Gus was his name, and rugby was his game. A vacation guardian angel, Gus was the burliest, friendliest, history buff raconteur two sociologists from the United States could have ever hoped to meet on our first day down under, in Sydney, Australia.
After dropping luggage at our accommodations, we meandered to a recommended brew-pub. Gus was holding court at the bar, and after a quick round of introductions, began to rhapsodize about the history and culture of the city he adores.
That night, we got back to the vacation apartment found on sydneygardenview.com — which surpassed expectations. While cherishing a balcony nightcap, my husband and I reminisced about Gus. Intellectually intoxicated on the sips of information he shared, we re-worked our meticulously planned itinerary to include some overlooked sites. Much like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, Gus’ trip tips would not be ignored! His enthusiasm for Sydney’s history and the city’s quotidian quirks would serve as our virtual docent.
The following morning, after downing a pair of strong “flat whites” — the city’s take on a café latte — our first stop was Sydney’s Central Business District. We ambled down the wide, fig-lined, pedestrian-only walkways in Hyde Park — Sydney’s analog to New York’s Central Park, or perhaps a Parisian boulevard.
Martin Place was the next unexpected detour. Another pedestrian-only plaza, Martin Place is Sydney’s Wall Street, with several banks and business wreathing the square. If you visit and find your way to Martin Place, you may deal with a jolt of deja vu; Hollywood has long been using it as a backdrop.
While in Hyde Park, we also stopped by the barracks. Home to 50,000 petty convicts shipped to Australia courtesy of the British Crown, the Hyde Park Barracks served as the primary penal relocation housing between 1817 and 1948.
Later in the week, we cleared time to visit the Pyrmont Bridge — another of Gus-recommended Sydney spot. One of the oldest electric swing bridges in the world, the Pyrmont opened for traffic in 1902. Back then, it ushered Ford Model Ts across the Darling Harbor. Today, passage is restricted to pedestrians and cyclists.
After a few days in Sydney we began to realize that Gus was right: the “Harbor City” is somewhat of a Dali fever dream — public clocks are everywhere! Ones at the Sydney Town Hall, General Station and General Post Office should not be missed.
On the eve of departure, we journeyed back to the Four Pines Brewing Company, the pub where we’d met Gus eight days earlier. The plan was to buy him a “space beer” — the local stout favorite — and thank him for the tips and welcoming hospitality.
But alas, Gus was gone. Apparently, we’d missed him by 30 minutes. I did find him a few months later on Facebook; and every week, there was a smiling picture of Gus, next to a new friend, from a far-off corner of the globe, that just happened to stumble into his favorite pub. A better ambassador, Sydney may never have.