Last time I was in Sydney was in 2004. My cousin was on a university exchange in Brisbane and I made a trip Down Under to visit. I flew in to Sydney, arriving early in the morning and feeling totally jet lagged. I only had two days before I started a tour, and my days are a blur. I remember meeting a couple girls staying at my hostel and going out on a ferry around Circular Quay, going inside the opera house, and meeting a guy (we’re still friends – hi Rich!) in my hostel with whom I went to Bondi Beach, walked the botanical gardens and sketched the Opera House. The next morning I hopped on a bus and headed up the east coast, and that was my entire time in Sydney. I was really excited to get back to Sydney to explore a bit more. I was also really looking forward to a reprieve from the Hong Kong heat, as it is currently winter in Australia.
I landed in Sydney around 11am feeling pretty well rested (you can read about my sweet plane ride here), took the train to my hotel (super easy and efficient) and checked in to my hotel. I found a ‘deal’ on Priceline at the Amora Jamison, which wasn’t much of a deal. There was a race happening over the weekend, the City 2 Surf, where 80,000 (!!) runners raced from downtown Sydney to Bondi Beach. Of course I found this out when I arrived, and there was nothing I could do about it anyways, but it sure drove the price up. It was a perfect location to stay for the night before I transferred hotels and stayed with my coworkers. I was just a 5 minute walk from Circular Quay and close to the main shopping area. I was able to check in early, drop my bags, freshen up, put on warm clothes (!!!) and then headed out to enjoy the crisp air, sunshine and bright blue sky. I walked to Circular Quay, caught my first glimpse of the Opera House, and was completely mesmerized. It is such a unique building and I couldn’t help but be enthralled by the unique architecture, bright white shapes juxtaposed against the bright blue sky, and stunning placement on a point of land jutting out in to the water, surrounded by sparkling ocean. I couldn’t get enough of it.
I walked past the ferry terminals at Circular Quay, passing dozens of ice cream stands, coffee shops and stores selling a hundred different variety of Uggs. Seriously. There are a LOT of Uggs in Sydney. It was too nice to go inside, so I sat down at a little outdoor restaurant called the Portobello Caffe and enjoyed a beautiful, relaxing, leisurely lunch while taking in views of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and passing ferries. So beautiful. I took my time and then continued on to walk around the Opera House and observe its unique and quirky presence up close. It is so stunning and fun to see in person.
After spending as much as possible admiring the Opera House (it’s difficult to explain the magnetic draw it has) I decided to explore some other areas of the city. One of my favourites was the Queen Victoria Building (QVB), which completed construction in 1898 and is now a beautiful retail mall. The Post Office is also an impressive piece of ornate architecture that occupies most of a city block.
I walked and walked and walked the streets of Sydney, seeing as much as possible, covering about 15km. At the end of the day my feet were incredibly tired and I realized I had a big blister on the bottom of each of my heels! Super uncomfortable – apparently I’m very out of practice wearing ‘real’ shoes! I headed back to my hotel to put my feet up for an early night.
When I was coming to Australia and would be able to extend my stay, my first thought was to go to Bondi Beach. It’s a super beautiful and famous beach and I loved it when I visited eleven years ago. I actually have a goal to swim in the Bondi Icebergs Pool because it is so beautiful. You must go to their site and look at the photos – to swim in a pool right beside the ocean like that, with the waves washing in, would be incredible. Unfortunately with the City 2 Surf race going on it was going to be full of people and traffic, so I decided to go to Manly instead. A coworker recommended this as a day trip and I’m so glad I took his advice. I woke up on Sunday and took my time getting up and eating breakfast, which was included at the hotel. I got smarter and wore my comfy running shoes (who am I trying to impress anyways?), hoodie, and puffy vest (I’d missed wearing my favourite vest from Gran-ma) and headed out once more. Just like the day before, I couldn’t get enough of the views and the Opera House once I got down to Circular Quay.
I bought a ticket to go to Manly on the public ferry, then waited at the pier. For whatever reason I decided it was the perfect time to have an ice cream cone. This is how my brain works when I’m on vacation. I haven’t had a single ice cream in hot Hong Kong but apparently when it’s 10 degrees and I’m in Australia an ice cream cone is a must. I actually thought, “I’m going to eat this ice cream and nobody will need to know,” yet here I am writing about it on my blog…
The ferry runs every twenty minutes, so I didn’t have long to wait before I was hopping on the ferry for my ride to Manly, approximately 40 minutes. It was sunny enough that I enjoyed staying on the deck at the bow the entire time. I had a brilliant view of the city, Circular Quay and the Opera House as we made our journey.
It was such a pretty crossing to get to Manly I almost didn’t want it to end. We arrived in the bay and it almost felt like Victoria, BC: quaint, idyllic and charming.
After disembarking the ferry it’s very easy to follow the signs to get to the main promenade and, eventually, the beach. In case you don’t notice the big, beautiful ocean, they’ve got jaunty, colourful flags to welcome you. I spent some time sitting on the steps watching the waves crash in and kids playing in the surf. Eventually it got too tempting and I took my shoes off and ventured down to stick my feet in the Tasman Sea. It was cold! I certainly didn’t envy the surfers out in the waves, hopefully wearing skookum wet suits.
After a nice little sojourn at the beach I carried on to further explore the promenade and do a little bit of browsing. Because it was chilly it was so tempting to look at sweaters and cozy clothes – I kept having to remind myself that I’d be back to 35 degree weather in a week. I loved Manly and what it had to offer. The variety of shops was great, there were lots of little stalls with local craftsman displaying their wares, and I enjoyed the architecture of the buildings I passed.
By mid-afternoon my ridiculous ice cream cone had worn off and I was ready to sit down. A local guy I had chatted with the night before had recommended this as his favourite bar in Sydney so I decided it wouldn’t hurt to check it out. The Manly Wharf Hotel was a hot spot for locals. There were lots of groups of friends and plenty of runners sporting their medals from their completed run earlier in the day. I enjoyed the beachy vibe and found a prime spot at a little countertop along a railing overlooking the harbour. I probably spent at least two hours stretching out a couple glasses of wine and eating my fish and chips. Awesome spot!
It was high time for some walking, so I left the restaurant and walked along the harbour. I came upon a big tree with a bird making a total racket. From my limited Google research, I have since determined that it was most likely a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo. It seems this is basically the Australia version of a crow, but I was quite pleased to spot the pretty white bird in the wild.
It seemed to be a good idea to hop on the ferry before the sun set, so I cruised back on my return ferry ticket (aroun $15 AUD round trip – what a deal!) and made it back to the city just in time to catch the sun dropping low by the Harbour Bridge.
After two full days by myself I was ready for some company! My coworkers flew in on Sunday night, so I transferred to the hotel the group was staying at, Sheraton on the Park, and got ready for them to show up and for our work to begin. The next two days were spent running around all over the city visiting as many coffee shops as possible, as well as in meetings. When we weren’t drinking coffee it seemed we were eating. We went out for some fabulous meals, including steak at The Meat & Wine Co. with a great view of Darling Harbour, and an incredible five course meal at Yellow. I felt totally spoiled and very full on Wednesday morning when it was time to fly to Melbourne. I’m busy writing about that part of the trip, so come back in a few days to read about my time there.