Tuesday 02 May 2018, Sydney, Australia.
Flying into Sydney from the east, from over the Tasman Sea on a sunny day is one of very few pleasures there is in travelling to Australia. The city is stunning from the air; the long sandy beaches, that glorious harbour surrounded on most sides by dark green bush, and by a not unattractive city on the other. Sydney is one of my favourite cities and I spent a bit of time there on various work and social trips in the past. I was looking forward to this very quick visit; less than 24 hours on the ground.
My original thinking was to spend two days here, see a few people and then hire a car and spend a further two days driving north to Brisbane. However, the cost of a rental car between cities was insane, so the plan was changed to a single night and a catch up with an old bestie.
I chose a mid-day flight from Auckland, missing the rush-hour Auckland madness, and the rushing, busy business folk heading to meetings ‘across the ditch’.
This dropped me into Sydney early on a sunny afternoon. There is now a train from (and to) Sydney Airport, something that did not exist when I used to visit in 90s, and it is a double decker!
Airport trains are the best things in the world for a traveller, and this one takes 20 mins to get to downtown Sydney. Brilliant, and my hotel is a five minute walk from the station. Someone thought the train was ‘Wack’, but not me.
This a glorious looking city, though the view from my hotel room is not the best, a bit like the view from my Auckland hotel.
I was meeting Nicole for a drink and dinner after her day at work. I had an hour to spare after I arrived so decided to go for a walk around the mid-town area. I used to know this part of town really well, but with so much building over the last 20 years, I hardly recognised the place, and immediately went the wrong way.
The old Grace department store was reopened as the Grace Hotel sometime in the 90s and I used to stay there as it was close to the office. It is still one of my favourite hotels, though it has been a long time since I stayed there. it was the first ‘posh’ hotel I stayed in.
George St Dymocks. I always love a good book store, and this was a perfect place to meet someone.
The Queen Victoria building, inside it is a premium brand mall. Not a lot of shopping from me, but the building is lovely and I have not been here for a very long time so it was worth a quick visit.
After a brief walk around I met Nicole for a drink and a meal in a very nice south Indian restaurant. The downtown area of Sydney has a lot more places to go out for a drink and a meal then I remember. The attitude to drinking, in this part of town anyway, seems to have changed from 20 years ago. There was a good vibe in the air for a Tuesday night, and I am really liking the feel of Sydney. Dinner was great, it was great to catch up with Nic. I haven’t seen her in a few years, so there was a lot to catch up on!
I was up early on Wednesday morning, deciding to get out for a walk before breakfast and my flight to Brisbane at lunch time. I took a wrong turn out of the hotel again (perhaps my north/south compass has finally aligned itself with the northern hemisphere?), either way it was a good option as I got to see a bit of downtown I would not have seen if I had headed straight to the Opera House, which was my final destination.
Heading through the back of ‘The Rocks’ area I discovered a small remaining section of ‘old Sydney’, old terraces and a sandstone church that have so far survived the rampant and hungry bulldozers of developers. It was really nice. For a busy, tower-ridden downtown, Sydney does not feel too crowded, though there are a lot of tall buildings, there is some sky and some air. These streets just behind downtown, quite empty early in the morning, seemed like I was a million miles away from the centre of a big city. Like a small rural backwater town.
Back down to the water front and I was confronted with another set of hoardings and more construction, the path around the ferry terminal was closed off to pedestrians as another waterfront something was being built. Construction is endemic, London, Auckland, Sydney. Someone should make a t-shirt. No unspoilt view of the bridge from here.
The sun was in exactly the wrong place for a ‘good’ photo of the Opera House, but meh; I like flare, so I was happy.
The public spaces along the harbour front are brilliant. That bridge. Those Ferries. That Opera House. All wonderful, all photogenic. The light was harsh, but who cares. Who would not be happy here, it was 8:00 am, the air was clear, it was warm with a nice sea breeze. Coffee shops everywhere, and people seemed to not be miserable. It was an enjoyable walk, especially for pre-breakfast.
Sadly I had a flight to catch so after walking round the Opera House I headed back up towards the hotel. Stopping for a really nice breakfast and coffee at an outdoor cafe, surrounded by construction and all the noises they bring. These polenta cakes were amazing!