October 27, 2016

Exploring Sydney

I'm picking things up with our trip to Australia by starting off where we did - in Sydney! Sydney is the most obvious starting point for any trip to Australia from the U.S. I know that Quantas does a flight from LA to Melbourne but all other airlines only fly to Sydney.

When we arrived in Sydney, it was the first nice weekend of spring. It was a little cold for me coming from DC summer but everyone was enjoying the first weekend of warmer weather and it was a great atmosphere. I have never in my life seen so many runners out and about in one city!

Day 1, Friday: We arrived in Sydney after a glorious first class flight  and made our way to our AirBnB in Darlinghurst on the edge of Paddington. Darlinghurst was an adorable neighborhood with tons of shops and restaurants and fairly central to the city. I had been nervous about staying there because it was outside the Central Business District (CBD) but after a few days exploring, I realized that we made the best choice possible as the CBD feels more like NY'S financial district, mostly being office buildings and a few hotels and virtually shutting down on weekends.

We got to our place, freshened up, and decided to walk to the Sydney Harbor. Our hosts told us about a great bakery in the neighborhood which we stopped at for a quick bite. Kurtosh is named for traditional Hungarian pastries that are a cross between a pretzel and a croissant and are delicious! We opted for the cinnamon sugar and it didn't disappoint!

Properly fed, we made our way to the Botanical Gardens and wandered through the gardens toward Sydney Harbor, where we caught our first glimpse of the famed Opera House, and it was ten times more magical than I thought it would be.

We kept walking through Sydney Harbor and eventually made our way further into the CBD to pick up a free walking tour we had read about.  The tour lasted three hours and was a fantastic introduction to the city! We learned so much about Australia's history, which I really didn't know much about. We learned about Australia's convict past, their Victorian inspiration, and aboriginal history. The tour was incredible and totally free (they ask for tips at the end, which we were happy to give!).

Our tour finished right on the Sydney Harbor, giving us the chance to see the Opera House at night. We walked a few blocks through The Rocks (an old, historic Sydney neighborhood) and had dinner at the Harbor View Hotel (which is not actually a hotel, as most "hotels" in Sydney are actually just bars). I had a pumpkin ravioli which was out of this world! Pumpkin was very much in season all over Australia, which was so weird to wrap my head around as it was their late winter/early spring!

By the time we finished dinner, we were exhausted. I actually fell asleep on the metro home! Thankfully, The Pilot was able to stay awake so I didn't get lost somewhere!

Day 2, Saturday: We were up pretty early since we had gone to bed early and started our morning with a quick "brekkie" at a great little coffee shop in the neighborhood. We had pineapple carrot cinnamon muffins, which I'm dying to recreate! This fueled us up for a perfect morning run in Centennial Park. It was amazing! We did a full loop of the park and I loved being in the park on a Saturday morning and seeing what all of the Sydneysiders were up to! There were so many runners out and about, people on horseback, or teaching their kids to ride bikes...it was the first spring-like weekend of winter, and everyone was out soaking up the sun!

We finished our run in Paddington and walked through the adorable Paddington Market before heading back to change and then making our way (via ferry!) to the Taronga Zoo. The Zoo was my absolute favorite part of Sydney!

One thing about the ferries - they're on the same system as the Sydney metro, so they're really inexpensive! I read a lot of recommendations about taking a Sydney Harbor cruise, but they were so expensive! You can definitely catch the same views on a Sydney Harbor ferry for a fraction of the price!

The Zoo was amazing! The price was pretty steep ($45 AUS/person) but I loved it! The giraffes have the best view in all of Sydney and the koalas melted my heart. I think Taronga deserves its own post, but here are a few highlights from our trip!

The peacocks aren't zoo animals, they just hang out all over the zoo!
Day 3, Sunday: We started our Sunday with coffee (flat whites) and donuts at Infinity Bakery. We had been eyeing Infinity's donuts for days and finally, couldn't resist the temptation!

Banana cream pie donuts with salted caramel. YUM!
Fueled up, we took the bus to Bondi. We stopped in at Gertrude and Alice, a famous bookstore (because I couldn't resist), and wandered around Bondi Beach. It was the Bondi Kite Festival and we saw so many beautiful kites!

Bondi was awesome and the Bondi to Coogee Walk definitely merits another post! These are a few shots that capture just how awesome Bondi is!

We took the bus from Coogee to Darling Harbor, which was kind of a disappointment. It's a newish area of Sydney and reminded me more of Downtown Disney than an actual neighborhood.

We wandered through there and then picked up a ferry to Sydney Harbor and caught the most immaculate sunset I've ever seen!

We found ourselves back in The Rocks where another free walking tour, specifically of that neighborhood, was taking off and we decided to join it. This tour wasn't as great as the first one we went on but was still fascinating. The Rocks is Sydney's oldest neighborhood and has a lot of really interesting history! We had dinner at a delicious restaurant called Pony and called it a night.

Day 4, Monday: Monday was our last day in Sydney and, while were planning to leave the city for the day to hike the Blue Mountains with my friend, Claire, we decided it against it after realizing that it was the type of day trip that really merited renting a car, rather than taking the train.

We started the morning with breakfast at Bill's, a local neighborhood restaurant that has been in Darlinghurst for over 25 years, and were not disappointed. We had one of their specialties, scrambled eggs and sourdough toast, which sounds simple, but was out of this world. I was disappointed that we didn't find Bill's until our last day there because it was unbelievable! I think it took us almost 20 minutes to order because everything looked so good! We left breakfast and walked back through the Botanical Gardens to Sydney Harbor before meeting up with my friend, Claire.

Claire and I met almost 10 years ago on a backpacking trip through Ireland and have stayed friends since. She's visited me in the states a few times, and I finally repaid the favor! We walked back to Sydney Harbor and met up at Custom House, an awesome spot that is also a library and then walked the Sydney Harbor Bridge (which was, honestly a disappointment, as the railings prevent you from really seeing anything) into Kirribilli.

This is the only picture I got from the Sydney Harbor Bridge. It's a nice shot, but it was the only picture I was really able to take, and this was after sticking my camera through the bars to get it!
We met up with a friend of Claire's in Luna Park who took us through some really cool parts of Kirribilli. We wandered down to Milson's Point and Lavender Bay and then made our way back.

Claire had to head out but her friend had given us tickets to Luna Park, so we wandered in and rode the Ferris Wheel and visited the Fun House! The Ferris Wheel offered a great view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge!

We took the ferry to back to Circular Quay and then wandered around the CBD, stopping in the Queen Victoria Market for some delicious macarons, and spending an absurd amount of time in a bookstore before heading back to Darlinghurst.

We had dinner at Malabar, an unbelievable South Indian restaurant that transported me back to Bangalore. I haven't been able to stomach Indian food since I came back from India five years ago, but most Indian food in America is North Indian and I about died over the masala dosas that reminded me of South India! We made our way back to our apartment and spent the night on the roof with our AirBnB hosts and some friends of theirs.

Our trip to Sydney was phenomenal! Of course, when we left Sydney on Tuesday morning, we really didn't know we would be back, but I loved it! Sydney has an unbelievable culture and everyone was so nice. Everywhere we went, the food was amazing, and we really just couldn't get enough of Sydney Harbor or it's fantastic sunsets! I loved being in Sydney for the first weekend of spring, but it was time to wrap up our stay and venture up north to Cairns!

I can't wait to share the rest of our trip with you: more about Sydney including the Taronga Zoo and the Bondi to Coogee Walk, our whirlwind trip to Cairns to visit the Great Barrier Reef, and our trip to Melbourne!

What do you think of our time in Sydney?
Did we miss anything? Which parts of our trip sound the most appealing to you?

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