. Then we explore The Rocks which is an area by the docks filled with bars and restaurants. The thing that surprised me most about Sydney was the buildings. I expected lots of new modern buildings but around the dock area they have restored the old warehouses and so the architecture here is pretty impressive. We look for a bar that is not too fancy but has some character. This doesn’t seem to exist in Sydney CBD – a lot of the bars are Weatherspoon-esque hotel bars that have more gambling machines than patrons and can’t tempt us to part with our cash. We have since found out that licensing rules are different in New South Wales than Victoria and so bars tend to serve food/be part of a hotel to get a license hence big empty soul-less bars. We stumble across a bar which claims to be the oldest bar in Sydney – and it least has the character with bar stools at the bar and mosaic tiled floors. So we opt for a drink there before heading back to the hostel where most of our room is asleep (not sure how we managed to avoid the party rooms but very grateful for that).
Next day, more exploring of CBD. We went to Darling Harbour which has more restaurants around the dock area there before moving to the Radisson for a couple nights as a treat – courtesy of Jonny’s hotels points... these one’s earned slaving away in Manchester a couple of years back
! Then we had another walk around the Rocks, up to the observatory which overlooks Harbour Bridge and grabbed a quick lunch in a cafe nearby after searching for the Friday food market that chosen not to turn up this Friday. Next was a walk along the docks to the Opera House which doesn’t look quite as modern when you get up close and see it in daylight – still impressive architecture, especially when we realised that the opera house is actually three different buildings but from the angle photos are taken from you can’t usually see that. Then we took a walk through the botanical gardens which is a nice spot along the water. We saw a group of people and some metal poles set in the ground and so went over to see what was happening. Everyone was staring up at the trees and when we looked up we could see loads of flying foxes roosting in the trees. They are pretty disgusting looks (just like giant bats) but was amazing to be so close to them and see them stretch out their wings in gross detail. Apparently they have decided to stay in the botanic gardens but as they are killing the trees the authorities are trying different methods to get rid of them. The current tactic is to tag them all and then play a sonar sound round that area with the aim of annoying so much they move. They looked pretty happy where they were though. On our way back to the hotel we thought we would pick up a bottle of wine in the supermarket. Spent a good 15 minutes searching the supermarket for alcohol only to realise that supermarkets in Australia don’t sell alcohol and have to have a separate shop for alcohol sales (just one of Australia’s funny alcohol rules)
. So we leave wondering where we were to find a bottle shop in the CBD and next door to the supermarket there is a bottle shop attached to a bar. Not so sure this is the best plan if drunks can buy a bottle of liquor as they leave but I’m sure there is logic somewhere.
Back to the hotel to use the pool, steam room and hot spa – best take full advantage of the facilities while we’re here. Then we got too lazy to leave the hotel and actually ordered pizza to the door from Domino’s and watched films all night. Feel a bit guilty about getting to the lazy traveller stage but it was a much needed night of relaxation (especially considering the hostels that were to come)!
Saturday we’re fully refreshed and up for more exploring, this time the beaches that Sydney is well known for. Our first stop is Bondi Beach to meet some friends. Bondi is a big beautiful but busy bay, lots of people in the swimming zone – the lifeguards are pretty strict on this as the currents are strong and then surfers in the water as well. It has a nice buzz to it and although it’s known to be the touristy beach we quite like it. We sit and watch the world go by until we meet Garry and Jo. We met them in Bolivia through Jon and Jo, and they have since finished their travels, been back home and have moved out to Sydney to work. They are settled in Coogee Beach so we walk in that direction along the coast, stopping at several different beaches for a paddle – you can feel the currents no matter how deep you are in the water and see a couple of rescues over the course of the day but luckily no serious ones as the lifeguards are very much on the ball. We catch up on all their stories and chat about S. America before going for drink in a hotel bar on Coogee Beach. The bar is pretty hideous but it has a big balcony area so you can sit and look at the beach and ignore the inside of the bar. Then it’s back to Jo and Garry’s place to christen their new bbq. We have a very nice evening chatting, drinking Argentinean red and enjoying the bbq, even had kangaroo burgers!
When I say a new adventure, Australia feels like it's going to be more of a holiday as we have only a few weeks there and lots of friends to catch up with. We arrive into Sydney and stay at Wake Up hostel which is conveniently located opposite the train station. It’s a well decorated hostel but it’s big, very big and not quite what we’re used to. We’re staying in a 10 person dorm (as opposed to normally going for 4-6 people dorms). Plus it’s over £20 a bed, so Australia is going to be expensive then. Our first task is going to find some food we can afford so we head straight to Chinatown and stumble across a small Chinese place that serves giant portions of good food which does us nicely. Next on to a bit of exploring. We walk down George St to the waterfront and the first thing that I notice is the number of shops on one street. There is every shop you could want on George Street or one of the shopping malls that lead off it. Definitely a good place for shopping (when the Australian $ isn’t so strong!) We get down to the docks to see Harbour Bridge and the Opera House – both of which are lit up well