Weeks 11, 12, and 13 (21st April–11th May) – Sydney

On our first day, we checked out the Westfield at Bondi Junction (Peb went to see Avengers on his own), then went down to Bondi beach, where the car park and road was completely under sand from the recent storm, and diggers were moving it all back on to the beach. It still wasn’t that warm after the storm, but we enjoyed an ice cream anyway.

The second day was lovely and sunny so we got the 389 bus into the city. The 389 goes through the beautiful suburbs of Paddington and Woollahra, where there are around 2,500 beautiful Victorian terraces with “iron lace” balconies, all of them painted in different colours. Unsurprisingly, they’re some of the most desirable properties in Sydney and are around $850,000. Me and my mom decided we want one.

Sydney is an incredible city, roads full of old architecture, back-dropped by massive skyscrapers and the Sydney eye tower. We walked through the pretty botanical gardens and got our first glimpse of the Opera House. Photos really don’t do it justice—up close you can see the thousands of tiles shimmering cream and gold in the sun. We had tea in the “Opera Kitchen”, a lovely open air restaurant bar that is tucked just under the side of the opera house and has great views of both the Opera House and the impressive Harbour Bridge. We walked around The Rocks, the oldest area in Sydney, and went into the oldest pub, The Fortune of War (a mere 1828 compared to our local The Old Crown, 1368). On the bus home, a woman got on with her cat, an adorable fluffy grey Persian called Indy, who is apparently quite famous here!

The third day, we checked out the Darling Harbour area, which is currently being redeveloped as it used to be the slums of Sydney. There are lots of bars and restaurants around the harbour there; we had lunch just as a large grey cloud covered the city, cue lots of rain and a lightning storm reflected in the glass skyscrapers, so we did some shopping to wait it out. Then we had dinner in the Hard Rock cafe, looking out over the harbour, which looks much prettier at night when it’s lit up. Every Saturday night, there is a firework display set off in the harbour, and lucky for us it was Saturday!

It hammered down with rain again the following day, so we spent the day shopping and having cups of tea at Bondi Junction. Thankfully the rain cleared up the next day for our trip to Taronga Zoo, which is accessed by ferry and has great views over the city as it’s built on a hill and has a cable car. Most of the animals at Taronga are endangered or part of breeding programs, and we got to see lots of animals we’d never seen before, including sun bears (who had been rescued from poachers), tasmanian devils (who they are imminently trying to save from extinction due to a genetic mutation), my mom’s favourite the dollar bird, the crazy-looking spoonbill, the world’s most venomous snake the Inland Taipan, and the elusive and absolutely adorable platypus.

The following day, we checked out the Queen Victoria Building, apparently one of the world’s most beautiful shopping centres—not wrong. Then, with a mixture of fear and excitement, we went to the base of the Harbour Bridge, where we were breathalysed and dressed up in jumpsuits that look like they belong to Luigi, then hooked on to the bridge. If you’re ever in Sydney, the bridge climb is totally worth it! They tell you all about how the bridge was built back in 1923-1932. The views are incredible and the walk is really fun, even the “catwalk” over the water, which is a little scary. It’s an awesome experience.

We also checked out the Harbour Bridge pylon lookout (which you get free entry to with the bridge climb). The view from up there is great, and there’s lots of info on how the bridge was built and what the pylons have been used for over the years (including, bizarrely, a cat sanctuary). However, someone’s really missing a trick in not having a café up there as it’s a long walk up the stairs to find no refreshments at the top!

We hired a car for a few days and despite the grey, drizzly weather, we drove down to Botany Bay where Captain James Cook first landed in Australia. By a strange coincidence, we went there on 29th April – the same day he landed. Peb got bitten by a kookaburra, of course. On another drizzly day, we drove north of Sydney up to Manly and the beautiful Whale beach and Palm Beach, which were really lovely spots despite the weather! The elements were even more against us the day we headed out to the Blue Mountains, but we had a wonderful lunch in Blue Mist in Wentworth Falls, a lovely café/book shop, and saw the picturesque Leura village. We tried to see the Three Sisters but the fog was so thick that we couldn’t even see the end of our car!

We also had the pleasure of celebrating mom’s birthday with her, so we breakfasted in style in la Maison de l’Eclair, a concept éclair café in Bondi that does the most amazing French cinnamon toast with berries. A taste of heaven. Then we shopped in Paddington market, where everything sold is from local producers, and had a tasty Turkish gozleme (a crepe full of spinach and cheese). We got caught in a downpour sat at Five Ways in Woollahra (much nicer than the Five Ways in Birmingham!), but it didn’t ruin the evening as we went to see Last Night of the Proms at the Sydney Opera House, which was absolutely incredible! We finished the evening with a cup of tea under the shelter of the Opera House Kitchen. A wonderful day indeed!

As the weather had finally picked up, we did the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk on a hot day, past impressive rock formations and with lovely views of the sea. We stopped in at Icebergs in Bondi for lunch, had fish’n’ chips in Bronte by the sea, then finished with a piadina (like a chapatti pizza) for tea.

We spent a few days in the city checking out the Sydney eye tower, which has amazing 360 views of the city and a café at the top. Peb did the outdoor skywalk while me and mom had a relaxing cup of tea! We had lunch at the Lindt café, who had reopened after a terrorist attack back in December—good on them. Not to mention, the roast beef sandwich was melt-in-your-mouth, and Peb enjoyed the best ice cream and hot chocolate ever.

We also took a harbour cruise from Circular Quay, which took us out to sea round to Bondi. The swells were huge and confirmed I’m really not a fan of boats, but I was very glad that mom got to see some dolphins swimming and playing alongside the boat. Plus, we got amazing views of the harbour bridge and opera house at sunset on the way back. After dinner, we sadly headed home to pack our bags.

For mom’s final day, we had breakfast in la Maison (please, please open a franchise in Birmingham!) and a last walk around Bondi, and were then very miserable to drop her off at the airport, which was just as glum as when she dropped us off at Heathrow. To top it off, there are no public buses from the airport into the city, so we got on the 400 (which does to Bondi) then quickly realised we’d got on it on the wrong direction, so we ended up getting a double-decker train from god knows where.

To cheer ourselves up, we had a McDonalds “create your taste” burger, where you pick what you want from a touchscreen, and not only does it taste amazing but they actually bring it out to you on a board! McDonalds – please, I beg you, bring “create your taste” to England!! Then we went to see Pitch Perfect 2, which was hilarious, and checked into the Y Hotel off Hyde Park, which was pretty decent despite its meagre price.

The following day was our first wedding anniversary, and my mom had bought some cards over for us from our families, which was a nice surprise! We had lunch at the Lindt café, then walked across the harbour bridge to Luna Park, a retro funfair that opened in 1935 just under the bridge. Like a pair of kids on an old school date, we went on the ferris wheel, the wild mouse, and some “coney island” slides and rides. For a “romantic” meal, we had a “BBQ your own” steak at Phillipe’s foot in the Rocks, then walked back and fed oranges to the possums in Hyde Park. A perfect anniversary!

Then came our final day in Australia, which were incredibly glum about since we’d come to love the place. We spent the morning re-planning our route as we’d discovered that the US class Canada (and Mexico, and any surrounding islands) as theirs for the purpose of visas, so our 90-day tourist visa would expire midway through Canada and whether we could re-enter the US would depend on the discretion of the customs officer. With the east coast, including three sets of Panthers tickets, and Christmas and New Year in New York relying on the good mood of a custom’s officer, we decided to cancel the west coast instead. We had a final bundy by the war memorial in Hyde Park, then had dinner in Darling Harbour and watched the Saturday night fireworks, or as we like to think, Australia’s farewell to us.

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