For info on how the Aussie adventure came to be, click here!
Day 0 (haha)
11th March 2017 / 12th March 2017 – arrival to Sydney
So the first thing to say about getting to Australia in just the one weekend with a layover stop of only one and a half hours is that oh-my-god it’s insane. I have never been on such a long haul flight before so it was quite an experience and not a pleasant one!! For the first seven hour leg to Dubai, filled the whole time with movies (including La La Land, which was strange, but I digress) which was fine, and was thinking ‘yeah, cool, I can do this!’ and then the thirteen hour leg started and I was still okay…watched several more movies…made sure to keep jiggling my legs…had an awkard 3 hour nap…then with about four hours to go, I felt so sick and ill and just wanted the whole thing to be over.
Luckily, I did not throw up, although I only managed the breadstick portion of my evening (daytime? Nighttime? I have no idea) ‘Hindu meal’ (oh the extensive advance-bookable meals of Emirates, how varied be your choices…I am not particularly religious but due to how I was raised don’t eat beef hence this selection. The most hilarious thing was the fact that although there was butter on my and my vegetarian non-Hindu friend’s trays, mine was an Indian brand. Actual LOL), and made it successfully to Sydney without having to use any of my varied (medical) emergency medical drugs collection. Not that I would have anyway because I had absolutely nothing in there of the anti-nausea variety, only ORT to treat the dehydration if I did vomit. Well done me!
Oh here’s another, to me, mildly amusing/interesting aspect of the flight. Our arrival cards had the usual on them (have you got a trillion dollars of cash etc) and also the unusual. Australia has super strict…’bio’ policies, like you can’t take anything vaguely plant related in (i.e. fruit, veg, flowers), which I knew. What I didn’t account for was a specific question on the arrival form asking about mud-stained shoes. Er, I wore my walking boots on the flight (heaviest item but comfortable)! And yes, I confess I did not clean them as well as I ought to post the last hike, but I highly doubted the Welsh soil caked on them carried diseases the Aussies might consider dangerous, but what was I to do?
Cue desperately scrubbing them in the loo on arrival, prior to customs, and trailing wet mud everywhere as a result (then cue wide-eyed looks of guilt/innocence on my face ‘Who, me? Trying desperately to wash away the life-giving Welsh soil caked onto my boots before you confiscate them and force me to buy and break in a new pair in the heat of Sydney? No, of course not!’).
Turns out we need not have worried. The border was all e-service and digital face-recognition (we got e-visas online prior), the luggage came quickly, and the customs lady took one look at our British passports and basically did not give a sugar. There’s no point me exlpaining how to get round the airport as if you’ve made it this far through my waffle you likely have a great grasp of English and the Australian airport is well sign posted with lots of very friendly English-speaking staff. So anyway we got the train to central station in Sydney, and our hostel, Wake Up Sydney, was located a few minute walk away.
From the time we landed at night to chcecking in, I kid you not, it was about one hour. I have never made it so swiftly from the aeroplane to my room in my life.
Anyway we were starved so cue some late night-MacDonalds (round the corner) – note, we were eating this between midnight and 1am on a Sunday night and the city was buzzing, felt safe and of course WARM (woohoo!) which was ace – and then, finally, bed. We got a private dorm room with shared facilities, both of which were clean and awesome.
13th March 2017
So we had checked the forecast diligently and daily in the lead up to the trip, of course, and knew that there was going to be rain in the later part of the day. We also knew that the second and last day in Sydney, was going to be filled with thunderstorms and rain all day.
So, we had to make the most of today despite the tiredness! (Thank you, jet lag, whch kept waking me up from about 5am – though, as I was so tired, I did keep falling back asleep)
Though we were up early (and managed to use the excellent, fast WiFi to video call relatives back in the UK before they went to bed) and I had purposefully not maked a single bit of make up (I do not wear it daily but on holidays I like to, however this means an inordinate amount of faff because I’m not well practiced in the art) I still somehow managed to make us late for our first chosen activity…
Anyway so we started a hurried fifteen minute walk, which included stopping off at a 7/11 and being slightly shortchanged (only realised later, in future will study the currency in detail prior to initial purchases!) for my excellent apple, oat and carrot muffin (so filling) and not-so-excellent iced tea.
In the end, we were only a few minutes late for the 10.30am Town hall square start to the free Sydney walking tour our friend had recommended to us.
We were a rather huge group but there were two tour guides and they split us down the middle and off we went. It was a good tour, actually, taking us on a windy route down to the harbour. Our tour guide spoke about the history of the region and the significance of some of the sights. As ever, I shan’t harp on about the details (which of course I remember in GREAT DETAIL), but if you like a bit of an orientation / bit of a history tour with some tips thrown in then this two to three hour tour is perfect. Also, did I mention it’s free? Essentially, the guides work on a tip basis, but you can tip whatever you like or not at all if your budget is truly stretched, of course.
The weather was quite warm but not uncomfortable, and it was fairly sunny, with a few clouds flitting here and there. We had applied a ton of sunscreen before leaving the hostel so were covered there. (VERY IMPORTANT!!!)
We ended on the harbour and got ourselves a Subway lunch and ate it on a grassy expanse overlooking Circular Quay. As we ate we were surrounded by (slightly deranged) seagulls and later bin chickens, both not dangerous, just circling in case any of us humans dropped some food.
After, we selected one of the ferries to take, opting for one to Watson’s Bay (the tour guide having told us it was a national park, pretty and had some cool walks) from where we would then take the bus down to Bondi beach (if you Google these places, you will see how this is possible). We had a while to go until the next one – cue many, many photos of the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, and ourselves!!
Once we had suitable tired ourselves out, we got on the ferry. We had bought Opal cards earlier at the Harbour for ease, on the recommendation of our friend – essentially, Oyster cards. Had ummed and ahhed given we weren’t in Sydney for long, but I feel it was definitely worth it for convenience and am sure it saved us some money.
The ferry was faster than I thought it would be, so it did give us the picture opportunities we wanted but we had to be quick. Within a short amount of time, the storm clouds had started gathering too, so we headed to the inside bit of the ferry after getting our photos…some rain fell, but no thunderstorm thank goodness.
So Watson’s bay on initial sight just looked like small, built up beach and we were very confused as the guide had said that when you’re there ‘you feel like the only one’. Erm, that wasn’t the case…anyway the bus stop from where we could catch the bus to Bondi beach was on the other side of the peninsula so we walked over and here, there were some marked paths leading into the rocky cliffs from where you could look out over the sea, from the horizon to where it was foamily exploding against the rocks. This was pretty cool, but my friend was in a hurry to get to Bondi before the weather went down the pan (fair enough!) so we took one of the quicker paths (me clutching onto my dress in the quickly rising wind) up, snapped some pics, then rushed back down to board the bus.
The bus also accepted our Opal cards and it was a smooth journey to Bondi beach, with a few lashings of rain but nothing too terrible.
Bondi beach itself, as I had read, was fairly standard as far as beaches go. It was quite nice, with soft white clean sand, and pretty blue water. The weather when we arrived was sunny, so we lounged for a bit and my friend went and had a swim. I am not the hugest fan of swimming in the sea at the best of times, and the waves were very fierce (lots of surfers, of course!) so I only walked in the shallows. It was incredibly windy, but in the hot sunshine, this was quite pleasant. We left around 5pm, when the sky was very ominously overcast, and took a bus straight to the harbour, hoping to catch the sunset.
However, the harbour was also overcast and gloomy so we gave up on this idea, and headed to Gateway food court for dinner (recommended earlier by our tour guide). We ate at the cheapest eat within it, the Burger Project, which was amazing!
After this we walked back to our room – still no rain, which was awesome! – and I crashed by about half nine. Was woken around 11pm by someone talking loudly in the corridor, but she shut up after about twenty minute, and then fell asleep.
A successful first day in Australia!
14th March 2017
We already knew from the day prior that today was going to be a stormy, rainy day but I was still holding out hope that maybe the forecast would be wrong, as is often the case in the UK.
Alas – well, depending on how you look at it – the forecasts seem to be more accurate in Australia and indeed, the day dawned grey and blustery. I say ‘dawned’ with good knowledge because my jet lagged brain woke me very early.
We ate in the café attached to the hostel for breakfast, taking advantage of a coupon we got given on the first day for $10 bagel and coffee. I very wrongly assumed this entitled me to a free bagel and coffee up to the value stated – what a fool I was. It’s merely a ‘deal’ because the prices are so expensive. Be warned!
Anyhow once we had eaten we started walking towards the National Art Museum, as museums and galleries are always good indoor activities and we had checked earlier that this one was free and highly rated. The day was incredibly windy but luckily the on/off rain just about held off for our walk.
On the way, we came across St Mary’s cathedral and had a peek inside. It was quite nice, obviously built relatively recently to most of the European cathedrals I have seen. It was free to look round and no Cathedral Police at this one (I.e. bare shoulders and knees not an issue), you just had to keep it down for worshippers which is fair enough.
The National Art Museum itself was really good, in my opinion. It had quite varied works inside it, ranging from the Aboriginal…
…to the European…
…to the Australian…
…And even an interactive Calligraphy section. Nope, did not really get the hang of it or have any clue what we were doing but it was good to have a go!
Just to note, handbags are okay but you do need to check in umbrellas and backpacks. It’s easy enough, no charge and you just get given a card with a number on it, just try not to lose it during your visit.
Whilst we were in there, the rain started in earnest. We checked out the museum’s café to see if we could kill a bit of time there but unfortunately the prices were as high as expected and so we left in the rain, raincoats on and my umbrella up. It wasn’t too bad to be fair, and we headed towards the Westfield shopping centre (as introduced to us in the walking tour the day before!) in pursuit of outdoor shops – my friend needed a refillable water flask and I needed a cheap head torch (having forgotten mine and it being listed as a required item for the upcoming booked tour…Keep watching!).
This walk took us towards what I assume is the main shopping bit of Sydney and we found our items (not in Westfield itself) on a road which was full of travel/sport/outdoor shops.
After, we started walking towards the Customs House (which we, again from the free walking tour the day before, knew contained a café and free WiFi) but the rain got really heavy and we sought refuge in a food court. There are a fair few of these in Sydney. After our nachos (me) and some Vietnamese bun thing (this is the great thing about food courts) we sat waiting for the rain to die down…it did not.
So, we braved it again and walked to the next museum, The Rocks Discovery museum.
We walked to these places because taking public transport would have basically taken nearly the same time. This is not always the case but sometimes can be.
Note the reason we could plan so easily when out and about was because of my friend’s rather excellent deal with 3 mobile meaning we always had internet and could Google these things!
Anyway The Rocks museum is in an area of Sydney called ‘The Rocks’ and is again free (there is an intentional theme here!). It tells about some of the Aboriginal history as well as convict and colonial history. It’s only four rooms big but allow some time for it – maybe an hour and a half – if you’re an avid caption reader as there are many (I am thinking of my husband as I type this…). Enjoyed it!
Thereafter the rain had finally started to ease off. We went for a wander round the harbour and found a better viewpoint from which to take photos of the Opera House as per below…
At about 6pm we gathered outside Cadman cottage for another free walking tour, by the same people who ran the morning tour. This time round, we heard about some of the more scandalous bits of history, specifically about The Rocks, famously notorious until quite recently. Again, it was a good tour and I would recommend it.
Once the tour finished, night had fallen, and though the sunset was too cloudy for us to capture any good pictures on the tour (despite a couple of good lookout points during it), of course the bridge and Opera House were beautifully lit up at night.
This is when I discovered that despite bringing my little portable tripod, I had forgotten the bit that attaches the camera to it – d’oh! Tried to hold the camera steady against surfaces which turned out some alright photos but not brilliant…
We ate, against the tour guide from the day before’s advice, on the harbour for convenience. It wasn’t as expensive as all that at Buckley’s – food was average – view worth it, I reckon.
Here’s the best bridge photo we got using the earlier hold-camera-steady-against-a-surface technique from earlier.
Note, I have a point and shoot Canon Powershot, nothing fancy at all. Usually messing with exposure time settings can still give gorgeous night time shots…Y’know, if one remembers all the relevant tripod attachments…
And then we got the metro back to the hostel.
I think, given the huge amount of clouds and rain we had over our two days in Sydney, we did reasonably well by our own interests.
We got a sugar ton of photos of the bridge and Opera House anyway, and that’s what counts.
Thanks for stopping by!