Sydney: Meeting the Icons

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August 27th 2012
Published: August 31st 2012
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We are sat on a triple decker train on our way to the majestic Blue Mountains, who knew they existed! It's pretty cool but before we think about the views that await, permit us to go back in time, a time before 17 hour coach journeys seemed like a terrible idea. That time was Friday morning. We kindly got a lift off neighbours to the train station and said a somber goodbye to our home for the last two weeks. We had a great time with plenty of rest and were once again feeling apprehensive of what was ahead, a mixed emotion with elation as to what we thought might be ahead. Into Melbourne, we secured lockers at the station for our packs and saw a few more sights we had missed previously. This involved the Botanical gardens plus Victoria park. We were treated to a sight of a huge duck family compete with about 18 babies and some great floral delights and of course more elephants! We made our way on the old fashioned tram to South Yarra and treated ourselves to a well deserved TGI Fridays! Actually at great value with their lunch deal, as cheap as buying two sandwiches and drinks at a side stall. From there we visited, again by tram, St Kilda. A beach resort more like Brighton or Blackpool, especially when a tram was labelled Preston! Probably more due to the harsh weather we did not see the attraction to the place including the 1900 theme park complete with clown face entrance. Still we saw some more good sights and it filled the time till the bus journey.

Yes the 17 hours was still to come and we were worried! Would be be able to sleep? Was there stops in case the toilet broke? Would it be warm? All these questions, but it worked out great! For the most part until about 6am we had two seats each so we could curl up and get some shut eye, which we did after a tea break at 10.30pm. It passed us in a blur, waking for sunrise followed by a breakfast stop. The next four hours we stared out of the window taking in our rock life surroundings. This was the M1, the main road linking these two great cities yet it was fairly quiet, two lanes only and easy, nothing like the awful M6 at home that is queued up with little scenery! We easily navigated our spritely selves to the hostel and freshened up with what we could, unable to check in for an hour. We questioned whether we should while away the hour in Hungry Jacks, a Burger King-esque chain, but with only that day and the next day and high hopes of seeing things we thought better and went straight to the harbour.

Lucky for us our hostel was on George Street, one of the main two streets of city centre Sydney. Whilst walking to the harbour it meant we were able to take in many a sight along the way, two birds, one stone. We passed fascinating brick buildings from the early 1900's and new glass towers mixed with many styles of churches you had an infusion of a very cosmopolitan city. We stared up watching the sun glisten in the brilliantly blue sky bouncing off skyscrapers and reflecting onto the old buildings and marvelled in how quiet the streets were.

Down at the harbour we saw it. It being the sight we never thought we would see in our old lives. You know the one, the bridge and opera house, tv, the clock chimes 2pm in London and you know those fireworks are going to go off in a big way and London for the first time outdid it this New Years' just gone! It was everything we wanted to see, although surprisingly the opera house looked a little dirty the sails not quite the brilliant white you may expect. But oh the sun and the sky, it all worked so perfectly and Lauren was more than a little giddy, insisting we went to the Botanical Gardens on the harbour front where the angle tricked you into thinking the opera house was in fact just in front of the bridge, put it on a boat and it would sail under it! In fact they are on opposite sides of the harbour and not that close, you had to be further away to get a photograph of the two in one shot at the circular quay side. So a big walk around to the gardens and along to the front showed the sight we anticipated.

Was it worth it? Hell Lauren would fly half way around the world to come back and have this moment again. Although it is more about having this moment for the first time. Especially when that person only thinks they shall see it on an image, never with their own eyes. A thousand photographs later we made to leave and head back to check in, passing the other main street and seeing more impressive sights, none more so than Sydney hospital. It was so grand and you kind of thought I wouldn't made being slightly sick to come here! We walked through Hyde park and saw more impressive cathedrals and the looming Sydney tower, hovering over a luxury shopping mall 250 metres high.

Our dorm was ok, we had booked a thirteen bed and were happy to open the door to a six bed. The problem was everyone seemed to work and live here, we felt like we were intruding on someone's home, a strange thought given we had done that for two weeks previous but never felt that way! It had some good additions though, straighteners and hair dryer, secure key card entry and pretty decent kitchen facilities. For $17 each in the centre of Sydney, heart of Australia, it wasn't too bad! The down side, was coming back at 9.30pm and realising our social space where we got Internet was now a full on nightclub complete with thumping dj and disco lights! We even had to queue to get in! But headphones were put in and eventually we found solace in slumber although Lauren was pretty chilly!

Earlier in the day we had gone to Darling Harbour, a short walk away and continued to thank our lucky stars for the weather, average in winter here is 17 degrees, but we were effortlessly enjoying 24 degrees, thawing out from Melbourne. We ate lunch outside of BBQ burgers and sausage and caught a ferry to Manly travelling under the bridge and arriving for sunset. We were slightly gutted we didn't get to the beach here as Lauren was too busy enjoying another Max Brenner's special. This time white hot chocolate with vanilla plus cookies and ice cream! The sunset was beautiful setting over the esplanade and colours dancing on the water, before we got the ferry back to the quay as the sun finally set under the bridge, the photos we think, are spectacular. We also took in a free fireworks show at Darling Harbour which was almost like NYE! A few pubs in the local area and we called it a night. The only problem, we would have loved a few more drinks but it was just too expensive!

We caught the bus very easily, to Bondi the next day and joined the hundreds of other Sydney residents with the same Sunday plan. It took an hour but we were happy to see more of this great city, we passed through Oxford road, the gay capital of the world and blushed at the many sex shops with a colourful number of people walking in and out. We arrived an hour later and went to a Sunday market Lauren had read about. She purchased a band to add to her collection and we had more BBQ sausage lunch, a firm cheap favourite. We were treated to great weather once again, but not so great for the surfers as there did not seem to be much of a break here, yet they continued to try. Many people were playing volleyball and frisbee and we people watched for a while by the exclusive Iceberg swimming pools and hotel complex, apparently the place to be seen if you are D list celebrity!

We were advised by several guides to walk the "simply sensational" 5.5km cliff top walk to Coogee. So we did. It was stunning without doubt, the sun beating on our backs and the gentle breeze blowing through Ben's long locks! We wandered how many other places in the world you can do this- safely walk along cliff tops that weave in and out of the coastline surrounded by small coves and beaches where you can surf, snorkel and sunbathe with almost guaranteed good weather and a gentle lapping of waves against rocks! We even saw a natural pool made from the rocks where you could swim safely. It took just over an hour and we passed many a runner but we were happy with our decent pace and felt like we had worked off some of the treats we had been consuming! Coogee was, in our opinion, much prettier than Bondi but doesn't have the reputation as the surf isn't as good, but we would recommend coming here to lounge about rather than Bondi. The water looked amazing with sand under the sea as far as you could see, which gave us a good feeling of the beaches we shall encounter further north.

That evening we decided to take in the sunset at our favourite spot, the Botanical gardens overlooking harbour, bridge and opera house. We weren't the only ones with this idea, it was probably the busiest we had seen any one area of Sydney. But we still had plenty of space to get some gorgeous photos and again marvel at natures natural beauty. Although helped with some of man kinds greatest buildings! We slept a lot better that evening, now the hostel was no longer a club! We got up to date with some Internet things, unsure what Internet we had in future and looked at some walk options for the Blue Mountains. Which brings us back to now, as we travel staring into the openness and some stunning scenery. Our time in Sydney has been short, we felt we saw a lot of the tourist things and a little more to boot, but hopefully this won't feel like a city of only dreams and that with new family not so far away and more to discover, Australia won't quite seem out of reach, with air fares available nowadays maybe this won't be the only time we bring tv images to life.

Things of note:

Sydney is remarkably quiet for its stature in the world! We loved how quiet the streets were and ease of taking photographs with no one in the background!

Woolworths, is again the only supermarket we can see, but provides some great bargains if you have a kitchen to eat well but without breaking the bank. You can always find somewhere that has an offer for lunch or dinner if you are on a budget.

Don't expect to be able to do everything you may want if you have come backpacking, for instance we wanted to go to the champagne bar at the Sydney tower- the same price, the same view at height but with a glass of champers! Yet you need good clothes and shoes!

It is very easy to orientate yourselves and most places give out free maps, that is all you need! The public transport is very reasonably priced from the ferry, bus and tram, only buy as you go if here for less than a week rather than a pass.

Have a coat with you for after sunset it does get pretty chilly, pretty quickly.

What would we do differently:

Again always comes down to budget, it would be great to go to the tower and have champagne, more time would have permitted us to spend a full day at Manly and go to the area around Kings Cross, but we would want some drinks and at $8 a beer it's too expensive!


Near Misses:0 although Ben thought Lauren was getting too close to the cliff edges!


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