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June 19th 2012
Published: June 27th 2012
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Boarding my plane to Sydney I'm immediately greeted with a warm welcome by the team of all male air stewards, all over 50, all a little bit camp with a wink wink here and nudge nudge there, you could have made a comedy show out of them. "More wine madam?" they ask, almost encouraging you to get drunk as when you reply yes they give you not one bottle but two.

The girl in the seat next to me is from Sydney and is really chatty. We hit it off immediately and spend 5 hours chatting, laughing & drinking wine before finally dropping off to sleep for just 2 hours before our flight lands.

I proceed through to passport control, being shown what queue to stand in by a woman that calls me "Darl" which makes me chuckle. Nervously I wait in line. After applying for my working visa at last minute, having to have a chest X-Ray in Singapore to prove that I don't have TB (!!) and having to put my flight back so I could receive said visa in time, I'm convinced something is going to go wrong and they won't let me in. I even left the the huge chocolate chip muffin that I'd bought with my last spare change in Singapore airport, on the plane as they're so strict about allowing food into the country I didn't want to risk it, despite finding it hilarious asking the air steward if I needed to "declare my muffin on entry"... (Bad joke I know but made me laugh) Which he said very seriously that indeed I did. But I get to the counter, hear the satisfying sound of the rubber stamp marking my passport and I'm in! Yes!

The first thing I notice is the drop in temperature. After being in Asia for 5 months sweating my ass off in 40 degree heat and 80% humidity, to suddenly reach 15 degrees is so cold!! And it is 5:30am which doesn't help! But the sky is clear blue and there's something quite comforting about the fresh air. It's kind of like coming home but different. This feeling continues as I get on the city bus and ask the bus driver what stop I will need as I make my way to my friend's apartment. He replies in the most friendly helpful manner that I ever heard come out of any bus driver's mouth! Now I know I'm not in England because if I was that reply would have been a grunt and a shrug and would have probably resulted in me calling him a cock and then forking out for a taxi. But he's so helpful, I hop on and within 30 minutes am being welcomed by my friends Alex & Erin into their beautiful 18th floor apartment with a view of the Sydney Opera house and a large mug of Yorkshire Tea.

After catching up we head off to Bondi for a windy walk on the beach and some fish & chips. Again, kind of like being at home, and although Bondi is not amazing by Aussie standards, it definitely beats Scarborough! The fish and chips good too, but not quite though...

The next day we take a walk down to Circular Quay to catch the boat to Manly. Now there's my view! The Sydney Opera House & the Harbour Bridge. I'm an absolute sucker for an impressive skyline and an iconic landmark and staring at them against the blue sky as we sail out of the harbour I have to pinch myself. I'm in Oz!

We reach Manly which is a cute little seaside town, again a bit like home but just a little bit prettier than any seaside towns I can think of. We get down to the beach and I'm suprised to see it full of people, some surfing, some swimming & some even sunbathing in bikinis! While I have 6 layers on, I'm still aclimitising to the cool winter temperatures here, but surely it's too cold for that! Even in England it would have to be at least 20C before I even thought about stripping off... But then if I had a body like most of the Aussie girls here I might be a bit more keen to show off!

I have to say, another observation about Australia (so far!) is that there is an abundance of really hot people! Men & women alike, everyone is gorgeous! OK not EVERYONE but you can just walk down the street and count one after another of seriously good looking people. Everyone is also really fit, in the sense that running seems to be a big pastime here in Sydney. And why wouldn't it be? Cos if I lived by the beach and spent my weekends in a bikini that's exactly what I'd be doing at every possible moment!

After we've had a bite to eat and walk back along the seafront, I hear a girl say "excuse me" behind me and I turn around to be greeted by yet another gorgeous hot blonde girl in her running kit. "I think you dropped this" She holds out my return boat ticket which must have fallen out of my pocket, and explains that she'd ran the other way up the path to give it back to me. How nice! I'm overwhelmed thinking "you're too gorgeous to be this nice!"... Anyone that hot in England would more than likely be a complete bitch... Ok I'm massively generalising but you know what I mean!

Of course the sunshine makes everywhere a better place too and it continues to shine when my friend Tortoise, who I'd met in Laos, takes me on a road trip up to see the Northern beaches. We finish up at Palm Beach, otherwise known as "Summer Bay" from the Aussie soap "Home & Away" and I don't do very well at hiding my excitement to be there! After hiking up to Smugglers Point to the lighthouse at the top of the hill to get "The View", we drive further along the beach to find that they're filming an episode right there! Of course I've not seen the show for about 10 years so wouldn't recognise anyone apart from the legend that is Alf Stewart and sadly he was nowhere to be seen. Nevertheless we pull up at the side of the beach and with the roof down watch from the car, as if being at a live drive in movie. There's a couple having a serious argument (she's clearly cheated on him, we decide) and in the background 3 cheesy, buff surfers casually jog past, flexing so hard it looks like their pecs might explode. Now despite not watching Home & Away for 10 years, it's comforting to know the format hasn't really changed - the signature "surfers" in the background in just board shorts (despite every other actual surfer on the beach being in a wetsuit cos it's really rather chilly), their blonde locks flopping in the wind, we laugh at them as they're made to re-shoot the scene three or four times and even more so at the fact that when do you ever see three guys coming OUT of the surf together at the same time?? We're so tempted to drive on the set, crank up the stereo, sound the horn and pull a couple of do-nuts on the sand, but we refrain and after realising their not gonna come and ask us to be extras (though this did happen to Tortoise once) we carry on down the coast back to Sydney.

I meet up with Tortoise again and Joel & Scott, all who I'd enjoyed a fun but messy time with in Vang Vieng. It's great to see them all again and we have a few quiet beers... Which inevitably leads to a few more quiet beers which leads to a few not so quiet jugs of sangria, a few extremely loud shots of tequila and finishing off with some very messy jars of free goon. "Goon" is a really really cheap nasty wine you get in Australia, that apparently all the backpackers drink cos it's cheap and, well, it gets you drunk. I really didn't set out to drink it, but as I somehow managed to get myself and the boys into "Side Bar" by just showing my passport, when really the "free goon night" was for residents only, we thought rude not to take advantage of the situation. However the fact that after 1 or 2 glasses we decided to pay to drink something less nasty, despite being quite wasted, goes to show just how bad it actually is!

We have a very fun if very messy night of which I will spare the reader every detail (partly because my memory is somewhat jaded) but I awake the next morning to find my iPhone & my passport are no where to be seen! Argh! Now I remember putting my bag down in the corner with our jackets while we were dancing (stupid I know but after being so self conscious with my possesions in Asia for 5 months, it's amazing how safe you suddenly feel here) so they could have fallen out, or someone could easily have quickly swiped them, and in a backpacker bar where everyone's not exactly flush with cash, I guess it can happen. I call the bar, clutching at straws to see if anything has been handed in but they tell me lost property doesn't open until 4pm. That's really handy, I think, as I can't be the first person they've made sweat all day in the hope they find their stuff! Ironically, the last time I was out with Tortoise, Joel & Scott was in Vang Vieng, where I also lost several possesions, but I put it down to having so much fun rather than them being a bad omen!

I call in at 4pm but nothing's been found so I put a block on my phone, am thankful that at least I'm in Australia for 3 months so I can get a new passport, and head out to meet an old work mate Chris who moved here last year, for a couple of beers (which actually is just a couple!) and tell him about my misfortune.

It's great catching up with so many people and fab just to be in one place for a while, rather than moving home every two days. It's nice to see so many familiar faces and despite having lost two of my most important possessions, I decide that they are just that and neither are irreplaceable.

On the way home I pass Side Bar again so I pop back in for one last check to see if they found anything... And guess what? They did! Not only were they both there unscathed, but someone had charged my phone for me! I actually can't believe how nice the people are in this city and indeed how lucky I am!

I leave Sydney with quite a fondness but excited to be heading to Melbourne to see my friend Blair. A few degrees colder than Sydney, I certainly notice the difference but the sun is still shining and I wander around the city streets for a while, soaking up the busy cafe culture and street scene. I'd heard Melbourne was a pretty cool place but it's so much cooler than I expected - kind of a cross between London & New York and the area where Blair lives with her boyfriend Ryan, Fitzroy, has more than a passing resemblance to Williamsburg. There's a cool vibe - vintage shops, bars & cafes - it's a great social scene too! So needless to say the weekend revolves around eating & drinking, catching up on the last 8 months since we last saw each other! We all head to an indie club in the city but soon realise there's a not-so-indie band playing...more of how can I describe..."Big fat girl with clothes waaay too tight, screaming nothing but swear words & obscenities down the mike while occasionally violently fondling her own breasts" kind of music which was not exactly our cup of tea. So after a few vodkas and deciding that no matter how drunk we are we still can't dance to this shit, we head home via Maccy D's (or Macca's as the Aussies like to call it) for a late night cheeseburger, and I'm not quite sure how I ended up with a photo of Ryan sat in the baby changing seat in the toilets on my camera, but it made me laugh so I put it in the blog. Sorry Ryan! 😊

Digressing slightly, but speaking of Maccy D's, I recently saw an advert that over here they have started to do Fish & Chips!!!?!? I am horrified!!..That is wrong on so many levels...

So after a boozy weekend I decide to do a bit of sightseeing and go on a Great Ocean Road tour for the day. It is safe to say (and the driver agreed with me here) that I picked the worse possible day of the whole god damn year to do this! Cold, wet & so windy it was all I could do to stop myself from being blown away, this is not what I exactly imagined my first drive on the Great Ocean Road to be like! I make friends with two British lads on the bus and all we can compare the whole experience to is a Geography field trip to Flamborough Head. The stop we make for "Morning Tea", despite me having visions of being warmed up nicely with a drop of Yorkshire in a china cup and maybe a chocolate lamington on the side, was unfortunately a bit ambitious and in fact we have to settle for a luke warm Lipton in a paper cup and a Rich Tea biscuit. I've said this before and I'll say it again - Rich Tea is a waste of a biscuit!!!! Anyway, while drinking said luke warm tea & munching on the world's worst excuse for a biscuit, unbeknown to me my back is getting absolutely soaked due to the wind blowing the rain right under our canopy, and it isn't until I get back on the bus that I realise my jeans are wet through. And we all know how uncomfortable wet jeans are, despite me trying desparately to dry them by sticking my bum under the hand dryer in the toilets when we stop for lunch, they never did truly dry out.

This of course kept me in a less than great mood for the rest of the day! But if it wasn't for the two British lads pointing out my miserable face to me, making me laugh and us all agreeing that we were having "a really shit time!", then I would actually have had a really shit time. However, sometimes all you need in these situations is someone to laugh with and it makes everything a whole lot better! The scenery was in fact amazing, and to see it in the middle of a storm was dramatic to say the least! Just unfortunately the photo of me looking all tanned & gorgeous next to the Twelve Apostles did NOT happen...In fact it's safe to say you couldn't get further from it if you tried..

The coastline is indeed stunning, but I can't help compare it to home! Especially with the cold weather & familiar place names stolen from us, such as Torquay, it's almost like being on the South West coast, except when we pass by a flock of gala birds, much to my excitement when the tour guide points them out. "You might hear someone in Australia say "Yer flamin' Gala!"...he says in the broadest "bogan" Aussie accent. Yes! There are two phrases I need to hear an Aussie say while I'm here and "Yer flamin' gala" is one of them. The other is "throw another shrimp on the barbie" which I'm told I will never hear as they call them prawns here and not shrimps but I am determined it will happen before I leave!

We continue with a trip to Philip Island which ends with the "highlight" of seeing the infamous "Penguin Parade". This involves sitting on some steps in the freezing cold as the sun sets and once it's got pretty dark, the smallest penguins that you ever saw emerge from the water, using the darkness to camoflage themselves from any approaching predators. Huddled together they make a run for it, across the sand and up to their nests amongst the sand dunes behind us. It's a pretty amazing thing to watch, if hampered somewhat by my now very numb bum and the slight disappointment of being unable to take any photos due to the little penguins eyes being extremely sensitive to flashes. Nobody needs the blinding of a tiny penguin on their consionse!

The next day, while I'm on a roll with the tours, I book the cheesiest one of them all...the Neighbours tour! Starting off with a guest appearance from Libby Kennedy, who we chat to for a while, or rather she chats to us about her family and daughter and how she loves not being on the show anymore, but how she LOVED being on the show and the time when she got in trouble for skinny dipping with Billy Kennedy, who she used to "pash" all the time etc etc... Now I know he was cute but come on girl! He's your brother!! Anyway, we all then hop on the Neighbours bus and are driven by a very excited Irish guy (he obviously is made up to be doing this job!) around the various external sights and outdoor sets before arriving at Ramsay Street itself where we all get numerous photos..."This is me outside Paul Robinson's house"..."This is me outside Karl Kennedy's"...etc etc. The very excited Irish guy informed us that although REAL people live in the houses on Ramsay Street, security still monitor the area at night, as fairly recently a resident had to phone the police because there was a naked man on his roof. It of course turned out to be an overly excited, very drunk backpacker who wanted to say he'd peed off the top of Lou Carpenter's house...

Soon my week in Melbourne is coming to an end and it leaves me with one decision to make. Which city am I gonna stay in for a while to earn some money before continuing on my round the world journey? Melbourne is cool, exciting and really good fun but there's something about Sydney that's pulling me back...Maybe it's the beaches, maybe it's the sunny 18C climate in the middle of winter, maybe it's the fact I can jog around Sydney Opera House every morning (27 times now and counting and the novelty's still not wearing off!)...But there's something I just love about this place and I think I'll be staying a little while...


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27th June 2012

a great choice. I look forward to hearing about your exploits there. Linda and I will be in Sydney for three days in October on our way to new Zealand so hope to learn from you.
27th June 2012

Wish I was there
Sydney and Melbourne are now places I want to visit, Just wish it was not sooooo far away. Or that someone could just click their fingers and I would arrive

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