Sydney - we're sold

Trip Start Nov 12, 2007
Trip End Aug 01, 2008

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

After leaving Port Stephens we headed to Leura in the Blue Mountains for 2 nights. This was to be one of the highlights of the trip as there was lots of viewpoints and sightseeing opportunities just a few minutes drive from where we were staying. Unfortunately, the rain and mist descended and we couldn't see any further than about 50 yards the whole time we were there. A big disappointment so moving swiftly on.............

We headed into Sydney, which we hoped would lift our mood and after some stressful moments driving into the city centre, to get to our hotel and return the hire car ( involving a 3 point turn in a (three busy lane)one way street we had accidentally driven up) we got straight out of the hotel and headed towards the harbour.

Of course the Bridge and opera house are the famous icons and Rob took numerous photos within a few minutes. Both seemed smaller somehow, but still impressive. We walked along the harbour front through the attractive botanical gardens. Neither of us could quite believe we were actually in Sydney!

True to form, the next day we set off on foot to see as much as we could. We started off with history and took a guided hour and a half walk through the old settlement area known as The Rocks. This was where the original convicts were brought and where the city of Sydney began. There are still some of the original structures in place and it was a good way to get lots of info to the set up and lay out of the city.

We couldn't resist any longer, so we walked across the Bridge and got some excellent views of the harbour and opera house from across the water. An A+ moment. Next we headed into the entertainment / shopping area of Darling Harbour, before heading back to the Opera House for a very enjoyable tour. The performance that evening, in the Concert Hall, was The Messiah. The choir were warming up while we were doing the tour and we were allowed to see inside the hall while they were there. I think the hairs on the back of everyone's necks stood up when we heard them singing, it was a memorable moment and we wished we had tickets to see the performance, the atmosphere must be second to none when the whole auditorium is full of their voices.

We went down to the harbour in the evening and that is special as well as the Bridge and harbour are lit up. It is a great place to people watch. There are all the tourists, all the business people packing out the bars and restaurants (especially now it is Christmas) and there are the opera goers dressed up to the nines. Some beautiful evening dresses on display.
For our second full day, we wanted to make the most of the sunny weather, as it has been in short supply over the last few weeks in Sydney. They has been 42 consecutive days of storms down the East coast and in Sydney, some parts have had hailstorms with hail the size of cricket balls. We took the local bus to Bondi Beach (yes I know - Rob will be a bus convert by the time we get back). Here we watched the surfers and the beautiful people and Rob went into to take on the waves (between the flags and only up to his waist if you are reading this Cindy). We walked along the coastal trail to a quieter resort around the corner and the surfers there were more impressive still. In the evening, Rob did his bridge climb (see below).

Saturday, we took the catamaran across the Harbour to Watson Bay, which is also popular with the locals because of the beaches and the legendary fish and chip / seafood restaurants on the front. We did a walk along the coastal path and got some stunning views looking back to Sydney's skyline in the distance. The waters were full of boats and there seemed to be a sailing competition on. Looking down on the whole scene, the waterways look like complete chaos: ferries, catamarans, private speed boats, windsurfers, yachts, sailing boats and seaplanes taking off and landing. There must be navigational rules but it was hard to work out what they were.

After the scenic and sunny walk at Watson's Bay we headed back to the centre and caught the (double decker) train further out and then walked back via some of the parks in the city.

Sunday, was a completely different day. I have a cousin who lives in Sydney and I have never met him. So before leaving the UK we agreed to meet up. Steve collected us from the hotel and took us to his house for lunch with Henrietta his wife, his 3 children and their great Labradoodle "Monte". It rained, so our walk to the beach, where they filmed Home and Away and further up the Manly beach were curtailed, but still interesting to see. It was good to be in a domestic environment and have a home cooked lunch whilst hearing all about what it is like to be an ex-pat living in Australia. We got the ferry back from Manly to Sydney centre, this would normally be a highlight of a visit to the city as you get great views of the bridge etc without the expense of an organised cruise. Unfortunately, it wasn't so great in the rain, but at least it is still warm even when the skies are grey.

We leave Sydney on Tuesday (18th) morning and are taking a few days to drive down to Melbourne for Christmas. There will be a few stops en route, but probably at fairly quiet resorts.

There is a real buzz about Sydney, if you are a young professional, it must be a great place to live and work , with all the leisure opportunities on your doorstep in the evenings and weekends. Especially, if you want to make the most of the outdoors, without having to go to far, or with the benefit of good public transport. There is more of a buzz because of all the Christmas lunches and parties going on as well. Rob went out running on Sunday morning and passed a few nightclubs about 9 am. There were still  inebriated people staggering out to go home after all night sessions. We have only seen the touristy parts of Sydney but have read about the less desirable areas. We are probably seeing it through rose coloured glasses, but it has been our favourite city break ever with so much to do.   E x

Bridge Climb was fantastic. Took about 3.5 hours all in but first hour was spent getting kitted up and training. You are dressed a bit like batman grey suit and utility belt (no cape or mask though) and are allowed no loose personal items like watches cameras etc. Even handkerchiefs are supplied and attached and glasses fixed on. When you are being kitted out and are given the instructions you start to feel like you are about to risk life and limb but in reality you are just going up ladders and along platforms and you are attached to the bridge at all times by a chain as used by round the world yachtsmen so no fear involved. There were 10 of us and a guide doing the climb and the views are wonderful. You can see for miles (ironically all the way to the blue mountains!) and out to the Pacific ocean. I did the twilight climb which is 3 views in one because it was sunny going up and then you watch the sunset as the sun disappears over the horizon and then the city lights come on and you see the city by night (as real bats fly around).

Bondi was great too. You stand yards from the beach water hardly over your knees and the waves come in every few seconds often at eye level and some big enough to knock you over.Well I think thats fun anyway.

Please nobody ever ask about the 3 point turn!

Collected the Sydney Cricket ground photo as well in case anyone was worrying (had to go there on my own though) 3 down 3 to go. R
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