Aquarium. The displays seemed a bit tiny at first, so I was worried I'd wasted my money. There were interesting things though, like seahorses, small crocodiles, platypus, & tree frogs, plus a ton of wee fishes. As I moved further into the aquarium, I learned the seal exhibit was closed. Still not impressed. Then I headed down these long ramps into the shark/big fish oceanarium tank. It is enclosed but floating in the harbour, so you could feel the floor rocking like a boat. The tank was finally revealed when you got to the bottom, and it was spectacular! Large windows on either end and two clear glass tubes to walk through on either side. There were various sharks, rays, sea turtles and fish swimming all around you. Most were enormous. Good exhibit... made me wish the seal oceanarium was open as well.

After the aquarium, I walked back towards the hotel for a rest. This was the day of the Melbourne Cup, so the streets were filled with very well dressed people rushing to various Racing Day parties. Hats on women were de rigueur, as were frilly brightly coloured spring frocks. By race time at 3pm, the streets were deserted. It was fun to see that the entire country celebrated this event: it's known as "the race that stops a nation". The race was happening in Melbourne, but even Sydney got dressed up and participated. I watched the race aftermath on tv, where the winning horse Viewed won by a nose. Most of the coverage focused on the party atmosphere surrounding the race, with fashion critics pointing out their best dressed picks and colour commentators interviewing tipsy patrons.

I got first hand confirmation that race day is an excuse to go out drinking when I walked down to The Rocks later in the day. All the pubs, bars and cafes were overflowing with people celebrating. I walked through the historic neighbourhood (think Gastown) to the visitors centre, and booked a couple of excursions for the next few days.

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