Wednesday, December 29, 2010

G'Day! You Flaming Galah!!

Hello Sydney!!!

After a long flight from Bangkok, and the worst turbulence we've ever experienced (everyone's breakfasts were flying off their trays and tea/juice was all over everyone!) we arrived into Sydney at 6am to beautiful blue skies and a lovely 'G'Day howsitgoin?' welcome from immigration officials... aahh it's good to be here!!

We couldn't check into our hotel until 2pm so we left our bags with reception and wandered into the city like freaky sleep deprived zombies - we could hardly speak to anyone let alone each other, so were just wandering and staring at the sights, looking back it was a bit like a dream that morning, haha. It was around rush hour when we walked down from our hotel on Kent St to Circular Quay (where the Opera House and bridge both are) but it was quite nice to see everyone trotting off to work and us spending the day sightseeing.  Plus there was so many people out for an early morning jog in the cities parks before work.. what a good way to start the day :-)

Mart's flip flops broke on the way down to the
Opera House, so he was bare foot in rush hour !

We finally made it down to the quay and even though we were feeling pretty jet lagged, that view just blew us away, especially with the blue skies and sun in the background - plus as it was so early we avoided all the tourists!! Japanese tourists in the background of our shots!

Unfortunately for us though Oprah Winfrey show was in Australia.  Oprah had brought all her US audience on a week long trip around Australia and then did her show from in front of the Opera House (all paid for by Australia's government as a tourism effort).  So it seemed as though the area around the Quay had been taken up by the big 'O', her stage set up blocked the access in front of the Opera House and even the bridge had a big red O lit up on it, she ruined our piccies!! She's big news over here it seems... unlike in UK where her show sits on some random Sky channel that noone watches!  Even the Aussie Prime Minister gave her an official press welcome! yawn yawn yawn! blah blah blah!


A little Pommie whinge (just to get it out of the way)
After about 3 hours in the city we eventually realised that our English pound isn't going to go as far as we originally thought it would. When I lived over here about 6 years ago it was 3dollars to 1pound and now it's 1.5dollars to 1pound and the prices for everything have just stayed the same. We even spotted a loaf of bread for 4quid the other day.  A Sydney travel card was 17pounds for the whole day, whereas in London it's around 6quid! Thing is Aussies earn a higher figure, so that the prices for things aren't as high to them... but are to us! So we've had to reasses our budget a little bit and really pick and choose the things we'd like to do on the Aus leg of the trip.  We've also been keeping our costs low and grabbing food from the supermarkets (Coles and Woolworths!) and walking lots instead of taking transport where we can, things like that really.  Plus, what's made it even harder... there's SOOOO many nice clothes and shoes here.. it's killing me walking by Sportsgirl and City Surf shops - espesh when all the Sydney girls are looking cool!! At least I know I have a lovely wardrobe full of nice clothes that I wouldn't have worn for 5 months when I get home :-) that's my consolation. OH and the summer stuff will be hitting the shops in the UK when I get back.. yipeee!!

After checking out all the sights in the city during the day; Opera House, Botanic Gardens (loved the bats!), The Rocks, Darling Harbour etc, we checked into our hotel at 2pm and then slept until 9pm.. we SO needed it! We had a lovely little apartment for 3 nights that Martin's Mum and Step Dad had kindly bought for us as a xmas pressie.  It was a little self catering apartment right in the middle of the city and we were given the 55th Floor (2nd from the top) so had an AMAZING view of Darling Harbour and the city skyscrapers.. in fact on our first night there there was fireworks going off in Darling Harbour... hmmm it's like they knew we were coming eh!

The Rocks

tree hugging

botanical bats

more botanical bats

yoga in the Botanical  Gardens, with Harbour behind

view from our apartment

Darling Harbour fireworks

our lovely little place

heaven = glass of wine, Sex & The City on TV and a gossip mag!

view looking straight down from 55th Floor

Day 2 in Sydney
We caught the bus over to Coogee beach in the Eastern suburbs and did the long coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi and the views were stunning.  As we passed Bronte and Tamarama beaches, we saw all the surfers going at it in the waves and saw some absolutely gorgeous houses facing out to the sea with glass verandas and lounge summer style furniture - what a lovely life.  

Bronte beach

Tamarama beach... love this beach

Bondi behind Mart

Coogee beach
We passed Clovelly beach where there's meant to be really good snorkelling, we even met a lady a couple of days later whilst we were waiting for a bus and she goes snorkelling everyday before she goes to work as she really loves the seahorses that she seas at Neilson Park beach! What a way to start your day.. seriously envious!  

Bondi Icebergs Swimming Club. Also has a really posh
restaurant looking over the beach (lots of celebs!). You can only become a swimming member of this club if you agree to join swimming during the winter months...brrr

Bronte salt water pool

Bronte beach

Bronte beach

fitness equipment installed on the coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi

Also we have to mention that everyone has been so so friendly since we've been in Aus... and definitely happier and more cheerful than some of us English miserable gits, well I suppose you would feel happier waking up to lovely blue skies and wide open spaces and lovely healthy food on offer at each corner .  Also another thing I really love about this city is the healthy/fitness lifestyle that most people seem to lead - lots of people out jogging in the parks before work and at lunch times, boot camps on the beach each morning, yoga in the park, swimming in the natural sea pools... plus SO many healthier tastier options on menus and in food courts, lots of salad deli style places, fresh sushi bars, which I wish we had more of in England.  

At the end of the walk we made it to Bondi, which we weren't really that impressed with.  Which is funny as I lived there for about 5 months, 6 years ago and I loved it then.. but I think it's just got a bit more commercial and touristy these days, either that or I'm definitely an old git now.  We got back into the city early evening and went to the cinema (what a treat!) to see Harry Potter - loved it! 

Day 3 in Sydney
We got up early and caught a ferry from the Quay by the Opera House over to Taronga Zoo (unfortunately didn't have time to head into the zoo) and then a quick bus to a place called Balmoral.  I hadn't been to Balmoral when I lived here before and so gutted that I didn't as it has a beautiful beach and is a very peaceful and laid back area.  The sea is really calm this side of the city aswell so you if you fancy a swim across the bay you don't have to battle with big waves.  

at Balmoral

on ferry going over to Taronga

We headed to Balmoral to meet up with David Bickett and his wife Jan.  David worked with me at 3 in Maidenhead and has recently moved back to Oz to be with his family and his new little grandson called Felix, so we had planned to meet up back in July before David left the UK.  All four of us had a tasty brekky whilst looking out onto the beach and caught up on our trip so far and all had a good moan about the exchange rate! haha.  Was great to see David and finally meet Jan and they gave us tons of tips for our road trip along the Great Ocean Road and what to see when we get to Adelaide.  

David and I
After brekky Jan dropped Mart and I off at the beginning of a walk we wanted to do from Spit Bridge to Manly which winds all along the coast for about 10km's ... our feet killed us after the walk, but it was definitely worth it as we saw so many hidden little places (and dream houses!) that we wouldn't have ever seen if we didn't take the walk.  We loved Manly when we finally got there we could definitely see why lots of Brits live over this part of the city. Oh and that evening we spotted an 'Aldi' at Manly ferry terminal, so we did some VERY cheap shopping!! haha... dodgy quality.. but needs must eh!

time for my roots to get done I think!

Manly Wharf

It's Chriiiiiiiistmaaaas!!

View from ferry coming back into the city  from Manly

On our walk to Manly Martin had a little Bill Oddie moment and spotted some birds.  These are Kookaburra's and they do a really crazy call to each other that sounds like evil laughter.. and they're really loud too!

Manly Wharf

Day 4 in Sydney
We unfortunately had to check out of our lovely apartment and move into a cheaper hostel bunk bed for the next 2 nights.... OH DEAR... what an experience and I now  know that I'm definitely too old (and clean!) to be a proper backpacker!!!! 

Here's a little rundown of the low points of the hostel stay:

1. Our room had 4 bunk beds and Mart and I ended up with the top bunks the other side of the room for each other - so gave each other a quick wave before we went to sleep! A little bit odd when you've been together for nearly 5 years!

2. The room was a total teenage boys bedroom, clothes and crap everywhere, and a gross smell to match the teenage boy theme.

3. People sleeping in their bed in the middle of the day, so you feel like you have to be quiet.. I wasn't though.

4. The age gap. The average age of everyone in the hostel was about 19, most people had just finished their A Levels and taking a break before Uni.  We're 31 and 32 and I think we felt a little odd hearing about who they'd pulled the night before in the bar downstairs - was pretty weird finally feeling my age!! 

5. I shared my bunk with a really really annoying American girl who was called 'Bex' and worked in a bar, but was out partying all the time we were there, who then brought back a lad at 3am for some sexy time in the bunk below!!! I went wild at them... luckily after my little rage they stopped.

6. People coming in at 4am and turning the light on and rustling in their hundreds of plastic bags (we now sleep with earplugs and eye masks!)

7. The bathrooms.. to be fair these were always quite clean with no queues, but a small tip; always wear your flip flops into the shower... I would not go bare foot in those shower trays!

8. The hostel kitchen, a few tactics needed here. Scope it out, grab a free hob, collect all your pots, pans, plates, cutlery you need and keep it all close by you whilst you cook, if you don't you'll be stirring away and find your plate/knife/fork have gone walkabout and there's none left for you to eat your dinner on/with! Another tip; label up your food showing which date you check out so that the nazi hostel workers don't throw it out whilst you're at the beach for the day.. also helps if you put another little note inside your shopping bag along the lines of 'DON'T STEAL THIS FOOD YOU DIRTY LITTLE BACKPACKER' and you'll usually find that your butter and pasta etc are left well alone from potential food thieves!

9. The final ... and worst one... SNORERS... oh christ on a bike.. this was bloody awful.. nothing you can do about them but throw your flip flop at them! Again, earplugs came in handy, although we had such a bad one when we were along the Great Ocean Road that his disgusting guttaral snoring even got through my earplugs, I ended up wrapping my scarf around my head a few times! haha.

So after our initial shock at the hostel, we locked our stuff in our lockers (at least they had those!) and escaped to the beach for the day.  Was a boiling hot Saturday and so we knew that Bondi etc would be packed out so instead we caught a 20min bus over to a place called Shark Bay, just off Neilson Park.  It's a bit worrying that some beaches have nets around them to prevent shark attacks, and some aren't netted, luckily this one was.  The biggest shock of the day was the water... admittedly we were used to the warm Asian seas we'd had for the last 2 months, but the water in Sydney was FREEZING!! I think someone said it was about 15degrees! We dipped in, screamed a bit and then hit the sand again! The kids didn't seem to mind though, they were right there in their with their body boards.  It was really cool to be on this beach though as there were no tourists, just Aussies enjoying their Saturday in the sun - was really nice and gave us a little inkling of what life in Sydney would be like (very jealous indeed!).  When we finished at the beach we walked around the coastal path from Neilson Park to Rose Bay - I think I'd read that quite a few celebs/film stars etc live around these parts and you can totally see why... look at the view!

good view from the houses on this street

We stayed that night in the hostel... that was the night my bunk buddy decided to get frisky below me... big NO NO! 

Day 5 in Sydney
Our last day in Sydney was another scorcher, so we grabbed a bus from the city to Bronte beach, it was PACKED, but it was still pretty wicked to be there for the day, topped up the tans, read our books, ate our little sandwiches that we made in the hostel that morning and Mart braved another dip in the sea, I wimped out, and generally just chilled out. 

Mart's in the surf there somewhere
That night we wandered down to the Opera House and Darling Harbour for a few glasses of wine (the wine over here is amazing!! and about the only thing that's really cheap especially if you buy the Aussie wines, a new diet of wine then?) It was really nice to see the Opera House and bridge all lit up (apart from the big O from Oprah on the bridge!). That same night Mart kindly swapped beds with me, but he didn't experience the bed rocking thank god, well actually she didn't even come home that night, so she was probably in some guys bottom bunk annoying his room mates!! 

Overall we absolutely loved Sydney, the downside was that it was pretty touristy and definitely the most expensive city out of the 4 we've visited so far in Aus, both of these things are to be expected I suppose.  

We totally loved the mix of really good restaurants with tons of great seafood and healthy stuff, funky bars with amazing views over the city, clubs (they LOVE their Electro, so we were right at home), cool shops, gorgeous big parks and having the stunning beaches as part of the city just top it right off. 

We then caught a plane the next day to Melbourne, where we stayed for 3 nights and then hired a car for a little roadtrip along the Great Ocean Road finishing up in Adelaide.. will update on that part next time! Soo much to write about... my little fingers are aching and the keyboard has smoke on it tonight!

As I'm writing this (I'm a bit behind on the blogs) we're sat on the sofa at Martin's sisters house in Toowoomba, which is about an hour outside of Brisbane.  We've had a fantastic Christmas all together... apart from Brisbane and Queensland have just experienced their worst flooding for 20 years!! So we had a pretty rainy day... felt quite English actually, well apart from the gorgeous prawns and salad and the 27degree heat!! Will do a proper blog on Christmas soon, we've had a brilliant time here.  We missed our friends and family loads on the day and boxing day, hope you all had a great time :-) Love you all lots

Happy Christmas!
Love and miss you all lots
Ems & Mart