Sunday, February 17, 2013

Australia, Part 6: Sydney

Wombats, penguins, kangaroos, peacocks, oh my!
  I am finally posting about the last big thing we did in Sydney! I'm pretty sure I've said this multiple times over the course of my posts, but if you ever have the chance to go to Australia, GO! Do it! And pack me in your bag, thanks!!
  Patrick and I signed up for an all day trip that took us outside the city up into the mountains. We went to the wildlife park first and saw my favorites, the little penguins. It was a little surprising to see some full fledged mating rituals going on with them, but don't worry, I'll spare you that video that Patrick took (you only hear stuff, but still awkward!!). All the other penguins not involved looked scared as well as they were all huddling together (I felt the same way, little guys!!).

Koala, wombats, kangaroos, and peacocks
 My other new favorite creature is the wombat. They have massive claws which prevented me from touching them, but oh my goodness, they are freaking adorable!! Perhaps because they reminded me of my little fat corgi at home, but I am in love! One of the little guys walked all the way around the pen with us before waddling back to his spot where we found him. The other guy kept pacing back and forth next to the wall (above on the left). He was huge and I loved him! Too bad Pat wouldn't let me bring one home; I'm sure he would fit in perfectly with my corgis!!
Cool creatures
  Our guide also took us to a large open field where he tried to teach us how to throw boomerangs. Haha, yes, there is probably a reason the tour is taking this little idea off as Patrick almost nailed someone with one of his throws. It was pretty fun though and you could buy authentic boomerangs from him and they were absolutely beautiful pieces! I didn't feel like we needed to bring a weapon into the house, so we passed on that one.
My favorite!!
  We ate lunch at a "country club" which was a little rundown, but it had some nice views and the chips were good as well as the desserts! After lunch, we drove up further into the Blue mountains into Katoomba where we danced with some Aboriginal men and got to see some amazing art they have created. From there, we drove down to the Katoomba scenic railway. We took the cable car down to the rainforest and it was pretty amazing as at one point, you are pointed straight down!! It was a little crazy! We took the railway train back up and I'm glad that we didn't take that down because that sucker goes down at a 90 degree angle like a freaking roller coaster and it was scary enough having to go back up the mountain in it as you were not strapped in and it was only covered by a mesh fence on two of the three sides!
Coal mine in the forest and cherry blossoms
   We saw some amazing trees and ferns that grew into trees (see below). Other trees slough off their bark every year, like the one below on the far right. After we walked around the rainforest, we drove over to another little town where cherry blossoms were blooming and we got to walk into all the different little stores which were adorable!
Pretty trees (actually the first is a fern!!)

Olympic torch (now a fountain) and stadiums

Condos in Olympic Village
   The final stop on our day trip was the Olympic Village right outside of Sydney. Our tour guide said before the Olympics came to Sydney, the grounds of the village was basically landfill sites. Thankfully, they completely transformed it for the Olympics and were able to auction off the athlete's quarters off at a nice price in an area where nobody had wanted to live prior to the Olympics. I loved the old torch cauldron that is now a water feature. We took the ferry back to Sydney at the end of the day and we got to see the city in a different light as we came back into the harbour!
Map of Olympic Village

Coming back by ferry into Sydney (through a really dirty window)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Australia, Part 5: Sydney

  We enjoyed walking around Sydney and one of my favorite places was the Queen Victoria building that held floors and floors of shops and cafes. One of the rainy days, we walked over there and browsed the shops after we ate a delicious lunch. I really enjoyed all of the beautiful handiwork in the building and took pictures of the colorful flowers that were hanging down from the ceiling. I also loved the clock they had in one part of the building that was Tiffany blue and had fleur-de-lis. Outside the building were gorgeous beds of flowers to welcome in spring.
  Another day, we walked down to another part of the city called "The Rocks" which is on the opposite side of Opera Quays. There is an old part filled with shops and corridors called Nurses Walk and Surgeons Court. We had seen the Sydney Hospital (with a boar statue out front) and the Nurses Walk was where the first hospital in Sydney was. Every weekend in the Rocks, they hold an open air market full of handmade trinkets and goodies, along with street food carts. Patrick and I enjoyed some Asian skewers and gyoza during one of our trips down there.
  We met up with a couple who is living in Sydney now and had relocated from Atlanta and they introduced us to several awesome things in Sydney. One was this huge international food festival held each October in Hyde Park. They have tables set up everywhere and you can bring in blankets and dine after work. Most of the booths are some sort of Asian cuisine and it was all delicious and cheap! We actually ended up eating here twice (once I think on the first night we got to Sydney and the second time when we met up with one of Patrick's coworkers and her boyfriend who ended up meeting up with us in Sydney).
   While in Sydney, we walked up the bridge for a tour. Ashley and Matthew (Patrick's coworker from Perth and her boyfriend) were actually doing the bridge tour as well, only at a different time, but we hailed a cab together and ended up getting on the same tour. It wasn't the clearest of days, but we did catch the sunset once we got up to the top of the bridge. I had to go first right behind the tour guide and besides not knowing how far "20 meters" was or whatever the guide would tell me to go, I enjoyed going first! It was amazing being able to see the entire city of Sydney. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and I just couldn't get over the views. I think that if you are ever in Sydney, you should definitely sign up for a tour because you just get to see so much of the city and it's awesome!! I also enjoyed being able to walk up the bridge during the day and come down at night (we did the dusk tour).
   After we finished our climb, we walked back down to Opera Quays where we ate dinner at one of the cafes with Ashley and Matthew. We had impeccable timing because all of the restaurants at the Quays quickly filled up as soon as the show at the Opera house ended. It was a little cool at night, so we were glad we were able to sit under the heat lamps. It was also really cool to see the bridge that we had just climbed all the way to the top all lit up at night.

  The other great place we went was in a different part of Sydney (I forget what it was called) past Hyde Park a ways (maybe a 10-15 minute walk). Our favorite place by far was called Messina, a fantastic gelato place. Oh man, was it good!! They have so many flavors and you pay by the scoop in cash and there is always a line out the door! Mmm, my mouth is watering now just thinking of it!! Each flavor is made fresh daily and they are very different and delicious! I, of course, went with two types of chocolate while Patrick branched out and chose different flavors each time. (We may have gone like 3 times while we were there?!) There was also a wonderful little bakery that is in the same area that we went to with Kathryn and Geoff. You choose whatever dessert you would like and they cut it with a spatula and weigh it out for the price. One of the guys said he would hire me if I go back to Australia! Ha! I'm sure this area is super expensive to live in, but it was such a great area with many different restaurants and hotels and one of the oldest, best public schools in Sydney. I think I only have one more post to go about our trip, but it's going to be a long one! See you soon!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Australia, Part 4: Sydney

   Patrick and I took the red-eye from Perth to Sydney and I will never again do that. While it was nice to get into Sydney so early in the morning, it was horrible at the same time because of course our hotel room was not ready and all I wanted to do was go to sleep. We got into Sydney on the hottest day they had had yet this year (90 degrees), so I was very happy that I had worn layers so I could strip down to my sleeveless shirt as we wandered about the city aimlessly. We did get to see most of what you think of when you hear "Sydney" as we walked around the opera house and the Sydney bridge for several hours until I got hungry and we stopped at one of the many open air cafes for a snack. It was at least a beautiful day and the opera house was shining bright white (I discovered that if it isn't sunny, it can look pretty dingy and not like the pristine opera house I am used to seeing).
Our first morning in Sydney (plus obligatory shot on the red-eye)
  We finally got to sleep in our room after several hours and I was much happier and ready to see the city. We stayed in the Park Royal right off Darling Harbour which was an easy walk to various areas. I really enjoyed Sydney as it was faster paced than Perth (though Perth was probably the cleanest city I've been in and absolutely gorgeous) and had much more to do. Sydney reminds me a little of New York City, but a little cleaner. We ended up down in Opera Quays (area around the opera house) most of the time because it had free wifi and was just a gorgeous area with lots of benches around the water and cafes.
You could walk down to Opera Quays through this adorable arch
  We also spent a lot of time down in Darling Harbour as we could walk there in about a minute or so over a bridge and it had an array of restaurants and things to do. We had dinner one night at a mall off the Harbour at a Japanese hibachi restaurant where I had the best rose wine I have ever had! We tried to find the bottle everywhere but to no avail. We had lunch down on the Harbour one day and the waiters don't get tips but are salaried so they could kind of care less when they seat you and serve you. However, it was a nice little break from what we do in the U.S. as Patrick and I had a leisurely lunch (about 2 and a half hours) and really got to enjoy our meal. Of course, the only thing I can really complain about it that Australia is much more expensive than most places I am used to in Atlanta, so it was a little shock to pay $25 for a glass of house wine with a burger and chips (fries). But I still loved it!
the walkway from our hotel to the harbour
view from lunch on the harbour
Darling Harbour at night

  We also went to the aquarium one day after we wandered all around the city and ended up being back at Darling Harbour after going up and down and around Opera Quays. Patrick and I didn't really plan too much to do in Sydney and while it probably drove him crazy, I enjoyed just waking up and doing whatever the heck we wanted to do (even though some days it wasn't until 1pm or so--whoops! Let's blame it on the time change!)
  I did enjoy the aquarium and got to see a dugong that I fell in love with! They have two dugongs and the one we saw was swimming around and eating his pounds of lettuce from a little crate thing they have designed for him. Once Pig was finished with his lettuce, he would send the device back up to the top so they could refill it. Atlanta's aquarium is still pretty impressive, but we did have a good time seeing all the different rays and sharks Sydney had. 

Most of the fish were native to Australia, but these cuties aren't (though they are bred in Australia)

We watched this little turtle wedge himself down like this. It was quite bizarre but he seemed to like it.
Pig, the dugong, eating his lettuce

Little penguins (my favorite, of course!)

Glow in the dark!!