Royal Botanic Gardens Post #33547

That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I like this place a lot, and I know you can tell from the number of times I’ve mentioned it.

A few Saturdays ago (yeah, I’m a little behind on the blogging), a bunch of us went down to the Rocks Weekend Markets, then spent an hour or several wandering around the Royal Botanic Gardens. We saw lots of tourists, lots of plants, and at least three couples taking wedding photos. Topped off with lunch at Breadtop and some bubble tea, it was a pretty perfect day.

A giant birdcage?

Walking.

A succulent garden with a bunch of American cacti.

Climbing on things. (Photo courtesy Alicia.)

This sign sounds like my mother when I was four years old.

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Mass, Music, and…McDonald’s?!?!

This Sunday at 2 a.m., Daylight Savings Time ended in Australia. Unfortunately, I forgot this little detail, failed to reset my alarm clock, and missed out on the extra hour of sleep. I did, however, gain an hour of Facebook chatting with Lyndsey about the Cardinals, which was nice. (As much as I love baseball, it is, understandably, pretty low on the priority list right now.)

After getting up too early, I went to the Solemn Sung Mass at St. Mary’s Catherdral. I’ll spare you the details, except to say that it was a nice Mass and that people who use their phones during church services should be excommunicated. After the service, the men’s and boys’ choirs were singing at a fund-raising barbecue across from the church, so they all just walked outside onto the plaza in their choir robes and everything. The talking and laughing was quite an amusing juxtaposition to the solemn music they were performing during Mass just minutes before.

After Mass, I walked over to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, because it’s basically right next door.  Apparently there are free concerts in the 19th century Australian Art gallery every Sunday from 12:30-1:30. I discovered this at 12:30 and spent the next hour in pretentious classical music lover’s heaven.  I also took some photos of some of my favourite paintings at the museum.

This painting, besides being large and colorful and just a lot of fun, has an interesting story. The artist, Australian Robert Owen, painted each square one color to match his mood every 30 minutes for 80 days. I wonder if he woke himself up every 30 minutes or if sleeping time doesn't count.

If you know me, I'm sure you'll understand why I liked this one.

This one's called "The Curve of the Bridge" and was painted by Sydneysider Grace Cossington Smith in 1928-9, while the Harbour Bridge was under construction. I can't explain why I love this painting so much. Maybe because it's so quintessentially, unmistakably Sydney.

I left the museum and took the harbourside path through the Royal Botanic Gardens to Circular Quay. Sydney Harbour deserves its own blog post, and it will get one eventually. For now let me just say that if it were a person I’d marry it.

So sparkly.

By the time I tore myself away from the harbour, I was kind of hungry. I walked to George Street and found…McDonald’s. To Australian’s, it’s Macca’s. To us, it’s Mickey D’s. But either way, it’s the same concept.

Yes, I went to McDonald’s for lunch. In Sydney. But let me explain. The thing about McDonald’s is that they’re not all exactly the same. Each one is a little different. I’ve heard some in Florida serve clam chowder, for example. So I wanted to see how Australian ones were different. Unfortunately, it’s been so long since I’ve been to an American McDonald’s that I don’t really know what a normal menu item is, so I couldn’t really compare. One thing I did notice is this McDonald’s doesn’t have a dollar menu. It has a $2 menu, and there are like three items on it. Gotta love a city where you can buy literally nothing for less than $1.

I ordered a cheeseburger value meal ($4.75) with a Coke. And guess what it tasted like?  A McDonald’s cheeseburger value meal. With fries and a Coke.

So now I know. The buildings and menus may look slightly different, but McDonald’s food tastes the same everywhere. Curiousity satisfied and experiment concluded, I took the train back to college, where I enjoyed some real food–an ice cream sundae.

Oh, and I guess I had dinner too.


Royal Botanic Gardens vs. Missouri Botanical Garden

A few weeks ago, I blogged about my first experience in the Royal Botanic Gardens.  I loved the place, and knew I’d be back.  Well, today, I went back.  My main goals were to find a couple of letterboxes and to explore the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which is conveniently located in The Domain section of the Gardens.  However, I couldn’t find either of the letterboxes and no indoor art gallery can hold my attention when it’s 75 degrees and sunny outside.  So I pretty much just ended up wandering around and getting lost in the Gardens.  In doing so, I drew some comparisons between the Royal Botanic Gardens and one my favourite places in St. Louis, the Missouri Botanical Garden. Let’s see how St. Louis’ (MoBot) and Sydney’s (let’s call it RBG) stack up.

Location:  MoBot is located in the lovely Tower Grove neighbourhood of St. Louis.  It’s surrounded by charming garden boutiques and old brick homes.  RBG occupies a large piece of land between the harbour and the city, providing a beautiful transition between the two areas.  It’s right next to the Sydney Opera House and a short walk from the trains, ferries, tourists, and cafes of Circular Quay.  MoBot gets points for being close to Ted Drewes, but it’s not walking distance.  Sydney wins this one.

History:  MoBot, founded in 1859, is America’s oldest botanical garden in continuous operation, according to its website.  RBG has quite a storied history, but it seems to have been in existence as a garden longer than MoBot has.  So based on age alone, Sydney wins this one.  Historical significance is debatable, but I’m pretty sure Sydney would win there too.

Size:  According to their respective websites, MoBot covers 79 acres (32 hectares) and RBG covers 74 acres (30 hectares).  RBG’s figure does not include The Domain (84 acres/34 hectares), a recreation area adjacent to and managed by the gardens used mostly for picnics, athletics, and informal sporting events.  I’d say the Domain isn’t exactly a botanical garden, so MoBot is a tiny bit larger.  St. Louis wins this one.

View:  The view from pretty much anywhere in MoBot is of, well, MoBot. There’s nothing wrong with that, since that’s what you’re probably there to see anyway.  But if you like a little extra scenery with your greenery, the view from RBG varies from Sydney Harbour to the buildings of the city to the Opera House.  Sydney wins this category hands down.

Food:  MoBot has an excellent cafe called Sassafrass.  It serves organic fair trade locally grown sustainable etc. food at reasonable prices.  RBG has several food options, from fancy restaurants to snack bars.  I got a delicious ham and cheese croissant at a snack bar in The Domain for $6.50, which isn’t too bad for a city in which nothing is reasonably priced.  Since I’ve only been to Sassafrass once and I’ve only been to one food service establishment in RBG, I’ll call this one a draw.

Arts:  MoBot hosts the yearly Whitaker Music Festival, along with some other stuff.  I’ve never been, but apparently it’s free, which is awesome. RBG hosts a yearly Shakespeare festival, along with some other stuff. I might go, but it’s not free, which isn’t awesome.  Let’s call this one a draw.

Price:  Regular admission to MoBot is $8 for adults who don’t live within St. Louis city or county (i.e. me).  Admission to RBG is free.  Yup.  Zero cents.  Sydney wins this one hands down.

Plants:  MoBot has plants.  RBG has plants.  But there are distinctions.  MoBot actually consists of several different types of gardens, including an English Garden, a children’s garden, and the ever popular Japanese Garden.  RBG has a few specialized gardens, including a rainforest area in which I encountered an intimidatingly large spider with an impressively huge web.  Most of the gardens, though, are a mixture of Australian and imported plants arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner.  Personally, I prefer the more structured, curated layout of MoBot.  Both gardens are equally easy to get lost in–I’ve done it.  St. Louis wins this one.

FriendlinessSigns throughout RBG encourage visitors to walk on the grass, picnic on the lawns, and hug the trees.  MoBot will tolerate nothing of the sort.  From a visitor standpoint (as I’m not a plant or a garden caretaker), Sydney wins this one.

So which botanical garden do I prefer?  Sorry, St. Louis, but when I return to Missouri this summer, I’ll be settling for second best.  Are you taking notes, MoBot?

This post was inspired by the thoughtful city-to-city comparisons of St. Louis/Elsewhere, one of my favorite STL blogs.


Sydney Opera House and Royal Botanic Gardens

It’s past midnight, but blogging is more fun than sleeping.

Tonight, a few people and I took the subway downtown for a harbour cruise for international students (which I will blog about later, in an effort to keep you in suspense).  We intentionally got there early so we’d have time to explore a little.  We took pictures of the Sydney Opera House with all the other tourists and walked around the Royal Botanic Gardens.  I’m sure I will be visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens several more times.  Why?  Here’s why:

Free range and free of charge. Gives the Missouri Botanical Garden a run for its money.

And here’s some more motivation for me to visit this lovely spot again in the future.  We only covered about half of the park.  If that.

A tree.

Some more trees.

One of several iconic Syndey views.

The birds are quite friendly.

The Botanic Gardens are adjacent to the Sydney Opera House, so we walked around it.  I hope to go to a performance there sometime this semester.

Lots of steps.

The Opera House's seashell alter ego.

This is what the sails look like up close.

Tourists doing their touristy things around the Opera House.