Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Stop #3 - Sydney!

With a grin still on my face and happy heart from a night full of laughs and stories in Yarra Valley (and a slight headache from the wine!), we moved onto the next leg of our journey - Sydney!  

We arrived, dropped our stuff at the hotel, and headed out to explore.  When we got there, it was a beautiful, sunny, warm day. 

It was just before their version of Veteran's Day, so there were lots of activities happening - including this military band performing for workers on their lunch breaks on Martin Place. 

We decided to join one of the free walking tours to get a good overview and lay of the land.  It started at City Hall/St. Andrews Cathedral.  These trees with purple flowers were everywhere, and so beautiful!  The pictures don't do it justice. 

We walked through the Sydney Queen Victoria Market...

and through Hyde Park, over to St. Mary's Cathedral. 

The park was beautiful with huge, gorgeous trees.  About this point the rain started...

We got a big kick out of their 'Christmas tree' that was being put together piece by piece in Martin Place.  We walked by this tree each day we were in town, and they made VERY little progress...

There was a really cool alley way with an art exhibit hanging in it - it's 100s of bird cages!  They even pipe in bird sounds...

At this point of the tour, the sky literally opened up and it poooouuuured.  We didn't have any kind of rain gear with us, so we dropped off the tour (with most of the other people), ducked into a restaurant, had a pint and waited for it to slow.  

That evening, after the rain had settled, we headed over to the Surry Hills area of Sydney for dinner. Surry Hills is a neighborhood that's full of bars, galleries, restaurants, and shops, and I think would be a really fun area to live in. 

We went to Porteno first, which is a very popular restaurant in town.  It's owned and operated by 2 of the more famous chefs in town.  Then we wandered over to Dove and Olive, had a few Aussie beers, made friends with the bouncers and learned all about their crazy strict alcohol rules, and turned in for the night. 

Saturday morning, despite the gloomy, chilly day, we boarded a ferry and headed to Manly Beach. 

We walked from the bay to the beach, and around the streets of the town a bit.  Despite the weather, there were lots of folks out getting brunch or coffee and wandering around. 

Then we met up with our tour group - we were going on Dave's Brewery Tour

First stop - Nomad Brewing

We got to taste several different beers that they make, and have a behind the scenes tour, and get to know what they're all about. 

Second stop was Modus Operandi Brewing Co. for lunch and a few tastes.  Everything was delicious - definitely the favorite stop of the day. 

Finally, we ended the tour at 4 Pines Brewing.  It was a great tour, and a really nice way to get a good feel for Sydney breweries, even in the rain!

Ferry back to the city and time to get ready for dinner. 

While we were back in the hotel, we saw more news coverage of the awful Paris attacks.  When we walked down to dinner, the Opera House was glowing in red, white and blue in support.  

We had very special dinner plans - we were meeting more friends of mine!  Nick and Dave, who I met ages ago at my first CMAA conference, both live in Sydney, so we were able to spend a fabulous evening together! 

Dave attended most of the conferences over the years, plus had a quick DC visit one evening in between a whirlwind golf tour, so I had seen him a few times over the years - I hadn't seen Nick since 2007!  It was like no time had passed at all. 

Dinner with the harbor and Opera House in view, drinks just next door, retelling old stories, meeting a new girlfriend, and reconnecting.  It was a fantastic evening in Sydney - only complete with a little photo shoot in front of the Opera House!

Sunday was another gloomy day with sporadic downpours.  Luckily, we were able to still wander around town and explore some of the neighborhoods. 

We stopped to get Aussie Pies during a break in the rain - I had the steak and mushrooms and M had one with curry, 'Tiger Style' - topped with peas, mash and gravy.  They were delicious, and perfect on the cold day. 

After lunch, we went to the fish market.  It's supposedly the 'second largest in the world after Tokyo's.'  Well...either we missed something, or the marketing is a big of a stretch, because it was a bit disappointing after visiting the market in Tokyo last year...

Finally in the afternoon, the rain stopped, so we were able to walk around the grounds of the Opera House and the Botanical Gardens. 

That evening, Nick met us for dinner and we went to this delicious Malaysian street food restaurant, Hawker.  He's just recently moved to Sydney from Melbourne, and his family hadn't made the transition yet...so he was thrilled to get out of the apartment for dinner!

Then he took us to this wild ice cream shop N2 - where they use liquid nitrogen for the ice cream!

Walking back to the hotel that evening was another memorial to the Paris attacks - City Hall was shining bright in red, white and blue lights. 

Monday we woke up and were THRILLED to have a beautiful, sunny day!  Finally!  Luckily we saved a few activities, hoping for sunshine.  First, we rented bikes and biked across the Harbor Bridge!  

Someone (not me) is afraid of heights...and we were both quite proud that he made it across the bridge!  The bridge itself is massive - there's a pedestrian lane, car lanes, trains, AND a bike lane.  

They flew the French flag on the bridge the whole time we were in town. 

Back across the bridge, we returned our bikes and raced down to meet our morning tour of the Opera House.  I'm so glad we made time for this as it was one of the coolest things we did on the trip. 

In 1956, the New South Wales government held an open-ended international design competition.  The wining design was originally discarded, and a loan juror didn't like any that had been selected so went back through the discard pile to discover the drawings.  According to the Opera House website, "The design solution and construction of the shell structure took eight years to complete and the development of the special ceramic tiles for the shells took over three years."  The building finally opened in 1973.  

The glass is designed so that if you're inside, taking a photo of the skyline at night, it will not reflect back on you as it is all slanted just slightly. 

After the tour, we jumped on a bus and headed to Coogee Beach to meet Dave for lunch.  We ducked into the Coogee Beach Hotel, which has 4-5 different restaurants.  We sat at an open window just overlooking Arden Street, the main drag, and the beach just on the other side.  The day couldn't have been prettier.  

Also - small world - as we're sitting there, a group of men in blazers walked in... and I instantly recognized one as one of our current members!  Not wanting to interrupt (and I'm in shorts and sneakers!), I decided to simply send an email after the fact and mention what happened.  About 30 minutes later, as we were finishing our lunch, they came walking right by our table so I had to speak!  We were both totally shocked to see the other one 1000s of miles away!

After lunch, we went on the Coogee to Bondi Beach walk.  The 'cliff top coastal walk' stretches for 6km with stunning views of beaches, houses and more. 

We ended in the famous Bondi Beach, where we found a pub for a snack and few beers - we'd worked hard for that!

Our last night in Sydney we headed back down to Chinatown to the original restaurant from the owners of Hawker, Mamak for Malaysian food.  It was just as good as the night before.  Luckily the line wasn't too long, so we were able to sit pretty quickly - we'd heard the lines could be crazy!   It was absolutely delicious.  As you probably guessed, we headed back to N2 for another round of ice cream! 

After a fabulous few days in Sydney, it was time to head west.  Next stop - Adelaide! 

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