where the city meets the sea, Sydney

April 2018

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

 

When you imagine Sydney, you can’t help but think of the Opera House, of course its unusual architectural form won’t fail to entertain the eye, but there’s so much more to Sydney, it’s just hiding in the Opera House’s shadow.

Living in small towns that were either next to the beach or surrounded by mountains for the past year, arriving into Sydney took me by surprise. High buildings, busy traffic and people decidedly always in a hurry to get somewhere. It was the first time in 11 months that I was reminded of London and city life. Meeting friends and going for breakfast at a chick café/bar I felt a bit out of place in the middle of the metropolitan scene, but I loved observing and of course no one seemed to mind that we were in shorts and not business attire. 

My visit to Sydney coincided with ANZAC day, a day of remembrance and seemingly a day of drinking. Roads were closed for the parade of many different service men and women, whilst pubs opened early for all those who took to remembering by drinking. Ironic really to think that drinking from dawn until dusk they are unlikely to remember anything. After a witnessing a rather chaotic Sydney I soon found the quieter side, which came in the form of the botanical gardens. Finding a hill that over looked the opera house I watched the crowds of people from afar, it was a great little spot to sit and watch the world go by.

Of course, I did go and see Circular Quay and the Opera House (although only the exterior), it would have been nonsensical not too, but along with the crowds I also found entrainment. Listening to the talented musical buskers helped me mentally cope with the crowds, as I made my way to The Rocks, where I found historical buildings and artisan markets. A great place to stop and have a coffee.

For me a trip to Sydney had to include a visit to the Blue Mountains. I know, I had visited a city and then left to see the countryside, but it’s worth it, even for city lovers. Opting to go on a tour (although you can drive or get the train and do it independently) I was picked up around 7am and greeted by an enthusiastic guide, it was a tad too early to mirror her enthusiasm, but her knowledge and passion for the Blue Mountains defiantly made the trip more enjoyable. There’s nothing worse than a boring tour guide, believe me! It’s not long before the city is far behind you and there’s nature as far as the eye can see. Wentworth Falls provided picturesque views out across the valley and scenic walks, complete with giant steps to the bottom of the falls. It wasn’t too bad walking down but the climb back up left us all nice and sweaty! However, being sweaty was the last thing on our minds when we learnt about the deadly funnel spiders and how many we could have potentially walked past. Lets just say, upon hearing this news, a few people’s faces turned a whiter shade of pale.

Standing looking out across the vast countryside it’s easy to see why it’s called, Blue Mountains, a sea of eucalyptus trees creating a blue haze across the valley, which varies in hue as morning fades into afternoon. Tranquillity found me as I looked out across the valley. Maybe it’s something to do with the water from the falls (it definitely wasn’t to do with the spiders). Lastly it was on to Katoomba to pay a visit to the 3 sisters. It appears I wasn’t the only one; the sisters are quite an attraction. Although the view at Echo Point is beautiful, the sheer number of tourists let it down. With modern viewpoints only a short walk it’s perfect for the coach trip tourist, and they go there in droves. It’s best not to stay too long.

Back in Sydney I paid a visit to Darling harbour. By day it didn’t wow me but going there at night I found it transformed. With lights illuminating the water and many restaurants with outside dining, providing perfect views of the harbour, it had a sophisticated feel (without the sophisticated prices). After a good night in the harbour I thought it would be fun to find a bar that had been recommended to me by a fellow traveller. It wasn’t the easiest place to find and after walking down a rather ominous dark alleyway (I’m glad I wasn’t alone) we came to a quirky bar that had a wall of spirits, hidden doors and amazing drinks. The raspberry gin cocktail was delicious. It’s a shame I could only afford one!

Catching the public bus to Bondi, I was entertained by a little cantankerous old lady who shouted out to the driver every 10 minutes reminding him not to stop and let her off on a hill, whilst filling in the remaining time by telling everyone her different ailments, whether they wanted to hear them or not. It’s funny, you travel to the other side of the world and it’s not all that different from home.

Getting off the bus at Bondi Beach, I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe an all singing all dancing beach, as I’d built up an image in my head from all the hype. Of course, it was just an ordinary beach complete with windy weather and sand that got everywhere, (I’m still finding grains of it in my bag). On a positive note the walk from Bondi beach to Coogee lead to smaller coves and quieter places, including giant rocks where you could sit and watch Bondi beach from afar, the quiet observer. Now I understand the hype, it’s not because it’s a spectacular beach but because it’s a beach in the city, a rare place of escapism.

Sydney ticks so many boxes; it’s a trendy urban city, with plenty of places to relax. It also has a great abundance of things to do, this being my first visit I feel I barely scratched the surface.