Sydney: Relaxed Big City Vibes
There are places in the world we've always wanted to see. India, New Zealand, South Africa all come to mind. Australia was never one of those places for us. It seemed too far for somewhere that too closely resembled the U.S. Upon arriving in Sydney, we quickly realized we were mistaken.
One of my sister's former roommates, Ash, is from Australia and recently moved back. She became quite close with our family, spending American Thanksgivings with us and the likes. It must be stated that Ash really single handedly determined our early movements this year. We thought we'd visit her family in Australia, and subsequently decided we may as well check out New Zealand since I've heard it's incredible. If we were that far out, we may as well acclimate for a week in Fiji. It's easy for travel plans to snowball, if you have a place to stay.
We landed in Sydney early Friday evening, and immediately felt an infectious energy. The city was buzzing. We wanted to stay in the center of the city, and after weeks of quiet Airbnbs in New Zealand, we decided to stay in Wake Up! Sydney. It was more of a party hostel, connected with Side Bar downstairs. It was a younger atmosphere, but we took from it what you will. We shared cheap pitchers of XXXX Gold on the patio, but strayed from the rowdier bar area.
One of my favorite feelings is landing in a new city with everything to explore ahead. That evening, we went to Spice Alley, which includes six hawker-style Asian eateries. I was familiarized with this concept when I was in Singapore in 2011. Hawker Centers are open stalls with inexpensive food, typically found in Asian city centers. Sydney is rightfully known for delicious, affordable Thai Food, which we fully took advantage of. A highlight was the following night when we went to Chat Thai.
We continued our full blown obsession with Tim Tams, more appropriately in their place of origin.
On our first full day, it was sunny and about 85 degrees. It felt hotter. The city is a fascinating juxtaposition between older architecture and newer sky rises.
We started the day with flat whites and walked to The Rocks. It's a historic neighborhood on the southern shore of the Sydney Harbor.
There are local shops and historic pubs. It was Saturday, and on the weekends there is a wonderful craft fair.
The area is also known for an iconic view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The temperature was quickly rising, but it was a brilliantly clear day to look back on the cityscape.
The Opera House is notably one of the 20th century's most distinctive pieces of architecture, formally opening in 1973.
Since the image of the building is so ubiquitous, it felt chilling to be so close. I truly never thought I'd ever go to Sydney, so to sit under the Opera House was awesome.
We carried on through the Royal Botanic Garden, the oldest scientific institution in Australia.
We found a shady tree to rest under, to take a break from the now beating sun.
We soon learned that the Mardi Gras Parade was that evening. Unrelated to the New Orlean's Mardi Gras, this was the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. The first march was in 1978, and resulted in unjust police violence. This year was an elaborate celebration of "40 Years of Evolution." The entire city was preparing, and we watched folks paint faces--and bodies--while dressing in extravagant costumes.
We were in touch with another young American couple who we met on a hike in New Zealand, who were traveling in a similar manner we were. We met them for a drink, then headed to the parade.
It was jam packed with people singing, dancing, celebrating. It was the first Mardi Gras since same-sex marriage was legalized in Australia and signed into law in December 2017.
The environment was joyous and electric and we grabbed a few rounds with our fellow American travelers at The Porterhouse.
On Sunday we met Ash and her brother for brunch at Metro St. James in Hyde Park. After, we walked to the Opera Bar where we met a heap of her friends to share bottles of the Opera Bar NV Brut. They were all fantastic, and we felt lucky to chat with so many from the surrounding area. An idyllic way to spend a Sunday.
We had lunch on the Pavilion with Ash, looking out on the water. From there, we walked along the coastal track from Bondi to Coogee.
It was gorgeous, as we walked along the cliff passed bay inlets including Tamarama, Bronte Beach, and Gordons Bay.
The massive rock formations were super unique.
We went down along the rocks as the warm water washed up. We saw several schools of dolphins, and since the water was so clear, we were able to track them underwater.
The track was relatively quiet, given the weather, so it was nice to explore at our own pace.
That evening we met up with some of Ash's friends again for dinner at a local pub, The Lady Hampshire. We spent the entire evening comparing notes of different colloquialisms: how are you going is how are you doing, smoko is a short break, duffer is an incompetent person. It started to sound like we were speaking different languages. I loved our time in Sydney because it was great to adventure on our own, but also have the local insight from a friend. Sydney is an energetic city filled with loads of activities. Although we were only there for three days, I do know we'll be back, hopefully for sunnier beach days.