Back to The Rocks!

So, I was only here a week ago. What I didn’t mention in my last post was that I did get a spot of shopping in at The Rocks  while my race crew were scurrying around, and then left my bag of goodies in Starbucks. I gave them a worried call when I got home to make sure it was all still there and organised to pick it up the following weekend.

Today, in fact.

My hubby and I drove in planning a walk and breakfast at the same time. The first trick was finding a parking place. Patience is the key, as always. It’s Sunday so the traffic was fairly low. However, we were going to The Rocks (tourist destination) and it was a beautifully sunny morning. We drove through the city; down Oxford Street and the trendies eating breakfast at the footpath cafes, past Hyde Park (fairly deserted but usually full of people lounging around on the grass), across to and down George Street to Circular Quay.

Circular Quay is really best approached by train. The view of the harbour and the Opera House as you come out of the subway and into the daylight is wonderful. This train station has the best view anywhere! We were in a car though so we drove underneath the railway line (the station is elevated) and into The Rocks.

The Rocks is the peninsular underneath the Harbour Bridge. This is the area where our first English settlers, convicts and army guards set up camp. Prior to their arrival, the sandstone cliffs and shores were home to the Cadigal people. The Europeans turned it into an “open-air” gaol. It was a pretty good spot to start a settlement with fresh water streams available and an excellent harbour at its disposal. Unfortunately, the arrival of the Europeans introduced diseases that the local people were unable to withstand. The Cadigal population was decimated.

The convict settlement soon became a busy port, more people arrived and the rest is history. Today, The Rocks is a mix of old sandstone buildings, terraces, wharf structures and “modern” buildings (modern as in built in the latter part of the 190os). It’s also a maze of narrow alleys, staircases, and courtyards. If you haven’t been there before, take a map.

So back to finding a parking spot. We drove straight through the main street of The Rocks and around Hickson Road, which goes under the bridge, to Walsh Bay, and found an empty section of street just up from the Sydney Theatre Company. We fulfilled our hope to walk some by tramping up the closest staircase (they’re all steep here – sandstone cliffs) to Lower Fort Street and then down Cumberland Street until we reached the steps down to Argyle Street, which come out just near the Visitor Information Centre. On the weekend, the area is also part of The Rocks Markets so there were people everywhere.

We fetched my lost shopping from Starbucks (back at Circular Quay – more walking) then found a cafe that didn’t look too expensive or too crowded (more walking, we went nearly all the way back to the bridge). The Swagman Cafe, where I ate the week before, has tables out front, tables inside, and if you wind your way all the way out back, a pile more tables in a paved, sheltered courtyard. The back “fence” is a high sandstone wall that is topped by a street of more terrace houses.

We ordered tea, coffee and French Toast with Apple Rhubarb jam. By this time, it was 11.30 and we were starving! Plain toast would have been a welcome diversion for our grumbling stomachs. However, we held firm and enjoyed the French version much more.

With our walking and eating goals satisfied, hubby and I wandered through the markets before heading back to the car. Sunday is a good day to head into the city for a look-see and a meal, especially when the sun is shining and you’re with your favourite person.

There’s some great places for walking and in a couple of weeks we might head back in for a leisurely stroll around the Royal Botanical Gardens; also on the Harbour. Not next week though, there’s some Marathon or other on. That’s much too much exercise and way too many people around for me!

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