We arrived in Sydney at about 7am, we were met at the airport by Georgina, who was putting us up whilst in Sydney, George was the twin sister of Christabel, the mother of a little girl Sarah nannied for in London for three years. Sarah and I had got quite close on a social front to Chris and her family. On one of the occasions we were at her house, George was there and when talking about our trip to Australia, she suggested we come and stay with her while we were in Sydney. A really nice offer considering we had only met her this once!
Had it been anyone else we may have been concerned we wouldn't recognise her (as we had only met her once for about thirty minutes, and this was a year ago now) but since George and Chris were identical twins we knew we would recognise her instantly! We did, and as we came through to arrivals we saw her standing there waiting for us. She was really welcoming and friendly, just as Chris was. She drove us back to their house which was in a lovely, quiet little suburb called Summer Hill. When we arrived we met Dom (George's husband) and their twin children; Enzo and Penelope. They gave us a tour of their house, which was a really nice bungalow (we would learn that the majority of the houses in Sydney are bungalows) and showed us our bedroom for the next few weeks. The bedroom was belting! A real homely room. It was brilliant to actually have a wardrobe, to be able to unpack our suitcases and have a base for a while. We chilled and chatted in the lounge with Dom and George for a while (it was also fantastic to have a lounge, being able to chill on the sofa and watch tele, something me and Sarah had missed a great deal!) They were so friendly, telling us we should make ourselves right at home and always help ourselves to anything we wanted. Whilst we were chatting I noticed that both my feet had swollen up pretty bad, they didn't hurt, they were just huge! We did a little research and it was actually quite common after long haul flights! Eventually, after elevating them, the swelling went down. We were absolutely shattered after our last few days of travel, so decided to crash out and catch up on some much needed sleep.
We woke at around 7pm, Dom and George were out that evening and were gone by the time we got up. They had had a barbecue while we were resting with some of Dom's family, who were still there when we resurfaced. We met Dom's mom, Sister and Cousins family. They were all really nice and we spent the evening chatting with them and getting tips on what to do while we travelled up the east coast to Cairns. By about eleven we were shattered again and went and crashed out!
We basically slept the whole of the next day as well. The following day we decided to go out and have a little look around Sydney, our first point of interest being Sydney Harbour. We caught the train as we were about a 5 minute walk from the train station and it was a direct line to Sydney Central and to Circular Quay, which is the stop for the harbour. The Harbour was fantastic, the bridge and the opera house look amazing in photos but it is so much better when you are there seeing them with your own eyes, AMAZING!! Its such a cool place just to hang around, so we chilled on the grass for a while. We then went and checked out the city centre, as Sar wanted to suss out what the the shopping was like in Oz! ;) This is when we started to realise how expensive everything was, so much more so than England, quite a lot more than even London prices! Just the basic things here are extortionate, a small bottle of water costs over £2, a loaf of bread is over £4 and a 2 litre bottle of milk is the same!!! The wages here are a lot higher here so it is all relative, but when your spending money is the British pound you have earned it is very expensive!!! We were so lucky to have somewhere to stay for free, otherwise Australia would have eaten up all our money quite quickly. With accommodation and eating out three times a day, you could easily spend £100 a day each! Our budget was £15 each!
A couple of days later we started our first day of work in Sydney. Prior to setting off on our travels we had managed to secure some casual work doing some nannying for a friend of Christabel's who was also travelling in Sydney. They had told us we could basically work as much as we wanted. As much as we wanted to have free time and see as much of Sydney as possible, we also knew it would be a great way to make amends for the money we had had stolen in Bangkok and it would also be our only chance of an income whilst we were away. We would be looking after 3 Year old Harry and 7 month old Imogen. It was actually quite nice to do the whole getting up for work thing again, surprisingly enough, and especially as we knew it would only be short term. Will and Lisa (Harry and Imogens parents) were renting a wonderful apartment just up from Bondi beach, overlooking Tamarama Beach. Our journey to work consisted of two trains and a bus, which sounds a lot but was pretty straight forward as the public transport system in Sydney was fantastic! Also they have double decker trains!!! Arriving at their apartment it was pretty safe to say that these guys were absolutely minted! Their place was brilliant, a gob-smacking view overlooking the beach. They must have been paying an absolute fortune for it, considering the cost of everything in Sydney. Will and Lisa were really friendly and welcoming, they told us to make ourselves at home and help ourselves to anything we wanted. Harry was a cracking looking little fella and Imogen was a beautiful little baby. They were also as good as gold to look after, Harry was a well mannered, well behaved little lad and Imogen was quite possibly the quietest and most content baby I had ever known! On our first day looking after them we took them down to Tamarama beach which was a lovely little stretch of beach, no more than a 100m long, it was also renowned as one of the most dangerous in terms of swimming and surfing because of very strong rip tides. After our first day at work we decided to go for a quick drink at a pub called 'The three wise monkeys' (This would become our most visited pub in Sydney). This is where we learned how expensive alcohol was as well! It was $8 a pint, the equivalent of about £6! Man, we were going spend a lot of money in Sydney! ;)
Another added benefit of us working as childcare for Harry and Imogen was that on some of the days we worked we would take them to some pretty cool touristy places and get in for free as Will and Lisa would pay our entrance fees. Some of these places we would have wanted to go anyway and would have had to pay the sky high prices, but this way we got to go for free and get paid for it at the same time! :) win win situation if you ask me! On our second day looking after the kids we went to 'Wildlife World' which was really good, we saw spiders, a huge crocodile, Koala bears and many more reptiles and animals, the kids also loved it!
It was now Christmas eve, we worked in the daytime, our usual hours of 10am till 4pm and then afterwards we headed into central to have our first meet up with the boys since being in Oz, I was so excited as we hadn't seen them for a few weeks now and I always love having a good Christmas session on the eve! We met up with them in a pub/club called Scary Canary's, which was next door to the hostel the boys were staying in. The hostel even had a connecting door to Scary Canary's which was ideal for them! When we walked in everyone was really happy to see us and gave us a fantastic welcoming! Once we had said all our hellos and how you beens, James introduced us to Joanna, who I instantly recognised, Jo was the little sister of Dean, one of mine and James' really good friends when we were younger who lived just up the road from us! As it turned out, Jo was staying in the same hostel that James and the boys! CRAZY! What a small world we actually do live in! We all had an amazing night and saw Christmas day in, in style. Funnily enough to the usual tune of 'the fairytale of New York'! The drinks in this place were actually pretty reasonable, most pubs next door to hostels tend to have cheap drink promotions on, so we spent the night drinking $10 jugs of snakebite! Everyone was hammered, particularly Stu, who after going out for a smoke couldn't get back in, one of the reasons for this being that he was shouting 'SAUSAGED!' at the top of his voice! Hahaha! When he went to walk back in the doorman said to Stu, 'your not coming back in' he said to me 'you have to go to the back of the que' and let Sar straight back in! Annoying as it was approaching midnight, luckily I got in just before the countdown, unfortunately for Stu, it was an early bed time! Well at least he didn't have a long walk home! :) We left just after 1am to catch the last train home (fantastic that the trains still ran on Christmas eve here, and so late as well) and when we got to the train station we realised we had missed the last train by 1 minute! R man! We had to get a taxi home, we paid the taxi driver all we had which was about $28 and he took us back, the Christmas spirit of the taxi driver worked in our favour.
Christmas Day. It was very surreal waking up on Christmas day in a hot, stuffy room with a fan blasting and bright blue skies outside! At 6am in the morning Sar had to make a 'mercy dash' to the bathroom! Then at half 7 got up and went to mass! I still do not know how she managed this! Sar the Soldier! :) It really was a different experience spending Christmas day in Australia, they didn't celebrate no way near to the level we did, hardly any decorations, NO Christmas songs and no Christmas dinners. As much as I enjoyed spending Christmas there, and in no way am I complaining about it, I definitely prefer our traditional English Christmases! :)
We had arranged to meet up with the boys and go and have a chill out on Bondi beach. We met them and Jo at Scary Canary's for a Christmas pint and then headed down to Bondi. We all went and had a pizza before heading onto the beach, it was a lovely meal but then we had a nightmare with the bill. What happened was that when ordering our drinks, the majority of us opted to have wine as the menu stated that it was $7.50 per litre, even we were surprised by this so we asked one of the waiters to confirm the price, which he did and we went ahead and ordered a fair few bottles of plonk! When the bill came the price of the wine was $35 a bottle, we called over the waiter who we had asked and he just looked confused, so he called the manager. He came over and was instantly rude and arrogant! We explained the problem and he just laughed at us and said even in the cheapest of bottle shops you would not get a bottle of wine for this price! We told him how we had asked one of his waiters and he told us the price was $7.50, it turned out the waiter was just temporary and had misunderstood the menu as we had, but we didn't care, the manager should have made sure his staff understood the prices on the menu. After a long stand off between us and the idiot of a manager, he being adamant not to accept fault. We paid the bill and left, well it was Christmas eh!!!!!?
By the time we had left the restaurant it was nearly 6pm, the boys had tickets to a party on the beach, which we reluctantly decided not to go for, as the tickets were like $70! We decided to head back and have a chill out and watch a few movies. When we got 'home' we Skyped Sar's family and watched them open all their presents, which was really nice as they included Sar in the traditional opening of the presents even though we were on the other side of the world! It was really nice for Sar and she was made up! We also Skyped my Mom and Rachel, which was lovely and after that we Skyped my Dad and Granddad, it was fantastic talking to my Granddad and everyone on Christmas day.
A few days later, whilst Sar worked, haha! I went and met up with the boys and Jo to have a day in the pub watching The Fourth Ashes Test. I had a really good day, England were smashing the Aussies. Sar came and met up with us later in a 'Cheers' themed bar. :) We had a good drink and managed to catch the train home on this occasion.
On another of our days looking after the kids, we caught the ferry over to Manly. It was a beautiful place, north of the harbour with some spectacular views on the journey over. We had a chill out on the gorgeous beach and then went to 'Ocean World' which was great. They had some humongous mantarays and sting rays. Another all expenses (and some) paid trip, thoroughly enjoyable day. :)
New Years Eve
New Years Eve was the one we had been looking forward to most. We had seen many times before, the spectacular Firework displays over the harbour bridge and the opera house on the tele and now could not wait to experience it first hand. We initially wanted to just stroll down to the harbour and watch the events unfold, but it wasn't as easy as that. They anticipated over 1.5million people to attend the festivities in Sydney central! The Harbour would be jam packed and had a strict no alcohol policy anyway, no good for us eh! There was plenty of alternative Vantage points to see the fireworks though. We chose one called Mrs Macquarie's point, one of the most popular ones with a capacity of 20,000 people. It was a particularly good spot because of the angle at which the Harbour bridge and the Opera house could be seen - the first arched perfectly over the latter. It also sold booze on site so this was the one for us.
We had read and been told by many people that we would have to start the day very early as hoards of people get there in the early am! We decided to set off from ours at 10am, picking the boys up on the way, who took the piss getting ready! Bunch of b*****s! We met Jo in central with her apple in hand! (every time we met Jo throughout our stay in Sydney she had an apple!) and then eventually got to Mrs Macquarie's point at around 1pm. We were greeted by a que that was easily five miles long! Weaving and winding over grass land outside the vantage point. We made a few enquiries to a steward as to how long the que would take and whether he could guarantee we would get in? He couldn't estimate how long it would be and also could in no way guarantee we would get in, 'when it's full, it's full' he said, helpful pal! We decided to go for it anyway as we really wanted to go to this vantage point and everywhere else would now be equally as busy. It wasn't actually that bad at all, the que went pretty quickly, we all had a few beers, their was a proposal to someone with the strangest name ever! 'Benjher' or something, written in jet stream smoke in the sky which was jokes! As there was a group of us, we all just had a laugh in the que which made the time go fairly quickly. Before we knew it we were at the entrance.
Dom and George had kindly donated a bottle of vodka to the cause! As bring your own alcohol was prohibited we had to try and sneak it in, in little plastic pop bottles mixed with lemonade. We got through a good chunk of it in the que and as we went through the entrance gates some of us got ours through and others didn't (naming no names....Sarah! :)) We all had a good look around for a decent spot which was proving pretty difficult as it was heaving already! Eventually we found a good spot, with a decent view if not for a few trees in the way, not much room and it was on a pretty steep hill, but I'm just being fussy now!!! We all squeezed into our little spot and passed the time by drinking, playing poker and generally just having the craic! It was an absolute scorcher of a day! Whilst we had been in South East Asia, I had got used to walking round bare foot, a trend I had kept up since being in Sydney but today I paid for it! When I went for a toilet stop the floors were scalding hot, I was running and jumping about trying to get into the shade or onto a grassy section! The ques for the toilet were huge with no shade and no grass in sight! I literally had to borrow a flip flop off the girl next to me in the que and stand one footed! :)
There were a few events planned for the evening, the first one being a boat convoy and then a water show which was cool. Then was the first of the two firework displays. The first one was for children, a cartoon themed display. Was very impressive! With midnight/New Years Day approaching we decided to get a better spot for the big display, we all moved up onto a bank and found a really good view of the bridge. The firework display was amazing! Must have lit the Sydney skyline up for half an hour at least! Everybody had a fantastic night and remembered everything, a lot of us were worried we wouldn't as it was such a long day on the session!
On new years day we just went and chilled out by the harbour and went and checked out the rocks - the oldest area in Sydney, a very cool place. In the evening we went for a snack and a drink with Dom, George and the twins at an Australian equivalent to an English members club! Cheap food and beer, I have never seen as many slot machines in my life, apparently there is more slot machines per capita in Sydney than Las Vegas!
A few days later went to Bronte beach, which was a few beaches up from Bondi. Bronte was a really nice beach as there was a grass area just off the beach so you didn't get the whole sand everywhere problem! After the beach we headed back to go to a poker tournament that was being held at a pub near to where the lads were staying. Me and Sar had never took part in a proper tournament before so we were well up for it. Unfortunately it didn't last long with Sar being the first of us to go and me following not long after! It was a good laugh though, and a good experience. It's so different playing in a proper organised tournament as opposed to just with your mates, much much quicker and people take it ridiculously serious! Jan done well though, he was a joint winner of three and won $125.
A couple of days later all the boys were heading off on a road trip to Melbourne, where they would be settling down and all looking for work, so we had arranged to meet for a farewell night out. We went to our regular pub of choice the 'three wise monkeys' and had a fantastic night. It was a real shame to be saying goodbye to them after all the amazing times we had had over the last 6 weeks. To say the goodbyes were a bit prolonged would be a huge understatement! :) When we left they all made a people tunnel for us to walk through!!! We headed off at about midnight, we wanted to stay out longer but we had the big day out at the cricket the following morning and knew Dom was gearing up for an early start an a long day on the beer! On the train home there was lady sat opposite who was clearly upset and had some quite nasty scratches on her face and neck. I nudged Sar over to go and see if she was alright and the woman literally broke down in Sar's arms! She was sobbing her little heart out. The woman was running away from her husband who was beating her and Sar gave her some good advice. She was so attached to Sar that we missed our stop!
Like I said we set off early doors for the cricket, about 8am. We managed to squeeze a few cheeky Schooners in before it started. Schooners were the Aussies equivalent to our pint, a bit smaller though. On the walk to the SCG, the excitement was really kicking in. Although I would now class myself as quite a big Cricket fan, I was still yet to go to a live game and what a way to start - The Ashes in Sydney, Australia. And at one of the most famous landmarks of world cricket! Also England being on the verge of winning the ashes in Oz for the first time in 26 years!!!! From the outside the ground was exceptional, had a real traditional look to it and the atmosphere was buzzin more and more the closer we got. We met Dom's mate Brendan outside the ground and then headed in. Brendan was one of Dom's clients (Dom owned a law firm) who he was taking out for the day as a corporate gig, which benefited us hugely as Dom was paying for all the drinks and claiming them back from the company!!! Win!! What a legend. We had a brilliant day, England were smashing the Aussies, 'The Barmy Army' were taking the roof off, great seats, beautiful weather and we didn't buy a drink all day! The day's play finished at about half five and then we went on to a pub with Dom and Brendan to meet a few more of Dom's mates. The night was a messy one! Very drunk! One of the guys we met was a guy called Ben who worked for Dom, he had also been at the Cricket that day sitting in the members section, a gift from one of his clients. Ben also had the tickets for the next day's play as well but couldn't make it as he was going house hunting with his girlfriend! Dom managed to sort it out with Ben so that we could get the tickets! We could believe it! The tickets we had for today cost us £125 each and they were just in regular seats, Dom told us that people were on the waiting list for fifty years to get in the member's section and would pay thousands for what we had! Shocking!
So after a heavy day on the drink we were up early again the next morning to go and enjoy our executive day out at the Ashes in the members section. :) I had to scrape together a collared top, some long trousers and closed toe shoes as it was a bit more formal in these seats and a dress code was enforced! All I had clothes wise was t-shirts, shorts and flip flops! Standard travelling clobber! The members section was out of this world! Spacious leather seating, fantastic views of the pitch, the teams dressing rooms either side of us, superb bars etc etc! It was quite strange to be mixing in amongst these quite obviously super rich people. It was brilliant all the same though. Like I said before we were quite hungover so we took it easy on the drinking....well Sar did anyway!!! It was another great day, we had thrashed them again and were on the verge of winning the Ashes, we had basically won. Just had to take a few wickets in the morning. All in all we couldn't have wished for anything better for our first live cricket experience and to get the free tickets in the members just made it that bit more special. Again Dom, what an absolute hero!
A few nights later we went out for drinks with Jo and James Ricci - the lad we had met in Thailand. We had a belting night having a good catch up, playing drinking games in the pub. On the way to another pub that evening, James noticed that a street performer who was a mime artist had jumped off his little stand for a break, James jumped on and started miming, Sarah acting as his promoter...he even got a few coins chucked in! Was hilarious! James was off to Melbourne the following day so we said our goodbyes after a quality night. We had had some fantastic times with him.
Before we had set off on our travels, we had bought greyhound bus passes for our time in Australia. We had planned to travel up the east coast from Sydney to Cairns, stopping off at various destinations along the way. However, as the floods were so awful whilst we were there, we were unable to make the trip; whole towns were completely under water and all the roads were inaccessible. So instead, we planned to go on a road trip with Jo to Byron Bay which was about as far up the east coast as we could possibly go before hitting the affected areas. It was still a pretty big trip though, about 1200 Km to get to Byron and we would be stopping off at a few places on the way before turning back and returning to Sydney. We went and had a shop around to find the cheapest method of doing the trip and after visiting a handful of rental shops we decided on renting a Toyota Corolla which was dirt cheap at £130 between the three of us for a week!