Sweet Sydney

Back in November, Donnie stumbled upon an amazing flight deal for Sydney, Australia during spring break. The flight times were perfect, and the price was outrageously cheap (less than $1000 for all 3 of us to fly round trip). So we booked them! We also had Ron and Angie book tickets on the same plane, since they would be joining us on our spring break adventures. We then searched out a really awesome place to stay for all of us for the week, with the slim requirements of: 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a barbecue grill (this narrowed the search a lot). With a car rented, our planning was complete.

So on Saturday, we had a yummy lunch at George and Dragon, and we set out on our journey at around 4pm. We took a van to the airport (which was unusually fast), checked in easily, enjoyed some shopping and a meal at Pizza Express, then boarded our plane around 9:30 that night. It was a quick flight to Manila, and we had to basically run to catch our next flight which was in the process of boarding when we arrived. It was another 8 hour stretch on the most uncomfortable seats ever before we set down in Sydney around 10am local time. It was a relatively, albeit uncomfortable travel day.

After securing a rental car, our first order of business was to get some necessities at the grocery store before checking into our house. I love grocery shopping in  new places, but this experience was a little bit like Shekou Walmart on a weekend (but without the unpleasant smells!). We’d arrived Sunday, so everybody was doing their weekly shopping and it was hard to maneuver and stay out of people’s way. I still enjoyed being able to read packaging, and picking out food for our grill, local Australian wine and beer, and some yummy treats for the week ahead.

We drove the short trip back to our house and settled in by basking in the intermittent sunlight, listening to music, and cooking our favorite meal: greek salad, steaks, asparagus and mashed potatoes. It was a perfect first afternoon, and since we were all tired from the travel, we turned in early and woke refreshed for the next day.

We woke up Monday feeling mostly refreshed, and after some coffee and some research, Donnie and I went out for a run. The purpose of the run was exercise, but also to scout out cool places (namely breweries) in our neighborhood to visit. It was mostly a success, we got lost a few times, but we found all of the places we wanted to see and we did get a pretty good workout.

We showered and ate, then decided to scope out the Australian National Maritime Museum. The weather was iffy, rain and sun and a little blustery, but we decided since it was mostly indoors it would be ok. So we loaded everybody up and drove down to the harbor.

It was a pretty cool experience, as far as museums go. We got to board an older shipping vessel, a submarine and a destroyer, as well as seeing all of the exhibits and a short movie about sharks. It was super cool crawling around the ships, especially the submarine! But, by the end of it, I think Paul had reached his limits on exploring ships, and I was starting to get tired to, so we headed home. Donnie and I went to a bottle shop a few steps away and had a great time chatting with the clerk and picking out some local brews to try while we made and ate dinner. It was a seriously touristy day, but I was glad that we’d gotten out to see something that tops a lot of the guidebooks in Sydney. And we didn’t get too rained on!

By Tuesday, the weather was slowly getting better. It was still cloudy with spotty downpours, but was more sunny than wet. Donnie and I went out for another run and this time discovered a cool running path about a mile and a half from our house, so we ran a little farther than expected. The views were beautiful though, so I didn’t really mind. We got back and had breakfast and tried to decide what to do with the day. We decided to go take in some views at the Harbor Bridge because Angie really wanted to see that iconic view. So back in the car, and down to the bay we traveled, and after a short walk we found ourselves on a clear path with a clear view of the bridge and the Opera House. We took some pictures and walked along the water for a while before noticing a huge amusement park modeled after Coney Island. It was called Luna Park, and Paul was dying to go on some rides. After another spontaneous rain shower, I sat down and waited while everybody else sought out the most adventurous rides for our little thrill seeker. He had a blast! Donnie was a little shaken up from the rides, but by the time we got back to the car, he was fine. It was a really pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

We had planned a short outing because Donnie and I wanted to try out one of the places we had scouted on our run-Young Henry’s. It was only open from 3-7pm, so we had to rush back home through traffic and walk there (about half a mile). We left Paul at home with Ron and Angie and started out on our short walk. Young Henry’s is located in a cool area of Sydney near a street called Enmore. There was a rock concert taking place on Enmore that evening, so it seemed to be a gathering spot for pre-rocker drinks. The vibe at YH’s was super chill and the bartender was friendly and chatted with us about the beers and the beer laws that make YH keep such weird hours and serve such tiny beers (called ‘middies’). We stayed for an hour or so, then wandered home to figure out what to do for dinner. In his chats with the bartender, Donnie had heard of a family friendly restaurant that serves all kinds of local beer and has a play area for kids. So when we got home, we gathered everybody up and then took a couple of Uber’s to The Henson. It turned out to make everybody happy. Paul played and made new friends, we had more yummy beer, some tacos and avacado squash (guacamole), and then the most amazing apple crisp with salty caramel and ice cream for dessert. I left very full and very happy.

Over dinner on Tuesday, it was decided we’d take our mini-road trip the next day to see the Blue Mountains and explore a wildlife park. We’d had such an awesome time at the wildlife park in Adelaide, that we were eager for Ron and Angie to have the same experience. So Donnie and I woke up early for our run, cut it a bit short, and we were on the road by 9:30am Wednesday morning.

Featherdale Wildlife Park was our first stop that morning, and we arrived shortly after it opened. It was not as expansive as Adelaide, and there were much smaller animals, but there were soooo many koalas. We wandered around the park pretty quickly because it wasn’t that big, and Paul’s favorite was the reptile house where he could get up close to the snakes. Hopefully Ron and Angie enjoyed feeding the wallabies and I certainly enjoyed seeing all the cute koalas. 🙂

From there we drove about another hour-ish drive up to the Blue Mountains (we stopped for some road trip snacks of course), specifically to a place called Scenic World. Donnie had done his research well, because it was pretty crowded when we got there, even though it was in the afternoon. Scenic World is located at the edge of the Blue Mountains, in a perfect place to view “The Three Sisters,” which is a karst formation. You can ride a gondola across the valley to the other side, and see the falls on the way, you can ride a train down to an elevated walkway in the rainforest below, and you can ride a cable car down as well. We decided to do all three. First we went across to get a different view, then back to Scenic world. Then we took the super steep train down to the valley, this was more like an amusement  park ride. We walked for a bit in the rainforest before heading back up in the cable car. Paul got to run the cable car on the way up and I think he really enjoyed it. After all that fun, it was time to take the road trip home, and I promptly fell asleep in the car. We did make a stop on the way home to pick up some food to make for dinner, but I wasn’t much help with cooking.

Thursday was supposed to be our chill day, and Donnie and I had left the day purposefully clear of activity. Donnie wanted a rest day, so I got up and ran 10k by myself, while Donnie took Paul and Ron for haircuts (Paul’s needed one for a few weeks). When they got back, he turned around and took me and Angie out to get our hair done as well. 🙂 It turned out not to be so restful for Donnie. But in the afternoon, we grilled again and had a big satisfying lunch. Since our days were growing few, Donnie and I asked Ron and Angie to watch Paul while we did a mini-pub crawl in our area. They said sure, so we walked over to Wayward Brewing, which was about a half a mile in the opposite direction of Young Henry’s.

Wayward was great! They had a really awesome sour beer and of course friendly people. It was a little more relaxed than YH’s, but still just as fun. From there we took an Uber over to The Grifter Brewery. We chatted with their brewer (he was from the US) and tried lots of different kinds of their beer. The weirdest one was a watermelon pilsner. Pretty tasty, but I’m not sure I’d drink a whole pint. We tried to get directions to the next place since we had no phone service or wifi, and luckily were able to navigate over to our third stop, Batch. Batch was just at final call (at 8pm!!), so we got a taster and then ordered two of our favorites. They had a really awesome cherry beer that I enjoyed very much. We decided we wanted one more Sour Puss from Wayward, so from there we took another Uber back to Wayward, where we had started. Luckily we could order food, so we ordered a pizza and then walked home, stopping for ice cream at the 711 on the way. It was an epic adventure filled with yummy beer and friendly Aussies, and I highly recommend any of the places we tried.

On Friday, we’d promised Paul the beach! So we geared up early (skipping a run) and drove down to Bondi Beach. Ron and Angie rented some loungers, and Paul and Donnie hit the water, while I lay, soaking up the sun and reading. We spent 3 hours like that, with Donnie and Paul taking short breaks from the waves, and we were all a little sun spent as we packed up to go home. We had seen a target on the way out, so we stopped by a mall and wandered Target and a few other stores before fighting traffic home. Paul would live on the beach if he could, he had so much fun that day.

For our final full day in Sydney, we split off into groups. Angie was interested in a Harbor Cruise, and so we dropped them off at 10am for a two hour cruise, Paul joined them. While they were on the boat, we attempted a run (only got about 4 miles in), then did some shopping for our night out that evening. After we met up with Ron, Angie and Paul, we finished up shopping, then tried to find a place to eat. There weren’t too many places that looked promising, and our parking money was almost up, so we decided to try The Henson again. We didn’t really think that through, because when we arrived the place was packed and we had to sit inside. Nobody was very happy this time, but at least the food was good! We rushed home from there to change and get ready for a special party we’d been invited to.

One of our brewer friends here in Shenzhen had bought us tickets to a sunset boat cruise. It was hosted by a festival group, Trash Mansion, similar to Burning Man, and the theme was disco! I had no idea what to expect, and frankly I was a little nervous showing up to a party of all of our friend’s friends. So we didn’t go all out dressing up, but made some attempt. We got back down to the Harbor early enough to get some wine and beer to share, then head to the pier. I had nothing to worry about, Aussies, and especially these ones were soooo friendly and easy to get a long with. We made fast friends, shared wine and beer, and chatted about our lives. The sun set behind the Opera House and it was magical. After the sun went down, we hit the dance floor and danced on the swaying boat until we needed a break for air. The party was over too soon, and with the help of our new friends, we found our way home relatively early.

The next morning was rushed, but we made it to the airport (which was packed because of the Easter holiday) with enough time to do some duty free shopping before boarding.

Our travel home was just as uncomfortable, and we had to scramble to the plane, narrowly missing our connection. The flights took longer than normal, and our luggage didn’t appear after waiting nearly an hour, so we finally made it home much later than expected. Luckily, our luggage was delivered the next day. Also, some how Donnie broke our in shingles, yuck!  Not the best way to end a vacation, and I’ve been struggling all week to get back on track, but it was worth it.

Sydney is an amazing city, and I would travel there again in a heartbeat. If you ever have the chance to enjoy its views, its people, its food and drink, take advantage of it. I hope we get back there someday. 🙂

Love to all, J.

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