This is our last full day in the city. It's dull and cloudy, warm, with a little breeze. We take the ferry via Luna Park to Darling Harbour. This was redeveloped to coincide with the Bi-Centennial and has been described as "Sydney's gift to itself". It is very tourist-oriented with an Acquarium, Maritime Museum, Convention Centre and a wide assortment of restaurants and cafes. There is even a Koala Sanctuary here, though how can this work in such a concrete jungle? We see the warship and a submarine in the harbour, incongruously sitting alongside a replica of the Endeavour, Captain Cook's ship.
We are on our way to Barracks Museum, situated at the north end of Hyde Park. This tells the story of the convict experience. We make our way through Market Street and, just before St James's Station we pause, together with countless parents and children, to admire the animated Christmas displays in the windows of David Jones store. In Hyde Park there is an impressive 30's style fountain, erected to commemorate the alliance with the French during the Great War. A French sculptor is credited with its creation. Opposite is St Mary's Cathedral opened in 1882, completed in 1928. This enormous Gothic creation would not look out of place in any Western European city. In the park the Australian Scots are marking St Andrew's Day (a couple of days late).
Built into the walls of the Barracks Museum is a monument to the over 4,000 Irish orphan teenage girls, victims of the Famine, who were transported to Australia in 1849. Their names are engraved on glass (every second one a Mary), beside a split wall with part of a table on either side - one with an empty bowl, the other set for a meal. These girls were to become servants and wives to the English/Australian community. Their children probably paid for the cathedral.
The museum has been wonderfully restored and uses all sorts of media to communicate the lives of those incarcerated there, prisoners and subsequently Irish orphans. Pictures, models, artifacts are all used to animate their lives there. There is an oppoprtunity for people to search a database for their their 'convict ancestors'. I key in my surname - only one convict shares it. I try my mother's maiden name- three pages are returned. She would have been horrified. Monica tries and her brother John's namesake appears.
We eat in a fancy courtyard restaurant, in the same squre where one hundred and fifty years ago men and women were flogged and imprisoned.
The Botanical Gardens are our next stop. Established in 1816, this enormous park in the centre of Sydney is the country's oldest scientific institution, a living museum of plants and trees. It is also a place to go to get away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney.
We pass a couple of glamourous young women on gigantic platform soles and glitzy dresses. They are in a hurry, looking for their wedding. The Botanical Gardens is the wedding location of choice for many Sydneyites. There are at least four going on simultaneously, that we can see. The girls' confusion is understandable. The Gardens are huge, with paths leading through tropical forests, displays of ferns and bushes, park land and so on. If the invitation said merely in the Botanical Gardens, then it could take some time to find the exact venue. Monica, spoiled for choice, confines herself to photographing wedding dogs - does she miss Max? On a hill we find a sculpture commemorating the Aboriginals' original occupation of this land.
We exit via the Opera House, catching the end of the street entertainment: jazz bands, magicians and acrobats. In the evening we eat in the Australian pub "the oldest continuously liscensed pub in Sydney - even though it was once on George Street, knocked down and rebuit in 1901 in its present location on Cumberland street next to the Harbour Bridge YHA. It is famed for its pizzas which feature as ingredients, emu, crocodile,and kangaroo. In the interests of conservation, we settle for the Barramundi, surely the most popular fish in Australia. We'll miss this when we're back in the UK - but not the price of beer.