Category Archives: Australia

Food and friends in Sydney

Tuesday 21st October – Saturday 25th October
Sydney, Australia

As well as doing plenty of exploring, we were lucky enough to meet up with a few friends, old and new, who showed us around various parts of the city.

Conny, Sydney University and Inner West
Conny is a friend of the family (she stayed for a time in Northumberland with my Aunt and Uncle when she was studying at Northumbria University). We hadn’t met her before, but when we told our family where we were going, they suggested we get in touch.

Conny works at Sydney University in the Business School (she runs a successful post-graduate accounting course there) and very kindly offered to show us around the University campus on Tuesday evening. The main buildings have been modelled on those at Oxford and Cambridge.

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The campus also featured a ‘graffiti tunnel’ (the only place where graffiti is permitted on campus, to allow freedom of expression). After a fantastic guided tour we went for dinner at a Lebanese restaurant, followed by a walk to a funky cafe for a delicious dessert!

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Mel, Central Business District
On Thursday we met up with Mel, a friend of Joanna’s that worked with her in the City a few years back. She and her husband Alex moved out to Sydney about seven years ago.

Mel now works as an in-house lawyer, and Alex works in the media industry. They live in Manly, which means their home is a ten minute walk from the beach, and Mel’s commute to work is a short ferry ride across the harbour.

We had a lovely lunch with her in a cafe by the Royal Botanic Gardens (though we forgot to get a photo, so you’ll have to take our word for it!).

After lunch, the weather was so lovely that we decided to go back to Bondi beach for a bit of sunbathing!

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We finished the day with some fantastic food from the Night Noodle Markets, an annual event in Hyde Park. It was packed, with a massive array of food to try, and lots going on.

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My sister Claire and her husband Mark had given me some Aussie dollars as a birthday present before we left, so we took the opportunity to try loads of different foods, including barbeque pork dim sum. My favourite, though, was the desserts from Chat Thai – sweetcorn and coconut, plus banana fritters.

James and Kellie, Balmain
We spent a bit of time on Friday doing some shopping in the city centre. We were told on our walking tour that there were a lot of underground shops in Sydney, as a way to reduce pedestrian traffic at ground level, so we took a look.

On Friday evening we took a short bus ride to Balmain, a suburb of Sydney where our James and Kellie lived. James is a friend of ours who went to school with Joanna and moved out here about ten years ago.

Balmain is a lovely place, with a great high street. We went for dinner at Blue Ginger, which was absolutely delicious. It was fantastic to catch up with James and to meet Kellie.

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A last look at the sights, Circular Quay
Saturday was our last day in Sydney (and in Australia) and the weather was beautiful, so we took one last chance to enjoy the views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.

We stopped for lunch in the Opera Bar (with views of the bridge and the bay), before heading off for our flight, and our next stop: New Zealand!

Spoonerism of the day
A family saying, spotted at Coogee beach.

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Two walks on the wild side

Tuesday 21st October – Wednesday 22nd October
Sydney, Australia

Walking Coogee to Bondi
One of the main recommendations that everybody gave us about Sydney was that we should do the coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi. So, although Tuesday was a little grey, we jumped on a local train followed by a bus and took a stroll alongside the crashing surf of the South Pacific.

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A couple of days after our visit, an exhibition of outdoor sculptures was due to begin along the coastline here, and we saw a few of the exhibits being installed.

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Walking the Blue Mountains
Sydney is surrounded by national parks on three sides (the fourth side is bounded by the Pacific Ocean!). A couple of hours’ train ride inland is the Blue Mountains national park, so called because of the colour of the haze that hangs above the eucalyptus trees.

On Wednesday, we caught a train to Katoomba and then did a two-hour cliff-top walk from there to Leura. The weather was lovely, and although the train was busy, we barely saw any other walkers during our stroll.

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We did, however, see a number of unusual (to us!) birds, and a small and rather brave lizard (or possibly a skink), who had apparently lost his tail recently and was in the process of growing a new one. However, we can’t show him to you, as we didn’t want to embarrass him by taking a photo of him in his state of semi-undress!

Simon did spend some time trying to photograph some parrots that were flying high above us. As it turned out, however, the mountain came to Mohamed, as, when we were sitting in a cafe in Leura while waiting for our train back to Sydney, a parrot landed on a table outside and stole a packet of sugar, which he proceeded to break into using his claws and beak!

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Historical insight of the Day
While we were in Australia, former prime minister Gough Whitlam passed away at the age of 98. We heard a bit about him on various news programmes, and we also talked about him with a couple of the people that we met up with during our visit.

His story is pretty fascinating. He was elected in 1972 as the first Labour prime minister of Australia in 23 years, and he certainly made a splash early on in his premiership. During the first two weeks of his term, before he had even appointed a cabinet, he and his deputy worked together to pull Australia out of the Vietnam War, end national service and began a trading relationship with communist China, which had been unthinkable previously. Subsequently, he set up Australia’s national health service, Medicare, began to repair the country’s relationship with its indigenous people and introduced free university education.

The end of his term of office, in 1975, was even more dramatic. Labour had been ruling in coalition with another party, but they fell out. An election took place, and Labour won very narrowly, although they still had to enter into coalition. The relationship between the parties broke down again shortly afterwards, and this time, Whitlam refused to call an election. For weeks, the government was deadlocked, and the situation was only brought to an end when Australia’s Governor-General, the Queen’s appointed representative, sacked Whitlam and appointed the opposition leader as prime minister. Nothing like it had happened before or since, and we couldn’t even imagine the Queen doing anything similar in the UK!

Manly and marsupials

Sunday 19th October – Monday 20th October
Sydney, Australia

On Sunday and Monday we took a couple of ferries to discover some places outside central Sydney.

Exploring Manly
On Sunday we joined the Sydneysiders and hit the beach! Manly is a seaside suburb of Sydney, an attractive 30 minute ferry ride from Circular Quay, alongside the Opera House.

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We spent an enjoyable day watching the volleyball players, browsing the surf shops and eating at Hugo’s, recently named as the best pizza restaurant in Sydney.

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…and took the ferry back to Sydney at sundown.

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Taronga Zoo, Sydney
Another beautiful ferry ride from Circular Quay on Monday took us to Taronga Zoo. The zoo is divided between Australian and African/Asian animals. We were most interested in seeing the various marsupials and, as the zoo was fairly quiet (on a wet Monday in early Spring), we were able to get some close-up views of animals who were not particularly concerned by our presence, for example this adorable Brush-Tailed Rock Wallaby.

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The koalas and kangaroos were also fantastic…

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Though some were more awake than others!

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Apparently this sleeping koala is not an unusual sight. They sleep for 18 to 22 hours a day to conserve energy, as their diet of eucalyptus leaves requires so much energy to digest. Still, it’s quite impressive to be able to get comfortable in a tree like that!

Abbreviations of the day
Australians love to abbreviate words. For example:
“breaky” – breakfast
“sanger” – sandwich
“reggo” – car registration
“shrappers” – shrapnel, i.e. small change
“super” – superannuation fund, i.e. pension
“GFC” – global financial crisis

The sights and tastes of Sydney

Wednesday 15th October – Saturday 18th October
Sydney, Australia

Exploring the city, Sydney
We arrived in Sydney early on Wednesday morning. It was chilly and windy – the end of a nasty storm that had blown through the area for the previous couple of days, causing floods and even snow in the Blue Mountains. We spent a bit of time on Wednesday exploring the area near our hotel – lots of Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants and plenty of shops, including in the beautifully restored Queen Victoria Building (or QVB as it’s known to locals).

The weather was brighter on Thursday, so we took ourselves to Circular Quay and the Rocks, to get our first views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and walk through the beautiful waterfront Royal Botanic Gardens.

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We finished the day by meeting up with an old friend from Hull, James, for an after work drink. James moved to Sydney a few years ago and it was great to catch up and pick up some tips from a local.

On Friday we explored the city centre some more with the help of an excellent free walking tour. We dealt with our hunger after the tour with a fantastic Vietnamese meal at Chat Thai.

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Darling Harbour, Sydney
Saturday started with a walk around the Darling Harbour area.

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We ended our walk with a visit to the Sydney Fish Market for a taste of home – fish and chips! However, there was plenty of more exotic fare being prepared.

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Just for Laughs, Sydney Opera House
The highlight so far in Sydney was Saturday night. We were really keen to experience the Sydney Opera House as it should be: by seeing a show. We’d looked at what was on before we left home but couldn’t see much we were interested in.

But a check at the box office on Thursday revealed that a Comedy Festival had since been announced and none other than Eddie Izzard was hosting a number of international and Aussie stand ups! There were just a few tickets left, so we went for it!

Eddie Izzard was, of course, fantastic, but the rest of the line up was also great. It included the surreal Reggie Watts, a fantastic Aussie comedian called Sarah Kendall and (in readiness for our trip to New Zealand) Rhys Darby, otherwise known as Murray from Flight of the Conchords.

The Concert Hall itself is huge (it seats 2,679) and it was great to see the inside of the Opera House. Particularly noticeable is the way the hall sits in amongst the concrete ‘sails’ that you see from outside the building.

Day of the Day
Tuesday 14th October. Thanks to crossing the International Date Line, we skipped 14th October. Does that make us a day younger than we should be?!