We have always talked about the idea of living abroad for a year or so, and Jeff has always said he thought Australia would be the country he’d most like to live in (even though he had never been there!) He just had a feeling about Sydney, he said. And although we won’t be settling down here after this year, he was totally right – we do think it is a pretty spectacular city!
We had such an incredible time in South Africa, and we left feeling very grateful albeit a bit sad, so we hoped that our experience in Australia could measure up. While it’s difficult to compare being on safari in the African bush to bustling city life on the coast of Australia, we feel like Sydney is just as wonderful in its own way.
Upon reflection, we’ve realized that the first day in a new country is almost always a little rough. Figuring out transportation from the airport and trying to locate and check into our accommodations all while usually using a different language and new currency is overwhelming. Not to mention that we’re usually a little (or a lot!) exhausted, dirty, and hungry from long flights and airport layovers.
Our first night in Australia was no exception. After landing in Sydney and picking up our rental car (which was a mistake, by the way, to have a car for five days in a very walkable city with lots of traffic and strict parking rules), we drove to Darlinghurst, the neighborhood we’d be staying in. We struggled finding the keys to our apartment, overnight parking near where we were staying, and a grocery store in our neighborhood. Once we got in the apartment, we took showers, changed into pajamas, and sat in the bed of our tiny studio eating pizza we had ordered from across the street before heading off to bed early. Things are always better after a good night’s sleep, aren’t they?!
We spent four full days in Sydney walking all over the city, soaking up the perfect weather, and seeing the top sights. Here are some of our favorite activities and observations.
Things we did and saw (and ate!):
- Royal Botanic Gardens – gorgeous, lush gardens right in the middle of downtown Sydney filled with people running, walking, cycling, and picnicking. (We did the latter.)
- Bondi Beach – this gorgeous white sand beach is filled with swimmers and surfers on a sunny day. And the picturesque Bondi Icebergs pools next to the beach make for a pretty nice backdrop.
- Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk – this hour and a half walk along the coast stretches from Bondi Beach all the way to Coogee Beach and has beautiful views of the ocean the entire way.
- Delicious Food – our dear friend Sophie gave us a going away present to use in Sydney that led us to the best meal of our trip at Mr. Wong, a Chinese restaurant in Circular Quay.
- Sydney Opera House – an impressive piece of architecture, we had hoped to see a show here but were a few days early for the one we were interested in. Another reason to return one day, I suppose.
- Sydney Harbor Bridge – we walked along the bridge and crossed it in our car, and while we admired the lovely views from it, we agreed that it doesn’t quite measure up to “our” bridge (the Golden Gate).
What we observed:
- We were astounded by the laid back atmosphere of the city. Everyone is calm. No one seems to be in a hurry. We should all take notes.
- Everyone is incredibly active (and very fit and good looking). The city is filled with runners (and not slow ones, like us) and bikers and people drinking green juice (but, like, for the nutrients and not just to fit in with the fad).
- This has been one of the friendliest cities we’ve visited. Everyone we met was kind, helpful, and happy.
- People seem to have struck an impressive balance here. Clearly Australians must work very hard to afford to live here, but they also seem to have flexible schedules. During the middle of a week day we saw people taking breaks to surf at the beach, run through the botanical gardens, play rugby at the park, have coffee with friends, drink champagne at a cafe. (And we thought California was laid back!)
Sydney is clean, modern, beautiful, friendly, and HAPPY. We wish we could have spent more time (and more $) in order to live like locals, meet more people, and see more of what makes this seem like a pretty perfect city. We love you, Sydney, and we hope to be back again soon!