The Pacific is vast (as I told you) and SO IS AUSTRALIA. Sailing around it is like sailing around the US, so it takes a while! After leaving Tasmania (yet another part of Australia), we went to Sydney and then to Melbourne. Each city wanted to be the capital city and worked so hard to be chosen that neither could ever win the designationt, so the capital is in Canberra, a place that is off the beaten track and not often visited. Sydney and Melbourne are still competing; even the ship’s passengers were asked to vote on which we preferred! The rivalry is really not of much interest to tourists - except that it is also expressed in the Anglican Church. We are very pro-Melbourne and can’t imagine ever living in Sydney. Here’s why...
Sailing into Sydney harbor is one of the most dramatic amazing wonderful experiences in the world. The air is pure and crisp; the city is woven beautifully into the harbor, so houses and parks, the Opera House and the Central Business District all flow together. People climbing the Harbor Bridge wave from their high perches. Large and small trams are available and the city design is such that you can walk most anyplace, and it sparks with an energy like NYC. The Opera House is 1000x more amazing that we ever imagined. Each lobby looks out on those roof sails and the water and the ships and ferries that surround it; the design of the seats and stages and stairs and loos is creative and impeccable. We were privileged to sit in on a rehearsal with Vladimir Ashkenasi - wow. Then to the Anglican Cathedral - low church, we knew, but we thought it would be alive. Not so. Litter piled up against the building and litter was piled inside the building. Pews has been stacked against the walls and the space filled with dirty plastic chairs. No prayer books, just TV screens on the columns, and they flashed photos of the staff and advertised Bible studies. No vestments allowed in the Diocese - the clergy are supposed to look accessible, I guess - but they don’t; they look weird in their sports clothes while the sexton and DRE and parish administrator etc. are dressed in suits. No altars allowed either; only a little table in an out of the way chapel with no seats. The font looked untouched/unused and if you look at the photo you might note a reason why!
Sailing into Melbourne is nowhere as dramatic as Sydney, but lovely. The skyline is dominated by a tall building that we have dubbed the Ruler Building, thinking that its design may reflect the measurement of the inter-city competition. The pace is more graceful here, and yarn bombing flourishes, although the knitters ply their trade with permission and don’t have to stitch in the dark of night. The street flowers are abundant - and people apparently leave them alone. And then there are the sweet shops! The Cathedral is in stark contrast to Melbourne’s (and is where Australia’s first women deacons, priests, and bishops were ordained). The grounds and the cathedral sparkle; they are filled with tourists and worshippers and guides to help direct them. We arrived as a local girls’ school was rehearsing for the installation of their new Headmistress/Principal, and our hearts sang along with them. People greeted us and welcomed us and invited us to various events. The same was true on Melbourne’s streets - teams of visitors aides stood on most corners dressed in recognizable red shirts, offering maps and advice and welcome. There are too many free busses to figure out and a library filled with young people.
Now we are sailing along the southern coast to Adelaide, enjoying one of our ship’s new lecturers, Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves (the best seller on punctuation). She also wrote The Girl’s Like Spaghetti (a children’s book on the value of the apostrophe).