MistyNites

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Archive for the tag “Bondi”

Familiarity

I was hitting it off with the weather on my winter break to Sydney, and woke up to another day of sunshine. I’d bagged a package deal at the hostel I was staying in which included a choice of breakfast options, so I filled up before heading out to explore. Many parts of Sydney are exceptionally familiar to me, and the walk from the Rocks down to Circular Quay is one of them. Being a Friday, many people were heading to work but there were also plenty of tourists around. Armed with my Opal card, a must-have for public transport in the city, I jumped on the ferry to Manly, somewhere I tend to go every time I’m in the city. I know the sights on route very well and always sit outside to watch the city buildings pass me by.

 

From Manly wharf, I passed up the main thoroughfare to the beach which had more bird life on it than people. This place is usually heaving with people in the summer months or on the weekends, so although there were plenty of people on the promenade, it was strange to see the beach so empty. I always do the Manly beach to Shelly beach coastal walk, but I’d never before headed to the opposite end of the beach, so for the first time I took the promenade north instead of south. A this northern end there was a rockpool, a common finding on many of the beaches around here, and behind the beach, the piled up sand blocked the exit of Manly creek, creating a bit of a lagoon. I cut up to the promenade and followed this round to head up the side of the creek, where parents with their children hung out on the grassy areas around it.

 

After a while, I turned back and followed the promenade back to the south end of Manly beach and round to Shelly beach. This adjoining coastal walk is a great place to spot water dragons, as I almost always see them sunning themselves below the cliffs here. There are some cute little sculptures incorporated into the wall as well and if that wasn’t enough, the view along the coast and the sparkling blue water is stunning. It was mobbed at Shelly beach and the eateries were packed as always. I was torn between waiting for a table and eating late, and in the end decided to go for a walk into Sydney Harbour National Park. I did this walk on my very first visit to Sydney in 2012 but hadn’t been since, so it was nice to re-familiarise myself with it.

 

Heading up the slope first to the coastal lookout, the track cut inland towards a historical gun placement. I kept a similar line on another track until back on tarmac, I took the road down to Colin Flat beach. I was fairly sure I could walk back to Manly via the coast, and thankfully was proven right. From Colin Flat beach, a track led round to Little Manly beach where a plethora of boats were moored up a little offshore. Then it was just a matter of following the road behind here round the headland to Manly Yacht Club at Cabbage Tree Bay, where the path led round to Manly wharf. By now very hungry, I ate here ahead of catching the ferry to Watson’s Bay.

 

I’ve been to Watson’s Bay a couple of times, but never from Manly. The private ferry that cuts from this North Head settlement to the South Head settlement has limited times and is not included in the Opal card. But it saved a massive amount of time by removing the need to detour via Circular Quay so it was well worth it. One of the differences between South Head and North Head is that you can see the city skyline from the south. From Watson’s Bay itself but also on the coastal walk round Green Point Reserve and Camp Cove there are a myriad of view points to look back across to the buildings of the CBD. Camp Cove is a cute little beach and round from here is a popular walk that passes a nudist beach and round to the Hornby lighthouse which stands tall at South Head. By the time I’d completed the loop to the Gap, a dramatic cliff at the back of Watson’s Bay, and followed the cliff walk a little further south to Don Ritchie grove, the clouds had moved in and it seemed altogether darker. Back at the ferry wharf, I watched a pelican waiting patiently outside a fish restaurant before catching the last ferry back to Circular Quay.

 

In the gathering darkness I caught the ferry to Taronga Zoo for my first experience of Vivid Sydney. Whereas the main light displays of Vivid are free to walk around, the zoo’s display is a ticketed and time-slotted event that I decided to go to. Buses awaited the ferry’s arrival and in hoards we were taken up the hill to the main zoo entrance where a reasonably well organised queuing system had me inside with relative ease. Following a set route around the zoo, there were ample displays to look at but it was incredibly mobbed. I hate crowds and this was only just bearable but despite the masses, it was well worth the money.

 

Eventually I returned to the city and disembarked the ferry at Circular Quay to join the throngs of people exploring the main thoroughfare of Vivid Sydney. The atmosphere was incredible, but again some parts were just a bit too crowded. Some displays couldn’t be approached due to either the wall of people surrounding them or the sea of people following the one-way walkway like a single impenetrable unit. At times it was at your peril to try and cross this melee. The route led round past the Opera House which turned through a series of animations and pictures, and cut into the Royal Botanic gardens where I had walked through the day before. Some displays were understated, some not so popular, but many of them were spectacular and there were definitely many favourites among them. Then the route cut into the Rocks where there was a hub of eateries and in places a bit of a party vibe. I absolutely loved it.

 

With my friend having twisted her ankle a few days prior, our planned joint explorations had had to be cancelled. Not only was she unable to join me walking around Vivid, but she also wasn’t able to do the Bondi to Coogee walk with me either. Instead, we planned to meet up in Bondi for lunch, so I set off early on the Saturday to catch the bus to Coogee and walk the route in reverse. It is a gorgeous walk and yet again I had glorious sunshine. Last time I walked it was in the summer where the heat had been extreme, but the winter temperature was a lot more pleasant. From Coogee the track cuts up onto the headland at Dolphins Point and round Gordons Bay where a man was taking his dogs for a swim. Next up is Clovelly where the headland offers some great views south. The beach here is a little odd as it is cut right back into a little cove. I came immensely close to dropping my phone into the public toilet here, although the floor of the cubicle didn’t exactly look that clean either. Thank goodness it is waterproof as it got a good clean in the sink before leaving.

 

The path is supposed to follow the coast at the bottom of the massive Waverley cemetery, but at the time of visiting, the lower path was being reconstructed following a storm washout. Instead, the detour headed into the thick of the cemetery past a variety of headstone styles with a backdrop of a glistening Tasman Sea. Bronte and Tamarama beaches came and went and eventually I found myself at Icebergs and the famous azure swimming pools at the south end of Bondi beach. There is something so iconic about the pool, the beach and the Surf Life Saving club and I spent quite a bit of time on the road overlooking the pool, dreamily looking down at the blue pool surrounded by the blue sea which met the blue sky above. In the distance, Bondi had the most people on it of all the beaches I’d passed that morning, but even it was quiet compared to what I’d seen on previous visits.

 

When I lived in Aberdeen in Scotland, my best friend lived in London, England. Then I moved to Christchurch, New Zealand and she to Sydney, and since we’ve both been in the Southern Hemisphere, I’ve seen her more than we ever managed when we lived in the UK. Even so, we’re still a sea apart and in two different countries, so we don’t get to hang out half as much as I would like. So it was unsurprising that we managed to pass a good amount of time in Bondi just catching up. Eventually though, she had to head away to a party, and I found myself in a giant queue for a bus back to the city. I’d underestimated the crowds of both Bondi on a Saturday and the commute of those heading into the city for a Saturday night on the town or to visit Vivid. Bus after bus passed by with no space to board, and the sun had set by the time I finally got onto one. In the end though, this meant it was already dark by the time I reached the city, and it seemed like the perfect excuse to just go straight into the Vivid Sydney route again.

For my last night in the city, I took the route through the Rocks, taking the time to make a few detours to some displays I hadn’t seen the night before, as well as lingering at a few favourites. At the waterfront, I ogled the changing look of the Opera House and slowly made my way back to the far side to head into the Royal Botanic Gardens again. The crowds here were just as bad and I waited in line for quite some time to get into the Samsung display. Through the gardens, I took my time walking through and out the other side, a poor little possum was terrified by the large crowd that surrounded it to take its photo. In New Zealand, possums are introduced and therefore pests, but in Australia they are native and protected which is always a shift in perspective that I find quietly amusing. By the time I’d completed the circuit and was back in the Rocks, it was the end of the night for Vivid and the end of the event, which was celebrating its 10th anniversary. There was still lots of buzz in the air as people dispersed, and I’d had an incredible time over the two nights.

 

My friend was up to doing a bit of walking the next day, so I headed out to the suburb of Newtown. I’d read about a street art trail here, and with my friend familiar with the area, and armed with a rough walking guide on her phone, we spent the day eating food, walking down side streets to look at and discuss the artwork we found and visit a few random places in between. Aside from Newtown itself, we took a wander around Sydney park, a nearby green space, and in the near opposite direction to Sydney university. I was heavily reliant on my friend’s local knowledge as Newtown and its surrounds felt a bit like a rabbit warren to me. We covered so much ground, more than my friend’s fragile ankle probably should have, but by the time we found ourselves back at the train station, we’d eaten and drunk as much as we could, and seen as much street art as we could. It reminded me of visits to see her in London, when I always got to see a different side of the city to the tourist spots, where the real people live.

 

By the time I’d reached the Rocks to grab my belongings, the sunset had painted pink hues onto the sky. I spent a few minutes on the rooftop overlooking the harbour before I had to force myself to leave. It had been a very satisfying 4 days in my favourite city in the World.

Sydney for Two

When I was 19 years old, I travelled across Canada and fell in love with the city of Vancouver. It has, for over 10 years, remained my favourite city in the whole world. Until now. On my first visit to Sydney in 2012, I was travelling solo but this time, not only was I going with my partner and excited to show him my favourite places, but one of my best friends now lives there, meaning an insiders guide to the city. By the end of the week’s holiday, not only had I convinced my partner of the city’s charms, but I had sealed the love for the place which has firmly made it my new favourite city in the whole world.

We arrived on my birthday which was almost coincidental. The real reason we had booked the trip to Sydney was to see the live show of Mrs Brown’s Boys at the weekend. We decided to go a couple of days ahead, meaning no lie-in for me on my birthday. Instead, we had a ridiculously early rise to get to the airport, but the pay-off was that we arrived in Sydney still early in the morning, giving us the use of the whole day. After we hauled our bags up the many many steps from Circular Quay up into the Rocks, we reversed our route and jumped on a ferry out to Taronga Zoo. Last time I had visited, I had been blown away by the bird show and had sold it as a good enough reason to go to the zoo. Arriving in the early afternoon we wound our way through the exhibits under the blazing sunshine. Like Australia Zoo at the end of last year, I was as much (if not more so) enthused about the wild creatures flitting about, as I was about the animals in the enclosures. We were near the kookaburra enclosure when 2 wild kookaburras flew down onto the pathway, which was the closest I had ever been able to see a wild one. I felt sorry for the captive ones, as it seemed as if the wild ones were taunting the others. There was definitely a good bit of vocalisation in what was probably some territorial stand off.

 

I continue to feel very uneasy about captive mammals performing tricks for show, but I guiltily enjoyed the seal show. All the seals they have there were injured individuals that were rehabilitated, and they do seem to enjoy themselves, but I couldn’t help but watch and have thoughts of Blackfish in the back of my mind. From there, we headed straight to the outdoor amphitheatre where the bird show is held, but when we got there, they had a sign up informing us that the afternoon show was cancelled. I was rather disappointed, as it was the main reason for coming back here, but with views over the harbour and the city skyline beyond, it was still a good trip for the afternoon. That evening, we had a wander around the Rocks, and along Circular Quay towards the Opera House. The most amazing red sunset took place over the harbour, and we watched it until the darkness took over, before we headed back for an early night.

 

As an avid fan of Home & Away, it seemed only appropriate to make the long bus journey up to Palm Beach, north of the city. It was a lovely, though long, drive over the harbour bridge, through the northern suburbs and up the east coast past beach after bay after beach after bay. Most people got off at the wharf on the west coast of the peninsula, but we stayed on till it crossed to the east side, getting off at the park which backs the long stretch of golden sand. There was no mistaking this place for the back drop of the fictitious Summer Bay, but it was quiet with barely a soul around and the building that plays the part of the Surf Club was shut up and empty. The beach was stunning, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. We walked from the surf club to the southern edge of the beach where there were a couple of shops and restaurants but still very few people, then headed back to the surf club again. Unsure of how to get up to the lighthouse, we decided to head back to the wharf on the western shore where there was a bit more life, although still very quiet. Unlike the surf on the eastern side, this western side was very protected and the water was lovely and clear. We waded about for a while before heading over the brow of the hill to the pier where it turned out we had missed the one and only sailing of the day. With nothing else happening, and with neither of us having swimwear with us, we decided to head back towards the city. We detoured at Manly to head to the beach, another gorgeous stretch of beach which was conversely crowded with people: sunbathing, in the water, and generally milling about the place. After lunch overlooking the beach, we did a bit of shopping in the surf shops before heading back to Circular Quay. It had been a lovely but hot day, so it was almost a relief when the clouds rolled in for the evening.

 

We had arranged to meet some friends in Darling Harbour, so we opted to walk from Circular Quay round the harbour, under the Harbour Bridge and round the other side. Since last time I was here, part of the walk had been removed whilst building work was going ahead. A brand new casino is in the process of being built, amongst other things, so there was plenty of activity going on. We had to skirt the building site to get back to the waterfront at Darling Harbour and we followed the harbour round, cutting up at Tumbalong Park. I had previously found Darling Harbour quite garish and brash, and hadn’t been a particular fan of the place last time. This time, it was a little different. Whilst still a bit loud and intense, it is changing quite a bit. The monorail tracks are still in the process of being removed and there is some construction work taking place to redevelop it a bit. But it was Tumbalong Park that really helped me change my mind a little. It has an amazing children’s play ground with all sorts of structures for them to play around, and climb over, as well as paddling pools and water features for them to interact with. Being a Saturday, it was absolutely mobbed, and it seemed a great place to keep the kids cool and entertained at the same time. There was plenty of eating options nearby for the parents to get a snack or drink to indulge in whilst supervising their children at play. In the green space behind there was a Thai festival taking place, with stalls serving a wide range of Thai foods, as well as tents to indulge in a Thai massage, tourism spots for Thailand, and Thai entertainers.

 

After a brief wander round, we cut over to Chinatown, another place I hadn’t been to last time, and we gawped at the tanks crammed full of giant crabs and lobsters on display in the windows of the restaurants. It was just a case of crossing the street to go inside Paddy’s Market, one of the largest indoor markets I have ever seen. It was huge, and the range of things on offer was immense, from clothes and toys, to jewellery and souvenirs, and fruit and veg out the back too. We spent a wee while wandering around and still didn’t cover even half of the floor space. Outside at the corner was a wee takeaway shop selling some strange concoction of green tea. The English descriptions were quite vague, with most of the writing being in Mandarin, but I joined the queue and ordered a passion fruit green tea. The tea itself was really nice, but it came with a load of weird jellied sweets at the bottom that would get sucked up the straw and give a weird taste or sensation in my mouth. Looking around, the drinks seemed really popular amongst the predominantly Asian crowd, but I was slightly put off by those jellied sweets. Cutting back through Chinatown, we returned to the Thai festival and partook in a Thai-style neck & shoulder massage whilst waiting on our friends. It was sore in a good way, and the food from the stalls that we all sat down to afterwards was delicious. It was a good way to pass a few hours.

 

After our friends left, we caught the ferry back to Circular Quay for a brief respite before catching another ferry up the Paramatta River to the Sydney Olympic Park. The further up river we went, the more residential the buildings became, and the Olympic Park itself was a surprisingly large area incorporating some wetlands and several walks. Towards the back of the park, there are multiple events buildings and some restaurants. The bus from the wharf took us on a rather convoluted route before we eventually jumped out near the main stadium. Mrs Brown’s Boys was playing at the Allphones Arena and I was very impressed with the whole set up of the park in general but also the building itself. The food and merchandise areas allowed a lot of people to get served at once, meaning quite an efficient service most of the time. They also allowed food into the main auditorium meaning we could sit down whilst we ate. The show itself was great. I was a little disappointed in the first half as, having watched all the series’ several times, it was just an elongated version of a couple of the episodes from the television show. Whilst padded out with plenty of humour and plenty of ad-libbing, it was hard not to feel like I knew a lot of the punch lines before they came. The second half was much better though, and when the cast came out at the end and ‘Agnes Brown’ read out some messages, it was hysterical. Just like in the television series, the actor who plays ‘Rory Brown’ can’t help himself sometimes, often bursting out laughing in anticipation of an upcoming line, and the banter between the cast with impromptu lines was hysterical.

 

The following day was an event that had been quite short-notice, having only found out about it within the week. We caught the train to Blacktown Station on the Blue Mountains line, and from there caught the free shuttle bus to the Sydney Motorsport Park for the Top Gear Festival. My memories of Top Gear on British television go back years, and with a rather long waiting list to be in the audience of said show, I jumped at the chance of going to the festival when I found out that both Jeremy Clarkson and James May were to be there. There was a lot going on at the festival, from stunts and racing displays on the track, to stunts to take part in, as well as stalls selling everything you could ever need for a car, and opportunities to meet drivers, as well as multiple racing car simulators. After a morning spent wandering round the stalls and looking at a lot of cars, we settled into the grandstand seats for an afternoon of stunts and action. The range of stunts was amazing, from motorbikes in mid-air to trucks driving on 2 wheels, and even the Top Gear presenters got in on things. The absolute highlights of the afternoon included Jeremy Clarkson challenging an Olympic Hurdler to a race; car football, whereby James May & Jeremy Clarkson took on the Australian Top Gear presenters at the wheel of Reliant Robins; and a car attached to a bungee cord with someone sitting at the wheel. It was a fantastic day, more than worth the entrance fee, and considering that it had been short notice, it was a major highlight of the trip.

 

After a long day, we took ourselves round to Chinatown where we went in search of a restaurant to have dinner. Just walking down the main street we were almost grabbed at every restaurant by one of the staff trying to tempt us in with their menu and general refusal to take no for an answer. We didn’t make it far before giving in to one determined woman, and taking a seat outside in the warm evening air. We weren’t disappointed though: the food was divine and we ate our fill heartily, watching the large crustaceans being presented to various customers at the restaurants around us. Down the street a busker was playing a lyre and on the boat back to Circular Quay, a lightning storm rolled in to the south of the city, momentarily lighting up the city skyline in a beautiful purple glow. It was a fantastic end to a fantastic day.

 

The next day brought clear blue skies, and a return trip to Manly in the morning which gave fantastic views over the city, the harbour and the Tasman Sea beyond. Back in the city, we jumped on a bus to Bondi, a place I had seen through the rain on my last trip. On this day, it was hot, sunny and the beach and surrounding streets full of eateries and shops were packed. Lunch was enjoyed on a grassy hill behind the beach, people watching those around us whilst trying to fend off the swarm of seagulls that threatened to ruin our enjoyment. Eventually we took to the promenade and wandered along the beachfront before hooking up with the coastal walk south to Coogee. It was a popular walk, and I could see why. On such a beautiful day, there were cracking views north and south along the dramatic coastline, but round every bay was another inlet with another beach offering a multitude of choice for sunbathing, swimming and surfing. Each little bay was beautiful in its own way, and after an hour of snaking round the rugged coastline, we came across Coogee. Coogee was just as gorgeous as Bondi was and nearly as busy, and after all the walking in the heat, the iced coffee from the cafe across the road was well earned and well received. Catching a bus back into the city centre, we retrieved our bags and caught the train to Redfern where my friends live. From the balcony of their flat they have an awesome view back towards the city centre, and I am more than a little jealous that they get to live in this incredible city. It was great to get a local’s perspective of the place, and with them having previously lived in neighbouring Newtown, we headed there for dinner where there was lots of choice for food and drinks.

 

Our last full day was a long one. Getting up early, we caught the Blue Mountains train to Wentworth Falls, the location of my favourite of the 3 walks I did in the region. I had talked this trip up to my partner for months and was determined to show him why I loved it there. After nearly 2 hrs, we stumbled off the train with a few other groups of walkers and jostled with them on the way to the park and on the Charles Darwin walk through the forest. We had been told about a flash storm that had hit the region not long before we arrived in the country but the water level in the river was less than when I had been there in September 2012. It was still a beautiful walk along the riverside, past several waterfalls until we came out at Wentworth Falls and that oh-so-familiar view of the expanse of the Blue Mountains. Like last time, there was a crowd of people at the top of the falls, and the various view points on the way down the steep staircases to the side of the falls, down the canyon wall. Upon reaching the ledge of the National Pass, the crowds thinned out, with many people going no further and heading back up the stairs.

The path passes under the top section of the falls, and above the bottom section, and from here onwards, we had the path mainly to ourselves. Hugging the natural cliff ledge, we walked under dripping overhangs and across stepping stones with loud cockatiels flitting amongst the branches of the thick vegetation. At the far end, we stopped for lunch before heading up the many steps past a couple of waterfalls back up to the top of the canyon, and up to the cafe for a rest stop. The Overcliff track back to the starting point of the hike was closed due to storm damage, so we had to take a detour which shortened the return leg dramatically. We managed to cut back to the cliff edge for the Undercliff track which gave us a higher view of Wentworth Falls and a last sighting of the expanse of the Blue Mountains before heading back up Darwin’s walk to catch the train back to the city.

 

Our flight home the next day was in the evening which gave us some time to have a leisurely breakfast with our friends in Newtown before catching the ferry out to Watson’s Bay to meet up with another friend for lunch. We went to the famous Watson’s Bay hotel by the waterfront which was surprisingly busy on a week day. Still stuffed from a late breakfast, we forced down some fish & chips, then went for a walk over to the ocean where the waves of the Tasman Sea pound against the cliff edges. It is a beautiful and dramatic coastline but the renovations to pull back the barrier, the security cameras that had been installed, and the various signs for the suicide hotlines (all of which were new since my previous visit) drew attention to the darker side of these cliffs. None-the-less, we vowed to walk from the heads all the way down to Coogee if we were to come back again. Sydney’s charms had worked their magic on my partner and he is as in love with the place as I am. It was with sadness that we caught the ferry back to Circular Quay. We could see smoke arising from behind the city, and we discovered later that part of the new casino under construction at Darling Harbour had caught fire. We collected our bags and headed to the airport, but before our plane had even taken off from the tarmac, we were well under way with making plans to return.

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