Photos by Katherine Vallera
Not many people realize how much U.S. history had an impact on the history of Australia. When the thirteen American colonies gained their independence, Britain thought it was a good time to start a new colony elsewhere. That is why in 1788, they began sending British subjects - mostly criminals - to start a new colony in Sydney, Australia. The colonists settled in an area that the indigenous aboriginals like to call Tallawoladah. Along with their British customs and cargo, the colonists brought an epidemic of smallpox that nearly wiped out the indigenous Cadagal people.
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This British colony in Sydney became known as The Rocks and throughout the nineteenth century, it was a pretty rough neighborhood. As a result of its close proximity to the port, The Rocks devolved into a seedy slum crowded with pubs that were frequented by the incoming convicts and sailors. By the 1970’s, The Rocks was on a path for demolition, but residents recognized its historical value. Restoration began and today, the quaint cobble stone streets and thatch roof, sandstone structures are home to craft shops, restaurants, museums and attractions.
I learned this history by visiting The Rocks Discovery Museum (Kendall Ln, Sydney NSW 2000), which has a variety of colonial artifacts from excavations on display. A significant portion of this collection includes nineteenth century liquor bottles, which stand as a testament to this district’s boozy beginnings. Visitors can delve deeper into this history of debauchery with Australian craft beers from the Fortune of War (137 George St, The Rocks NSW 2000) and the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel (19 Kent St, The Rocks NSW 2000). These historic pubs have been serving up pints since the 1820’s. I recommend the pale ale with floral undertones called Three Sheets, available on tap from the bar at Lord Nelson.
The Rocks is also home to Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art and is in close proximity to other popular sites like the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. It’s a gentrified district of colonial architecture surrounded by a sleek cityscape of modern skyscrapers. I recommend that visitors looking to avoid high rise hotels stay at The Langham Sydney (89-113 Kent St,Millers Point, Sydney NSW 2000). This boutique, ninety-eight room hotel provides an ideal walking location, affording guests the opportunity to explore nearby parks or to stroll along piers observing seaside cafes.
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The Langham Sydney offers guests the finest in dining, high tea and luxury accommodation. My favorite aspect of this hotel was the gorgeous indoor swimming pool. The soft lighting and blue waters evoke a unique sensory experience while adorned by columns, frescos, and a stunning arched ceiling, which twinkles and glows like a starry night sky. Guests who book their stay through a travel agent may be eligible for upgraded amenities that include $100 hotel credit, a welcome gift and daily breakfast for two. Ask your travel agent for more information about The Langham Sydney, The Rocks and other attractions around Sydney, Australia.