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We thought it had been a while since using a pun in the heading. Granted this isn’t a very good one, but we felt it would do.
So – Melbourne to Sydney. We were good little backpackers and took our various forms of transport trams, trains, buses with lots of changes to the Airport in Melbourne which was hot and heavy (we had to carry the bags on our backs for fair chunks). We got to Melbourne airport with about 10 minutes until they closed the check-in desk. Which was good, as on the way we thought we weren’t going to make it at all – despite leaving 2 hours travel time. The real fun began when we found our bags were over weight. This was a bit of a shock as we’ve had the same stuff for the last few months with no additions and had no problems even on the cheap airlines but this was obviously the Ryan Air of the east and they had a low allowance and weren’t going to budge and wanted to charge us a fortune. We did however have enough allowance for our carry on, but with the check-in closing in a couple of minutes the transfer of stuff became a bit frantic, especially when we were counted down to 1 minute. But we did it. Really must check those baggage allowances in future.
We arrived at our airbnb stay late afternoon in the outer Sydney suburb of Eastwood and found the apartment pretty easily. Our host was super nice and the apartment is much bigger than I had expected. I had expected the area to be more urban than it is. It’s mainly apartment blocks but low rise, well spaced blocks on tree lined streets.
We were so knackered after our long days travel we contemplated just hanging out in the area but though convenient, Eastwood doesn’t have a huge amount to offer and we thought it was crazy not to ‘see’ Sydney on our first day, so we stopped a few stops down on the train and walked about 10 minutes to find a ferry stop, from where we sailed (or rather ferried) into Sydney under the Harbour bridge and right past the Opera House – which was kind of cool. A good entrance at least.
We headed up into the Rocks, the old area just south of the bridge and to my surprise, from the bustling city, found you could easily find yourself walking down quiet streets with interesting old terrace houses. We had a bite to eat in an old pub made of the areas famous sandstone. This is definitely the oldest building I’ve been in since leaving the UK. We then got a bit lost and cheated on our new, promised backpack travel criteria by getting a cab to the main station to get our train home. I’m pretty sure he ripped us off but we were too tired to care at this point. Central station at night was a bit of a shock – we’ve definitely been in a bit of a safety bubble for a few months. Have gotten soft in all these ‘nice’ places. Central is like a london station – with it’s of array of drunks, druggies and generally dodgy folk hanging around outside. The shouty lady who Mark is still convinced was a man. The guy pretending to have one arm begging for money and pretending to drop his change and asking you to pick it up for him. Colourful. But after wandering around the station for a while trying to find the right way in, then wandering around some more trying to find where to get our train – we successfully completed our first night in Sydney.
The next day we had tickets to Bob Downe’s Retro Gras night in Surry Hills, not far from the centre. We mosied on down to check out the area a little earlier. Surry Hills is a quite trendy area and a short, but hilly walk up from Central station.
We found this odd sculpture which at first glance looked like an old balaclava left on a low wall, then you notice the eyes – creepy!
We found an interesting bar up the road from our venue called Kinsellas – a gay bar located in a building which part of was an old church – had an extraordinarily high ceiling, the para-pit – which I believe they use for the weekend drag nights and with the pews as seating.
The Bob Downe night was great. He just makes me laugh so much. It was more of a club night than had thought – I had thought it would be tables etc but it was in a proper club in the newly refurbished Beresford Hotel. The place was tardis like. The outside is an old fashioned green tiled, small entrance and then you walk into this vegas-esque interior. The music was fantastic and cheesy and they had some cool drag artists from around Sydney there. Unfortunately, as it was standing room only – despite getting lucky on the first couple of turns, later on in the evening it got busier and we were nearer the back of lots of strapping guys who, with no heels on, I stood little chance of seeing past. But it was a good night and we finished off at a quirky pub half way back to Central station, making friends with the Liverpudlian barmaid (11 years living there and accent strong as ever) and a locksmith. I can’t remember either of their names. Or much else.
Moving on… next day was set for some proper sight seeing although we were feeling a little worse for wear.
We got it in our heads that we desperately wanted dumplings as we were starving and thought it would be the perfect hangover cure so heading to China town would be the key. Unfortunately, we had to drop off our macbook to yet another company to try to get it fixed which landed us up quite far north in the CBD. I really wanted to get out of the area as it just reminded me of London really but as we needed to come back up to nearby this area we concluded going all the way back down to China town wasn’t worth the hassle. Feeling rather gutted about that, we trundled our way through the busy streets, heading east to find somewhere quieter. I noticed when looking up a Westfields sign and remembered reading and article somewhere about the dumplings somewhere in there. Now I hate shopping centres/malls. Absolutely hate them. I find it quite claustrophobic being inside them with no easy way out/escape and find them sterile and impersonal but two things were going on here. Firstly we were hungover and hungry, secondly we were hot and that shopping hell, would be many things but it wouldn’t be hot and oh yes, sweet air conditioning beckoned. And to be fair – as shopping malls go – this was a pretty impressive one. Very posh with lovely lighting, stone finishes – different music on each floor to suite the mood (actually that’s a bit creepy and big brother trying to manipulate your mind, but still). We located the food court on the 5th floor. Blimey. This isn’t like a ‘food court’ I have ever known anywhere else. There was indeed many different places from where to buy your food and yes you took trays and sat at tables but the choice and quality was mind blowing and it was stylish and clean with proper cutlery and each ‘stall’ was designed amazingly. I’m not going to become a shopping mall apprecianado but I won’t always so readily dismiss. In the end we ditched the dumplings – expensive for only a couple as opposed to the fantastic deals we could have got in China town – but both had Tom Yum noodle soup which was just utterly and quite surprisingly considering where we were, to die for!! And I had won-tans in mine so it was kind of dumplingy.
On our way over we came across someone playing large chess in Hyde Park which became peculiarly addictive to watch.
Next stop was the Botanical Gardens – yes we’d had a bad experience in Auckland traipsing out to the middle of nowhere on the promise of something interesting and again we wouldn’t normally go to such places, not having any real interest in green things (except kermit obviously). But firstly this is slap, bang in the middle of Sydney and secondly it has some kind of unwelcome guests that we wanted to see.
Many of the trees in the Botanical Gardens are home to fruit bats/flying foxes. Lots of them. They theoretically hang in the trees during the day to sleep but we found that they actually squawked and fought quite a lot too. Wow – they really make a racket. It’s definitely worth a trip to see them though – they’re just funny. You’ve got to love bats right? Maybe not if it was heading right for me, because they are big, but generally they are pretty cool. As they are not meant to be there and this is botanical gardens trying to protect plant species, they are not especially welcome as they tend to wreck the place. But it’s probably a catch 22 as they are also a big draw for tourists.
You can also catch (not literally) some more native cockatoos and parrots around the place.
We went up through the gardens to their edge along the harbour and made our way up to the Opera House. Now, although when you first see it, it might seem a little smaller than you expect and not as white as you had thought (it’s actually a kind of nice 70s shade of beige), it is utterly stunning. I am so beyond taken with it, it’s probably the most gorgeous piece of architecture I’ve ever seen. It’s just perfect in every way and all credit to Sydney that they have kept everything as it should to make the most of it so it can be admired from every angle. They don’t have loads of seats and kiosks and tourist crap around it to ruin the aesthetic. The inside is also stunning and simple and I was surprised to see the original exposed concrete. We didn’t do the tour to see the stage etc but the areas that you could see, everything was just so.
Even the underground carpark, in which we took refuge from the heat to have a drink when we first got there, has elements of design to make it something more than it it.
And the light really does reflect amazingly off the tiles of the building. There was a quote I saw which I thought was just spot on.
So, yes we both really loved it and I’m surprised how little you see things so perfect and so perfectly looked after. It is definitely a landmark to be proud of!
So what do I think of Sydney so far? Well it’s been a big shock to be in such a city-ish city and I loved Melbourne so much that it’s an impossible act to follow.
I think that you can probably describe Sydney as Melbourne’s more grown up and more sophisticated older sister. Not quite as funky or fun but with some nicer, bigger and better things to show off. I don’t love it (yet) but I don’t dislike it and am having a nice time.
We went to Bondi which is a great looking beach, but the place left me a little cold, after having gotten extremely hot on 2 hours of trains and buses to get there in the first place!! It was nice enough but touristy, pricey and not really all that. Maybe the $8 chips just made me bitter!
I think the public transport is good but having a car to go to certain places would probably have helped. Am looking forward to getting the van so we can visit more secluded beaches.