Saturday, 29 June 2013

Skipping over to Sydney

Our trip to Melbourne was a short one at only 2 weeks, holiday allowances and real life prevented us from going for longer, but naturally we wanted to see as much as we could. Before we travelled, we bought domestic flights to Sydney for an overnighter during the second week of our trip.

We booked through Jetstar which is an Australian budget airline to travel early on a Tuesday morning (flight time 85 mins) and return on Wednesday evening, which cost $136/£90 each including booking fees. As we were there for one night only, we took just hand luggage. We used our return ticket for the shuttle bus from our hotel to the airport, although as we landed back in Melbourne late on the Wednesday night, we had to take the Skybus from the airport back to the City ($17 each) and then the tram back to our hotel.

Sydney is incredible. We travelled mid May so the getting deeper into Australian winter, but the weather in Sydney was much better than in Melbourne, and we had two very warm sunny days. When we arrived we took the Airport Link (approx $16) train straight to Circular Quay and stopped for a coffee overlooking the harbour and the incredible Sydney Opera House. We strolled into the Botanical Gardens and then around the harbour to The Rocks, where we visited the tourist information centre to pick up leaflets, and found a cafe for a breakfast burrito. Our bags were getting heavy so we took the 555 free city shuttle bus down to Museum to find our hotel and drop our bags off.
The Opera House
Harbour Bridge

City from the Opera House

Harbour

Harbour Bridge
We stayed at the Cambridge Hotel ($119) in the leafier Surry Hills area, which I'd booked through booking.com. Our room was pretty nice, a decent sized twin room with a bath and shower and mini bar. I always thought that Sydney was far more spread out that it is, so I was expecting far more of a mission to reach our hotel, but it was easy peasy. My only real gripe with it was that they charged for wi-fi. I mean, who does that, in this day and age!? In Australia, loads of bars and cafes have free wi-fi so I decided to forgo it on this occasion.

Bags dropped, we headed back to the 555 route bus stop to travel the rest of the circular route back to the Quay and took a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art. My mum, bless her, contemporary art isn't really up her street, and I must admit I can find it pretty puzzling, so while we walked around I tried to understand the point of all the installations and exhibits, but she just assumed her usual position of muttering, "weird... weird" until we left. The Museum has a sweet little shop selling all manner of interesting gifts and books though, so naturally we had a potter. Kati's main thrill in life is a gift shop.

We took another coffee stop and bought our tickets for the ferry to Darling Harbour ($5.80 each). We must have timed this trip just about right, as we ended up making the trip just as the sun began to set so I got some gorgeous shots of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, and it was a very peaceful ride. It was interesting to see the other people on board as some, like us were tourists, but others were just commuters. And what a commute. I know we have our Thames Clippers, which I haven't yet had the pleasure of using, but we rarely actually have the weather to make it as spectacular as this trip.
The Opera House from the Ferry 
Harbour Bridge just before sunset
Sunset from the ferry
Once there, we took a walk around the shiny new Darling Harbour area, crammed with restaurants and bars, all with various happy hour offerings. We walked past Madame Tussauds and spied an actual koala in a tree in the foyer, so ogled him for a while before I got totally papped with Eric Bana, awkward.
I promise there's a koala in there
Chillin' with Eric
Darling Harbour also has a big entertainment centre with cinemas, a Chinese Garden (alas, shut by the time we got there), a shopping centre and galleries and museums. We took a wander around the Harbourside Shopping Centre, and spent a while chatting to an English ex-pat who ran an Aboriginal art shop. We headed back to a restaurant my sister's friend had recommended, The Helm, where we both tucked into enormous seafood paellas at $25 each, and glasses of wine for $5 each. Helm does daily offers on food, but that night was steak night, and neither of us fancied it, but a $10 steak is surely not to be sniffed at. We sat outside as it was a lovely evening, overlooking the Harbour. It was very quiet due to being a Tuesday night, so we had the barman's full attention. As we rocked up at about 18:45, he suggested we ordered two drinks each before the 7pm deadline for happy hour, and he'd bring over the second when we were ready, which was very nice of him. The dinner was luscious, and sated us entirely. I do hate a seafood paella which has a couple of measly prawns in, but this one was massively generous. Afterwards we started to walk to find some transportation back to our hotel, but ended up being able to walk it in just over 20 minutes which shows how easy it is to get around Sydney.

On Day 2 we checked out, but were able to leave our bags with the hotel, so we hopped straight on a 333 bus to Bondi Beach, which took about 20-30 minutes. Bondi is spectacular. I loved it and wanted to stay all day and just stare at it, but with only a day left in Sydney we knew we had to head back, so we grabbed a hearty breakfast (God, avocado with everything, I love this place) and bussed back to the city and to the Domain and Botanical Gardens.
Bondi
Me on Bondi rocks
Bondi
Bondi Brekkie
We entered the parkland at noon, and as we did, hundreds of city workers poured in in their sports gear. Everyone was running, playing football or frisbee and generally exercising (there was a half marathon on the following weekend, so I expect many runners were training for that). And after seeing the runners and surfers at Bondi that morning, it was clear that it would be difficult to live in Sydney and not exercise. The weather and the open spaces are made for it.
Botanical Gardens
The City from the Domain
After wandering through the Botanical Gardens we decided to hit the shops so headed back on the 555 bus to George Street where the shops are at. I found a Kinokuniya bookshop which I loved, after experiencing the store in Tokyo last year, selling loads of Egnlish, Japanese and Chinese books which I loved browsing and could have spent all day in. Then we headed down to Paddy's Markets and Chinatown. When we reached the market, we headed up the escalators and found ourselves in Market City which wasn't quite what we expected as this was more of a mall than a market. Mum nursed a cup of tea as her little legs were hurting while I scoped out our surroundings. It was basically a mall stuffed with discount stores, so I found a Cotton On and Cotton on Body outlet, in which I picked up yet more cute PJ shorts, and once she'd recovered mum picked up a silk robe like she'd been looking for for $10.

We stopped a passer-by and found that the actual market was downstairs, and there we found a much more markety vibe, with knock-off handbags and tonnes of cheap souvenirs, way cheaper and exactly the same as we'd seen in more upmarket gift shops, so we stocked up on as much as we'd be able to fit in out hand luggage. For mum, this was tea towels galore, and for me, a set of wooden Aborigine style coasters which were $10 instead of the $18+ I'd seen them sold for in Melbourne.

Late afternoon, we headed back to our hotel to pick up our bags, and took a wander along Surry Hills' Crown Street were we found vintage shops and opp shops galore. We picked up a tasty burrito from the very cool Cantina Mobil and made our way to the station where we found a nearby bar with wi-fi for a quick drink and email check, and then we were on our way Melbournewards once more.

I loved Sydney. I loved Melbourne. I can't decide which I liked better. I feel closer to Melbourne but I spent 12 days there, compared to 2 in Sydney. I found it perhaps a shinier city, and everything was more compact, whereas Melbourne is rather sprawling. The weather is generally better too from what I gather, it certainly was for those two days. But then the people in Melbourne seemed friendlier. I would jump at the chance to spend more time in both cities so I could decide! Any offers to take me back?