Australia: Sydney

Michael and I traveled to Australia as part of our 2007 career break. The following is an excerpt from our travel blog.

We lasted about four hours our first day in Sydney.  By the time we got to our hotel and freshened up, it was around 2pm Sydney time.  But for our bodies, it was midnight.  So we decided to soldier through the day and hopefully into the night to fight off jet lag.  Walking from our hotel in the Kings Cross-Darlinghurst section of Sydney, we were reminded of the rolling streets of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco.  And as we strolled into Pitt St. in the City Center, we felt as if we were walking the mall-like streets of Chicago.

Sightseeing wasn’t really on our agenda, as we were in search of a cell phone to use domestically and other miscellaneous items.  But I wanted Michael to have his first look of the famed Opera House and Sydney Harbour.  As we made our way into Circular Quay, he was a bit quiet.  He admitted it wasn’t quite the view he expected.  But what he has seen in photos is from a much different angle – usually showing the Opera House surrounded by a large body of water with the Harbour Bridge in the background.  It wouldn’t be until the next day that he had that view, but from Circular Quay, the Opera House appeared to him as a “big thing in a little harbor.”

[singlepic=240,150,,,left]We celebrated our first day with some beers before heading back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner.  We were back 10 minutes before we passed out.  It was 6pm.  Thankfully we decided to stay at a new boutique hotel as we wanted to be comfortable after the long travel.  Their King-sized bed was just what we needed after “sleeping” in airplane seats.  We needed to be well rested to really tackle the city on our first full day.

The next day we were up bright and early – at 3am.  Damn jet lag.  We decided to occupy ourselves by doing some internet research for our next destination – Fraser Island.  But knowing we had a full day ahead of us, we forcefully tried to get some more shut eye and wake up at a more decent hour.  By 6:30am, we couldn’t fight it anymore, so we headed out for a much needed breakfast.

Our neighborhood is filled with cute cafes, so it wasn’t too difficult to find a place.  And as soon as we walked into Tigerbreakers to the sounds of Jack Johnson, I knew we found the perfect spot.  And to fuel up on beans and toast (for me) and an omelet (for Michael) was a great way to start the day.

We decided to head back down to Circular Quay but this time through the Royal Botanic Gardens.  We headed down through Hyde Park, past St. Mary’s Cathedral and onto Art Gallery Road.  We leisurely strolled amongst the sounds of the magpies mocking each other and parakeets swooping about.  And through the trees and sprawling hills rose the buildings of City Center.

Once in the Botanic Gardens, we passed some beautiful South Pacific plant life before entering the domain of the flying foxes.  The resident colony spend their day hanging about the Gardens before making their way out at dusk.  But we didn’t wait to leave with them as we still had much more to see.


By the time we reached the tip of the Gardens, Michael had his view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.  But it wouldn’t be the last.  We decided to take one of the many harbour cruises offered in Circular Quay.

As we looped around the Opera House and noticed the various office workers amongst the tourists, we wondered if they got annoyed as much as we do navigating through the throngs in Times Square and Rock Center on the way to work.  But the crowds weren’t nearly as bad in Sydney and even the locals have an easy-going nature to them.

We decided on the Sydney Explorer, which allowed us to get on and off at various stops.  As we pulled away, we got some more expansive views of the Harbor and from our lunch spot in Watsons Bay.  City Center seemed worlds away.

As we made it back into Circular Quay, we were proud that we were still going strong.  So we headed to the Rocks on the western side of the cove – a historic precinct with narrow cobbled streets, colonial buildings and pubs.  So you can probably guess where we ended up.  The Observer Hotel was a good place to celebrate with a beer and a great place to meet up with some friends.  Ciaran and I volunteered together in Peru and it was fun rehashing stories together.  And Michael had an old Hamptons roommate who returned to Sydney, so we all had some good laughs over old tales.  The plan was to continue on to dinner, but in the cab, jet lag struck again and we needed to abandon that plan.

Two days and we had yet to have dinner in Sydney.  But we couldn’t ignore our bodies.

[singlepic=221,150,,,right]Saturday we decided to be a bit more low-key.  We headed out to Bondi Beach for the day with Ciaran and his buddy Dave.  It was a beautiful spring weekend yet we practically had the place to ourselves.  We picnicked on the beach with some delicious fish and chips and watched the hordes of surfers skirt about the waves.  Between the cold water and the stinging blue bottles crashing ashore, wearing a wet suit seemed the only sane way to enter the ocean.

After relaxing on the beach we decided to find a nice roof deck to continue our shore gazing over some beers. Some more friends of Ciaran joined us and it was great to share some laughs.  One of my favorite things about traveling is the characters you meet along the way and to hear other perspectives outside of those back home.

And in addition – we actually made it to dinner.  Back in our neighborhood in Sydney, we grabbed a quick bite with Ciaran before packing it in for the night.  Another full day behind us and an other one in our sites.  We had an early morning the next day as we would head up the coast.

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