"I Can't Believe My Eyes!"

Trip Start Dec 29, 2012
Trip End Aug 15, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Sunday, March 10, 2013

After landing in Sydney, we found out how easy it is to get around.  There is a train that takes you straight into the city - the central train station where you can hop on trains to get you anywhere! We were staying at a youth hostel right downtown, across the street from the central station.  

Our first order of business was to look for food.  So we checked in and then headed out exploring. Chinatown was very close and we found a huge shopping centre with a food court, so noodles for dinner it was!  There was also a grocery store there, so we stocked up on a few things for breakfast.  The hostel was very busy but we had a private room and there was a small rooftop swimming pool that the boys could hang out in.   This is where I wrote the South American blogs as we bought a week's worth of wifi that worked great! A luxury in Australia to be sure! 

Over the next few days we took in the sights of Sydney.  The Powerhouse Museum was a huge hit with all of us.  The exhibits were so well done and varied.  We played retro PacMan, saw lace art, space paraphernalia, environment displays, the list goes on and on.  After spending much more time than we thought, we had a Hannah's Pie - the best pies in Sydney (sister to Harry's Pie Truck - thanks to Janel for that helpful hint!)  We spent the evening at Darling Harbour and the Chinese Gardens watching the sunset as Aiden ate his crocodile caesar salad.  

 The next day we took the train to Circular Quay.  Getting off the train, Caleb's eyes grew like saucers and he exclaimed, "It's the Sydney Opera House!  I can't believe my eyes!"  He was very excited to see such a famous landmark in person.  Let's see if he has similar reactions to the Effiel Tower.  We took a ferry to Cocktoo Island, a famous tourist destination in the harbour.

 Cocktoo Island has a long and varied history dating back to the Aboriginals who used it as a fishing / camping space.  The the early 1800's it served as a prison for the worst kind of offenders. The soldiers / prison guards actually locked themselves up at night and stood watch from inside their own guardhouse.  The prisoners cut sandstone from the island itself to build their own prison and were made to cut huge barrels into the stone to serve as grain storage.   After it's stint as a prison, the island served as a ship building place, a dock for a ship home of orphans, a technical college, and played a large part for the Australian Navy during the war.  There were tunnels we walked through that were built as shelters. I find it interesting to learn about the Australian part of World War II.  It isn't documented much in the history books at home, but we have heard that certain ports in the Northern Territory were bombed worse than Pearl Harbour.  There are memorial stones at almost every beach we visit on the East Coast.  We spent quite a while on Cockatoo Island, but the boys were disappointed to find no Cockatoos.  

We decided not to partake in the famous "Bridge Walk" where you get harnessed up and taken across the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.   It is something we wanted to do, but it was rather costly no matter how many positive reviews it received.  We walked across the bridge on the footpath instead and rode the train back to the hostel.
At the hostel we learned the hard way not to store our food in the kitchen as someone stole our bread we had bought for our breakfast.  Henceforth we only bought non-refrigerated items and had them locked in our room.  It's unfortunate these things happen, but it seems to be a regular thing at this hostel as I heard women screaming in the kitchen at a food thief.  
One day we took a ferry across the harbour to visit Manly Beach.  A beautiful surf beach where we ate fish and chips for lunch and watched school kids take surfing lessons.  We had a great beach day reading, playing water ball and relaxing.

 We spent a day at the Royal Botanical Gardens, which were amazing!  We walked around the Parliament House which housed the head of government in the 1800's.   Beautifully manicured lawns, sculptures and best of all - Cockatoos!  The boys loved the fact that there were wild parrots flying everywhere in the gardens. They also loved the eels that lived in the pond and threatened to bit their fingers as they dipped them in.  We spent a relaxing afternoon here, even napping a bit after the school groups left.  Then we headed over to the Opera House for a guided tour.

The Opera House tour was interesting as we learned about how it almost was never built.  The design itself was rejected at first and only chosen after second and third thoughts.  Luckily though, it was eventually picked but there were many obstacles to overcome - budget wise and even the engineering of building the shape.  The architect was Danish and was asked to resign half way through the project by a new government.  It took fourteen years to build and at more than twice the original budget.  Although we were able to see the theatres and Jim even snapped an illegal picture, I would have liked to have gone to a performance.  

My cousin Kirsten joined us the next day.  She has been working in a town called Tamsworth and snagged a day off to come visit us.  We were so happy to see her!  We went to the Maritime Museum and toured some fantastic boats!   There was a military submarine and warship, a tall sailing ship, and an authentic replica of James' Cook's ship, The Endeavor. We heard volunteers telling wonderful stories of history and the James' Cook ship has been sailing around the world to the places where it originally explored, Canada being one of them.  

Our last day in Sydney was spent at world famous Bondi Beach.  We took a bit of a bus ride to the beach and set up on an already busy strip of sand.  This beach is well known for surfing and for a TV show called Bondi Rescue where they film the Lifesaving Club performing rescues at this very busy place.  They happened to be filming while we were there and the boys were very enthusiastic as they ran past the camera several times, hoping to be caught on film!  Luckily none of us needed to be rescued!  By the time we left, the beach was thoroughly packed with barely any spots to sit between the red and yellow swimming flags.

By the time we got back to the city, it was time to grab our bags and race to the airport.  Quick goodbyes to Kirsten and we were off, back to "The Greatest City in the World?"

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Kelly on

Sounds like Sydney was really fun. The Opera House is so cool. Wish we could see the Bondi Rescue show to see if the boys made it through editing. It'd be awesome if they ended up on the show.

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