Shiny Happy People Laughing...Shiny Happy People Holding Hands
The day before it was time to write our Sydney blog entry, I came across this description of the great city from Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country (a must-read for anyone heading to Australia, or if you’ve recently returned!):
“An air of cheerful industriousness infuses the scene. These are people who get to live in a safe and fair-minded society, in a climate that makes you strong and handsome, in one of the world's great cities –and they get to come to work on a boat from a children’s storybook, across a sublime plane of water, and each morning glance up from their Heralds or Telegraphs to see that famous Opera House and inspiring bridge and the laughing face of Luna Park. No wonder they look so damned happy.”
After I read this quote, I wondered if there was any point to writing this entry at all? Bryson has already said it so perfectly.
But alas, we had a fabu time in Sydney and Manly (where our great friend and Hostess with the Mostest lives). We didn’t do much of the regularly touristy stuff – no museums, no tours of the Opera House – but it was a relief. Instead we got to live and breathe like locals and soak up all the damned happiness that Sydney had to offer. There was plenty of it.
The cool thing about staying in Manly with Sarah was that we got to take a break from hostel/hotel living. Including the obvious pleasures, like not having to worry if we could catch an infection in the shower and being treated to two pillows each in bed, we also got treated to many home-cooked meals, got merry with many of Sarah and Wayne’s lovely mates, indulged in lovely and huge brunches, and by the end of the two weekends, had a laundromat, coffee shop, and running route to call our own. We felt like true locals, and even had the happy dispositions to prove it! Here's Manly beach, one block from Sarah's apartment, where we took our daily run and swim:
Manly is just north of Sydney, so you take a ferry in and out of the city. It’s also right on the beach. There are also tons of outdoor pubs (our favorite was the Manly Wharf Hotel aka “Wharfy” which Lonely Planet describes as “a place that will make you want to move to Australia”), restaurants, and coastal walks. Does it get any better than this?:
Another highlight of our Sydney stay was visiting Coogee Beach, Nikki’s stomping grounds from her “study” abroad days 10 years ago. We actually visited twice, once via city bus and once via the great Coastal Walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach. Nik got to reminisce on the old days over some beers at the Coogee Bay Hotel, a Sweet Chili Chicken sandwich, and a stop by her old apartment. It was also a beautiful walk, with everyone out and about enjoying the day:
Just as we thought the royal treatment couldn’t get any more royal, Sarah and Wayne treated us to a few lovely joyrides up the Northern Coast in Lucy, Sarah’s VW Beetle Convertible. I was tempted to wear a headscarf like Princess Grace, but opted for my Red Sox cap instead. Yep, life is good:
Also, we saw this gigantic Gowana Lizard:
We had planned to attend a rugby match (call it “Footie” if you want to be really cool) but it was pouring that night. Change of plans – see the game on a big screen TV (indoors) at a club that served beer at a discount and held a Meat Raffle. Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like: a raffle of meat. Let it be known that Nikki purchased 5 tickets…for a total of 50 possible winning numbers..but sadly did not win any sirloin! Choice A: Go to Footie in pouring rain to get “real experience. Choice B: watch game close up on big TV, drink cheap beer, play Pokies (Australian slots) and Keno, possibly win free meat. Is there really any choice here at all?
Nik and I packed as much in to our last day in Sydney as humanly possible. We took the boat over from Manly, and toured the Botanical Gardens, which seemed to go on and on forever along the harbor. There were many beautiful trees, flowers and tropical birds, but the real highlight was the bats (they also went on and on forever):
We were glad we didn't get locked in with these creatures
We made our way up Macquarie St. to Hyde Park, where we had a coffee and enjoyed an intense game of Big Chess:
Then up Oxford St., through the neighborhoods of Darlinghurst and Paddington – very stylish, very gay, lots of cool shops and pubs:
After a few drinks, we were happy to have this reminder at each crosswalk:
Though we’ve gotten used to driving on the left, we still don’t know which way to look when stepping of the sidewalk. I have taken to looking each way 7 or 8 times and then just making a mad dash for it and hoping for the best. This is not entirely different from how I cross the street at home, but still…
We made a stop at Sushi Train:
You will notice the sushi comes around on a conveyor belt. I thought this was just about the most amazing thing since sliced bread. You just pick off whatever you want, and when you’re finished, they count how many plates you’ve stacked up (this part is rather embarrassing) and then charge you accordingly. Amazing!
We ended our amazing time in Sydney with a beautiful twilight drink in front of the Opera House. Our New Yorker selves simply could not get over the fact that although it was 6 PM, and everyone was out of work (we couldn’t believe that either) and it was a gorgeous night, the bar was pleasantly full but not at all crowded. You could actually enjoy it.
We ferried home to Manly to enjoy a delicious last feast with our awesome hosts. Check out the size of Wayne’s pie (average-sized for Australia)!
Thank you, Sarah and Wayne! We'll be back!
Up next: Adventures in Bangkok. 'nuf said. xoxo Nikki and Marin