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Published: October 9th 2014
So Darren and I arrive Monday night to Sydney. Arrival is uneventful and we get to our hotel in Hyde Park/Darlinghurst area. I really like the area. Oxford Street has a ton of gay and hipster bars and the park area is green with a lot of culture and exhibits. We settle into our hotel which is budget but clean and easy and we call it (surprise) an early night after he flosses and I put in my retainers. We are honestly old.
We wake up to an amazing breakfast at the hotel. Totally worth the stay. We then walk downtown through Hyde park and the royal botanic gardens to the circular quay. Sydney is warm and bustling, and we are actually relieved when the clouds roll in because it gets hot fast. We see the opera house and the harbor bridge and the iconic "rocks" area. We then catch a bus to coogee and do the famous coogee to bondi walk. It really is a great coastal walk which hugs the eastern coastline of Sydney and has views of natural baths, beautiful tucked away beaches, and rock and cliff formations. It's school holidays
so the beaches are booming. We end in Bondi and take a nap in the sun on the beach. We head for lunch at a cafe recommended by Darren's sister, Michelle, and it's quintessentially Bondi with organic juices and quinoa salads. We then head to a hotel rooftop for a few beers with the view. Erica joins us there and brings a fried Mars bar for all of us to share - it felt straight out of a Minnesota state fair but it was gooey and gut pounding and delicious. After some leisurely drinking we head back to the hotel and shower up for dinner. We go out for Thai at a byo place and then head to the Shady Pines Saloon.
Shady pines is the brainchild of a 30 and 37 yo Australian duo who teamed up, one with money and one obsessed with American country western bars. The result is an underground bar with a hidden entrance - the lone indication of an establishment is a big man dressed in black standing around in an alley way. We ask said big man, "is there a bar here" to which he nods his head and checks
our iDs and shuffles us in. The bar is kitch, super hipster, and quickly my favorite place ever. There are dead animals mounted everywhere and wooden Sasquatch mannequins and honkey tonk on the jukebox. And most importantly... Over 125 bourbons and even more whiskys. It is nothing like an actual honkey tonk bar, but more like a Seattle bar filled with men with beards and tight jeans pretending not to think its cool. We end up befriending the bartenders, one whom is Japanese and emigrated 17 years ago, and really knows his whisky. He teaches us a lot and even let's us try some Japanese whiskys, which are more delicate in nature. We leave quite satisfied and head to bed to turn in.
Wednesday we have another huge brekky and then head to the train for the Blue Mountains and Blackheath. Erica joins us on the train. She is full of life and stories and curse words, and the grandma sitting across from us is just going to have to forgive us. We arrive at the Glenella guesthouse, a historic renovated home with 6 rooms for rent. The rooms are really quaint and big with plush comforters
and huge soft white towels. We drop off our stuff and we do a bush walk through blackheath.
My last time in the blue mountains I did a massive hike with my Irish friends and saw the iconic three sisters and echo point. But overall I was underwhelmed. The mountains and really hills from a US standpoint, and the blue haze really just makes the views difficult to see. But this hike is different and really refreshing. The flora and plants are fertile and unfamiliar, and the air is crisp and the sun is overhead. We have a big hike and make it to the canyon edge to see a different side of the mountains. We head back much later and have a dinner of... Thai food. First, Thai is ubiquitous and universally good in Oz and second, blackheath is a really freaking small town with only a few options. We are informed that the chef actually isn't even there but has flown off to Thailand, but fortunately whoever was helping out was good. Erica missed her first train back which gave us an excuse for another bottle of wine, and then I burned my boots on the space heater which gave the waiter, host, receptionist, and cashier (all the same and only guy working there) a good laugh at least. After the overall comedic situation, we head back to the guesthouse. I watch an awful movie with two women staying there for holiday. One is a retired school teacher who tells me she will never come to the states because she is too scared of the guns. It's really interesting to me just how prevalent Aussies believe guns are in America. Don't get me wrong, I think our gun laws and regulations are atrocious, but the perception here is that every American has a handgun in his belt ready to unleash on any unsuspecting passerby.
The next morning we decide to do one more hike and I'm so happy we do. It was recommended by the woman working at the info center as "the prettiest hike in the mountains" so of course we go for it. It's called the Grand Canyon hike, and we make our way down into this big crevasse in the rocks and the gulley is magnificent. Lots of nooks and crannies in the rock face, waterfalls, ponds and river crossings. We kept going down down down, which we knew eventually meant we'd be going up, up, up. All in all a solid hike and then best we had had.
We took the train back to Sydney and made our way to our place for the night, a serviced apartment which was spacious and beautiful and a great end to the trip. We head to the ferry after some washing up and take the manly ferry to manly. We have a great dinner at Hugo's on the wharf with a view overlooking the water. The service and food is top notch, and the waiter even brings us a complimentary after dinner drink when we miss the ferry by a few minutes. We say goodbye to Sydney via the water and head back to our penthouse to end the night.
Darren sadly leaves that morning after a run through the gardens and I then meet up with Erica. She has been couch surfing with a few guys in Sydney. Her friend has hosted one of the roommates in Colorado, and now they are repaying the favor. She makes us an awesome lunch of baked Brie and mushroom burgers and roasted cauliflower. She's a Kansas girl and makes a mean pastry crust from scratch. The apartment is literally falling apart, but the back porch is open and sunny and the guys have started a nice garden. The rent is also mega cheap. I had to take every stereotype of Aussie males and throw them out the window with these ones. The boys are all very chivalrous, polite, vegan, one doesn't drink, and in committed relationships or waiting for the right Sheila to come along. Pretty funny actually.
Erica and I grab the car and then meet up with my friend James at the bar, he brings some of his friends too. I met James in Fiji 5 years ago, and we have remained friends, and some of his friends actually now live in San Fran. He's from Ireland and now lives and works in Canberra. His girlfriend is great too, and the crew is all Irish. We head to another bar, and after the bouncer realizes the guys are Irish, they deny our entry. The pure discrimination is unreal, but the lads say this actually is pretty common. I am going to write another post about the racism I have experienced while being here. Sad.
So we quickly find another place which has a hopping dance floor playing Motown hits. So random. We end up making our way back to one of James' friend's houses who just happens to be a self made millionaire. We don't go to bed before the sun comes up. It was an amazingly fun and completely unnecessary savage night and made for a bit of a late start the next day, but after a nice brunch on the shores of Bondi, Erica and I say goodbye to Sydney and start the next leg of the journey.
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