Sydney, as with most cities never ceases to amaze and introduce me to new and wonderful places. I have been travelling to this founding place of Australia for many years and thought I had seen the best of it.
A few years ago I helped escort a group of country school children on a school excursion, young 8 and 9 year olds with many seeing the hustle and bustle of a city for the first time. It was a challenge the first few days to make sure they looked out for traffic, it was a little different to the 3 or 4 cars we class as peak hour in our own town! The other parent escorts started to call the excursion ‘bootcamp’ as we marched the city to view unique architecture, slept on convict hammocks at Hyde Park Barracks (ever try rolling over in one of these??), learnt about our government system at Parliament House and toured the secret ammunition stores once housed in the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was a tough week but so rewarding and definitely memorable.
In my current work I have the chance to attend meetings, seminars and conferences across the city, stay at a variety of places and am always discovering new eateries and characters.
As you know from Sydney Creatures blog a few days ago I found myself in the city, exploring again. My standard equipment for travel is my latest ‘holiday’ hat, some wonderful shoes that have walked many places with me and my journal, a new addition to capture thoughts, experiences, writing. I look the real tourist!
A friend suggested The NSW State Library as a place to visit…they have a nice coffee shop he recommended. So with a map in hand, looking more the tourist I headed off, planning to having a coffee and maybe just read a book while I “people watch”.
While enjoying a coffee the clouds rolled in outside and it started to rain. The walls of glass windows were delightful to watch the rain fall as people outside scurried to shelter from the unexpected cloudburst.
I may as well explore this place a little more, I have time and now its raining! I asked the spirited guy at the information desk what else can I see here. He handed me a map, directed me to level one and said “thank you for thinking to visit us”.
The lift door on level one opened into a darkish corridor. The shiny marble floors beckoned me to float silently along, viewing the special collection of war memorabilia that is currently on display. Its library quiet, eerily sacrosanct and peaceful. The bustle of Macquarie Street is only metres away, but there is no evidence of this in these halls.
I observe a guard standing, looking down in a small nook, a light luminating the shadows of the hall. As he steps away and moves on his rounds I tentatively step up to the lightened nook.
I know I let out an audible gasp. I took in a deep breath and held it, I could not breathe as my throat tightened. The hairs on my arms and neck prickled. My head was spinning as my eyes tried to capture this whole scene before me.
I felt like Indiana Jones finding treasure in a lost city. How many times had I walked past this standard looking building and not realised this existed behind the stone walls? What forces have finally led me to this place?
Rows and rows of beautiful books greeted me through that alcove, history bound and catalogued. The scene exuded learning and knowledge. Rows of tables filled with studious people surrounded by itemised bound words, sentences, stories while a phosphorescent dome spread moonlight overhead.
I floated down to the entrance of this magnificent reading room. It was filled with people of all ages; they were there to work, study, read, research, kill time, shelter from the rain.
It was intriguing to see the modern day technology of computers and devices mixed with the history of books, catalogue card drawers and architecture.
I sat, my eyes darting eager to absorb it all instantly. I felt comforted, I was at home and a sense of peace washed over me.
A discovery, a gem, an explorers dream. I had found it. In my city.