After a long and sleepless overnight flight, consisting of film watching and eating, we arrived in Sydney! Hooray! After successfully clearly immigration and picking up our bags, we made it into the arrival hall and so our Australian Adventure begins!
We were met at the airport by Karrie, a friend of Lou's from the UK who's been living in Sydney for the last 6 years. Karrie was cat sitting for a friend in an another area of Sydney over the Christmas period so had kindly offered us her apartment which was perfectly located in the centre of the city, only a 20 minute walk from the Harbour, 10 minutes from the city centre shopping and a short bus ride from Bondi.
Once again, our first day was spent sleeping whilst Karrie was at work and we spent the evening catching up with her over dinner before an early night, hoping to feel refreshed and ready to explore Sydney the following day.
Karrie picked us up the next day, ready to be our tour guide for the day! First stop, was a very quick photo opportunity outside the Opera House and opposite the Harbour Bridge. We took the obligatory tourist photos and gawped at our surroundings. It's absolutely mind blowing seeing the bridge and opera house through your own eyes, whether you've since it before or not- I was equally impressed seeing it again after 5 years as Lou was to see it for the first time and it's something that we both agree that we will never get bored of seeing!!
Next stop was Bondi Beach. Unfortunately, Sydney has been suffering it's worst summer for 50 years. Typical! This means that the highest temperature probably got up to about 23 degrees on that day and it was mostly overcast! Probably doesn't sound too bad to all of you back at home but after 2 months of heat and humidity in Asia and expecting a warm winter in Australia, we were almost demanding a refund!!! Despite the weather, we had a walk along the beach and a quick (but cold) paddle, bought a salad and sat and took in our surroundings whilst trying to spot our favourite lifeguards from the TV programme Bondi Rescue!! haha. Next stop was Manly, a beach in the northern suburbs of Sydney. We had a walk along the beach up to a small cove beach called Shelly Beach and the popped into the supermarket to buy ingrediants for our first ever Aussie BBQ! We then headed back to where Karrie was staying, a place called Curl Curl, and threw a few shrimps on the barbie (see our photos for the evidence!!!) and spent the evening catching up on the Strictly Come Dancing final (yep, you read that right! And woooooo go Harry!).
On the Monday, Karrie dropped us back into the city on her way to work and we spent the day doing all the boring "jobs" that needed doing on arrival. By the end of the day, we had Aussie mobile numbers, bank accounts, tax file numbers and medical cover! So much more efficient and easier than in the UK!! We were mostly looking forward to not being charged everytime we took money out of our English bank accounts- although one thing is slightly different in Australia that you can only take money out of the ATM that belongs to your bank, if you use others you will be charged! So, we did our research and chose the bank with the most ATMs in the country!!
On the Tuesday, we again spent the day in the city, taking in the sights, doing a bit of shopping and then we headed to a bar which sits below the Opera House, aptly named "Opera Bar" and met up with Karrie and our friend Claire who Lou and I both worked with at Jobsite. It was lovely to have a catch up on the year since Claire left and also picking her brain about live in Sydney! All the time sitting in the sunshine with the bridge and Opera House as our background!!!
Wednesday evening, we met Karrie after work and she took us to Australia Square, which is a round office block tower with a bar called "Orbit Bar" on the 47th floor. We sat down at the bar and ordered our cocktails from the waiter and suddenly realised that we were revolving (the clue was probably in the bar's name)!!! The bar has amazing panoramic views of the city and all of it's famous landmarks. After a full rotation and a delicious cocktail, we headed off for our next stop- the Shangri La Hotel. We met up with some of Karrie's friends in the bar which again overlooks the Harbour and has amazing views. A couple of cocktails and much gawping at the scenery later, we made our way to what we were told is an Aussie institution in Sydney, a pub called "The Australian", in an area called The Rocks, which does amazing pizza. They weren't wrong, it was delicious!
On the Thursday, we made our way over to Bondi Junction and met up with my friend Sam, who was over visiting her sister Natalie who is now living in Sydney. We also met Alec, another of Sam's friends from home. After a lovely lunch and catch up, we headed into the shopping centre at Bondi Junction to do some Christmas shopping for each other so that we would have something to open each on Christmas Day.
Friday was spent baking gingerbread and listening to Christmas songs and preparing ourselves for Christmas! Christmas Eve, we spent the day soaking up the Christmassy atmosphere and sunshine in the city. In the evening, we stopped at St Mary's Cathedral for an outdoor carol service and incredible light display on the outside of the cathedral. Feeling suitably Christmassy, we headed back to our apartment in Surry Hills and Karrie picked us up to take us to Curl Curl where we would spend the night with her.
So, Christmas Day was upon us and finally the gods listened to us and we woke up to a beautifully sunny and hot day- exactly as summer in Sydney should be!! We spent the morning watching Elf, eating breakfast and opening presents! Karrie had bought us a cool bag (something we had been looking into buying to lug our food around Australia from hostel to hostel) and filled it with useful things like foldable cutlery, stubbie holders and tupperware, we were sooooo happy with our presents. A visit to the beach at Curl Curl for some photos and then a walk along Manly were on the cards next before Karrie dropped us to Sam's sister's place in Manly. We spent a fabulous Christmas Day at Natalie and Rob's with Sam, her Mum, Alec and Christine (another friend) eating lots, drinking and having a great time! Lou and I then walked the hour back to Curl Curl along the beach and headed to bed after a brilliant day and thankful that the weather finally turned out perfect!! Boxing Day was another beautifully sunny day and we walked over to Manly and caught the ferry back to the city. We spent the afternoon watching a film and then Lou and Karrie headed back to Curl Curl ready for an early start to go to the Hunter Valley the following day. I had decided to stay in the city for a few days and get a few jobs done whilst the girls visited the Hunter Valley. I'll let Lou tell you about their couple of days....
So the Hunter Valley is a wine region a couple of hours north of Sydney. Karrie and I set off early on the 27th Dec and drove to a place called Terrigal on the Pacific Coast Highway, to go to Ang's house, Karrie's friend. I have never been known for my navigation skills however, during this trip I proved that I can successfully get from A to B without getting lost AND in a new country! We arrived at Ang's parents house, which coincidently was on Portsmouth Road, and it was MASSIVE. A brief pit stop here and then off to the Valleys for some wine tasting.
The region is beautiful and very scenic, with gorgeous gardens and flowers (yes I am my mothers daughter!) and that's even before the wine tasting had begun. And I think it also goes without saying the wine was very good and Ang and I had fun trying the different whites, whilst Karrie the designated driver, indulged in the free water that was on offer! I even tried the red wines but my pallet is still not mature enough for it, but I was told to persevere!
We made our way back to Ang's house, for a quick shower and then went to Terrigall town, which is a beach side resort, with lots of bars and restuarants. We decided to go for a Thai dinner, and we drank the bottle of wine that Ang had bought from the Valley. Most of the restaurants are bring your own bottle, so this was a perfect way to top off the day.
The next day Karrie and I carried on up the Pacific Cost Highway to her other friends parents house, Nat, who we had met a few days before Christmas when Karrie took us out in Sydney. Again their house was massive and on lake Macquarie which is the largest salt water lake in Australia. We were made to feel so welcome by Nat's lovely family and we had a beautiful walk around the neighbourhood, taking in the spectacular scenery. We stayed for a few hours but eventually pulled ourselves away from the exceptional hospitality to make the journey back to Sydney. We decided that we would stay in Curl Curl that evening as we were arriving home late.
With Karrie and Lou back from their country jaunt, we spent the rest of the week leading up to NYE exploring Sydney and going to places such as Darling Harbour, The Rocks and The Chinese Garden of Friendship and of course the city centre shopping! We also went to the Moonlight Cinema, which was such a fun evening! Armed with a massive picnic, we headed off to meet Sam and Alec at the Centennial Park, ready to sing our hearts out at Singalong Grease!! We hired bean bag beds and set up our picnic and watched the sun going down whilst filling our faces and watching the bats fly over us! Once the sun had gone down at about 8.30pm, the film began and everyone started singalong and we had an absolutely brilliant evening!
Next day was New Years Eve! A day we had been anticipating since we arrived. NYE and the fireworks at Sydney Harbour Bridge are not to be missed and the highlight of the festivities in Sydney. People queue over night to get the best spot at the parks with views of the bridge and Opera House, you may think mad but when you see the fireworks you understand why!!! Luckily, we had Karrie's local knowledge and she took us to a park in the neighbourhood that she used to live in, Balmain. The park was much quieter than others and we were able to sit right on the waters edge with a perfect view of the bridge. We arrived at 11.30am, only 12 1/2 hours early with enough food to sustain us way beyond that time!!!! We set up camp and spent the day sitting in the sun, napping, reading our books and eating! Karrie's friend Nat joined us later in the evening and we all watched the pre-fireworks that happen at 9pm- an amazing spectacle in themselves! Finally, the clock ticked towards midnight and we all waited for the main event to being. The countdown clock on the bridge began and then the main event began. You literally can not describe the fireworks, we were totally in awe of it. 12 1/2 minutes of total amazingness that captivate everyone watching them. They come off thr bridge, off the opera house, off the tower blocks of the CBD and off barges all along the water surrounding the area. You don't know where to look as there is so much going on. When the fireworks had finished, we joined the mass exodus out of the park and full of food (and vodka) we made our way back to the city.
New Years Day, Lou and I headed over to Bondi, this time in the glorious sunshine! It was exactly as you'd expect Bondi to be on New Years Day.... rammo!!! People everywhere and not much sand left to sit on. We spent a couple of hours on the sand, people watching and again trying to find the lifeguards but they were too busy to be seen! The seas around Sydney are always dangerous with massive rip tides, however in the last few weeks these tides have been particularly dangerous & the advice is to either not swim at all on the beaches or only swim between the flags, which tends to be a tiny tiny area.
The following day was a day we had been anticipating for ages- a visit to Palm Beach- the location for Summer Bay, Home & Away!!!! Packed up with a picnic (it's becoming standard since we got given the cool bag!) we got the ferry over to Manly and then Karrie picked us up to drive us to Palm Beach. It was once again a really hot and sunny day and being a public holiday, very busy on the roads. When we got to Palm Beach, it was soooooo busy that we couldn't find anywhere to park. So, Karrie, lovely as she is, dropped us off an went in search of somewhere to stop whilst Lou and I headed to take some photos on the beach. We nearly died with excitement when we saw the Surf Club and after using the facilities (we had a wee in the surf club!!!) we took some photos outside the surf club, walked down the famous steps from the surf club to the beach and had a walk along the beach and took more photos. Unfortunately we didn't see Alf Stewart but we intend on coming back when we are back in Sydney so who knows what we might see next time!!!!
On Tuesday, we met Karrie for lunch at Jamie's Italian. It's a place that Lou and I have frequented at various locations in England and as it's just opened in Sydney, we thought it'd be rude not to visit. It didn't disappoint, we had a lovely meal and was a lovely way to say thank you and see Karrie for one last time before we headed off on our travels for a few months. The rest of the day and most of Wednesday were spent packing up our bags and cleaning Karrie's flat, ready for our departure to Canberra the following evening.
We loved our first couple of weeks in Sydney and can't wait to get back in a few months time and hopefully settle down for a while and find some work. We are so grateful to have had Karrie to help us and provide us accommodation and hope that she may be able to join us somewhere on our travels for a weekend. In an effort to save money for our travels, there are a lot of "tourist" things we've not yet done in Sydney but we plan to do once we are earning and can afford to do them. And so the Australian travels begin in earnest....