Sydney is like London, except it's different...

Trip Start Feb 25, 2009
Trip End Jul 24, 2009

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Where I stayed

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Friday, March 6, 2009

I flew into Sydney last week, with very high expectations and I haven't been disappointed. I checked into my hostel (Wake Up Hostel) in central sydney on George Street. The hostel was nice and I was sharing a room with 5 others. I got the bottom bunk. 
It was quite early in the day so i decided to go for a walk around sydney towards the opera house and harbour bridge. The initial view I had on sydney was that it is similar to London. there are big buildings, lots of hustle and bustle, cafes, restaurants etc... at first look it's just a big city. over the next few days i realised that it is like London, but they appear to have corrected many of the weaknesses commonly associated with London.

I walked along george street and it took ages. the map wasn't drawn to scale so what i thought was a short walk turned out to be quite long. I went through the beautiful botanical gardens and got my first peek at the harbour bridge which dominates the skyline at the harbour. The views across the harbour are stunning and it's unbelievable that a look to the left shows a massive commercial city and a look to the right shows the opera house and harbour bridge overlooking the shimmering water on the harbour.I got to the harbour and saw a sign for the opera house. instead of following the sign, i naively thought i would walk round the harbour and approach it from the other side of the harbour bridge. so i walked, and i walked and i walked. after about 2 hours, i reached wooloomooloo and saw a map. this was the first time i realised that the harbour is huuuuuuuuuuge. you cannot just walk around it. that's why people get ferries from one side to the other. so i turned round and walked back, getting very lost along the way. i knew that as long as i could see the top of the harbour bridge i couldn't be that far from where i wanted to be. a couple of hours later i made it to the opera house. the opera house is beautiful. i took loads of photos of the opera house and bridge, so much so that the battery on my camera ran out so i didn't make it to the bridge on that day. instead i sat on the steps of the opera house and enjoyed the weather. it was a great situation to be in, but something was missing. those who know me well will know what the next logical step was to make the situation that little bit better and closer to perfect. so i took out my ipod, stuck my headphones in and turned on an episode of seinfeld (the puffy shirt, for those who care). at that point, everything in the world was awesome.

during my day, i didn't realise how hot it was so managed to pick up a slightly burnt nose. i spent the next few days looking very much like rudolph.i walked back to my hostel and met a few people in my room. we went down to the bar beneath the hostel and did a pub quiz. we finished about halfway down the leaderboard, which wasn't bad considering i was the only person on my team who spoke english as a first language. i found out lots of places to visit in australia from them and learnt a little bit about surfing. after a few drinks and games of pool, i headed to bed.
the next day i went up one of the pylons at the harbour bridge, saving myself about $170 which is the cost of climbing up to the top of the bridge. Then i got the ferry to taronga zoo which was brilliant. they have animals there i've never seen before like kangaroos and koalas and wallabies. just as a side note, kangaroos in the zoo do not hop. they walk everywhere. this was my biggest disappointment to date. lions and tigers and bears (oh my) although the lions were asleeeeeep. seemingly playing sleeping lions (sorry).i saw loads of animals but didn't go to any bird cages cos who cares about birds. then i heard a loud voice through speakers so followed the noise and stumbled upon a bird show run by the zoo. forget the sights in sydney, forget the ferry rides, forget everything else. if you only have 1 day in sydney, go to the zoo and see the bird show. wow. they have these birds trained like dogs. they do everything the trainer says, they fly where he says, they eat when he says, they appear from nowhere on cue. one of them will even fly into the crowd and steal money from your hand if you leave your hand open. it was unreal. then at the end he says something like, 'next time you're walking around, keep your eyes on the sky' and alllllll the birds appear from everywhere. doves and eagles and parrots and owls and they fly around. really, wow. at this point, i was in love with birds. i was rushing to get to the koala show, when a bird took a shit on my shoulder. i felt it, i waited and hoped it wasn't poo. it was. a big white poo on my right shoulder. all my love for birds disappeared in an instant. see the bird show, but don't be fooled. birds don't care for people, they are nasty animals.i met greg in the evening, who i know through lisa through laura. we went for dinner with his friends jess and claudia. and within 10 minutes, greg invited me to come stay which was amazing and proper nice! after dinner we went to the sheaf for a huuuge jew night. every wednesday night, all the jews go there and drink and have fun. i met loads of australian jews and tried to remember as many names as possible. pretty hard. the jews in australia and just like the jews in london. only more tanned.

i went to the sydney cricket ground and saw a morning's play between new south wales and western australia. i overheard the old australian men behind me saying western australia were crap. they were. and i payed $1 to watch for the whooooole day. that less than 50p. couldn't believe it, but now i know why australians love to watch sport so much. you can't buy anything in the uk for that price. anywherethen i went to coogee beach on the coast. as soon as i sat on the beach, i passed out. i slept on the beach for a while then got up and walked along the coastline down to bondi beach. the walk was great, and the views were amazing. pretty dangerous so close to the edge. i knew if anything happened to me though, that i would definitely be ok and come back soon, much like harold bishop in neighbours.i slept on bondi beach for a bit. the beach is beautiful and really big. my favourite thing about it is that it's only 20 minutes from the centre of town. so you could go during your lunch break. and there's sand, not stones like brighton.the weirdest thing about bondi is that it is a phenomenal illustration that coexistence does exist and can be a success. but not the coexistence that we are familiar with. this is coexistence between the surfer and the jew. about 30 seconds from the beach, the jewish area begins. i saw a mop being sold which had hebrew writing on it, and i knew i had arrived. i went past the kosher butcher to Katzys. a go myself a shnitzel burger which was delicious.  the day was long and i got back to the hostel about 9pm and chilled with the people in my room before hitting the hay. 

I checked out of the hostel and went up to the blue mountains. this is a 2 hour train ride to katoomba to the west of sydney. i took a bus tour around the blue mountains, getting off every now and then to take in the views. it's what i imagine the grand canyon looks like, although i've never been. and they aren't blue, my second sydney disappointment. but the views are breathtaking and the mountains are vast. i walked between some of the stops and stumbled across a really small chocolate factory. no charlie and his friends, just a house making and selling chocolate.before i got the train back to sydney, i decided to check that i had everything in my bag. as my train arrived i realised that i didn't have my camera. i emptied my bag on the platform, and watched my train pull away. i panicked and 'shat myself' to say the least. i ran out the station and found one of the buses from the tour. tmy camera wasn't there. panic continued to set in and i began to get very hot. then the driver called the other bus and it was on there. i cooled down, my heart rate slowed and i waited for the other bus to arrive. when i got it back i told the driver he was a life saver. bit of an exaggeration.i got the train up to greg's in north sydney. i quickly met his family before heading out for shabbas dinner at jonno's to celebrate his 24th birthday. i met a bunch more of greg's friends and they were very welcoming to me! they even made special kosher meat for me on the BBQ next to the pool. that's right. friday night is bbq night. as is every night. i couldn't believe that they actually bbq friday night dinner, it was awesome and everything i'd expected.  after dinner, i uploaded all my photos from sydney so far because i was still terrified of losing the pictures. i'm now checking for my camera all the time (like the michael mactinyre thing where you check for your passport in the airport, but with my camera instead).

The next day i went to manly beach. despite the name, it is for girls, not like yorkie. it's a huuuuuge beach and beautiful. the weather was amazing so i slept a little, paddled a little, sat a little, ate a little and watched the surfers a little. In the night, we went to greg's friend greg and james' house for drinks and stuff. i met loads of people and found out more about places to go in sydney. everyone was proper nice and were interested in my travels.
my last full day in sydney was spent at manly beach with tali and yael, both native aussies. we went to see the tour de cure boat race which is where people dress up funny and try to get from manly beach to shelley beach (quite a distance) in or on inflatable boats. it was hilarious to watch and loads of people got taken out by huge waves. i found out after this this was quite dangerous, but it looked funny to me. and nobody got hurts so all's well that ends well. i went back to greg's and chilled with his fam that night then left the following day. it was soooo good to stay at greg's for a few days. got a great bed, good shower, met loads of nice people and lived like an aussie for a few days before heading up north.

I'm reading down under by bill bryson and in describing how he felt about something different, he describes how i feel about sydney. he says without giving up any part of the life i have already, i want intensely to have all that in my life aswell.

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