We arrived in Sydney on Friday, January 27th. It is wonderful to be at a flat in the city for two weeks. We were ready to have a bit more space–two bedrooms, kitchen, and a washing machine. Initially, Sydney makes me feel like I felt about New Zealand; it is like traveling to Canada or England…English speaking…lots of things are similar to home…lots of things are comfortable but the little differences are so fun to experience. I was in the grocery store looking for ground beef for taco night and finally found the meat section labeled “mince.” I was hunting for a pair of flip-flops and found them in a vending machine!
In Alan’s trip research, he found the suggestion that we start a big trip like this with kids, in a place with many comforts of home…a place with some differences but a lot of familiarity. I think that has made this early part of the trip wonderful and we are all anticipating big travel changes ahead while we embrace the rhythm of traveling as a family for a long stretch of time.
Sydney Fun so far:
- Fireworks over the harbor. We didn’t realize that January 26 was Australia Day or we would have planned to arrive before January 27. Our host, Gabe, told us that we didn’t really miss the celebration…they do fireworks over the harbor every night for a week. She drove us down one evening and we spent some time walking around and watching the fireworks. That was amazing.
- Watching Alan drive. Sydney has amazing public transportation–bus and train. We planned to rely on it to get all around the city. But, when Kate’s leg injury started flaring up again, we started relying on cabs, Uber, and our AirBnB Host’s offer to borrow her car. Alan drove in New Zealand but the car was automatic. A couple days ago we decided to go to the New South Wales Art Museum. Off we headed in the the borrowed car. Alan got in and noticed: Stick shift…shifting with his left arm… driving on the left side of the road… downtown traffic… hills and he did this all with a smile. Occasionally when a pedestrian would walk in front of the car he’d say, “I don’t think she knows how vulnerable she is.” But, as with anything, Alan has amazing focus. He had no problem navigating us to our destination. And, no one would know he was even a little concerned.
- Sydney Opera House tour. All the guidebooks said this was a worthwhile tour. We couldn’t agree more. It is probably one of the most famous buildings in the world and I knew really nothing about it. I knew it’s beautiful, a world landmark and was featured in “Finding Nemo” but not much else. In the one hour tour, I learned about the competition to design the building, the controversy surrounding the choice of a Danish architect, and the 17 years of struggle to build it. I loved hearing the stories and looking up in amazement at how it all turned out. And, I love that the outside white facade is made out of”self cleaning” tiles that have never been cleaned (can I find those for our bathroom?) and are not really white.
- The Sydney Fish Market. All the guidebooks and everyone recommended the Fish Market. Maybe it was the Chinese New Year celebrations going on but the place was packed. Almost entirely asian folks packed the stalls, the aisles and the tables. We wonder it this is just a taste of the next three months for us. We ended up squeezing onto a large table with a large family – their little boy coveted and got a sushi roll from John’s plate and they shared lobster with us. Our host, Gabe, ordered a seafood plate of all sorts of things we would never order. I ate a battered and fried tiny fish. It wasn’t quite a guppy, but close. Our host said it was acceptable to bite it off short of the head but it was easier to just pop the whole thing and eat it down. Kids were disgusted. The noise, the pushing, the smells, the amazing display of seafood was certainly something to experience.
We also got to celebrate the 21st anniversary of our first date on Feb 2. It was a great day with home school work with the kids in the morning, most of the day at the Torongo Zoo and then a John Lennon play at the Sydney Opera House in the evening.
The Torongo Zoo, specifically the Koala Encounter and the animal talks, were extraordinary. For an extra $25A, the four of us were able to get inches from several koalas and talk with their keeper for five minutes. The ticket also came with a professional picture of the family with koala that is so perfect it looks photoshopped in behind us. It was the best zoo we have seen. The view around every corner has the Harbour as a backdrop. There are also great areas where you get to walk through the animal enclosures and even staying on the path gets you feet from kangaroos and lemurs without anything between you and these amazing animals.
Our date continued with Alan and I walking an hour down to the Opera House for a play that was about John Lennon’s life told through stories and music. We stopped at the Royal Albert Hotel for a late dinner and drinks on the walk home. It was a night just a bit better than the night 21 years ago when we went out with the entire DA’s office to Azteca Mexican in Medford and then had drinks at Alex’s in Ashland. Although that night was pretty special too. Groundhog’s Day in Sydney will forever be tough to top.