Sydney, Australia

For me, as a European-born person who is also Canadian by choice, traveling from Japan to Australia is an awesome thing to do: You practically reach the end of the Far East, the end of Asia – and you are surprised to find yourself almost like back home in the Western World … including the hectic life and pace that a large city like Sydney has definitely adopted since it hosted the Olympics in 2000.

Again, we arrived to terrible weather, 16 degrees Celsius and pouring rain. Welcome to the Sydney summer!

The next day, we had a briefing with the Sydney Opera House communications and event planning team. They showed us the location, on the steps of the Opera House, where the New7Wonders event would be taking place. A completely different experience from Japan, with everything very informal and embedded with jokes and fun. Like you imagine work, Aussie style … but all the fun was backed up with very professional preparation on their end.

In the afternoon, we were taken to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge by the most enthusiastic and professional BridgeClimb guides. This majestic bridge is similar in construction to the Eiffel Tower, but 500 meters long and almost half the 300-meter height of the Eiffel Tower – and, of course, over water! The walk to the top must be one of the most unique and special experiences in the world every visitor, child or adult, can experience.

Since we had also some time free to explore the town, it became apparent to me that, despite all the big words and newspaper articles that I’d seen proclaiming the recent economic boom in Australia, small businesses and restaurants were suffering. In fact, shutting down. Some areas of the city that were sparking with life the last time I was here had become depressing neighborhoods. Many restaurants that I had liked during our Sydney event in 2000 had been downsized to bars or were gone. It seemed to me that going out now centered around after-work parties and bars.