First off, anyone that doesn’t understand the title ‘Sydney BABY!’ needs to get into their 1990s American sitcoms a bit more. Or maybe we need to get into them a bit less – Tomato Tomaato (that makes no sense).
Our time in Australia consisted of: a week or so with my Auntie and Uncle, in the Hunter valley / Newcastle area in New South Wales (which Charlie has covered here); just under a week in Sydney (including NYE); and just under a week in Melbourne…
Charlie has already said in her post that we found Sydney to be a bit too touristy – and that’s true – it is. Probably no more so than London – or certain parts of London; but it didn’t feel very ‘Australia’ to us – or if it did – it was posing as Australia in a manner that tourists would expect… That plus there were literally millions of tourists everywhere (including us).
That said, for a few nights we stayed in a room in Double Bay through AirBnB (Double Bay is so-called because it has 2 bays – you have to love Australia’s approach to naming stuff) . The room itself was a bit drab & dirty – we were basically in student digs. It’s funny how somehow I now judge these digs as inadequate; whereas a mere 10 years ago (urgh) I’d have thought them quite plush.
However, the area is really quite nice (also known as ‘Double Pay’), and slightly less touristy. We were mainly there as it was a lower cost option for New Year as it required a short train journey to the centre (God forbid); but on the days that surrounded, we found ourselves really enjoying the suburb. In addition to our experience of Newcastle, it really got us thinking about Australia as a place to live.
The streets were lovely, calm, safe, filled with plenty of decent shops / restaurants; and on our doorstep there was a small beach with a cordoned-off swimming area in the sea (to keep those pesky sharks out). You can see a rather average iPhone picture of thee swimming area & beach below. The swimming was great, and the beach was relaxed and lovely.; it felt safe to leave your stuff while you swam (may not have been, but we got away with it). A 40 minute walk would get you into Sydney centre, or better still (in the heat); a $3 subway ride would achieve the same thing.
This is one of many things that I’ve spotted about basically everywhere we’ve been to so far – public transport. It’s a big f*cking deal, and our government (UK) don’t do anything about it anymore (save for a few local councils). It is cheap as hell to get anywhere in most of these countries. In Aus, it cost us $19 (£12) to get from Sydney to Newcastle – a 2hr train ride… It then only added $5 to our cards for us to return to Sydney! Would be £70 ($120) in the UK, or double it for the return journey. Getting around Sydney – on Ferry, or train, or bus – dirt cheap – cost around $5 for a 20 minute ferry ride from Sydney to Cockatoo island.
You may argue their taxes are higher so it goes into the coffers to subsidise public transport – but you’d be wrong – taxes are virtually identical from what I can tell (sad, but I did look – after all – you never know, we may move there). This is SO important; it really opens the country & cities up; making social & professional mobility a very small problem – as opposed to a massive one. I mean it’s not like society has actually adopted remote working & video conferences – we’re human – the technology is there – but people don’t like it; it’s not the same as seeing each other in person; and it never will be (this comes from someone who’s incredibly supportive of tech development generally).
OK – sorry – wasn’t intending to rant – but I’m in Chile and wine is £1.50, and I’ve drank some (a lot) of it.
One highly recommended thing to do in (or near) Sydney is to visit the Blue Mountains. We actually did this from Newcastle – as we had more time to make it happen from there, so we travelled down and stayed for a night. But it’s far closer to Sydney if you’re ever there. Our expectations weren’t that high of the Blue Mountains thanks to the Aussies we met in Nepal, who said – and I quote ‘now you’ve seen this [Himalayas], the Blue Mountains are gonna suck’. I’m pleased to say I disagree, well – at least a bit.
We enjoyed exploring the Wentworth falls, three sisters, and numerous other short strolls around the Blue mountains region and you can see plenty of pictures of this in the Galleries. We stuck around for sunset too, which frankly was beautiful (see picture below). There’s a light mist that comes from the eucalyptus oil from the trees mixing with dust & water vapour ; which gives them their name – as the light that refracts is blue in colour; this really adds to the drama of the scenery. The waterfalls are great too, but heavily occupied with tourists (like us), which makes taking decent photos difficult. For a decent waterfall picture you need 15-20 seconds of exposure time without someone getting in the way.
Oh well! Still, they’re definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. There’s plenty more to do there beyond walk if you’re interested too; although if you like walking – you could adopt Charlie’s approach, which was to stomp around and sing really loudly so as to scare the snakes away… I’m sadly in no position to say it didn’t work… It may have. Charlie and I went for a brief drive after sunset to enjoy the local cuisine in a nearby town… A placec they call ‘Nando’s’… Lovely stuff. Although they dont do the Halloumi side like in the UK – very disappointing.
After new year’s eve, which Charlie covered here ; Charlie and I opted for lodgings on Cockatoo island. This is an island that has history as a war-time shipyard, a prison – and now a tourist attraction. It’s a strange place, with fantastic views of the city harbour. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend visiting just to see the old factories & a few informative signs (but then I’m not that into history)… But I would recommend the lodgings.
We stayed in a tent with two camp beds, bedding, shared toilets / showers etc – but it was really quite nice. The ferries are regular enough for it not to be a problem; although they have some strange rulings around the bringing of alcohol on to the island – and they do search you when you arrive (not especially well, mind). Sunrise is beautiful on cockatoo (see below), and night-time can be quite special too (see the gallery).
Sydney harbour is, of course, fantastic. At NYE it was amazing to see the fireworks, but even on the average night, the scenery was spectacular. The featured image at the top of this post was taken from Luna Park, and there are more photos of that in the galleries. The park was great & there is another one in Melbourne. Point being that Sydney at night is lovely and quite magical. Perhaps because somehow it feels less full of tourists.
Sydney’s Food & drink
We ate & drank out quite a lot in Sydney, and enjoyed some fantastic food and drink. You can see our TripAdvisor profile here, which gives you some idea. The diversity & quality of food is fantastic in Sydney – which you’d expect. It is also possible to get a reasonable value meal if you look hard.
We also gave the zoo a go… now it is a great zoo – and we love animals, which is why we went. As zoos go, Sydney is pretty damn good – wide selection of animals; a clear devotion to the causes of those animals and a great view of the city in the background from parts of the zoo. You can see a cheeky Giraffe below and some more pictures in the gallery…. However, a completely honest statement from us – albeit a little dramatic – is that we’ve decided not to go to zoos anymore.
Now, that’s not some altruistic statement, nor some misunderstanding of how zoos contribute to the wellbeing of animals in the wild nor treat them in captivity. It’s simply that we’re a bit tired of seeing animals in captivity. It’s not that we believe it’s cruel (although in some cases, it clearly is) – it’s just not real. I’m sure if / when we have kids this view will likely change – for good reason (education) – but for now that’s enough. Given that we did go though; here’s a Giraffe (and others to be seen in the gallery of course):
Well I was going to include Melbourne in this post, but can see it’s already too long, so I shall save that for another post – and then we can compare… Sydney vs. Melbourne – from an independent Pom’s view.
Thanks for reading 🙂