27 JUNE – 02 JULY 2015:
First stop in Australia…Sydney!
Australia has always placed highly on the list of places I want to see, so I was really looking forward to this leg of my 2015 travels. Unfortunately though my trip didn’t start very well. In fact, you could say it started with a mini disaster. A few months ago I thought buying a bright pink suitcase from Manila would be a good idea (despite being the proud owner of way too much luggage already). This bright pink luggage would be easy to spot on the baggage belt I thought as I purchased it. Which turns out, isn’t always a good thing. After an 8 hour red eye flight from Manila to Sydney with Cebu Pacific, all I wanted was to go to my hotel and sleep, like any sane person would. Waiting at the baggage belt I noticed my suitcase and grabbed it off the belt. However, after a little examination I soon realised it wasn’t actually mine, just one exactly the same! I quickly put it back on the belt and waited patiently for mine to come but as the number of remaining suitcases on the belt started to decrease a slow realisation came to me. My bag was not coming…
The suitcase I had almost taken was eventually the last remaining suitcase on the belt. It would seem someone had made the same mistake as me, but they hadn’t realised the error of their ways and had left the airport with all my things. After informing baggage services at the airport and filing a report, I was told the airport would sort it out, email me the report, and deliver my case to my hotel as soon as the person had brought it back, usually within 24 hours. So off I went to the hotel with absolutely no clothes, and in fact pretty much nothing at all.
To cut the story short, after 3 days of stressing and calling the airport and airline (and getting told to keep calling back in 24-48 hours), I took the plunge and spent almost £100 on a taxi to take me to the airport and back in the hope it had been returned. Luckily it was there and although I was extremely frustrated the airport services hadn’t made contact to inform me, I tried to just be thankful I had it back! A few lessons learnt for the future – right my name in huge letters all over my suitcase!
I only had five days in Sydney and wanted to do as much as possible. I knew June/July was winter in Australia so I expected it to be a little chilly, but I figured having lived in the UK for 29 years surely I could manage a little bit of cold. However it was much colder at night than I expected and the weather was constantly changing in the daytime so I never knew what to wear. Whilst I loved Sydney for its relaxed culture, many beaches and outdoor eateries, the lack of heat made it difficult to really appreciate the city to the full. Obviously only having one set of clothes for 3 days made things considerably more difficult, as well as expensive, due to an emergency shopping trip being required. I never thought I would say I hated shopping but having to do it out of necessity really isn’t quite as fun! One thing to mention is that there are several places around where you can get your laundry done. At the end of my trip, I paid $12 Australian Dollars (around £6) to have a large bag full of clothes washed and dried with a turnaround time of just a few hours – bargain!
I stayed at the Adina Hotel, right by Bondi Beach. Perfect location! Bars, tourist shops, restaurants etc are all on the beach front and there is a large Westfield shopping centre at Bondi Junction about a mile or so away. The apartment was quite big with a kitchen area and the staff were lovely so I picked the right place to stay.
On my first full day I met up with the daughter of a friend of mine in the UK, Sophie. She was lovely and happy to show me around as she had moved to Sydney a few years back. She seems to love living in Sydney and it didn’t sound like she would want to go back home to live in the UK any time soon! I really can’t really blame her!
Sophie took me to Taronga Zoo in the morning. I am not a huge animal person but it was great to be able to see some animals native to Australia. I have never seen a kangaroo or a koala before so it was worth the trip. You start off at the port in Circular Quay and take a ferry and then a cable car to reach the entrance to the zoo. Lots of different types of animals, most of which I have never heard of! Afterwards, we went back to Bondi to have dinner at the Anchor bar with some of Sophie’s friends who were super friendly and were all expats themselves.
The next day I did the Home and Away tour at Palm Beach. As this was a highlight of my time in Sydney I decided to write about it as a separate blog post
HOP ON, HOP OFF BUS TOUR
I spent one day doing the ‘Hop on, Hop off’ tour around Sydney. It was approx £20 for a 24 hour ticket and is a great way to see the city. However, to be honest I wasn’t very impressed with the way the tour was operated. The stops were not particularly easy to find as there were no signs and it only seemed to go in a circle so if you wanted to go back a few stops then I think you had to go the full way round again. I may be wrong but it definitely seemed that way. They also only ran every 30-45 minutes and it wasn’t clear what times they would get to each stop so you could be waiting at one of the stops for quite a while for the next bus! The places it took you on the tour were interesting and you definitely get to see a lot so it’s probably worth doing, but it’s just not run as well as I would have expected.
I only got off at one stop which was Chinatown. From there I walked around a little and found Market City which is a shopping mall with lots of factory outlet clothing/shoe shops and Asian food courts. Shamefully, I must confess to walking out with two pairs of shoes to add to my 87 pair collection at home!
In Sydney the normal bus transport is quite easy and convenient so some tourists may prefer to take one of these around the city and save themselves a bit of cash. They have a pay in advance system called Opal which can be easily topped up and consists of a tap on, tap off process when getting on and off the buses and ferries (similar to Oyster back in the UK).
I took a 30 minute ferry to Manly which gave me views of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge on the way. Manly has a nice beachfront area and lots of souvenir shops and restaurants. I ate at one restaurant but my lunch was cut short due to birds; Birds everywhere! I had to keep fighting with them as they tried to eat my food which got old very quickly. I recall a moment when one huge bird even sat on my head! It was a little hard to enjoy my lunch so I gobbled it up quickly and moved on. Manly is a nice place to spend the day, and I imagine this is even more true when it’s warm enough to enjoy the beach.
Whenever I look online at top Sydney attractions, Doyles on the Beach, a fish restaurant at Watsons Bay always comes up as a ‘must do’ and as my boyfriend had also claimed the food was great when he went years ago, I figured I would see what the fuss was about. Before my flight to Melbourne, I decided to head there for an early lunch. The weather was very cold and windy that day but luckily Doyles had an outdoor seating area with a plastic cover and some heaters so you could enjoy being outside but still stay warm! I went for the catch of the day ‘South Coat John Dory Fillets’ which was recommended by the waiter as being a little sweeter than some of the other stronger fish options.
The portions were huge. I often think of myself as a pig when it comes to food but even I had to admit defeat and left half of it. Whilst I cannot claim to be a fish connoisseur, I enjoyed the meal very much and it was fairly reasonably priced at around £20 for my meal.
Overall, I am not surprised so many people migrate to Sydney. There’s hardly any traffic, the public transport runs smoothly, there’s tons of beaches around and the harbour area provides some beautiful views and a range of watersport activities. I just wish I hadn’t visited in the winter as I think I would have enjoyed it so much more during the summer months.