Where’s Wallis? Settling in Sydney

Don’t be alarmed when you read the title of this post: whether you’re a UK friend hoping that I don’t stay in Sydney, or a Sydney friend hoping that I don’t 😉

I don’t mean I’m settling for good. But next week marks 6 months since I left the UK, and the date I was due to be back in London and at work.

In one sense it feels like the time has flown since I’ve arrived in Sydney, and I’m not sure I could tell you what I’ve been doing with the last 3 months (I’ll have to read the blogs!) In another sense, London life, and my travels, feel like forever ago!

My first view of Sydney. Wheels down Jan 15th 2015

My first view of Sydney. Wheels down Jan 15th 2015

When I think back to my time spent travelling, I really miss it. I miss seeing so many places and experiencing new things everyday. But equally, I feel like I’m starting to build a life in Sydney. 

Part of my reason for moving here was that I wanted to experience life in a new country. Not just day-to-day living but the process of actually starting a life somewhere. Now that I’ve done it here it’s made it feel far more do-able to move somewhere else and do the same.

6 months, 4 continents, 11 countries :)

6 months, 4 continents, 11 countries 🙂

So what have I been up to in the 3 weeks since I got back from Indonesia and Malaysia? 

Saying adios to Bart

After meeting for only 2 days in Fiji, Bart quickly became a good friend once I arrived in Bondi. Sadly his 6 month secondment to the Dutch Embassy here ended last month and he was setting off on travels of his own on Easter Monday, the day after I got back. 

Bye bye Bartimus from Bondi Beach

Bye bye Bartimus from Bondi Beach

I came virtually straight from the airport to the beach. I’d been feeling a little apprehensive about the return to Sydney after my holiday, so mucking around in the Bondi surf under a blue sky just hours after getting off the plane was the perfect medicine to remind me what I love about it!

Little Easter Sunday message

Little Easter Sunday message

Committing to Triathlons

On Easter Monday a bunch of us from Coogee Tri Club/Nike Run Club (Loren, Frankie, Matt, Lucy) headed down to Kurnell, which is maybe 30k south of the city centre for some training. 

Matt loves training sessions with the girls

Matt loves training sessions with the girls

 

He really does!

No he really does!

It was stunning weather that morning. Frankie, Matt and I had a good ride whilst Loren and Lucy ran a casual 20km (!)

During the ride Frankie managed to persuade me to sign up to the Byron Bay Olympic distance tri, which is now in just 2 WEEKS time! 

Considering I allowed myself 12 weeks to train for the Windsor and London tris back in the UK, the 5 weeks I’ve given myself here may have been a bit ambitious! 

Game face

Game face

I have been training hard though. Perhaps a little overzealous on the running since my shin-splints have returned with a vengeance, meaning now I’m just focussing on swim and bike (my favourite anyway!)

Bikini body guide week 12 complete! Plus some hanging upside down just for good measure...

Bikini body guide week 12 complete! Plus some hanging upside down just for good measure…

I’ve started going to the triathlon club swimming squad training sessions on a Wednesday which are great for swim-fitness. I am by FAR the slowest, in the slow lane, meaning I arrive back just as everyone’s breaks are finishing, but it’s great because it pushes me in a way I never would myself.

Squad

Squad

Why do 1 tri when you can do 2 right? I’ve also signed up for the ‘Club Champs’ the weekend after Byron. This is an annual event held up in Forster (3 hours drive north of Sydney) where all the triathlon clubs in NSW compete against one another. I wasn’t planning on going because I’d be up in the East Coast but then got massive FOMO and signed up!

Exploring Sydney

As well as adventuring around Australia I want to make the most of the things to see and do in Sydney.

A harbour pic. Just because it's awesome!

A harbour pic. Just because it’s awesome!

I had a free Saturday so decided to head over to the Grounds of Alexandria which I had heard so many people raving about.

Now I was a little disappointed. Totally my own fault though, because I had envisaged these ‘Grounds’ in my head to be like the grounds of an English Castle, or a National Trust Garden. Perhaps I should have realised when the location on google maps looked like a pin on an industrial estate.

Upon arrival I quickly consoled myself by browsing the food and drink on offer. I opted for a pink lemonade and delicious dark chocolate torte with raspberry coulis which I munched down whilst reading my book in the covered courtyard. 

Offerings from the Grounds

Offerings from the Grounds

It was a lovely spot still, although somewhat overrun on the weekend. It reminded me of the great bits of Columbia Road flower market and Broadway Market back in London combined in one place, without so much pushing. 

The second disappointment came when I spoke to friends afterwards and they said: 

Awwhh, did you see Kevin Bacon the pig? And the other animals!

ANIMALS! I saw no animals. What. A. Disaster. I shall have to return. And at the same time I plan to visit ‘Skyzone’ just around the corner – a warehouse filled wall-to-wall with trampolines. I’ll just have to make sure I do the bouncing and flipping before all the eating and drinking!!

From the Grounds I headed into the city and then hopped on a ferry to Cockatoo Island

This is where I went with the travel blogging girls a month or so before and whilst we had an awesome afternoon our trip was confined to the island bar! 

Cockadoodledoo

Cockadoodledoo

Cockatoo Island was the main ship-building hub for the south west pacific during WW2. It has also served as a prison at various points throughout the last 200 years.

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I spent a great afternoon exploring the island, with my nose nerdishly in a guidebook and naughtily trying every door of every abandoned building to see what I could discover. 

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It was a little eery at times when I was poking around these ruined buildings by myself with no-one in sight. But then a group of 50 Chinese school kids would stroll in with their audioguides and order would be restored 😉

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They have tents set up on Cockatoo where you can stay for the night and I was so envious of all these little adventurers jumping off the ferry with their sleeping bags ready for a night of camping!! I will have to arrange a trip before ‘winter’ arrives!

Becoming a Sydney Swans fan

I went to my very first AFL game last weekend with the girls from run club – Georgie, Lucy and Loren.

Being from Melbourne, the home of AFL, Loren and Georgie were well versed in the rules. Lucy and I however were not, and kept them entertained throughout with our questions.

Gals at the 'footie'

Girls at the ‘footie’

I purchased myself a little Swans beanie hat which I wore proudly throughout the game. Luckily the Swans won. There was a point where it was looking close and it contemplated tearing the hat off in rage but they pulled through for an excellent win.

Syd, the Swan

Cyggy, the Swan (not Syd, apparently)

Sheltering from the storm

I’d been warned that when it rains in Sydney, it rains hard. 

I had not however been warned that it might rain for 3 days solidly!! No let up. Not even for 5 minutes. 

Earlier this week Sydney was struck by some of the worst storms to hit it in years, leading to huge damage and flooding.

;)

😉

I was very lucky that the worst damage we had was a bit of a leaky roof, and I effectively hermitted for 3 days. Venturing out only briefly on Monday evening for Kristin’s birthday dinner at Criniti’s restaurant on Woolloomooloo (epic name) wharf, where there was a couple who were nobly attempting to have a romantic dinner date under the ‘covered’ outdoor area, with rain bouncing back up off the pavement!

The benefit of the storm was that it gave me time to build the website for a new business I’m launching in Sydney called EatUp. The concept is group dinners for solo travellers and it’s aimed at people like me when I was travelling who love food and drink but are travelling solo and end up going for dinner with their book. Saying that, Where’s Wallis may never have got off the ground if I hadn’t had so many solo dinners in Cuba…plenty of time for writing!

If you have any friends who are travelling solo and might find EatUp useful please do share it with them and ask them to get in touch!

Eating

Discovering ‘Bangkok Bites’ in Bondi was a dangerous move as I have now been there twice in one week for wonderfully garlic-y, huge portions of Thai food.

An epic brunch at ‘Nelson St Tuck Shop’ last weekend was just the ticket to shake a hangover. I went with the lovely Jen who I met through Frankie (and who came to see Club Swizzle!) and we had a wonderful couple of hours of laughing and eating!

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We’d originally planned to go to Ruby’s Diner but there was a huge queue so that’s the aim for tomorrow morning! 

Bart's farewell brekkie

Bart’s farewell brekkie

Being a ‘social butterfly’

Given that I know very few people in Sydney it is typical that my 2 invites of the month ended up being on the same night! 

Frankie and Kristin were both having their birthday parties last night, Frankie at the 80s themed ‘Bondy’s’ in town, and Kristin at the Beresford Pub in Surry Hills.

I managed to move and shake between the two, which involved multiple outfit changes: from work clothes, to a jumpsuit (most 80s thing I owned!), to an outfit which would see me through the cycle to Surry Hills but still get me let into the Beresford (i.e. no trainers!) to full on gym gear at the end of the night to ride home! 

Well worth the wardrobe complexities to celebrate with these two lovely ladies:

Birthday girl number 1 :) x

Birthday girl number 1 🙂 x

And number 2 :)

And number 2 🙂 x

My first Anzac Day

Anzac day is the Australian equivalent of remembrance day back home and this year marked the 100th anniversary of Australian and New Zealand troops landing at Gallipoli.

I went to the ‘dawn service’ that was held at North Bondi RSL club. This started at 6am, so getting there in time to get a spot meant I got all of 3 hours sleep after last night’s double birthday fun. 

North Bondi RSL Dawn Service

North Bondi RSL Dawn Service

I’m so glad I got up for it though. It was a really moving occasion and it was made all the more poignant by the setting down at Bondi. Loren got us a spot on the steep hill that looks down over the crowds and out to the sea, so having a minute’s silence as the sun broke over the hill and onto the beach was pretty special.

One thing I did find slightly strange was that they were aiming for a ‘high tech’ service, with a special Instagram tag for it. This seemed to also involve the bugler wearing a go-pro as he played the last post, which was a little distracting!

The early rise meant I was back home by about half 7 this morning, and it was a stunning morning, so Loren, Matt and I made the most of the sunshine and went to Centennial Park for some cycling laps. I did that yesterday morning too and am planning on getting out tomorrow before Ruby’s Diner brunch. Getting the legs prepped for the double tri extravaganza 🙂

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Wallis on wheels

After cycling Toots, Lucy, Loren and I headed into Paddington to find a pub to play ‘2Up’. This is an Aussie tradition on Anzac day and Matt was teaching me the ‘rules’ as we rode around the park.

It’s pretty simple: you bet on heads or tails against someone else in the crowd. If you get it right, you win the money.

We ended up at the Woolahra hotel and it was hilarious. It was how I imagined trading floors to be back in the day: tonnes of shouting and waving money around.

IMG_4629

2Up in action

There’s huge suspense as the ‘games master’ announces that all bets are off, someone took to the ‘arena’ to flick the wooden paddle holding the two coins, everyone leans in desperately to see how they land, and there’s collective celebrations and commiserations. Before it all starts again!!

And how did I get on? I lost!! One guy managed to get some money out of Toots, Loren and I, but at least he had the courtesy to buy us drinks (albeit with money that a moment ago was ours ha!)

IMG_4631

Caitlin (through grimaced teeth pulling on the money): “Give. It. Back”

All tuckered out from the excitement Toots and I headed home, via Bangkok Bites 🙂 It was a wise decision to go there as the sky was rapidly darkening. 5 minutes later a freak hailstorm broke out. Thank goodness we weren’t still in the open air 2Up terrace at the pub! 

Planning my next adventures!

After the Byron Bay triathlon I’m planning to spend a week road-tripping up the East Coast to Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and ending up back in Gold Coast for housemate Toots’ mum’s birthday. 

If anyone has any East Coast must see/stay/eat tips please let me know!

Then a couple of weeks after that a friend is coming to visit Australia from Doha, and we’re going to spend a few days exploring around Sydney: the Northern Beaches and the Blue Mountains before heading to AYERS ROCK!! 

There we’ll be camping in the desert and doing another road trip up to Alice Springs and Kings Canyon. 

I can’t wait to see more of Australia!!!

Still SO much to see. And that's without NZ!

Still SO much to see. And that’s without NZ!!

Xx

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