Sydney or Melbourne, that is the big Australian question. After just 3 days in Sydney it’s easy to see the two are totally different, which makes the question a little silly, like pasta or yellow? My experience in Sydney was filled with good food, lovely beaches and hidden secrets.
After arriving in Sydney late after the long drive from Melbourne we rose early in the morning to tackle morning rush hour traffic to return our hire car. Leaving our somewhat grim hotel behind I was determined this drive would be our first impression of Sydney, I refused to allow the hotel to colour the rest of our stay. The drive into the city centre could have been a living hell, filled with stress and angry words, which is how I imagine driving in London any time would be, not just rush hour, and thought Sydney would be much the same. The drive started out terribly, with us blocking a road on a red light, leaving the cars behind us suck watching their green light turn back to red. I sank into my seat waiting for the onslaught of angry toots and revving engines. To my shock and delight they never arrived. Our journey continued this way, with us making terrible manoeuvres and wrong turns, but the patient drivers of Sydney continued to surprise us with their chilled out attitude to rush hour traffic, making for a much better 1st impression of the city.
We headed to Sydney Central station, which had building works going on, which took away a fair bit of its charm. We hopped on a train and set off on the long journey to meet some friends in the Blue Mountains. Its a bit of a trek to get there, so its worth getting an early train if you can. The journey is an easy introduction to the beauty of the Blue Mountains, offering pretty views for much of the way.
Its obvious as you leave Sydney Central the train is filled with tourists off for their day at the Mountains,too, so just hop off the train when everyone else does! From the station it’s an easy down hill stroll to the 1st lookout point across the hazy sea of gum trees. The Three Sisters are a sight to be seen, the tallest , Meehni, standing at 922m. There is a story about how the three sisters came to be, filled with love, danger and woe. However, the tale does not have aboriginal routes and was created for tourists.
Following the trail from the lookout you are rewarded with generous views across the valley. The walk is easy and there are endless spots to stop and soak it all in, the endless sea of gum trees is really quite majestic and had the four of us sitting in silence for a fair old while.
There is a cable car, train and further walkway promising more breathtaking scenery but it’s on the pricey side; we decided to opt for freebies and begin the walk back to town. It was a beautiful day and I would highly recommend anyone that will be travelling in the area to dedicate a day to the mountains.
On our second day we went down to the harbour for the first time. Simply being there is amazing, the buzz, live music and the sweet aromas of fresh coffee and street snacks mix together in the heat and leave you excited for the possibilities of the day. As demanded by the harbour, we took our time walking around and soaking in all the sounds and smells before hopping on the ferry to Manly Beach.
We sat at the back of the ferry, having deliberately not looked at the Opera House yet. As the ferry turned away from the harbour we caught our first glimpse at the building. Seeing it from the ferry was magical, waiting had certainly paid off. The ferry ride is fast and we soon arrived at our destination, with a few stops to look in the shops along the way to the beach.
We picked up some fish and chips and wandered out onto the beach to eat and watch the surfers. The beach takes its name from the aboriginal people that traditionally inhabit the area, the men of the local tribes famed for their masculine appearance. As we sat filling our faces with fried fish the general appearance of the guys held true to the beaches name.
The ferry back was the highlight of the day. We timed the trip with sunset and were rewarded with a spectacular view over the Harbor Bridge and Opera House.
Our time here came to an end all too quickly and in what seemed to be no time at all we woke on out last day in Sydney. Eager to make the most of it we headed out to catch a free walking tour. The tour took us around areas we would never have thought to visit. My favorite was the hospital. Back when Sydney was in its infancy the mayor, a British officer by the name Lachlan Macqurie from Scotland, had written to London asking for a hospital to be built to but was refused. Not one to take rejection lightly Macqurie found a new way to fund his project. The hospital was therefore built by an alcohol company, and in return was the only licensed establishment in Sydney to sell to the boozy convict inhabitants.
We also discovered Sydney’s secret underground streets. The tour took a turn down a gloomy looking stair case, which we were a little apprehensive of at first but soon enough we discovered a whole city underground, how fantastic! The alley ways were filled with shops and cafes, themselves bursting with Sydneysiders enjoying the air conditioned streets.
To finish our sightseeing day we left the tour group and headed to Bondi Beach. Now, I have to be honest, I didn’t think much to the beach or the area. The beach was crowded and the atmosphere, though pleasant enough, wasn’t overly inviting. We did, however, find a fantastic pizza shop which we ate on the hill top looking out over the sea. If I were to go to Sydney again I would probably skip this though.
All too soon we were waiting for our night bus back to Melbourne. Our time in Sydney was wonderful, and I’m so glad we managed to get there, even if it was for 3 short days. For me, I’d choose Melbourne to that eternal Australian question. But really, the 2 are so different the chose is a hard one, and both cities are a real treat for anyone to have the pleasure of visiting.