Sometimes it’s only when you’re showing someone around that you really appreciate the city you’re living in…4 days of sight-seeing, bike-riding, gig-watching, Blue Mountains hiking, coastal walks, trampolining…
Smart (real name Tom, his nickname being an amusing story for another time) is a friend of mine from Manchester Uni. He arrived in Sydney last Saturday night from Doha, Qatar where he currently lives.
He was staying with Toots and I in Sydney for 4 nights before we headed into the outback for 5 nights camping around Ayers Rock.
He came straight from the airport to The Clock in Surry Hills where we were out for Georgie’s birthday (Nike run club, AFL buddy…). I’d finished working at Enigma Room at 5 so ended up being the first arrival and as a happy coincidence bumped into Liv, Scott and Rich from my Byron adventures. We had a catch up and a drink before I headed upstairs to the parddddy.
It was a fantastic night, brothers Payne were on cracking form and Smart stayed upright, which was impressive considering he was straight off a 15 hour flight (who knew Doha was so far!?)
We were up bright and early for a day trip to the Blue Mountains. This was still a ‘red’ destination on my colour-coded map of Australian/NZ places to see, which means I haven’t been yet but must whilst I’m here.
The Blue Mountains are a 2 hour train journey from Central Station…on a good day. Luck was not in our favour as we arrived at the station to be greeted by signs for ‘rail replacement buses’ – grim.
We were told it would take 3.5 hours each way, “if everything went smoothly”, so we decided to cut our losses and go on Monday instead, meaning we were in town at 9am on Sunday ready to sight-see…Sydney was our lobster!
First we went to the botanical gardens, where on discussion of the bird species Smart proudly declared that he was a “fornocologist” (intended: ornothologist). I suspect the former is more likely.
Then we strolled around to see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Smart got some strong stance photos to send to the family.
Next we hopped on a ferry over to my favourite Sydney haunt, Cockatoo Island. This was my 3rd visit and I tempted Smart there with the promise of a pizza from the island bar.
It turned out that the island bar was distinctly closed for ‘winter’ and I was starting to feel I was failing in my hosting duties that day. But…all was redeemed as I remembered the cheese sandwiches that I’d squashed at the bottom of my rucksack that morning, intended as a Blue Mountains picnic. Smart was naturally overjoyed.
Once we got back into the city we strolled around Darling Harbour and then headed back to Bondi, where Smart demanded we “play” on the beach. This required purchasing a set of Australia wooden bats and ball and rivalling the French open with our skills on the sand.
We worked up an appetite for a late lunch overlooking the beach at the Bucket List, where I ate most of Smart’s meal (mussels with Israeli cous-cous) very delicious!
Once we got home I had a quick turnaround before heading out to a gig with Ben (from triathlon) and as I left at 6pm Smart was delighted at finally being allowed to rest and was already dropping off to sleep.
The gig was Neil Finn, of Crowded House fame, and I have to admit I knew virtually none of his music before going (except my Spotify revision during the week). Ben and I walked there via Vivid – a fortnight long free festival put on by the council with music and light displays.
We were so distracted by the firework display at Darling Harbour that we didn’t notice the tickets falling out of Ben’s pocket (well, it may have turned out not to even be a pocket, which potentially was part of the problem) 🙂
This only became apparently 15 minutes before the show was about to start as we were walking up the stairs at the city recital hall and Ben turned to me with a face of panic as he went to pull out the tickets.
Thankfully we tried the box office before re-tracing our steps across Sydney and the woman kindly printed a new set for us. Though not before laughing at the fact we’d dropped them!
The show was awesome. Definitely a good sign when you can go to a performance without knowing much of the music at all and have a fantastic time. He started off solo, then had some of the Australian chamber orchestra join him on stage, and then Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes (who Ben was appalled that I hadn’t heard of). All in all a great evening.
In the meantime Smart managed to sleep about 14 hours straight and so was fresh and ready for Blue Mountains attempt 2 on Monday.
The picnic was re-made, the journey repeated, this time with train success. My friend Jen had imparted her Blue Mountains knowledge to us at The Clock on Saturday night, luckily I wrote it down as it would have been forgotten after a few too many proseccos!
We got off the train at Wentworth Falls and strolled the 3k out of town to get to the Wentworth Falls viewpoint. From here we walked down to the falls themselves, and then down the super steep steps cut into the cliff in order to get to the foot of the falls.
We then walked for about an hour along the National Pass trail before picnic needs set in and we stopped to enjoy the view and some lunch.
We debated completing the National Pass loop but decided to turn back on ourselves instead as we needed to be back in Sydney at a decent time to head to the ‘footy’ (rugby…NRL) that evening.
Though we were very sad to miss out on the ‘steep vertical ladders requiring reverse descent’ on one of the other trails. Smart especially – he just loves heights 😉
Once back in town we strolled over to the Allianz stadium where Smart had used his connections to wangle us some members area seats for the Sydney Roosters NRL face-off with Melbourne Storm.
Our primary aim for the evening was to purchase some chicken-hats. Imagine the devastation when we got to the official merchandise store only to discover that: “We do not sell chicken hats I’m afraid. People who have the chicken hats have made them themselves”
We witnessed this inside the ground where there were an impressive array of home-fashioned felt/knitted rooster hats. Our standard beanies did a good job of keeping us warm but just weren’t the same…
Another highly active day. Ben had been kind/foolish enough to trust Smart with his bike so that we could go on an adventure up to Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
First we cycled from Bondi to Circular Quay, via Centennial Park so Smart could get a bit of practice on the road bike. Here he earned himself the nickname “Freewheel Frederick” as every time I turned my head to check he was still upright he was merrily free-wheeling along. I introduced him to the concept of pedalling to gain some sort of momentum on the bike. Apparently not so keen.
Once we made it to Circular Quay we popped the bikes onto the Manly ferry. This was my first ride on the ferry and I was as much a tourist as anyone, relishing the double-whammy view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
Freewheel Frederick and I then made our way up the coast and got as far as Dee Why (not quite the Palm Beach target that we’d had in mind at the start of the day) before we started to get peckish so decided to turn back for some lunch in Manly.
We caught the ferry back to town after a mammoth pizza and nachos at the Manly Wharf Hotel, obviously completely justified given the all of 300 calories we’d burnt cycling.
By the time we got home (via a rooftop drink at The Royal in Paddington and an ice-cream from Messina Bondi) Frederick was a saddle-sore and broken man 😉 so we had 30 minutes relaxation time before turning around to get ready for an evening at Vivid back in town.
We decided to catch the ferry into town from Rose Bay in the hope of seeing the projections on the Opera House from the water. There was a spectacular sunset and the Opera House was lit up just as we pulled into the harbour.
We met up with two of Smart’s hockey friends, Ivana and Jimmy, who live about an hour south of Sydney in Woollongong, along with Toots and Ben for a drink in the overseas passenger terminal bar, which overlooks the Opera House.
Dinner was a tasting menu at a really cute little restaurant called Hickson’s on the wharfs and we proved to be such good company that Jimmy and Ivana missed not one but two trains back to Woollongong.
Given we’d had a pretty action packed week I decided to plan a chilled day on Wednesday. Naaaat!
The day began with a trip across town for breakfast pastries and coffee at the Grounds of Alexandria. Some of you may recall from a previous blog my devastation at missing out on seeing the resident animals at the Grounds.
Well, thank GOODNESS this was rectified on this visit and I had my mocha in the mix with Kevin Bacon the pig and his funny miniature pony friend who was weirdly smaller than him.
After 15 minutes of petting time we trotted down the road to Skyzone; an awesome indoor trampoline park with dozens of connected trampolines, a foam pit and trampolines below basketball hoops.
Here I got to perfect my skills obtained at university trampolining club. Now I’ll admit that I was a social outcast from the club, along with one of my now best friends Beth, so at least something good came of it – even if it wasn’t learning to do the perfect backflip!
Following the intense exercise at SkyZone it was lucky that we were booked in for a sports massage at the ACNT college in Pyrmont. It’s training for the students so you can get a relaxation massage for $20/hr or a sports massage for $30. It was excellent and I would recommend…other than ‘Steve the supervisor’ giving me a shock by suddenly appearing and digging his elbow into my glutes!
When I’d told people that we’d be camping in the desert in June they’d all said how cold it would be at night. Hence onesies made their way onto the essentials checklist.
Before arriving Smart had emailed me a list of 26 walks to do in Sydney. Despite our active schedule I’d failed to fit any of them in, so once we got back to Bondi we set off on the Bondi coastal walk.
We only made it over the headland before the sun had almost set, mainly because the sea was super ferocious so we stopped at Icebergs to watch a couple of foolhardy swimmers attempting to do lengths without being washed out to sea by the waves crashing over the edge of the pool. They’d even cordoned it off halfway down to keep people safe!
Thankfully Smart was satisfied to have ticked off 1 out of 26, so we went to Beach Burrito in Bondi for some margaritas and Mexican fare before heading home to pack for our Ayers Rock adventures the next day….