Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Australia: A few Days in Sydney

On Wednesday night, Katie and I flew from the Avalon airport to Sydney. Flying together for the first time was kind of fun. We always travel to see each other, but have never traveled together! We got in a little after 7 p.m. and by the time we got to our hotel it was closer to 8. We had planned to take the train to central station, but we were "invited" to ride an airport shuttle directly to our hotel -- door to door in 20 minutes . . . except for the 30 minute wait due to traffic.

We got to our hotel and found something to eat. We were fairly close to Chinatown so we took in some of that faire. The hotel lobby area was pretty nice and the staff friendly and helpful. Our actual room was a little small, but had two twin beds and a decent bathroom -- we didn't really need more than that. The location was great, a little further south than Katie had thought, but ended up being perfect.

Thursday morning we walked to a cute cafe for breakfast. That ended up being bit of a hassle as they didn't take credit cards and Katie's ATM withdrew the money from her fund but never gave her the cash. We spent the rest of our breakfast time chasing down an ATM and her talking to her bank.

We then met up with one of those "free" walking tours advertised to tourists. I had wanted to do a walking tour because I thought we'd get to see a lot of the city, but even more so for the insider information we'd gather from the guide. It really was a lovely tour. We ended up walking by most of the sites on our list and getting to hear facts and stories about those places was awesome. (Free is in quotes because it's really a donation based service as that's how the "volunteers" get paid.)

We started our tour near St. Anthony's Cathedral,  this is the view from the back as the major street it was built on no longer exists! So this used to be the view everyone saw, now no one sees it. Sad.

We walked stopped in parks and near buildings, heard stories about the convicts coming from Great Britain and who the first governor was and how he worked with his architect to build most of the buildings in the city. We walked near Lindt cafe and heard the story of a lone gunman killing two people and holding 18 hostages in December 2014. They had a memorial out front and talked about the way it united the city. It was interesting to hear that this type of crime doesn't happen in Sydney or Australia often, if ever. It really shook them up and I realized how desensitized I've become to this type of thing.

We ended the tour in front of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and across from the Opera House. Both were on our list of things to see up close, but this is the closest we got to the bridge. Our plans to walk across it were hindered by weather the next morning.

We did get to tour the Opera House on Friday afternoon, see more photos below!

The view from the harbor of downtown Sydney.

On Thursday evening we headed out to sushi for dinner. The weather had turned dark and rainy soon after our tour so we walked to the restaurant (20 minutes) in the pouring rain. Dinner was wonderful and I was really glad went out. After dinner Katie treated me to "Matilda" the musical! That was spectacular. I've always loved the story, but the kid's acting, singing, and dancing was amazing. I just loved it!

The boy behind us got in a bit of trouble for photo-bombing our pic --I thought it was great that so many families were there!

Another highlight was finding out Aussies eat ice cream cones at movies and musicals!
I laughed when I saw huge men in suits eating them, but after I heard about the tradition
I had to do it too -- Yum! It's called a Choc-Top.

We walked back to the hotel afterwards, thankfully it wasn't raining. It was actually quite pleasant. On Friday, we opted not to walk the Harbor Bridge in the rain and instead stayed close to "home." We were really close to Paddy's Market - a souvenir market - so we spent a good while there checking things out.  

The rain died off just in time for lunch so we grabbed a ride on the free bus and headed up to the Opera House. We ate lunch right on the pier (photo below) where we could see the bridge and the opera house. It was lovely - and the food was delicious!

Next up: Sydney Opera House Tour!
I found the story of it's construction really interesting. They took submissions from architectures from all over the world and choose one from Denmark. His idea looked really cool on paper, but the reality of building it was nearly impossible. They weren't able to figure out exactly how to create the domes until after construction had started . . . a little like the Duomo in Florence! It took so much longer to build than they thought and cost so much more than they bargained for they ended up asking the architect to resign. They brought in a team of locals to finish the supervision of the project making several changes to the original design and function. Anyway, here's a few photos:

I thought their choice of coloring was interesting. This room was royal purple, in each hall the chairs, while amazingly comfortable (and designed by an ergonomic specialist) were bright colors like fuchsia and orange...

We were allowed to take photographs of  the inside of the symphony hall but no others. It was stunning (seats over 2000 people)

The tiles on the outside weren't white after all!

After our tour we headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. We stopped for gelato and then walked through several shopping centers on the way back. 

On our way out to dinner we took a scenic walk through Hyde Park and saw St. James' Church. We had seen it from the side the day before during our tour, but this view was awesome. We didn't stay long in the park though because we saw a rat run near our feet.

For dinner, we went out for Indian food. Katie had been craving dosas and found a place that served them. It ended up being more of a formal dining experience than we anticipated but it was lovely and delicious. 

I got us lost on the way home, but we ended up where we needed to be in the end. I love maps, but I'm really terrible at reading them.

I was flying out early afternoon on Saturday so we packed up our bags the next morning and took the train to the airport. They told me immigration would take a long time so I should go straight there after checking in, which was unfortunate as it made me say goodbye to Katie an hour earlier than I had hoped. (The line that was supposed to take a long time took less than 5 minutes).

Saying goodbye was hard. We had only been together for 7 days, which is 4 days longer than we've ever been together in the past 10 years, but still . . . my time with her was over and my time in Australia was over. It was time to get on a plane and go back to my family, my routine, my normal. I was so thankful for this trip to see a lot of cool stuff and this unique time to be with friends. So very Thankful.

 I posted a lot of photos on my blog, but there are even more on Facebook.

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