Sydney Trip Part 2

I apologize for the lack of updates. Once again I was off galavanting and there was no free internet (and I’m cheap so when I did pay, it was for obtaining student housing or signing up for summer classes and the like, fun!). Anyway, I spent the last six days in Sydney with Steph. We had an awesome time and did a ton of stuff. Luckily for y’all (and my future self) I took notes! I’m such a nerd. As per usual, I’ll go chronologically.

Day 1: Sunday
Steph and I got up at the crack of dawn (6am) to catch our cab to the airport. Our plane was scheduled to take off at 8am. We had the breakfast of champions at the airport: Hungry Jacks (aka Burger King). Once we landed in Sydney, we took a taxi to our hotel. We staid at the Aarons Hotel. We quickly discovered that it was located in China Town. Since we were super early, our room wasn’t ready, but they were really nice and let us leave our suitcases at the front desk so that we could go explore in the mean time. And of course, the first thing we found was Market City, basically a mall. So Steph and I did some shopping/wandering, and then we went upstairs to the food court for lunch. It had a wide array of Thai and Chinese food. We got a plate at The Golden Tower, which was really good. Then we went downstairs to the ‘basement’ and checked out the Paddy’s Market, which are apparently really well known in Sydney, but we weren’t aware at the time. But we shortly figured out why when we got lost in a vortex of awesomeness. There were booths and booths of everything, and a fresh food market as well. It took us an hour  to walk through the whole thing quickly. It’s a cosplayer’s dream, there were good quality wigs of every color and style, bits and pieces for costumes everywhere. I had to restrain myself on a few occasions. By the time we found our way out, it was time to check in to our room. It was fairly nice (especially considering the deal we got for it). Steph and I shared a bed (so many jokes to be made). It was actually two twins pushed together, and it was supper comfy. The bathroom was one big plastic unit, kind of like a super-sized airplane bathroom. We took a few minutes to collect ourselves before we headed into the city. Next on our agenda was the I’m Free Walking Tours (by the same company that did the tour in Melbourne). We walked via George St. (pretty much the only street that goes through the whole CBD) up to Town Hall. We walked ALL over the city. It was really neat and informative, but so much walking. We saw all kinds of things, many of them historical. We learned all about the convict colonies too. Most people know that ‘Australia was started by criminals’, but it’s more complex than that. Sydney specifically was founded by convicts, but back then you could become a convict by stealing a piece of fruit or a loaf of bread to feed your starving family. Originally, they would send the convicts to America, but America got tired of them, and didn’t have the space for them, so they decided to send them to Sydney since Australia had been recently discovered by Britain. Then they built the part of the city known as The Rocks, and it expanded upon from there. Side note: Melbourne was founded by John Batman from Tasmania, and flourished with the gold rush. After the walking tour, which was about 3 hours, we went to a little place on George St. called Parlor Burgers. It was really good (and not just because we were starving), Steph and I each got a burger and we shared duck fat fries.  Then we walked all the way back to our hotel, which was too far. Some one had told Steph that we were close to a train station, so we decided that we would try to figure that out. We had booked a night tour at the Observatory, so after we had a little break from dinner, we tried the train. It was super fast and easy and convenient and cheap. In other words, our new best friend. We got to Circular Quay, which was half the battle. We then had to get over to the observatory, and to our astonishment, most Sydney-siders (as the tour guide called herself and the locals) don’t know where it is. We had to cross under the Harbor bridge and walk up a ramp around the backside of the hill to the observatory. In the daytime, it would have been beautiful, but because there was the time change, the sun set earlier and the timer for the street lights hadn’t been adjusted. That meant that it was pitch black and terrifying when we walked up. It didn’t help that every so often a bat would fly by. One of the scarier moments of my life. But we survived and made it to the observatory. It was an old, but beautiful building. They divided us up into groups, and then we went into the planetarium and watched a few 3D movies about space and such, which were really interesting. Then we went outside and looked at some constellations. Steph and I were the only ones who were from the northern hemisphere, and thus the only ones who had seen the North Star and such. You can see Orion from both hemispheres, but he’s upside down here… We got to see the Souther Cross, which is the equivalent of the Big Dipper/North Star. Then we got to go up into the South Dome and see the original telescope of the observatory, which was 140 years old and still functional. It was too cloudy to really see anything with it, but it was neat to see the telescope itself. It was a #1 museum item, which means it should be behind glass where no one can touch it. Then we went to the North Dome where they had a newer more hight tech telescope. We got to see Jupiter, a nebula, and the Jewel Cluster, which was super duper cool. It was also cool because the architecture of the dome would throw voices. So we could hear people laughing or talking on occasion from the other side of the room. I was really tempted to tell a bad joke and see who laughed from the other side of the room, but I couldn’t think of any jokes. On the way back, the teamed up with these two older ladies that were going the same way as us. We walked back with them and they were quite nice and sweet. It was nearly so scary going back because we were in a group, and the lights had turned on by then. We caught the train back, and were completely exhausted.

Day 2: Monday
It was a public holiday for Easter. We started off our day by getting brekkie at 7/11 down stairs, OJ and a muffin. Then we took the train to Circular Quay to do the Sydney Opera House Tour. I think that may have been my favorite part of the trip. My inner architecture nerd got all excited. It was such a journey to create the opera house that we all know and love today. There was a contest to design the opera house, and the designs that were used, were originally in the reject pile. Then once they decided on this design, the building commenced without any technology in place to build the sails. After a few years, all hope was lost and they were ready to give up on the project. That’s when Jorn Utzon (the danish architect behind the opera house) came up with a solution. It had to do with taking all the pieces for the sails out of the same sphere so that they had the same ratios and then the concrete ribs could be casted out of the same mould. It was quite a process (and that was the cliff notes version). We got to see 3 of the 7 performance spaces: Studio, Joan Sutherland Theater, and the Concert Hall. The Australian Ballet Company was doing their morning classes in the Joan Sutherland theater. They do classes in the morning, rehearsals in the afternoon, and performances in the evening. It was so beautiful to watch, to get a behind the scenes look, especially since Steph and I were going to see their performance the next night. We also got to walk up and around the exterior of the opera house, as well as see the inside structure of it all. It’s such a beautifully crafted building, with the concrete and wood and steel. It’s amazing because everything is structural and yet aesthetically pleasing, that’s a hard combination to pull off. After our tour, we got lunch at a little cafe in Circular Quay, and then walked around The Rocks on our way to the Harbor Bridge. Steph was doing the Harbor Bridge Climb at twilight. Which is where you walk up and over the harbor bridge. You have to wear a special harness and there’s something like 2,000 steps to the top or something insane. My fear of highs was rearing its head just thinking about it. I opted to do Pylon Lookout instead. Steph did that with me before she went to her bridge climb. Pylon Lookout is in one of the pillars at the end of the Harbor Bridge. There’s still a lot of stairs, but not nearly as many as the bridge climb, and you’re also inside of the structure. It was cool cause there were about three levels of museum type exhibits about the bridge and the history and such that broke up the stairs. It was a little touch and go toward the top for me because the stairs were industrial, so you could see between the treads, and down pretty far. The hand rail was my new best friend. But I did make it to the top, and it was well worth it. The view was spectacular. So cool. It helped that it was a gorgeous day. After the trek up and down, we decided to take an ice cream break. I got coconut, which was delicious, and had shredded coconut as well as chocolate chips in a waffle cone, yum. Then we found the visitors center, and sat around there for a while since our feet were protesting. Steph and I parted ways when it was time for her to do her bridge climb (which was scheduled to take 3 hours). I ended up going back to the hotel and fell asleep. Steph survived the brigde climb, and loved every minute of it. She wasn’t allowed to take her camera, but there was a photographer with them, and they got some fantastic pictures of her. By the time she got back and I woke from my slumber, it was about 8pm and we were both starving. The front desk recommended the Great Southern Hotel Bar. It was a good recommendation. There was good food and a cute little atmosphere. There were lots of tvs with various australian sports going on, which was fun to watch. There was a group of three (two girls and a guy) in the back corner, and I wasn’t entirely sure who was hitting on who… Fun stuff. At the end of the day we decided that if we ever saw another stair again it would be too soon… We also discovered that parts of Sydney are not very handicap friendly. Granted when it was built that wasn’t really a concern, but still, so many stairs.

Day 3: Tuesday
We hit up 7/11 again for brekkie. OJ and a muffin. Then we took our beloved train down to Circular Quay to catch the Ferry to the Taronga Zoo. It was much busier than when I went with Dad, but that was probably because it was pouring rain when we went. But Steph and I had a good time, and when Dad and I went, we only saw about half, so I got to see the rest of it. Steph and I took turns through out the day looking like disinterested spoiled brats on our phones, the joys of dealing with school stuff from overseas with a time difference. After a few hours, we did the whole thing. And then we decided to head back to our rooms for a break before our big night at the Opera House. We watch Who’s Line is it Anyway? and then had dinner across the street at the same place in the food court from the first day. It was delicious once again. After our tummies were satiated, we got ready for the Ballet. It was funny becuse we could tell who else on the train was going to the Ballet by the way they were dressed, and it was all pairs of women. When we got off the train and walked to the opera house, we could see a couple taking wedding pictures on the front steps. It was so cute, and I bet those pictures were gorgeous. The Ballet was beautiful. We saw Manon preformed by the Australian Ballet Company. The costumes and set were amazing. I wanted all of the dresses the girls wore. The dancing was wonderful, and I don’t know how they do it, but it was great. It was amazing how they can tell a story just through music and dancing (in Steph’s words “You stole my girl, I’m gonna dance it out.”). They did give us a handy little print out with a synopsis since the storyline got complicated really fast, but I read it before hand and was able to understand what was going on the entire time. It was great. It was really enjoyable, and Steph and I can’t stop talking about how cultured we are now. One the walk back to the train, we stopped for some gelato, tasty. And then promptly passed out when we got back to our room. That’s about the time Steph decided she was getting sick, poor thing.

Day 4: Wednesday
Broken Record: Brekkie at 7/11. OJ and a Muffin. Then we did the Botanical Gardens. They were huge! We kept walking through and there was more until it opened up to a park and revealed that it was the entire peninsula behind the opera house. There was every type of vegetation involved. There were little ponds, and fountains, and art. And a rainforest walk, and Japanese Garden. And a succulents garden that was like being in Arizona. And a pretty rose garden that was akin to the Kellogg Rose Garden at school. And there were wonderful views of the back side of the opera house, and the harbor bridge. there was also a nice little garden store that had some nifty things, most of which I wouldn’t be able to get through customs. I did get a few sun-catcher stickers that you put on a window or some such that depict Australia. I plan to get an old frame/window and make an art thing out of them. After walking around the gardens for a few hours, we caught the bus to Bondi (pronounced bond-eye) Beach. The bus ride was terrifying. It was one of those accordion buses, and the bus driver was going really fast, and he would get REALLY close to the other buses. But we made it in one piece. We had lunch along the beach at Niko’s, which was really delicious. I had the Salmon Fish Cakes which came with chips (fries) and a salad. And Steph had a Veggie Burger and chips. Yummy, yummy. After lunch we walked along the beach. It was beautiful, and such a nice day for the beach. It was kind of like the beaches of Cali and Hawaii combined. It also looks like the set of a TV show like Summerland or Laguna Beach. It didn’t hurt that we had super cute waiters at lunch either. After we explored and took a ton of pictures, we took the bus back to the city. Steph was feeling a little under the weather and I was tired, so we took at nap, and then woke up in the dark… It was only 6:30pm. We decided to go get food, and wandered up and George St for a while until we decided on the Star Bar. It was super cool. We went upstairs for food, and it was like a club atmosphere. And here when you go to a pub or a bar that serves food, you have to go up to the bar to order and pay upfront. Which works, its just different. It’s actually nice because if we don’t pay in advance, we haven’t figured out the protocol for paying after, do we wait for the check? do we ask for it? do we go up to the counter to pay?…. I think the issue is that there is no protocol and it just depends on the place. Another thing we’ve discovered with the food, is that especially at food courts, they don’t really do lines, it’s just kind of whoever walks up to the counter and orders. It took me a little while to figure out the system. Anyway, back to the Star Bar, Steph finally had ‘real’ bacon on her salad (she was really excited). And I got a delicious chicken burger with avocado, and some of the best chips I’ve had yet. Also, Steph got a free Chocotini at the bar, which made her night. Then we went back to the hotel and watched Phantom of the Opera, and belted out every song along with it. I’m sure the neighbors hated us.

Day 5: Thursday
Guess what we had for brekkie?! OJ and a muffin. Of which we ate on the bus. We did the Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves bus tour by the same company that we’ve done in Melbourne. We drove for about two hours to Katoomba where Echo Point and the Three Sisters are. First we saw an Aboriginal show, which was neat. They taught us about some of the various cultures and such. I learned that the didgeridoo is not the technical term for the instrument. I can’t tell you what the technical term is because I couldn’t pronounce them let alone spell them… But I did learn that they are eucalyptus trees that have been hallowed out by termites. Then we got to see the Threes Sisters rock.  The cliff notes version of the story is that a dad (who was their god) and his daughters went out to the bush one day. He went hunting and left them to play. One of the girls disturbed nature and they were about to be attacked. Their dad had a magical bone that he used to turn them to stone to save them, and he then turned himself into a bird to flee but dropped the magical bone and couldn’t turn them back. It’s said that to this day he is still searching the forest for the magical bone. Next was the Jenolan Caves. We drove about two more hours into the mountains to get to them. The only way to get to them was on this super narrow, windy road on the side of the mountain, and it was so narrow that they close it off a specific times of the day so that the buses can go one direction with out falling off the cliff. It was the most terrifying bus ride I’ve ever been on. Once we finally got to the caves, we had lunch at the bistro, and we ate by a lake that was so clear and blue it looked fake, but it was natural and had to do with the minerals in the water. The Jenolan caves are the oldest caves in the world. They were pretty nifty. We went through the Lucas caves, named after George Lucas who discovered the caves. There were many different sets of caves that had different qualities, some had different crystals and some are more newly discovered and such. And just when Steph and I though we were in the clear with the stairs… we were wrong. So many stairs, and there were parts where even I–the vertically challenged–had to duck down a lot, especially when going up stairs, which were super steep at times. But it was so cool. They were so massive! And they were at one point under water, so that was cool to imagine, little fishies swimming by. They had the caves light up, and they demonstrated cave darkness and how the founders would have come through, and they showed us the original paths, which consisted of the scary ladders, and some stairways that ended in the air because the ladders are gone, and there was a portion (very steep) that was at one point used as a slide… It was really amusing because they would tell stories with the various stalag shapes. There was a cathedral with all the fixings, and a stage with the rolling stones, who then went to get booze and party at the tower of pisa, and a bride left at the altar by the runaway groom with the evil stepmother looming over head. We caught a glimpse of the river below, aptly named the river styx. At the end they had a light show with colored lights that was super cool. Only pet peeve I guess that I had was that people were so focused on taking pictures with all their varying devices, that it was distracting, and I don’t know how they even saw the places they were at, but maybe that’s just me, I fell like a few choice pictures are appropriate, but not every instant in existence needs to be photographed or filmed. Probably doesn’t help that my phone was pretty much dead from the get-go… Anyway, we got back on the bus for our return journey. We had to backtrack up that terrifying road, but we made it. Then we drove back through the countryside, which was beautiful (I slept through it on the way there because we were on the back of the bus where the air wasn’t really working and it was motion sickening). It had a very European feel, and there were a fair amount of trees turning colors since it’s fall here, it was nice to see. But little did we know that said return trip would take 5 hours… we did get a rest stop about halfway, and they played a documentary about kangaroos, which was actually awesome. That is until they pulled the standard nature documentary move, making you fall in love with a cute furry animal that eventually gets attacked and dies. But aside from that I learned that female kangaroos are awesome. They can choose the gender of their embryos, and they can also store a fertilized embryo for a number of months before they actually do the whole process of having a joey. And male kangaroos actually box. It’s how they determine who’s the alpha. And the behavioral patterns between the male and female kangaroos is very similar to that of humans, in case we need more reminders that we’re animals too. Kangaroos are adorable animals. By the time we got back to the city, we were very ready to get off the bus, and poor Steph was decidedly sick at that point (she had been getting worse throughout the day). We made a stop at Market City on our walk back and got Nando’s takeaway for dinner. Side note, I’ve decided that I’m very pro public transportation if it works. Buses are so/so, but the trams and trains are fantastic. Not once in Melbourne have I wished I had a car, or thought twice about not having one. Sydney is a little less convenient, but the trains are awesome, and its still quite feasible to not have a car.

Day 6: Friday
So our plan was to do another beach day and go to Manly Beach before going to the airport. But when I got out of the shower, it was pouring buckets. Steph thought it was me in the shower until she realized the sound was coming from the wrong side of the room… And apparently Melbourne is the only place that has the 10 minute down pours. We had to be out of the hotel room by 10am at the latest. So we packed up, left our stuff at the front desk,hit up 7/11 for brekkie, and ran over to Market City to hide out from the rain. But since it was ANZAC Day (I’ll go more into that in a minute) only the food places were open. We sat in the food court until lunch discussing books and movies and such. Then around 11:30 we decided we were hungry so we had lunch. By the time we were done it was noon, which is when everything else opened up. We wandered around and shopped, mainly because we were bored. And then we went down to the Paddy’s Markets, and got some cool stuff there. When we were all done with that it was about 3:30 and the rain had cleared. Steph and I wandered around China town for a while, and then back to Market City. We had decided to take the  train to the airport and had to leave around 5:30, so when the rain finally cleared, there wasn’t enough time to do the beach. We successfully took the train to the airport, which was convenient due to ANZAC Day, some of the roads were blocked off, and it dropped us off right at the check in for departures. We had dinner at Macca’s (McDonald’s) in the airport. If I don’t get sick from Steph, the little runt in front of use coughing every 30 seconds probably sealed the deal. So ANZAC Day. ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps, and its commemorating the day they landed at Gallipoli in WWII. It was the only time Australia has had loss of life in a war. It’s kind of a combination of the 4th of July and Memorial Day. It’s a country wide event, with services at dawn and dusk, and the soldiers wear their dress uniforms all day, but it’s a fairly somber event. All of the ceremonies are televised, Steph and I were able to watch some of them on the news while we were getting ready.

So that was our week in Sydney. I’m completely exhausted. And true to form, I have a fair amount of homework to catch up on now. But it was completely worth it, I’m so glad I went and that I got to see famous landmarks and such. It’s making me excited for my trip to Alice Springs in May.

Vocabulary: Stroller (like for babies)=Pram, Vegetables/Veggies=Veg

(sorry if there were any glaring typos)

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