Sydney, New South Wales, AUS

Day 1: Getting our bearings

DSC_1512.JPGThe plan for our first day in Sydney was to try and make a plan for the days to come. We both think that the best way to try and get a feeling for a city is to walk through it and so we began our day with a walk to Darling Harbour. Along the way, we saw some small but beautiful houses, a couple nice parks and passed by the impressive Powerhouse Museum where there is currently a Sherlock Holmes exhibition on (we will definitely check it out at some point – Sam is very excited). We then got a little lost negotiating the various staircases which take you from the city down to sea level but luckily a friendly passer-by pointed us in the right direction.

Once in Darling Harbour, we headed straight to the tourist information centre and swiftly booked ourselves on a whale watching cruise to make up for our previous mishap. We also got a good deal on tickets to go to the Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussauds and the Sydney Tower Eye observation deck – so there’s lots for us to do over the coming days. Next, we grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant in the harbour and then embarked upon another long walk from Darling Harbour to Circular Quay. The route took us along the length of the harbour past the aquarium and all of the boats, under the Harbour bridge and around Circular Quay until we reached the Opera House. Although it took the best part of 45 minutes, the spectacular views more than made up for it and we took hundreds of cliché photos to prove it.

DSC_1586.JPGOn our way through Circular Quay, Sam bought a huge bowl of gelato and had managed to eat all of it by the time we arrived at the Opera House. The sun was starting to set behind the bridge and pretty much all of the tourists in Sydney were in attendance to take photos of it. After walking around the Opera House for a bit, we sat down in a restaurant for a drink and then got the bus back to Sam’s Uncle’s apartment for dinner and a few beers before bed. Tomorrow we are off to the aquarium in the morning and then whale watching in the afternoon – that is if all goes well this time!

Day 2: Whale Watching

DSC_1656.JPGWe decided to brave using the public transport of Sydney on the second day and took the bus to the aquarium. The Sydney aquarium is the most interesting aquarium we have been to (although, the London one is a close second) just from the sheer amount of tunnels to walk through. We saw so many types of fish that European aquariums can’t even get a hold of, most interestingly dugongs! If you have never seen dugongs, then imagine a cross between a hippo, a dolphin and a big plastic container floating adrift in the sea. We were lucky to see one move, which apparently doesn’t happen very often. Aside from that fleeting exciting moment (they really don’t move much), we went through all the tunnels to spot all the types of sharks the aquarium has, which range in every size and rows of razor sharp teeth. We finished our visit by going through the new section of the aquarium in which you are put in a boat with four other people, and go on a mini expedition to see penguins (most notably emperor penguins) in Antarctic temperature.

We still had an hour to kill before our four-hour whale watching trip, so we figured we would get some food, especially if one of us would happen to get sick on the boat. We found a quiet restaurant in Darling Harbour where we enjoyed sandwiches and our beloved lemon, lime and bitters.

Getting onto the boat, the attendants start passing out ginger tablets, so we both decide to be sensible and take some, as every single person we met that went whale watching said they were a necessity. However, before getting on the choppy sea waters by Sydney, we got to enjoy a nice trip around circular quay as our boat stopped to get more passengers there. Then, we hit the sea.

DSC_1771.JPGThe sea was choppy, even with our ginger tablets, neither of us felt very good, and looking through the viewfinder on the camera to catch a better glimpse of whales did not help. On that note, by the end of the four hours, we reckon that we saw at the very least 20 whales, but were most surrounded by many more that never came up to the surface. We were really lucky to see some breach, as well as a group of 5 of them swimming around and under our boat! We did not manage to get footage of that, or very nice pictures, because not only is it quite difficult to estimate when and where you will see a whale (really, it’s impossible), but we were feeling sicker and sicker as the trip went on.

So much so that by the last 30 minutes, as the boat was on its way back, that Sam could not keep it in anymore. Ironically enough, it was seeing Claire looking like she was going to be sick any second that made him sick, and Claire felt much much better once she saw Sam be sick. True love. One thing made Sam feel better however, the entire crew on the boat came out to see how much he had been sick with, as they congratulated him on being the new record holder of most sick they had ever seen!

DSC_1792.JPGNeedless to say, we were both quite happy to get back on steady dry land, and did not even consider taking the bus back as all we wanted to do was sleep. After a quick power nap, we met up with Sam’s uncle Mark for some beers and pies (that went down quite well, considering) at a hidden brewery. The whole day was actually quite enjoyable, and we know we will look back on it laughing (Claire will at least).

Day 3: Becoming Detectives

DSC_1811After our offshore adventures the day before, we decided it would be best to spend today with our feet firmly planted on land. We started at the Powerhouse Museum where we were both very excited to check out the Sherlock Holmes Exhibition. It did not disappoint – we spent most of the morning there looking at the interesting memorabilia and then solving the interactive crime investigation. Needless to say, Claire worked her way through the puzzle in record time but got the answer wrong while Sam worked at the proverbial tortoise’s pace but passed with flying colours at the end. Claire wasn’t particularly amused by Sam’s smugness either.

DSC_1881After the exhibition, we walked to Madame Tussaud’s in Darling Harbour and filled our boots with cliché photos at every opportunity. The best moment had to be when Claire sat on E.T.’s bicycle and shouted, “Look! I’m with Wall-e”. We then took a trip up Sydney Tower Eye which is inside the Westfield Tower in the centre of the city. We got to the top just as the sun was about to set and were treated to a truly spectacular view over Sydney. We then descended and walked around the shops in the Queen Victoria Building which was utterly spectacular.

Finally, we met up with Mark and Pippy and were treated to more spectacular views and one-of-a-kind cocktails at the top of the Shangri-La Hotel. Afterwards we had a nice pub dinner at the Duck and Olive accompanied by a couple of tasty ales.

Day 4: Luna Paaaaaaark

DSC_1932.JPGAfter a lie in, we decided to hit up the Australian museum’s café for quick lunch (and more lemon lime and bitters) before exploring the museum itself. Although very interesting and informative, with a very nice collection of prehistoric Australian animals, we don’t think it compares to the smaller but more diverse Tasmania museum. Going through the prehistoric section was most entertaining to Sam as they had a scale of the average human which Claire could not reach.

We decided to continue with museums and went to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Circular Quay, going through the Botanic Gardens first. Those were really beautiful gardens, with great views of the city, Circular Quay and the Opera House. We did not explore most of it, but still managed to find an unused Paris metro ticket, which Sam made sure to safely secure in his wallet. The museum had some interesting exhibitions on, although Sam never really lingered anywhere, and not before long we were out and wondering what else we were going to do.

DSC_2019.JPGBeing that it was the last week day we would be in Sydney, we figured we would go to Luna Park so as to miss the weekend crowds. We also really wanted to try the water transport of Sydney and killed two birds with one stone by hoping on a boat (knowing it would not be choppy as it would stay in the quay) to go across the quay to Luna Park. We missed the stop, and had to change boat to turn back around. To be honest, it really was not sign posted very well, so it took us 45 minutes instead of 30minutes, but we had amazing views of the quay, opera house and bridge, so we did not complain.

DSC_2044.JPGFinally getting to Luna Park – which Sam now insist on calling it Luna Paaaaaark (very thick Australian accent if you are wondering) because the boat conductor repeated it that way so many times it became comical – we had our second opportunity to take pictures under the famous clown head. It had looked so amazing lit up at night when we were at the Sangri-La the night before, that seeing it as a ghostown today was quite underwhelming. There was nobody there, and you could not pay for the rides individually, you had to get a 50 dollar bundle minimum (and that would be each). So we walked around, and turned swiftly back to join Mark, Pippy and their colleagues for drinks at a place called Cidery that was reopening that night. We also enjoyed a Thai dinner at a place called Mum Miam (or something like that, nobody can say what its actually called) and called it a day.

Day 5: Navigating Shark Island

We began the final weekend of our trip with a kayak excursion around Shark Island in Sydney Harbour. Along the way Sam controversially beat Claire in a kayak race (we haven’t had time to review the footage), was nearly killed by a sea plane (check out the video below to see it!) and found a New South Wales Cricket pen in the water. We managed to get back to dry land before Claire’s arms fell off from the effort and we drove back in the traffic to Mark and Pippy’s apartment to get changed before heading to their friends’ place for a BBQ.

The BBQ was fantastic and the oysters in chilli sauce were, in particular, to die for. Afterwards we once again returned to the apartment to get changed for a trip to the Sydney Opera House to see Pelléas et Mélisande. None of us really knew what to expect from the show other than that it was in French with English subtitles – although Sam did read the Wikipedia summary of the opera on the way there. It was a real privilege to be able to spend some time inside the iconic venue – we really can’t thank Mark and Pippy enough for organising it. Claire, of course, loved the show and Sam was even singing as we walked down the famous steps, merely minutes after fighting back yawns when inside!

Day 6: Our final beach day

For our last day in Sydney, last day in Australia and last day of the trip, we decided we would take a tour of the famous Sydney beaches with Mark. We started the day with a fabulously filling brunch, and all hopped into the car with our swimmers ready to be used.

DSC_2190.JPGWe started by driving south, starting with Coogee beach, and working our way to Palm Beach through Clovelly, Bondi – where we stopped for our last lemon lime and bitters – then Queenscliff, Collaroy, Mona Vale and Avalon as well as many more we did not stop at. It was at Palm Beach that the boys decided it was time to take a dip, as it was nearly sunset. Claire thought it best to stay behind as one person needed to document how their adventure in cold water went. She was glad she did not go, as the boys kept getting smacked by the waves, but it did look like loads of fun.

We ended the day with an Indian takeaway dinner which filled up our starving stomachs and got an early night’s rest for the day of laundry, packing and travelling back to Europe ahead.

See more photos here!

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