Sydney- First Pass

Ahhhh. I've finally returned to "western" civilization, and no longer need to worry about the water, carrying toilet paper, or being able to understand what's going on! It really was a relief to arrive in Sydney and feel back to normal. I mean, the dollar is practically one-to-one, so no math needed each time you want to buy something. Girding of the wallet is needed, however, because - as everyone kept telling me, constantly, - Australia and especially Sydney is expensive! I just couldn't stomach a $100/night hotel room, so I've hit the hostel circuit. I was talking to a guy from Perth in one of the airports (I think it was an endless customs line in Krabi?) who had recommended the YHA in Central Sydney, so I gave it a shot. I dumped my stuff in my dorm room (shared amongst a max of 4 girls), and grabbed the free Sydney guide to start exploring. I was meeting Gregg & Val for dinner later that evening (yay!), so no time to lose!

While on the metro towards circular quay (pronounced "key"), I was reading through the different walking tours,and we popped above ground. I looked up, and practically had to clap my hand over my mouth, because there it was, no preamble: they great & famous Sydney Opera House. Somehow I thought it would be a bit more hidden, but nope- right there in the heart of the busy harbor! I decided I needed to pace myself, and also needed food, so I headed over to the other side of the harbor, to The Rocks. I found a cute cafe that offered turkey sandwiches- heaven! Then I wandered around towards the Harbour bridge, all the while trying not to take a photo every two steps. It was not a pretty day, quite overcast, and I kept thinking that I didn't want to take tons of pictures in such blah weather. But it's hard. It's just such an interesting building, and so iconic, it's hard to take your eye off it. I couldn't resist any longer & made my way back around the quay to the steps themselves. They're adding a new delivery garage under the steps, so unfortunately there was quite a bit of construction out front, but once on the steps you don't even notice. The biggest thing that impressed me was the tile-work. A bit like the Taj Mahal, the details up close are almost cooler than the gorgeous distance photos. I also love how you can actually see through & around so many parts - it really is an ingenious design, and I definitely will have to take the full tour when I swing back through.

But now I wanted to see one of the vistas, so off I went on the walk along the water through the botanical gardens. Sydney knows how to do parks, btw. These gardens are insanely gorgeous, which was a good thing because I didn't feel bad resting my throbbing toe from time to time. I even saw a wild cockatoo just flying around! (At the time, I didn't know just how common they are down here). Anyway- very pretty walk, which I wish I could've enjoyed more, but the rain was coming a bit and again, my foot wasn't in tip-top shape, so once I got around the next point, I got on the first bus that was headed into town. I had to stop & swap busses anyway, so I also checked out Hyde Park and the cathedral right there (both also gorgeous). I tried to peek in the cathedral, but they were just starting the 5:30 mass, iso I didn't stay long, besides, I had to get ready for an actual night out in a place where I didn't exactly want to look like a schlubby backpacker! I got to meet the two girls sharing my dorm, ironically both also named Julia! Both were in the process of moving to Sydney for school/work, so they were stressed & not big partygoers- yay again!

After throwing on one of my new dresses from Hoi An & freshening up, off I went to find one of Anthony Bourdain's stops from his Sydney episode, as picked by Val (who made sure they went to all of his selections!). Super cool place, and so fun to catch back up on G&V's adventures, and really just to be with friends again. We made plans the next morning to meet up the next morning with another friend who happened to be in town on business, and called it a night (I was still fairly tired from the red-eye the night before). What I didn't realize until the next morning was that I'd lost 3 hours to the time difference, so the nice & easy 11am meeting time all of a sudden meant an early-feeling morning for me! Throw in a frustrating FaceTime call (thanks to an iffy wifi signal at the hostel), and quickly I was running late. So, of course, when I got to the metro/bus station we were supposed to meet at, there was no sign of them. I figured they would've gone on to Bondi Beach, so I hopped on the next bus, feeling sure I'd run into them eventually. I did, of course, but not before I wandered up & down the Main Street of Bondi, having brunch on my own, and setting out on the sea-side walk to Coogee beach. I was loving it soo much, and wandering along soo slowly, that we finally found each other on the path. Seriously, it's one of the more spectacular 3k walks you can probably do. Plus, the clouds from the day before were staying off-shore, so the weather was gorgeous.

Back in Coogee we grabbed a bus all the way back to Circular Quay (free city tour!), and then hopped on a ferry to head to another cute beach area- Manly Beach. Such a pretty ride, of course, with more freaking over Harbour views (sadly, the sun was hiding again). When we got to Manly, we loaded up on candies from this awesome candy-cart, and wandered over to the beach. This one seemed even bigger than Bondi, but also much more chill. There was some sort of girls surfing club practicing on one end of the beach, and cute kids & birds everywhere else. We finally got hungry & found a place with cheap margaritas & tacos. Yummm! We tried to time the ferry back with sunset, but we were a smidge early, and the clouds were rolling in again. Still such a great scene to heat into though. I don't think I would ever get tired of it, similar to how I feel about the Golden Gate. We called it a night pretty early though, because we had a super early pick-up the next day for our fabulous day trip up to the Hunter Valley! I'll get to that in the next post.

Here are a some several pics from my first couple days in Sydney: