Day 0 – Because of thunderstorms in both Philly and Dallas, we barely made it onto our flight to Sydney and our bags didn’t stand a chance. It was an odd experience to be sitting on the plane while a huge line of thunderstorms rolls by. The lightning show made me giddy. We finally left 2 hours late Tuesday night and arrived in Sydney at 8 am Thursday morning. I got a lot of movie watching done (Joy, Brave and Revenant) and got 90+% of the way through ‘Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick – I was saving that one especially for this trip. J slept. I was jealous. Sitting that long made my knees hurt. No idea why.
Day 1 – Thursday – So far, we’ve spent the day checking out our neighborhood. We found really great coffee at Workshop Espresso and also a Myer department store to use our $120 gift card from the airline. We’re resting up and then maybe we’ll go find a our local and walk over to the water. Our walk took us to the St. Mary’s church and the New South Wales State Library, which was very cool and old and busy. It’s early fall, so the sun goes down shortly after 6. We stayed awake long enough to eat at a ramen shop. J loved it, I thought it tasted fishy. It was healthy food and helped us sleep and fight the jet-lag crud.
Day 2 – Friday – Still no bags, but we did manage to get the washer to work, just not as lucky with the dryer (it’s an all-in-one with cryptic controls). Found coffee and the Royal Botanic Garden after a failed attempt at a free bus tour. The garden is AMAZING. We learned the names of the very cool trees (figs, ficus, and gum trees), saw beautiful spiders (in webs resting over our heads) and played with the birds – cockatoos and ibis. The park was completely free, open to all and so lovely. It also had great views of the Opera House. We took the ferry from Circular Quay over to Darling Harbour near our hotel and walked the board walk a bit. I paid to see the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Ourbags arrived, which meant my sneakers showed up.
Day 3 – Saturday – I woke up at 4 am and read while J slept. Granted, I fell asleep at 8 pm. We went to a great craft market – The Finders Keepers Market – in the suburb of Eveleigh and housed in the old, converted Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops’. I bought clothes – designed and made by hand by Harper & Edie with fabrics from Japan. Anyway, that was a nice way to spend the morning. We walked around Cockle Bay and had lunch. The waiter told us about Palm Beach and an old restaurant called Doyles on the Beach in Watson Bay (owned 1885) that we should check out. We are also considering a side trip to Melbourne (after talking with the designer and waiter). After lunch, we took a monster walk from the restaurant over to Barangaroo Reserve, just below the Harbour Bridge. It’s completely reclaimed and recreated, with a huge cavernous performance space underneath called the Cutaway. We were just happy to take the lift up to the top and meander down the hill to the water’s edge. After all that, we were beat. Managed to stay up until 9 (which is why I’m up typing this at 5 am). Oh and there were fireworks in Darling Harbour, which we can see from our balcony. An unexpected treat! Below is the panoramic view from the reserve. It’s forecast to rain on Sunday, so we may just see a play or movie and take our day of rest.
Day 4 – Sunday – I woke up at 5 – we are making progress! After the rain stopped around 9, I struck out on my own for The Rocks, coffee and another craft market. The Rocks are the oldest part of Sydney where the convicts were held. The architecture is older. I walked into The Gannon House an art gallery that specialized in Aboriginal art and bought J a boomerang. One of the artists, Thomas Tjapaitjarri, hadn’t met a European until he and his brothers walked out of the desert in 1984 due to a severe drought. How crazy cool is that? J met up with me at the Belgian Beer Cafe where I could get something I recognized and enjoyed. We wandered over to the Art Museum to see a free movie, Nightmare Alley (1947). More walking, picture taking, and dinner. Back at the studio, I swam. I soaked. I relaxed and read my book, because this is my vacation. No clue what we will do today.
Day 5 – Monday – Watson Bay. We took the ferry out to Watson Bay on the tip of the harbor so I could see the Pacific ocean. We walked in the Sydney Harbor National park, took some pictures, saw some flowers and ran into a military base, so we headed back to the beach for a snack, visited a tiny little library (where I was not acknowledged…something my staff know is a HUGE pet peeve of mine) and then took the ferry back home. A lazy day, but that’s the whole point of a vacation.
Day 6 – Tuesday – Woke up early to watch soccer. Champion’s league was on at 5:30 am. We were up anyway… After breakfast and coffee, we visited the Australian Museum of stuffed things. I don’t think I’ve been to a Natural History museum since I went to one as a kid in Denver. Lots of bones, rocks and minerals, fossils and stuffed things. The Aboriginal exhibits were what I found the most interesting with artifacts like shields, spears, and modern sculptures “Ghost net art” woven out of ocean trash. We thought it would be good to see and read about some of the animals we’d get to pet the next day on our Blue Mountain tour. I’m really glad we did. We took a walk and visited a second library in Haymaker on our way to a pub (that ended up being very hipster) in Surry Hills. The library was small and compact with no real children’s area, but an extensive Chinese collection (being in Chinatown and all). I was exhausted by the hilly walk and crashed by 9 pm.
Day 7 – Wednesday- Blue Mountains Day Trip. Definitely the highlight of the trip so far. We booked with a company I found on Trip Advisor – Sydney Great Escapes. It’s family owned and Rob drove us around as the guide, we passed his wife on the highway on our way out of town and waved. He picked us up at the hotel at 7:10 am and we had 2 other couples traveling with us in the van. We were entertained with a mix of history, commentary, family folklore and fire-related history (since Rob is a veteran volunteer fire fighter and there are several active fires in the area). First stop was the Featherdale Wildlife Park in a Sydney suburb. (And I just learned how to make these cool galleries in WordPress, so I can share more pictures.)
We were first through the door when they opened and started the day by petting Cooper the Koala. Then we fed the wallabies and kangaroos, pet a wombat, saw a huge assortment of birds and other critters native to Australia. So Much Fun – I really was like a kid in a candy shop with all of those amazing animals. Next we drove towards the Blue Mountains (more like the smokey hills than the Rockies at 3,000 ft or so). Rob took us to a really cool and unique geologic rock formation/look-out that he’d found accidentally during a forest fire, then to a local orchard, and a cool waterfall at Govetts Leap. After some photos and flora lessons, we packed up and went to lunch at an old hotel. Next we went to see the Three Sisters and rode a cable car, the world’s steepest train and another suspended ride at Scenic World. My favorite part was walking in the forest with huge ferns and tall dark trees. I imagine it’s what the Pacific Northwest is like, but dryer. On the way home, he stopped by another lookout for some final photo ops. The day was very clear and the sky an amazing blue. He dropped us off at the ferry and we drifted home while the sun set.
Day 8 – Thursday – Paddington and tacos. We walked in a different direction today, towards a shopping area called Paddington. I found another library branch – this one all white, modern, with a busy children’s area. The outside has the clock tower and a Sotheby’s auction house upstairs. We ended up at Centennial Park (boring), but I got new Birks! J wasn’t feeling very well, so while he had ramen, I found some Mexican food since it is Cinco de Mayo. Did I mention there are bush fires in the area – one in the Blacktown suburb we drove through yesterday is responsible for tonight’s amazing sunset.
Day 9 – Friday – We went to Bondi Beach and walked along the coast.
Day 10 – Saturday – Back to the Rocks.
Day 11 – Sunday and the Trip home. We leave at 1 pm and arrive in Dallas at 1:30 pm. Time travel!