Sydney, my new old friend

October 29, 2011 | by Ken

I first visited Sydney back in July for work, and I was immediately comfortable there. Got some must-dos out of the way then, like the Opera House tour and a ferry trip to Manly Island.

Returning as a tourist (and Karen’s tour guide) was like visiting an old friend. Some of the highlights:

– Dinner with Nick and Deveri. Three months ago, Nick was my client, now I’m happy to “just” call him a friend. Meeting his wife and finally getting our Australia questions answered was a treat.

– The Museum of Sydney. Informative but not overwhelming displays on the history of the city, including some perspective on the aboriginal people who were here first.

– Walking through the Royal Botanical Gardens. I’ve been through them several times and still haven’t seen everything- they’re huge!

– Exploring the Sydney Opera House. Get this: there happened to be a free open house the weekend we were in town. We paid nothing and got a better tour than I did (and paid for) in July, traipsing through rehearsal rooms, walking across the concert stage, and visiting the elusive opera theater.

They did get some cash out of us- we went to see one of their current operas, The Merry Widow. Resident opera aficionado Karen called it “opera lite”, which means it was funny and overblown and I enjoyed it. Walked over to Luna Park beforehand and took the ferry back to Circular Quay, a quick ride with a killer view.

– Heading for the beach. The path from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach is well-traveled, and it’s easy to see why: beautiful beaches, craggy rock outcroppings, and saltwater pools. Despite the “no dogs allowed” signs (which we see constantly throughout Australia), there were plenty of pooches to make us smile. One of the things we miss most is not having a dog.

I finally needed a break, so I laid low while Karen took a tour of the nearby Blue Mountains, including a ride on the steepest incline railway in the world.

It was nice to just hang out. We did some shopping, caught up on our New Zealand research, and Karen saved us money by cooking meals at the hostel.

All is not wine and roses, of course. Transit is kind of screwy (one ticket machine at Circular Quay for train tickets… none for bus tickets; you have to buy them from a human… who only works until 5pm?!). And everything is so gosh darn expensive. Even as the US dollar gains ground on the Australian dollar, it still hurts to read the prices on a menu. Imagine our elation, then, when we discovered a Mexican restaurant (very much like Chipotle at home) with reasonable prices and yummy burritos. ¡Que bueno!

As our stay in Sydney winds down, so too does our time in Australia. I hope to visit this old friend again soon.

Night on the town

Finally, Mexican food!

Steepest incline railway in the world

The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains

Sydney skyline

Classic Sydney view

Good morning, Opera House

Between beaches (Bondi to Coogee)

Do ya really need a pool right THERE?

Bondi Beach

Thatch a wave!

Sydney Concert Hall (for orchestra and chorus performances)

Costumes from The Merry Widow

Toasting a snapper burger

Looming over Luna Park

Luna Park and Looney Karen

Ken amid the architecture

Sydney Harbour, complete with cruise ship