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Posts Tagged ‘Sydney’

Now that the intensity of holiday week is over, Sarah and I have opted for a few days of peace and tranquility unmarred by the headaches of hangovers and bad photographs. Not to say that this hasn’t been one of the most fun weeks of my life, but it is nice to get out of the hectic city.

Chinese Gardens

We spent the better half of the morning on New Year’s Day pacing through the Chinese Gardens at Darling Harbour. A hidden oasis in the city, the Chinese gardens were designed by architects from Sydney’s “sister” province in China, Guangdong. I could have spent forever walking over the stone bridges and staring down at the carp playing in the stream’s current. There were beautiful pagodas and archways around every corner. I ended the visit with jasmine tea and dim sum in the teahouse. It was a perfect way to contemplate the year to come and a very “zen” start after the night before’s crazy antics.

Blue Mountains

Today we left the city altogether and headed for the Blue Mountains, about a couple of hours away by train. Altogether misjudging what altitude does to temperature, we arrived in shorts and t-shirts to utterly freeze in the mist covered mountain range. Ignoring the goosebumps covering our legs, we hopped on board the Trolley tour from Katoomba station straight to “Scenic World.” Katoomba is a strange mix of quaint b&bs and seedy looking restaurants, clearly suffering from an ill-conceived makeover from mining town to tourist hub. Scenic World itself reminded me of the Penguin Parade in Melbourne: theme park-esque in its dedication to being tourist-friendly. Everything is brightly signed, clean and exaggerated. In a way it is a shame that it is so over-the-top, since the Blue Mountains themselves are so beautiful. We can easily see that ourselves; we don’t need to be told so by laminated brochures.

Indulging in all that the Blue Mountains have to offer, Sarah and I rode the steepest incline railway down into the valley and then the cable car back out. They are not exaggerating on the steepness of the railway. With a little jammy begging (and maybe some winking? I’m not sure…) Sarah and I managed to score the very front seat. It was literally a “hold onto your hats” moment as we crept over the edge, faster and faster. Now I may have bungeed… jumped out of a plane… swung through a gorge… but it still didn’t stop my throat from catching just a little.

Tomorrow we descend upon the East Coast with vigour. We’re zipping through – our gorilla tourism at its best – hopping from place to place in a month. The weather forecasts are pretty grim for the east coast, to say the least. If it ends up being awful, we’re heading back down to Melbourne for some Australian Open action — I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that seeing Federer in action may just make my trip.

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Wake up! Wake up!

Arriving on Christmas Eve into Sydney is quite the experience. Our hostel stands tall on the corner of Pitt and George Street, and right away you can’t help but think it is going to be an “up” lifting experience. Yes, puns aside, Wake up! is an imposing hostel. Everything is “up,” from the phones (cash up!) to the internet (hook up!) to the laundry (wash up!) to their inticing slogan (wake up! with someone new). We booked into an eight-bed dorm for nine nights and headed up to our penthouse suite on the top floor. Everyone was decked out in full head-to-toe christmas party gear. Santa and his elves were aplenty. Sarah and I decided to miss out on the Jaeger bomb world record (Jaeger bombs are jaegermeister and red bull shots) and head down for some more wholesome fun at the Darling Harbour. There we listened to carols around a beautiful blue Christmas tree, licked at some chocolate sundaes, wore silly hats and generally got into the spirit of the season.

Beach Bust

Christmas day broke… cloudy. In fact, it is the coldest Christmas in 30 years in Sydney. That didn’t stop Sarah and I from heading down to Bondi Beach. Wake up! sold us tickets to a special Christmas lunch at Bondi. Unfortunately, we got there to a very disappointing nothing. Yep, it was a complete bust. They tried to make it up to us by giving out tickets to another event not too far away, but at that point we just wanted our money back. Which we didn’t get.

Not wanting to make a complete waste of Christmas, we found a few of our non-Wakeup friends at Bondi, found a sheltered picnic table, ate McDonalds (for Christmas lunch) and had a couple of beers. Despite the blustery wind and clouds, it was a great day. We made our way down to Coogee beach later, and then back to the Darling Harbour for a lovely Italian dinner.

As far as Christmases go, it was one I will never forget. It wasn’t all that we had hoped for; we didn’t get to top up our tans or eat shrimp on the barbie. But it was spent with the best of friends and there were lots of laughs.

Merry Christmas everybody!

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