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Published: January 17th 2010
Opera House, Sydney
San Francisco is often compared to Sydney. Both cities share a temperate climate, are surrounded by water, and are located near major wine producing regions. Both cities are known for their bridges and iconic buildings. Residents in both cities share a preoccupation with wine and food and are generally very laid-back.
Our visit to Australia has (so far) been a bit like living in a parallel universe: most of the time we feel very much at home but every now and then we realize, hey, we're not in "California" anymore.
For example, take ordering coffee. In Sydney, ordering coffee is not the simple affair of "coffee" or "latte". Instead, you need to specify color (black or white), length (short or long) and even, at times, plane of existence (flat or . . .not?).
The friendly lady who served us breakfast this morning at the Lord Nelson Hotel was kind enough to explain some coffee jargon to us. Here is our Aussie-speak lesson for the day:
- Long black or short black refers in to regular coffee/espresso and can be ordered with milk (cold or hot) on the side.
- More importantly (to us, at least, because it
Enjoying the sun in Sydney.
is something we like), a "flat white" is a latte without the foam. Purists will add a dash of hot water to a "flat white" whereas a "latte" remains, untouched milk and espresso.
-"Latte" is exactly the same as a latte in the U.S. although lattes are often served in a small glass tumbler instead of a typical coffee cup.
- If you keep the espresso, reduce the amount of milk, add tons of foam and crown it with a dash of chocolate powder, you have a cappuccino (pretty much the same as in the U.S., minus the chocolate).
After our coffee lesson and a tasty breakfast we began our day. Our two objectives for the day:
1. Explore downtown Sydney and neighboring areas
2. Spoil ourselves a bit and clean up. After living out of our suitcases for two months, we are both feeling (and perhaps looking and, ugh, smelling) like wildebeests.
The first stop after breakfast was a local drycleaners/laundrymat. For $28 AUD (about $25 US) we washed/dryed all of our stinky travel clothes. Not a great deal but worth it to us since we had not washed all of our clothes since Phuket (we are
Opera House and Harbour Bridge
now pros at the wash-in-the-sink laundry technique).
After the laundromat we spent an hour or two exploring Sydney's picturesque harbor - starting in The Rocks and finishing at the steps of the fabulous opera house. The Opera House is really a wonderfully weird building (is it meant to evoke sails? seashells? something else?). The opera house has a fascinating story. According to Wikipedia and our guidebook:
The Sydney Opera House is a multi-venue performing arts centre on Bennelong Point in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It was conceived and largely built by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who, in 2003, received the Pritzker Prize, architecture's highest honour. The citation stated:
“ There is no doubt that the Sydney Opera House is his masterpiece. It is one of the great iconic buildings of the 20th century, an image of great beauty that has become known throughout the world - a symbol for not only a city, but a whole country and continent. ”
The Opera House was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 28 June 2007. As of 2009, it is the most recently constructed World Heritage Site to be designated as such, sharing this distinction with
The Flying Foxes
such ancient landmarks as Stonehenge and the Giza Necropolis. It is one of the 20th century's most distinctive buildings and one of the most famous performing arts centres in the world."
Very impressive indeed. After exploring the building we bought tickets for the Saturday evening performance of Haydn's "The Creation".
The opera house sits on the northern edge of the botantical gardens, our next destination. The botanical gardens cover an enormous part of downtown Sydney and are really lovely. There are signs throughout the gardens inviting the public to run on the grass, hug the trees and generally enjoy the park. We complied.
After an hour or so of visiting the "beautiful" residents of the botanical garden it was time for us to visit the ugly ducklings - the "flying foxes". As you can see in the attached photo, flying foxes are basically very big bats that look distinctly fox like. Hanging upside down in certain trees in the park most of the time (sleeping or eating fruit/berries), the flying foxes take flight every so often to catch insects (and small, slow-moving children). The flying foxes were pretty active when we visited them and we were entertained
The Lord Nelson Hotel - fantastic place to stay in Sydney
by their acrobatics until they began relieving themselves in our general vicinity. Yikes....look out!
From the gardens we headed to Queen Street, the heart of Sydney's shopping district. With only 13 shopping days until Xmas, Queen Street was buzzing. Having spent the last two months in the same few shorts, T-shirts and fleeces, we were desperately in need of new clothing. Adrian found a pair of jeans and a few T-shirts that would do well for Sydney's smart-casual cafe culture and Angelique picked up a little black dress.
We celebrated with lunch at one of the many healthy cafes in the area. After two months of rice, noodles, curries and various fried things, we were delighted beyond belief to find fresh veggies, salads and sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Second Aussie lesson for today: bread is ordered by color, either "white" or "brown". Forget "whole grain", "wheat", "9-grain", "multi-grain", "oat" or whatever else you want to call it. It's much simpler this way. Really.
After lunch we found a great, inexpensive, internet cafe near the train/bus station. After paying our bills and updating the blog we returned to the Lord Nelson Hotel for a rest.
The Lord Nelson Hotel.
evening was lovely and warm. Not exactly hungry for dinner we walked down to the Bambini Wine Room for an excellent glass of Australian wine (priced around $10 US instead of the $20 US that we found in Singapore). We walked from there to Darling Harbor, an area that a woman at our pub had recommended for restaurants. It's a huge harbour lined with dozens of flashy restaurants. Unfortunately it feels very touristy, a bit like Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco (except much, much bigger). Not what we are looking for we grab a cab and head to the Surry Hills area, which Lonely Planet guide describes as "yuppie". Yes, that's us and yes, we loved Surry Hills. It is a cute, laid-back residential area with two commercial streets lined with great bars, cafes and restaurants. For our friends in the Bay Area, it's kind of like the Mission (quality/style of restaurants) crossed with Noe Valley (quieter, more residential). We ate at a restaurant called Book Kitchen which was fantastic.
After dinner we walked the two miles or so back to our hotel. It was close to midnight when we arrived and the city was still buzzing.
All in all a really great day.
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