Trip Start Aug 15, 2008
Trip End Aug 14, 2009

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

14th April - Sydney

After we left Diane, Rodney & Lara, we caught a train back to Sydney where we stayed for another three enjoyable weeks. We stayed in a hotel at the corner of Hyde Park, a delightful formal park, flanked by St. Mary's Cathedral & overrun by sandwich eating Ibis.
Again bad weather followed us around the world - we must have displeased one of the Gods !
We had some lovely sunny days, though & most of the time it was quite warm, but we did have heavy rain & strong winds (not surprising as Sydney has 3 times the rainfall of London).

Sydney is very cosmopolitan, having accepted immigrants from all over the world (although we didn't see many Africans in Sydney). There are so many Chinese working in the city, the hotel & retail industries would collapse without them.

The integrated transport system is brilliant, a single Travel Pass covers you for trains, buses & the ferries. We liked the idea of hopping on & off them without paying each time. The only thing not covered was the Monorail which whizzes round Chinatown, Downtown & Darling Harbour.
We took the very fast RiverCat catamaran right up the river, past the Olympic Village, to Parramatta. This used to be a rough town populated by lager louts but it's cleaned up its act & is now just boring.

A "Push-Me Pull-You" ferry (it has two sharp ends & travels both backwards & forwards) goes up past the mouth of Sydney Harbour to Manley, a smart residential area which has some lovely walks around the rocky coast (of course they have surfing beaches as well).

We caught the bus to Bondi, the famous surfer's beach, which has lovely golden sand but is quite small being only half a mile wide. It must get packed out in summer, I think you are only allowed on there if you have a beautiful body - I didn't qualify. There were dozens of surfers in the water who all seemed to wait hours for the "big-one" before getting up & then they only went about 20m. Not very impressive !

We took another ferry trip to Watson Bay & did lunch at the famous Doyle's fish restaurant, it was superb. We could have saved money & had a cardboard box full of takeaway fish & chips from "Doyle's on the Pier" but it wouldn't have been the same.

We found a cosy little Thai restaurant in the University area; the food was all freshly cooked & you could BYO (bring you own) wine, very nice.

In town we did all the tourist stuff. The museum in Hyde Park Barracks told the fascinating history of the convicts that were shipped to Australia from 1788 to 1840. Previously, convicts had been shipped to American (not many people know that) but it was stopped after the War of Independence when the American settlers threw the British out.

The convicts in Sydney were put to work clearing the land for farming & creating a community in the area called "The Rocks". The official line towards the local inhabitants, the Eora Aborigines, was non-violent but the settlers stole their land & they were decimated by smallpox, many of the surviving Aborigines took to alcohol in despair.
In the early 1800's, Governor Macquarie used the talents of the convicts, especially architect Frances Greenway, to create many fine buildings & the road system of what is modern-day Sydney. Many of the convicts who were transported were skilled artisans, the stupid ones just got hanged.

The Sydney Opera House is magnificent, standing alone on Bennelong Point. One night we went to see "Jerry Springer - The Opera" it was f'ing brilliant, it broke the Guinness Book of Records for the most gratuitous use of the "F" Word in a musical. There was a good cast, lots of shouting, swearing & punch-ups - just like the TV Show.

We spent half a day at the Aquarium where, in addition to the exotic fish, they have several large tanks full of sharks, huge mantas & other large fish. These tanks have glass sides but also have glass tunnels running under them, so the fish swim right over you as you walk through - scary.

We enjoyed the Botanical Gardens which are 105 years old, they were originally the Governor's back garden but he donated the land to the city, so the city paid for the upkeep & he still had its use, crafty bugger.
We were taken on a guided tour around the garden by John, a lovely octogenarian who had been giving these tours for 25 years. He told us about the indigenous plants & trees, many of which only survive in this botanical garden, whenever he picked a fruit he said it was tasteless, in fact, he said that everything in Australia was tasteless (his words !)
He got upset about the bats (Flying Foxes) that roosted in the trees. They are a pest & kill the rare trees, they are not endangered but the Park Rangers aren't allowed to chase them away because they are protected by "do-gooders".
The Botanical Gardens are normally quiet & peaceful but every lunchtime, half of Sydney goes jogging through the park.

Sydney is famed for its diverse restaurants, we did our best to sample most types of food (with wine). We discovered Korean food in the bustling, vibrant China Town district. If you choose the BBQ you're served with raw meat which you cook on a table top Barbie. Your meal comes with 8 little dishes of spicy dead things - no, there wasn't dog on the menu (?)

Darling Harbour used to be a run-down dockland area until 21 years ago when it was transformed into a waterfront tourist trap. There is glitzy Cockle Bay Wharf, with its flashy cafes & restaurants & the overrated Harbourside Centre. We also found a cafe, The Pontoon, which served cheap food & beer.
Circular Quay, the city's transport hub, was one of our favourite places; it also had its glitzy restaurants on the waterfront terrace leading to the Opera House, but near the wharfs was "City Extra" restaurant, where you could watch the world go by as you sipped coffee. There were always street entertainers there, mainly aboriginals playing hot, swinging Didgeridoos to backing tapes.

On our last day we went up the Sydney Tower to the observation platform where you can see over all of Sydney, the trouble is there are so many other tall buildings around, you only get fleeting glimpses of the other landmarks between them.
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holly08121 on

P. Smith
So glad that you have been to Aus. Sounds like you had fab time. I thought Bondi bit of disappointment!

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