…and this other place called Sydney.
We are back home in Melbourne left with lots of memories and photos of our most recent weekend trip to Sydney. Going through said photos we realized that, without any explanation, people might think that we just sat around for 4 days staring at the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. (Which we totally didn’t do…kind of) Thank goodness for blog posts.
In between our bouts of ogling Australia’s most iconic landmarks we did the tourist thing to the max. Our first two days there were work days so our sightseeing was limited to sunset and evening time where we wandered around The Rocks neighborhood where we were staying, had fun with Adam’s new tripod and night settings on his camera, and people watched all along the Circular Quay.
One of the many perks of where we were staying is that we had a voucher for drinks, so that led us to the famed Blue Bar on 36 where the best sunset views in Sydney are to be had. After we toasted our arrival we headed out to grab some dinner. This led us to a local Belgian brewhouse known for their mussels. We ordered a pot that had been cooked in a lemongrass curry broth and completely devoured it – so delicious! The restaurant itself was pretty cool and reminded us of the German beer halls – huge open space with uber tall ceilings. And very very noisy. Can’t forget the noise.
The next morning we were both up before the crack of dawn to catch the sun rising over the harbour…we both were so excited to see this that no alarm clock was needed…don’t worry, we’re still shocked as well. After a very nice breakfast (another perk!) Adam headed out to the office and I dedicated my day to the 2nd floor a.k.a. paradise which included a gym, pool, and sun deck.
Did I mention that it was in the upper 70’s in Sydney? It was in the upper 70’s.
Once the work day had officially ended we headed out together to walk across the Harbour Bridge and visit Milson’s point…to get another view of that beautiful concert hall…which is totally different from our OTHER views. The bridge walk was awesome, especially considering that it is an extremely active bridge at all times. The pedestrian part is almost caged in so you feel pretty safe during the whole walk…but you can definitely feel the bridge move a bit during high traffic hours.
The other side of the bridge, by the way, drops you off in a little town called Kirribilli which is an extremely hilly residential area with quirky shops and cafes. The hill leads you down to a waterside park known as Milson’s Point. This area is directly underneath the massive bridge and sprawls out on either side. It was a great place to relax, enjoy a brew, and take in the water traffic of Sydney’s harbour.
About that…so this bit of water is definitely here for a purpose (who knew it’s purpose wasn’t just to look pretty?). The ferry system is extensive (although very easy to use) schlepping tourists and locals alike to wherever it is you need to be. In addition there are cruise liners, freighters and military ships that are constantly going back and forth. Then you add the sailboats (which are tiny in comparison). So all those little postcards that show the Opera House with a beautiful single sailboat to the side…that photographer waited for a long long time…or used photoshop.
Anyway, we hung around the park until the sun was getting ready to put on it’s nightly show and headed over to Sydney’s Luna Park (yes, exactly like the one in St. Kilda) to catch the ferry. Wouldn’t you know it the ferry we catch is named “Charlotte”. We took it as a good omen. This little ride across the water offered even more *completely different* views of our favorite little monuments.
Back on our side of the Harbour we went back to the 36th to enjoy another sunset libation before heading out for the evening. Friday’s, I had learned prior to going on our trip, are when the weekly Night market is held in China Town. I had heard that there was a lot of good food and shopping to be had so, of course, we had to check it out. A very very long walk was had as we realized that Sydney might be a bit larger and more spread out than Melbourne. We stuck with it and found ourselves back in China Town…we couldn’t help but joke that we must have been homesick for Melbourne since we had to find the highest density of Asians and immerse ourselves in it.
The market, unfortunately, was nothing spectacular and quite small. We decided to head back over to the Rocks area and check out a restaurant that had been recommended by several people: Pancakes on the Rocks.
I don’t think I’ve ever stood in line for pancakes before, much less a line that went completely out the door. It was immediately clear that this place had a solid reputation. The menu is overwhelmingly full of all kinds of stuffed crepes, salads, mains and, of course, pancakes. We’re working on reviewing our experience here for our new “reviews” section of our site…let’s just say that if a restaurant has a food item as their name, you should just stick with ordering that to avoid disappointment. The pancakes were Good. With a capital G.
After doing a wonderful job of overstuffing ourselves we waddled back to the hotel to grab some sleep before starting our *real* tourist day.
Saturday dawned and we were up and out the door in record time. Our first stop on the itinerary was to walk through the Botanical Gardens on the way to Miss Macquaries Chair – a very popular vantage point of both the Opera House and Harbour Bridge…yes, those two again. The Gardens are so beautiful with signs all around inviting everyone to “walk on the grass, stop and smell the roses, and hug a few trees”. (Although I completely misread the sign and thought it was the typical “stay off of our grass losers!” Being such a rule follower I toed the line, keeping to the asphalt, until Adam pointed out my mistake).
The outlook (Miss Macquarie’s Chair) was quite crowded with tourists and, crazily enough, bicyclists and joggers who must’ve not been too concerned with maintaining pace since they chose this stretch of walkway… As promised the views were beautiful. Not to be content with the everyday shot that all the other joe schmoe tourist was taking, Adam and Iventured out onto the rocks to get a more unobstructed view. The ocean let us know when we had taken enough photos by throwing increasingly high waves over the rocks. Needless to say, it was worth it.
We wandered back through the gardens intent on catching a ferry to Manly – a beach town about 30 minutes across the Harbour. On our way we stopped for an up-close and personal encounter with the Opera House. It was very interesting seeing it up close and realizing that the building is made out of thousands of tiles, which is why it looks like it changes color in the changing glares of the sun.
Finally we are on our ferry (it might’ve taken a while to get me away from the Opera House) heading towards Manly. Once there we are immediately greeted by a tree, fountain and shop lined avenue known as “The Corso” that leads to the surf beach. We meandered through, picking up a delicious lunch to go at a cafe, and found a nice bench right on the walkway looking out on the surfers and the Pacific Ocean. We had heard that the walkway leads to some pretty incredible hikes so we set out looking for adventure.
We kept seeing a few outcroppings of rocks with people on them, and found a trail that seemed to lead up to it. This of course, allowed us to see even higher outcroppings in the not-so-far distance. We got to each one, marvelled at the scenery and immediately went on to the next. Until we reached this cliff. It was so beautiful jutting out over the water that we just had to see if we could access it.
Did I mention I was wearing a dress with ballet flats? I was wearing a dress with ballet flats.
On we go past signs warning that there are no fences or guard rails along the cliff and to please climb at your own risk. We met the end of the trail and commenced to lumber up over the boulders using what footholds were available and hanging onto the sides as best we could. And wow was the effort worth it. We were above the tree line, looking out over the entire town of Manly with nothing to the east but wide open ocean. There were quite a few others up here too who, apparently, had to same sense of “I have to get up there” as we did. I inched as close to the edge as I dared to get a “I’m at the edge of a continent” photo (and at one point I literally could not move any further out, my legs refused to listen to my head). I might have a smile on, but as soon as that shutter closed I was throwing myself back to the relatively safer area away from the edge.
We stayed up here for a while taking in the scenery and really enjoying this “other” side of Sydney. We hiked back the way we came and took in the sights and feeling of a laid back beach town. *Ahhhh*. The ferry to and from Sydney only ran every 45 minutes so we had to be sure to catch the next one. We staked out a spot on the outside of the Ferry boat and eagerly anticipated the lowering sun and upcoming views of Sydney Harbour.
They didn’t disappoint.
Feeling energized by our adventurous day we quickly changed for dinner and grabbed our mandatory “sunset cocktail” from the 36th floor. We then headed out to the Darling Harbour area to find a place to eat and enjoy our Saturday evening. The little boardwalk that this harbour has is chock full of restaurants and entertainment venues lined to the other side by a very active marina where patrons wait to board various dinner cruises, wedding receptions and work events. We chose a restaurant closest to the action and got in some phenomenal people watching.
Our dinner was had at Cargo – which we will also be reviewing in our Reviews section – so for quick summary, it was a great dinner. It was funny because as we were looking at all the restaurants we weren’t too hopeful for the food…it’s nice to be surprised sometimes. We ended up chatting with some Aussies, dancing to a lot of Michael Jackson music (they love him over here…then again, who doesn’t?), and having to pull ourselves away from the party-goers in order to grab some sleep to make the most of our last day in Sydney.
Sunday we allowed ourselves to sleep in slightly more (read: we did not wake up to see the sunrise) and grabbed a later breakfast. After perusing the weekly Rocks Market, we decided to take another stroll in the botanical gardens. This time, instead of heading towards the water, we wandered towards a different garden known as Hyde Park. On this little walk we were introduced to some new Australian wildlife: freshwater eels that mysteriously inhabit the ponds (even after they are drained and refilled eel free) and Grey headed flying foxes. It was so neat seeing these animals in the wild and I could’ve (and tried to) stayed here all day. In the end though, we made it to Hyde Park which is a gorgeous park with a huge fountain in the middle and a tree lined avenue very similar to St. James park in London. We completed our loop of the city just as a rain shower hit.
Fast forward our last couple of hours (which were spent back on the magical 2nd floor) and we were in the airport learning that our flight had been cancelled…luckily we were able to be put on a later flight and, after an extremely bumpy hour and a half, we were back in the place we call home.