Last weekend, Matt and I hopped on a plane to Sydney, an easy hour’s flight from Brisbane. We stayed with some family connections who have a lovely little apartment a short walk from Darling Harbour.
(I love that: Darling Harbour. Say it again. Roll it around on your tongue. It sounds like the setting for a romance novel, or something from Peter Pan — not sure which. And yes, here in Australia, it’s Harbour, not Harbor. Also quite nice somehow, though not something I’d normally endorse, mind you.)
Part of the walk included the passageways of the Star casino, which has a deluxe shopping mall that includes high-end shops (Gucci, Calvin Klein!) and restaurants, as well as a sweetshop that has a tiny restaurant where the treats (including lovely macaroons in the Luxemburgli style) are delivered to diners on a sushi train. We stopped in on Friday evening at the casino to watch people gathered at the tables and the “pokies,” and to have a drink at one of the bars — no gambling, though. Despite the throngs of retirees at the machines, and the Chinese families crowded around the tables and eagerly watching, it was not tempting. (The biggest turnoff for me was the video roulette — why would you go sit at a casino and play what amounts to a video game? So weird.)
On Saturday, while I was sick all day from what I suspect was food poisoning, Matt and one of our wonderful hosts went to nearby Koala Park. Despite the rain showers that filled the day, Matt came back excited with stories to tell — for example, about feeding the resident kangaroos. One gently pulled Matt’s hand filled with chaff toward its mouth, delicately hooking him with its claws, and drawing his hand away from a second kangaroo seeking sustenance. Matt’s take: we can’t ever eat kangaroo, ever. They look too smart.
(I guess it’s a good thing I’ve had wallaby burgers, without ever having seen a live one! See my Hobart post.)
By Sunday, I was feeling better (yay for drugs!), and the weather cleared somewhat, even as it got hotter and more humid (a seemingly impossible feat!). We headed off for Yum Cha in Sydney’s Chinatown, with one of Matt’s former colleagues, his partner and little boy — despite our horrible stomachs (Matt, too, felt some of the food’s after-effects), the dim sum-like food was delicious. We then walked back to Darling Harbour to see if we could catch the tail end of the Dragon boat races, marking the end of Chinese New Year, but we were too late. (Instead we watched a weird street dance troop of mostly white Australian guys, led by an African-American hailing from the Bronx — he was so funny, and so racist; it was really strange and quite entertaining.)
After a gelato on the quay, Matt and I boarded a midafternoon ferry to get to Manly. The name unfailingly makes me think of Laura Ingalls Wilder, but Manly is actually a lovely beach community at the edge of the Pacific, where Sydney’s harbor opens to the ocean. The rocky gateways cause the waves here to interact, creating massive swells that rocked the large ferry and sent spray onto the top deck where we were sitting. It was awesome, not only from the natural forces and setting, but also the thrill of the roller-coaster-like ride.
On the way out to Manly, the views of the city and its icons — the harbor bridge, Luna Park, and of course the Opera House — were spectacular under cloudy skies. We stepped off the ferry and walked through the large modern bars that have sprung up on the pier, and opted instead for coffee and snacks, at a tiny cafe on a side boulevard lined with trees that looked like pines, but instead are ancient gymnosperms, Auracaria or Bunya trees (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Araucaria_bidwillii). The towering pine-like trees made me feel like I was in Lake Tahoe, even though we were at sea level and sitting near beaches on the Pacific, and not a lake front. As the sun started to wane, we hopped on an evening ferry back and took more photos on our way back.
And that was about it for our trip to Sydney. We hung out a bit more with our kind hosts, having delicious lamb kebab for supper on Sunday evening and lolling about some Monday morning, leaving at a decent 9 o’clock hour for the trip home — the sun came out, and we left the city under blue skies, heading back to rainy Brisbane and more potential flooding. We were a bit reluctant to leave.
So, while I can say I’ve seen Sydney, mostly from the comfort of a boat, I would gladly go back. We missed the art museums, old downtown, a wine tasting happening that weekend, and more — it seems to be a great (big!) city and I hope I get to see it again.