The beauty of being in Australia on a tourist visa is that I, by definition, get to be a tourist. We’ve pounded the Sydney pavement heartily in the first two weeks. A recap of the tourist treasures and traps:
The Opera House, The Harbour Bridge, and Circular Quay
What is a tourist in Sydney to do but make a beeline for the world’s most recognizable building, The Sydney Opera House? We walked from our digs in Ruschcutter’s Bay, and the length and hilliness of the trek reminded me that it’s been a long time since I lived in New York City, or anywhere where I really had to put my legs to use. It is fortunate that I invested in comfortable shoes at American prices.
I am pretty sure that you know what the Opera House looks like, and I don’t need to say much about its epic scope, its pomposity, and its famous grandiosity. But, did you know that the “sails” look like this closeup?:
Right in eyeline of the Opera House is the Sydney Harbour Bridge. My most vivid point of reference for “The Old Coat Hanger” is the footage from Man On Wire of Phillipe Petit scaling it on highwire, years prior to his World Trade Tower feat.
From here, it is a short walk to Circular Quay where ferries and international cruise ships port and locals and tourists relax in expensive South Beach-esque sidewalk cafes. It’s worth the price for that Cabernet, though, because the view is world famous and stunning.
The Botanic Gardens
On the way home, before the jet-lag overtook me, we handed over $10 each to ride around the Botanic Gardens on a cutesy tram. We were the only riders who did not fall into the preschool or post-retirement age group, but we did enjoy the 30 minute ride. At very least, we got ideas for what to explore further when we return. The Botanic Gardens have an impressive array of native Australian plants and all sorts of birds roam the grounds. More about the Australian birds in a later entry …
Manly Beach Ferry
Being a Cancer in both birthdate and spirit, I seek to take to the water whenever possible. My main tourist goal was to see Sydney by boat, so we took a day to take the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. The ferry reminded me very much of the Staten Island Ferry (save from the cost, which was about $18 more than the charge of $0 for its New York cousin). We sat outside on benches and watched the Opera House and Bridge become small in the distance. The ferry took us all along the coastline and my intrepid and sea-loving partner pointed out all of the bays – our Ruschcutters, which we see from our apartment window; Rose Bay, Diamond Bay, Watson’s Bay. The tip of Watson’s Bay featured dramatic cliffs with white tipped waves crashing against them – even a lighthouse. I haven’t been to Ireland, but the view did make me want to sing out a chorus of “Danny Boy.”
Manly is an adorable seaside village, full of ice cream vendors, t-shirt shops, and surf board rental establishments. The sand is a sumptuous light brown that is very easy to look at, especially in comparison to the gorgeous, but glaring white sand I’m used to from Siesta Beach.
Two fun facts about Manly.
1. Manly was so named after Cpt. Phillips, who arrived on the shores in 1788, with all those debtors and petty thieves, saw the local inhabitants. He was impressed by their “manly” appearance and the name stuck.
2. Manly is known for its Norfolk Pine Trees, which were planted by English settlers sometime in the 1870s. They’re quite lovely and give Manly a distinctive feeling of serenity.
We were so serene that we were willing to shell out the requisite $5.50 each for a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s.
Sydney Tower and Oz Trekker
In pursuit of all possible perspectives of Sydney, we decided to see the city from above at the Sydney Tower Observation Deck. I had deemed the building “The Space Needle” in response to its aesthetic resemblance to the Seattle landmark. The views from observation 360 degree observation deck were suitably awe-inducing, such as this of of Darling Harbour:
Sydney Tower recommends that you conclude your visit with the “interactive” OzTrekker film. If you value your spine and/or have ever read even a short children’s book on Australia, I’d suggest that you may just skip being locked into the attraction’s seats amusement park style. The real value of Sydney Tower lies in its view.
Chinatown and the Chinese Gardens
In pursuit of lunch on a Sunday, we wandered through Sydney’s couple of colorful Chinatown blocks. We passed up the fuschia clothing shops, multi-lingual Baptist Church singers, and main thoroughfare eateries filled with British tourists in favor of a tucked away eatery which graced us with spicy beef noodle bowls and lightly fried bok choy.
Full up, we then walked the few blocks to the Chinese Garden of Friendship in Darling Harbor where we communed with large coi fish, babbling brooks, and forests of bamboo. There was also the opportunity to witness a large wedding on the property, as well as dress up like a geisha for photographs for a minimal charge. We passed on these and wished a bit that we’d come on a weekday, rather than a crowded weekend. Still, we got our $6 worth of tranquility.
As an aside, on this day, we also encountered the large St. Patrick’s Day gathering of Irish and Irish-in-spirit, as well as wandered through a large Greek festival. If we did not before know what an international city Sydney is, we got a first-hand account on our mini tour of cultures day.
Bondi to Coogee Walk
Bondi is Sydney’s most famous beach and its most lovely feature is a coastal walk from its shores to Coogee, which invites strolls through several beaches and even through a gigantic hillside graveyard. We saw much more of the Irish-invoking white waves crashing on rocky hillsides, as well as hedonists of all ages enjoying swimming, surfing, lounging, and running. There are even exercise parks along the way where ambitious Sydneysiders can stop for some pull-ups or tummy curls. We walked for about an hour towards Coogee before heading back, but we could have continued on for quite a bit longer.
A view from the walk, the Bondi section:
Tourist adventures continue in Sydney and beyond. More to come, but for now, a glass of Shiraz and the enticing sunset view of Ruschcutters demands my attention. Until next time, a g’day mates.