Oh Sydney, aren’t you GORGEOUS???
We arrived in Sydney on Monday afternoon just as the sun came out. We dumped our bags in our hostel and set off walking up Darling Harbour in search of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. The sun sparkled on the water, the sky was deep blue and I was in love immediately. The bridge was massive and solid, the opera house was weird and beautiful – it was just so surreal to be there, seeing these iconic structures we’d seen in books our whole lives!
Over the course of the next few days, Sydney continued to win us over. We spent a day checking out museums. First up was the excellent Australian Museum. We avoided the special spider exhibition (shudder) but everything else was wonderful.
We visited Hyde Park Barracks – the Ellis Island of Sydney, where arriving convicts were processed. As a Brit, it was sobering and a little uncomfortable but also fascinating and raised the question of how a country populated almost entirely with convicts could build itself into such a fantastic nation so soon. Kind of a reverse Lord of the Flies. Personally, I was humbled by the courage and gutsiness of the women who made that journey. I hadn’t realised how many orphan girls from the Irish Potato Famine were shipped over or how boat-loads of women responded to adverts and came over to try and better their lives. So much research to do! I did love dressing up (!) especially when I found one lady with my name. Mine is Cathryn Joy but this is basically the same 🙂
We spent a day at the excellent Taronga Zoo. We ummed and aahed about the zoo because a zoo is a zoo is a zoo, but this had Australian animals we wouldn’t see elsewhere else, so off we went. We splurged on a Koala experience…you’re (rightly) not allowed to handle them in NSW but you can get super-close. It was totally worth the money! Wonderful. And when some kookaburras landed overhead later that day, I was set for life.
One evening we went to the Observatory. The three boys were very excited. Not being a fan of space exploration, I was less so but I have to admit, everyone’s excitement was contagious! We saw Jupiter clearly through the telescope (it was beautiful) and the planetarium was also great. There were fantastic night views of the Harbour Bridge too.
Sydney was also wonderful because I got to see two internet friends! I interviewed Fairy ages ago about running in Malaysia and we’ve kept in touch via the internet. This week I got to meet her in real life and she took me to a Zumba class, her real passion. It was wonderful to meet her at long last and the Zumba class was a load of fun, even if my legs ached like death the next day!
I also got coffee with Fiona, who I’ve met once before in real life as well as online. Lovely to catch up with her. I asked her about Australian runners – I’ve noticed how incredibly fast and effortless they ALL look when I see them running past and she nodded. Fiona is FAST – when she ran the SF Half Marathon in 2014 she was the 19th woman of 4,000 but here in Australia she said she’s only top 10%. Definitely not moving here…I’d never AG place again! So good to see her!
In terms of running in Sydney, I got out for two awesome runs. On the first one, I headed up over the Harbour Bridge, of course! Fantastic views.
For the second run, I started early and ran past the Opera House before looping round the seawall and through the Botanical gardens. Even at that early hour, the place was rammed with runners. All the tourists held their smart phones out for photos and wore massive grins.
We also did a great hike on our last day, a well-known 10k hike from The Spit to Manly. We got the bus (178) to the Spit and set off. The recommended time allowance is 3 hours. We scoffed at it, but frankly we needed about that amount of time and we didn’t dilly-dally. It was a gorgeous walk, with great views and plenty of shade. We got the ferry back, covering about 9 miles in total that day, tired but happy. Really recommended for future visitors.
A quick note on our hotel – The Pod Sydney. It was so cool. Like a Japanese capsule hotel. Well located, spotlessly clean, excellent value and SO much fun. The boys adored it! Heartily recommended.
There was so much we loved about Australia. It felt so safe. It was so clean. The people are so friendly and laid-back. The accent makes you smile. Its history is fascinating and well cherished. It has a real British feel to it but the cities are incredibly multi-cultural in the best kind of way. (I wonder how Australia seems to have made multi-culturalism work so well where Europe seems to be struggling with it). I loved the fantastic coffee and the cool coffee shops. We loved the ease of internal flights. We loved the kangaroos, the turtles, the koalas, kookaburras and the beautiful, colourful birds. We loved the bad radio stations that play songs from at least 10 years ago, which means that we know the words and can sing along.
In terms of what we didn’t like…I really can’t think of much. The only thing that comes to mind is the terrifying wildlife! I’m not scared of snakes per se, but I am super-scared of spiders. I have to admit, I was terrified before coming to Aus and checked under each toilet seat every time I went to the loo. In the end, it wasn’t too bad. No spiders in our hotel rooms, no spiders in public bathrooms. However we saw plenty of flipping big orb spiders in the trees throughout our time here although we saw significantly more in Sydney! I don’t like orb spiders but they stayed in the trees and ignored me, so it turned out to be nowhere near as bad as I expected, probably due in the main to this being the Autumn season here. We saw no snakes. I can’t deny that my enjoyment of Australia was definitely lessened by my fear of spiders although I tried hard not to let that happen…but I won’t let that put me off coming back if ever we get the chance to do so!
Sydney has to go down as one of my favourite cities ever. It helped that we had good weather, but the whole place has a cheerful, bustling, multicultural vibe that we all just loved. I would love to come back!
Australia, you’ve been wonderful, thank you! Oahu, Hawaii….here we come!