You can see the top sights of Sydney in a week. Seven days is plenty of time to: tour the Opera House, visit Torongo Zoo, walk Circular Quay and the Rocks (historic heart of Sydney CBD), marvel at the Harbour Bridge, grab lunch at the Fish Market and mingle with the masses (apparently on break from shooting the movie “The Tan and The Beautiful”) on Bondi Beach.
But when you are traveling for months, as we are, having the second week to just enjoy life in Sydney was a good thing; no, it was a necessary thing. When we told people we had booked two weeks in Sydney they would often give us that quick eye roll as if to say, “well…. if you have already booked it, there is nothing I can do to fix this horrible mistake you have made… so good luck.” Sydney is not a cheap place to hang out so I wondered if I had made a mistake with this early extended stop in our trip. But, as I will discuss in a budgeting and finance post later, staying in once place (even in generally expensive Sydney) can really cut down on the costs that come with moving a lot and eating out daily.
Our second week in Sydney allowed us to do things not on a more classic itinerary (like a day watching the Olympic champion Australian Women’s rugby 7s), time to spend with new friends and the ability to explore beaches that are (in our opinion) better than the classic beaches all the tourists see. And it allowed us to get better at just usual life stuff.
Shopping is a perfect example. The first day in Sydney we walked up the road and couldn’t manage to find the giant shopping mall that has two major grocery chains in it. Stood near it, walked past it, tried to ask people and eventually just followed the stream of people with grocery bags (ah, there it is, just thirty steps down a side road). Now we turn off the GPS anytime we get close to the Broadway mall. The first day in Coles – our large store grocery stop (bigger than the Aldi and we didn’t have a Wolworths (their Whole Foods) near us) – we just clogged up the aisles staring at new products (like Rice Bubbles), I stood at the deli for a long time before I realized there is a system of getting a number (like our DMV) that they call to serve the next person (but only when busy I later discovered) and loved the “American products” they stocked in the international section, like Hersey chocolate syrup. But by our last shopping trip we could zip in and when looking for something we would say, “oh, I think it is back over here….”
The parking garage at the Mall was an evolution too. Our first trip – navigating it was stressful and after shopping we got all the way to the exit and realized we didn’t pay for our parking before leaving the Mall, so we backed out of the huge line of exiting cars and parked in shame next to the exit while Judi ran up and paid for our parking (only to later realize we could pay for it at the kiosk as I had thought, but only if I could have figured out how to put the ticket into the correct slot). Second time, the parking ticket was good but the exit dumped us on a street that we have never seen before and we circle around and around strange alleys trying to find a familiar route home. Third trip, parking ticket was good, we turned right at the exit and didn’t have to go down the industrial alley of dumpsters but had to circle around once or twice. Fourth trip, I can navigate the garage such that I actually see a sign that is for a street I need (truth is that I slid into the left exit lane but needed to turn right and scared Kate as I cut across the car exiting the garage correctly – but if we were going one more time, I’d have it nailed!)
In two weeks we had the time to discover great places to eat and get to go back to them! Our favorite pizza, from Pizza Da Noi (St. Thomas Rd) was right around the corner from us in Glebe and run by a wonderful Italian family.
Coming back to our Sydney home got more and more comfortable both driving and walking. By the end of our stay we started taking different routes. One night walking home from the Mall, Judi and I decided to cut through the University of Sydney and we were blown away by the gorgeous quad area. Judi just kept mumbling, “… it looks just like Hogwarts…” I wondered if the ropes were up to keep people from playing frisbee golf on the perfectly manicured blades of grass.
We also got to explore and experience a variety of the beaches. Sydney siders have an embarrassing number and variety of stunning beaches. Our favorites were not the giant swaths of sand like at Bondi or Manly. Although these were amazing, we loved the small little stretches of sheltered waters. Shelley Cove near Manly and Jibbon beach in Bundeena were perfect for us. Judi and I did love the art along the boardwalk at Bondi, the kids love the waves at Jibbon and at Bondi , John did get his first exposure to a “top-tional” beaches (and then managed to orient his towel the correct way every time he came back out of the water before laying down).
But the best part of spending more time in a destination is connecting with people. We spent a wonderful day with our good friend Mel Lappin. After initially meeting in Fiji, we met up in her part of Sydney and she took us to Bundeena for some sun and waves, a place we would have never found on our own. Then she and her flatmate hosted a BBQ. Judi and Kate made homemade bread (also something you only do on the road with a good chunk of time) and Mel did the rest. Her roommate Josh, is a bit of a rockstar – a finance guru who works for a global beer conglomerate (and gets a weekly beer allowance), loves to play poker and is a huge Green Bay Packer fan. Alright, I admit a full fledged bromance, but he is twenty years my junior. Kate and Mel really hit it off and I suspect Kate will pitch moving in with her someday.
Through my cousin Lindsey from Denver , we connected up with Diane and Paul DeLongchamps and their kids. They have been doing a RTW trip with their kids for 7 months since leaving Fort Collins, CO and have decided to land in Sydney for the next four months. We spent a day at the beach with them on the weekend and then had a post Super-bowl dinner at their apartment Monday. Their twin 12 year olds – Emma and Luke – were great company for the kids and it was a wonderful night that felt like it could have been any summer night at home with old friends. Best of all was the time spent with our neighbor (and AirBnB host) Gabe. She and her family made us amazingly comfortable in Sydney and we loved jumping in the Subaru with her and going on an errand or getting ice cream on a summer afternoon.
Places are great and a big part of travel. With a week in Sydney I’m sure we could have seen all the big sights but I have no doubt that when the details of the Opera House construction or the pain of the $35 to park at Bondi beach fade, it will be there great friends that we remember the most. And we all know that relationships take time; so our tip is to budget extra time when you can, go a bit slower, and be open to letting a new friend throw you a classic Aussie BBQ – it might just lead to your next bromance.