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The First 48 Hours in Sydney

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 28 April 2013 | Views [1091]

No wonder there were no price tags on anything! Did I just stumble across the most expensive convenience store in Australia or am I going to need to take out a mortgage for the next 3 weeks? Grateful my room has a microwave, kettle and fridge.

Arriving on a late warm afternoon on Anzac Day, Sydney has all but come to standstill – all except for the bars and the beaches that is. The autumn sun is warm and it’s a national holiday so Australians are, arguably, doing what they do best. Carefully avoiding the bars, I set out on my twofold mission – getting my bearings and staying awake. The 12 hour flight on Qantas was hard going. Crammed into my seat by the window, which seemed to have had lost the best of its cushioning, I slept fitfully. Since my last trip to Australia exactly 10 years ago, I have always held Qantas Airlines in the highest esteem. Sadly these days, ‘cattle class’ is becoming harder to endure on long-haul flights, whatever the airline. I remember the time when flying was something fairly exotic and no-one had to endure plastic cutlery - but enough, I’m probably showing my age!

I had been quite concerned that booking a transfer may be quite difficult as I had not booked in advance. The airport Concierge was most helpful and AUS 18 secured me a one way shuttle bus directly to my hotel in Potts Point. The Maisonette is well situated amongst cafes and shops, just far enough away from King Cross but close enough for a pleasant stroll into downtown Sydney and bustling Circular Quay via Woolloomooloo Bay and the Botanical Gardens.

I wandered up to The Rocks, enjoying the small food market held on a Friday and the quaint buildings and shops which make this a popular area. I had decided to drop in and view a photographic exhibition being held by a photographer known to my family. The Visitor Information Centre pointed me in the direction of Bondi Beach Pavilion and bus ticket in hand, I headed off towards the famous, although frankly, somewhat over-rated beach. The exhibition, featuring African moments captured through the understanding lens of the photographer, however was stunning. Freshly squeezed fruit juice and sushi roll in hand, I took a little time to soak up the ‘Aussie vibe’. To reduce the likelihood of employees throwing a sickie to benefit from the long weekend, many companies have chosen to give employees the day off. Consequently the beach was busy and I only just managed to squeeze onto a busy bus returning to the city.

There is nothing quite like that defining moment when you first take sight of an iconic landmark. Seeing The Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, you know that there is nowhere else in the world you could possibly be. My thoughts turn back to my previous visit here and the feeling that overtook me when we came out from Darling Harbour and turned into Circular Quay and I suddenly saw The Opera House. On a parallel to The Empire State Building in New York, Big Ben in London, The Coliseum in Rome, La Grande Place in Brussels, ‘HOLLYWOOD’ set into the hill in LA – there is an unmistakable feeling of ‘having arrived’!

I have 4 nights booked in Sydney and then intend to head off to Melbourne and Adelaide. Sitting in the hotel which I booked before I left the UK, I realise that I will be doing this trip alone. Hostels open up a world of fellow travellers, whilst hotels give privacy which when travelling alone, may not be quite ideal. I vaguely wonder if, by the end of my travels, I will have summonsed up the courage to go into a bar alone, or make myself known within a group of people, right now I seriously doubt that. Fortunately I am comfortable in my own company.

Struggling to stay awake although it is only early evening, I am setting my sights on not earlier than 9pm tonight, another 2 hours with an invitingly soft bed beside me beckoning! An earlyish start is required to do the planned morning coffee cruise out in the Harbour.

I have yet to thank Emma at Nomad’s Travel Store in Bristol who went through everything from fittings for the perfect backpack (with wheels) to sharing her invaluable personal knowledge of travelling. I never travel without a serong handy but she also suggested using a beach bag as hand luggage so that I could attach my day sack to my main packpack and thereby maximise my checked in weight limit. I have mentally thanked her many times for this. Nomad’s also provided me with the required vaccinations, World Nomads with travel insurance and my blog address and I am grateful to them all.

My second morning has been spent on foot exploring the city. Having missed the Coffee Cruise, I took the ferry to Darling Harbour. Another glorious autumn day (the equivalent of high summer back in the UK) and the pavement cafes are buzzing, tourists and locals interspersed enjoying the sunshine. Wandering along Woolloomooloo Wharf, I stopped at one of the restaurants for a light lunch. A small platter of yellow and red tomatoes, plump mozzarella and large basil leaves drizzled with olive oil arrives – wonderfully fresh and vibrantly coloured.

One of the pleasures of dining alone is being able to sit back and observe. The mark of a good restaurant is so much more than just great food. I like to see attention to detail, attentive service regardless of potential spend, and staff who clearly enjoy their job. Coffee arrives and with it a complimentary platter of petit fours. My already high rating just shot up a notch. If you find yourself in Sydney looking for a superb restaurant then you would do well to make your way down to Manta on The Wharf at Woolloomooloo.

Tags: anzac day, darling harbour, icons, opera house, potts point, qantas, rocks, sydney

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