All that is fabulous was on parade at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
The parade route was warmed up by the Dykes on Bikes, a lesbian motorcycle group that encourages its members to “ride with pride.” There was plenty of honking, whistles, lights and leather. After they roared through, there was a fairly long intermission before the parade began.
The parade was kicked off with two dancing boys (pictured here) in a cage not unlike a the wheely luggage rack that a bellhop uses to deliver your bags to your hotel room. I wonder what kind of tip these two would fetch?
All sorts of groups were out to show their support for the gay and lesbian community. There were enforcement types: the navy (naturally), and karaoke-singing cops belting out “I Will Survive.” There were emergency and health officials including nurses, firefighters and lifesavers in Baywatch-esque swim gear doing a choreographed line-dance down the streets.
Community groups were also out. Teachers carried placards demanding equity in schools. There were equal rights lobbyists and the Femme Guild of Sydney danced to Dolly Parton’s “9 To 5″ dressed as Rosie the Riveter or other such takes on J. Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It” character. There were sports groups including a rugby and water polo team in the line up. A ‘rainbow bus’ chugged along on behalf of state transit.
There were jolly, gay Jews and a somber group of Christians holding signs that read “sorry, we were wrong.” Queer Atheists also made an appearance. A groovin’ group of dancing ladies in head dresses also made way for a convertible with a caricature of Osama bin Laden singing into a penis-microphone under a banner that read “Osama is coming out and putting the ‘fun’ back into ‘fundamentalism’!
One of Australia’s major banks, AMP, had a troupe of dancers well-dressed in silver and matching mirrored helmets, mimicking disco balls. Their group line dance was also one of the stronger ones on the route. A float for George Michael, who performed in Sydney earlier in the week, blasted out his greatest hits, while at least three colour-coded teams of 50 dancers trailed the float with a line dance. Another winner of a group dance troupe followed the float that read “Four Queens beats a Straight.” There were four Queens waving from the flat-bed float and the trailing dancers wore shirts with either a club, spade, diamond or heart on the front.
The Sydney Homotones, a community band, played from the flatbed of a truck. A group of kilted Scots came all the way from “AberQueen,” according to their signs, and were ready to show spectators the “Cock Ness Monster.” Representatives from San Fransisco Leather Week made sure that the gear, fetish and kink factor was taken care of. Thank goodness, because I would not have found my Mardi Gras experience to be complete without having viewed men in ass-less leather chaps whipping each other.
I was considerably under-dressed for the occasion, but a topless fellow with black wings strapped to his back was kind enough to offer me some gold glitter. A group of onlookers in front of us were well-prepared with sparklers to wave on the parading groups. And to our left there was a group armed with bubble wands and they kept a nice canopy of bubbles floating over our section.
More photos are available on flickr.
In the mood for a stroll? Late lunch with a glass of wine? A smidge of shopping? Victorian heritage houses and tree-lined streets? Look no further than Woollahra, just five kilometres east of Sydney’s central business district.
We discovered jewellery, fashion, shoes galore, antiques, boutiques, galleries, cafes, delis and charming garden terraces set back from the streets offering afternoon refreshment in this affluent neighbourhood.
We decided on Zigolini’s, a cafe claiming to be “simply a place of fine food,” at 107 Queen Street. It served a late lunch at reasonable prices (keeping Dad happy), some air conditioning and water colour paintings (keeping Mom happy), and had a fair wine list (keeping me happy).
After a savory lamb panini (Mom), some chicken pasta (Dad), and a grilled asparagus, tomato and artichoke salad (me), we were refueled and ready to explore the shops and side streets.
It was the perfect day for a city stroll, so we continued to walk along Oxford Street through Paddington and finally back to my sister’s place in Darlinghurst.
For more photos from Woollahra, check out the set on flickr.
After deciding that a harbour cruise was for suckers, we bought tickets for the ferry to Manly for $12.80 return. Who doesn’t like something cheap and Manly?
The ferry departs from the quay right beside the Opera House. As the ferry makes its way towards Manly through the harbour, passengers are afforded prime views of Sydney’s skyline, the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and all the sail boats gracing the water. This pauper’s cruise takes just over 30 minutes.
Once in Manly, it is a short promenade through the town’s tourist strip to the beach. Not just any beach — Manly Beach. Complete with Manly Lifeguards keeping an eye on many Manly surfers.
There is a ocean-side walkway and we decided to follow it. It wound us around a lovely shore over to the secluded Shelly Beach, which I later found out is known for nudes. I guess we did not arrive at the appropriate gawking hour, as the beach-goers we saw were all suited up.
We took our time strolling back from Shelly to Manly, enjoying the wall of the walk that was studded every now and then with a fish, bird or surfing figure. In the distance, snorkellers finned their way around and surfers paddled, occasionally catching a wave.
Getting into the relaxed vibe (a shockingly easy thing for my family to do), we decided it was time for a drink. Back near the dock we found the Bavarian Bier Cafe and enjoyed a cold one before boarding a return ferry to Sydney.
More photos from this trip are available on flickr.
We headed a ways out of the city to check out Coogee beach. It was windy, but there were still a few handfuls of people braving the water on boogie boards. Coogee is a smaller beach with a great walkway through it that you can follow to the next bay and beyond.
The bronze sculpture pictured sits at Dolphin Point, with a view to Wedding Cake Island in the background. The sculpture was erected in 2003, one year after a bomb in a Bali nightclub killed 202 people, including 20 vacationers who were residents of Coogee and neighbouring communities. The three pillars symbolize family, friends and community and are bowed in sorrow, but joined in strength.
If you’re hungry while at Coogee, beware the “chocolate” gelato at the Coogee Bay Hotel. A poo sundae was served to customers in 2008 after they complained of poor service. Which serves as a reminder to be nice to the people who handle your food, for crap’s sake.
For more photos from Coogee, check out the set on flickr.
I arrived on time into Sydney and my sister was there to meet me. We dashed to her place (a $50 cab ride) to drop my stuff and allow me to freshen up. Then it was off to Martin Place Bar to watch Canada take on the USA in Olympic hockey. The bar was packed with Canadians, many wearing official Olympic t-shirts and even a few flag capes. But that one annoying American cheering “USA USA USA” at the bar got his wish and we were defeated.
My Dad had come to meet us, caught the third period and the last couple rounds of Coopers Pale Ale. Then we headed off to Heritage Belgium Beer Cafe to have some fancy beer and mussels. Vancouverites beware: prices in Sydney will intimidate you. A bowl of mussels with a side of fries costs $26.50 and a 330ml bottle of Judas is $12.90. But it was all delicious!
In the evening we went out to celebrate my Mom’s birthday at A Tavola, a delicious Italian restaurant. All the pasta is made fresh daily and a charming Italian waiter explained each dish on the chalkboard menu to us. All washed down by a crisp, refreshing Soave wine.
Day two: beach time. Check back soon!
My sister lives in Sydney and our family has decided to drop in on her. We like to get together every year or so — our last trip was to France. My parents have already been down in Sydney for a couple weeks, while I’ve been enjoying the Olympics at home in Vancouver. Now I’m trading the madness of the Games for Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, a two-week cultural festival that is sure to have me shaking glitter and feathers from my luggage long after my return to Canada.
Upon my arrival we’re heading straight out to the Martin Place Bar to watch the Canada vs. USA Olympic hockey game. It’ll be Monday before noon there, and I’ll get to see how the ex-pat Olympic spirit in Sydney compares to the patriotic vibe here in Vancouver.
Be sure to check back to hear about how the trip goes! Or subscribe to my blog using the RRS feed. Cheers!