After celebrating the holidays so wonderfully in Brisbane, we arrive in Sydney on Saturday afternoon, with absolutely no idea how we were going to spend the next few days. Why we do this, we do not know, but somehow it’s been working out….
We were staying in Bellevue Hill, just a quick walk from Bondi, at a great little apartment. Air bnb has been pretty darn good to us.
First order of the day was to get some wifi. Sometimes I think I might be a bit of an internet junkie. Okay, a lot of an internet junkie. But how else to keep in touch with the ones we love, and get updates on Jlo’s love life?
We ventured over to Bondi Road to find some interweb tubes.
Drats, no wifi , but beautiful shops and restaurants, and beautiful surfers just coming off the beach. Very, very good people watching. Ahem.
A homecooked dinner sounded really great, and we wandered up Bondi Road picking ingredients. What’s this? A fishmonger! You know, the clean, wonderful kind that doesn’t smell like fish? Flummoxed by the incredible selection, we finally chose a lemongrass and coconut milk marinated sole. Added a salad, jasmine rice, and some sauvignon blanc, and an amazing dinner ensued.
Next day we had plans to see our friend Cherie in the afternoon, so the morning was all about the Art Gallery of NSW. We drove through downtown and across the harbor bridge- it was the most scenic of indirect routes. Also, we were too lazy to actually walk across it.
The AGNSW was having a Francis Bacon retrospective, but we were unsure we’d have the time to do it justice, so we visited the main galleries. Wow. What a great museum. We spent a few hours there, and didn’t even make it through all of the galleries. Astonishing modern art collection.
We vowed to return, because Ahna had seen things I missed, like the spooky replicated basement (complete with musty basement smell) and the incredible indigenous art collection.
We strolled across the botanic gardens towards Darling Harbor, where we were to meet Cherie. Darling Harbour is the distillation of every tourist quarter you’d ever want to see. Hordes of people eating ice cream, children screaming on the playround, buskers and breakdancers everywhere.
Cherie found us, and with her adorable friend Susan in tow, she set out to show us the sights. We marched back across the botanic gardens to reach Mrs Macquaries Chair, the most advantageous viewing point for the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Cherie is the best tour guide- she’d been in town for a few days before we arrived, and already knew her way around. So we just followed her lead. For about 5 kilometers. We have the blisters to show for it!
Sydney was getting ready for New Year’s Eve, and people were already lining up at 5pm to get into the park at 10 am the next day. Now, that’s commitment.
New Year’s Eve was a beautiful day. I headed to the mall to pick up a few things, as I had strict instructions to send some starburst gummies to New Jersey. I do not miss shopping malls. It was a miracle I found our little car in the cavernous parking lot. Though I do have to say, the Aussies keep their public garage floors squeaky clean. Weird.
That afternoon our lovely friend Gisela met us at our apartment. Remember her? She stayed at the same hotel with us in Magnetic Island, and was in Sydney for New Year’s. It was back to the beach for us- we went to Bondi, laid in the sun and got bashed around in the surf. I loved Bondi- it was crowded and fun, the water was a little chilly, and the waves break just hard enough to be thrilling.
As it was our very first New Year’s in Sydney, we had no idea what we were going to do. Honestly, it was a little overwhelming. Over 500,000 people go to the city center’s beaches and harbors to watch the fireworks.
Or they rent a hotel room overlooking the water.
Or they book a cruise.
Unfortunately for us, we did not manage to do any of these things in advance. Fortunately for us, Ahna is a bit of a genius, and found us something to do.
But not just anything- an evening on Clarke Island National Park.
We got dolled up and took the ferry over to Circular Quay, where we caught another ferry to the island. It was so perfect on Clarke- there were blankets and throws and chairs on the lawn. Everyone got a picnic hamper, there was an open bar, a barbeque and an amazing live band.
We’d noticed a guy riding over on the ferry, and we got the vibe he was there by himself, so we buttonholed him and made him hang out with us. It was Brad from Boston, and he was indeed there by himself. He was a very good sport, hanging out with us girls.
The photos will never capture the fabulousness that was the fireworks display over the harbor. To keep us amused during the sunset there was a daredevil flight show. The pilot zoomed and looped under the bridge. Wild.
Sunset was stunning. And then the fireworks began. But wait! These were only the family displays at 9pm! We got two, count em, two displays! It was extra awesome, because one of the barges was about 100 yards our vantage point. So loud. So smoky. So pretty!
In between the shows there was a lighted boat parade. They sailed right past the island, and we all picked our favorites as the band played and the moon rose.
Midnight came around, and everything was bonkers. It was a little weird because there was no countdown, but we figured we were in 2013 when the fireworks started streaming off harbour bridge and shooting from the tops of the buildings downtown. Totally over the top.
Back on the ferry to Circular Quay, we played charades with our fellow passengers. Ahna had smuggled a glass of bubbles onto the boat, and we were all jealous. The only way home was via bus, and even though we had the crabbiest driver ever, nothing could dampen our mood. A once in a lifetime NYE celebration.
Okay, so we might have been a tiny bit hungover the next day, but there was more of Sydney, and the art gallery, to explore.
This time we got to see the Bacon exhibition, as a very kind security guard ushered us in (free of charge, natch). We really loved this museum.
Of course, it would not be a visit to Sydney without a trip to Manly Beach, so of course, we went. It was absolutely heaving with tourists- much busier and in our opinion, not quite as charming as Bondi. What is it with the speedos, middle aged european guys?
Ahna spotted a restaurant perched atop the public restrooms at Manly. Very strange, but a charming place. We stopped for a cocktail (hair of the dog) and some luscious oysters, and headed back to Circular Quay, where we met up with Brad, our victim from NYE.
The four of us had pizza and an evening trip back to Bondi Beach- what a great end to the first day of 2013!
Our last day in Sydney meant we had to bid farewell to Gisela, but we will see her again in Switzerland. Yippee!
Ahna and I went back down to the beach for a final swim in the Antipodes. We’ve spent so much time on the sand these last few months, it will feel very strange to be away from it. The weather was cloudy, a little windy, and Bondi was not very busy. We soon found out why: the wind blew in a swarm of bluebottles (pacific man o’ war jellyfish). They were washed up in the surf line at the beach, their little bubbly jelly bodies a beautiful cobalt blue. People were splashing around in the water, and there were several surfers out, so we figured it might be okay to swim. Didn’t even get a chance.
As we tiptoed along the shore, a wave washed over my foot. A wave in which a jellyfish was riding.
Ahna says I did an abrupt about face. All I remember was that I wanted to get over to the lifeguard to get some stinger spray. He grabbed my foot and pulled a few more blue tentacles off my skin, sprayed my big toe, and sent me on my way.
“What” you may ask “does a jellyfish sting feel like”? Well, let me tell you.
Imagine spilling a tablespoon of hot cooking oil on your toe. Suddenly, a swarm of wasps flies in and stings you in the same spot. And through the open door bursts a sadistic chef (Gordon Ramsay, maybe?) who applies tabasco and cayenne powder. After about 10 minutes the pain gets worse! I could not walk for a while- my entire leg hurt. So, it was not very nice.
I had to take some aspirin and wine. Then I felt better.
We popped into town for one final visit with Cherie, and she took us to the most amazing gelato place in King’s Cross- it’s called Messina, and if any of you are even thinking of going to Sydney, a stop at this joint is a must. The best gelato we’ve ever, ever had. We told you Cherie was a great tour guide!
It’s sad leaving Australia- such a big, beautiful, wild place. The people are loud and sunburned, the wine is cheap and plentiful, and the ocean bites (sometimes).
We’ll see you again you crazy continent/country!
Ahna and MB