August 23, 2012

Ode To The Opera House…And Other Stuff Too

Sydney is cool. In fact it’s one of the only cities we’ve been to where we’d actually consider living. It’s bustling, clean, and cosmopolitan. There are lots of athletic people running around. It’s full of parks and surrounded by water. Unlike Melbourne and Brisbane where muddy rivers twist their way through the downtown, Sydney boasts a sparkling blue harbor. It also has beautiful vistas everywhere you turn.

A common occurrence in Europe went something like this…“Oh, yes, there is a wonderful lookout where you can get a great view of [insert main attraction here]. You just need to walk 2 kilometers and then hike up a mountain for about 30 minutes”. We would trustingly follow these instructions and traipse all the way up to said viewpoint, only to find it overgrown with trees. Not so in Sydney. They know exactly what keeps the tourists rushing in…

The Opera House is, quite simply, stunning. It delivers a pinch-me moment the first time you lay eyes on it. Throughout our time in Sydney, we saw the Opera House from just about every vantage point at every time of day. It’s what makes the Sydney skyline one of the best in the world. It deserves lots of photographic love. Australians abbreviate everything, so I call this series OOH…Ode to the Opera House.

When we got up close to the Opera House, our immediate observation was that it’s outdated and very 70’s. The iconic sails are basically made of kitchen tiles. 

Let’s forget I even brought this up. Let’s refocus our attention on its beauty (from far away).

Of course Sydney has lots of other interesting stuff, too. This is where the British Empire sent boatloads of convicts in the late 1700s to populate their new colony. In doing so they pretty much wiped out the Aboriginal population, but lucky for us, this guy keeps the dream alive.

Even though you’re in a very urban city, Sydney holds up Australia’s reputation for unusual bird sightings. There were also humongous bats that looked more like the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz. And on our first night in town, we caught a pack of dolphins cruising the harbor.

In keeping with everywhere else we’ve seen in Australia, Sydney has impeccable trail systems. We really can’t figure how their government has enough money for the upkeep, but we’re not complaining. There are wonderful walking trails from Spit Bridge to Manly Beach as well as around famous Bondi Beach.

Just 2 hours outside of the Opera House Sydney are the Blue Mountains. It’s said that the name comes from the blue haze that’s caused by the region’s countless eucalyptus trees. Supposedly the trees load the air with blue-tinged droplets of eucalyptus oil. We can’t say we could smell the eucalyptus, but the mountains sure did look blue!

On our 200th day of traveling, we celebrated by hiking The National Pass. This trail is rated one of the top 10 hikes in Australia, and it certainly was unique. In 1908 the nearby towns held a competition to see who could build the most spectacular trail to bring in tourists. These guys won.

On the drive back from the Blue Mountains, we stopped by Sydney’s Olympic Park. I remember watching those Games on TV in 2000, and let me tell you, we all got shammed. We thought they were being held in Sydney, but they were actually being held in a little precinct called Silverwater. Sure it’s probably technically a part of Sydney Proper, but it took us 30 minutes on the highway to drive from the Olympic Park into downtown Sydney. It feels so disjointed. A belated congratulations to all of the athletes of the 2000 Silverwater Olympic Games.

Food in Sydney is outrageously expensive. It’s the most expensive food we’ve seen in the world…even more so than New York City. $20 for a hamburger, $24 for a salad, and $10 for a bottle of beer is the low end norm. It’s possible to find some specials Monday-Wednesday nights, but you’ve got to get lucky to stumble upon them.

Let me also take a moment to rant about Australian hostels, for which Sydney is the mecca. The hostel scene in Australia is bizarre. Like nowhere we’ve seen before, Australia is FULL of international young people with work visas. They stay in a city and work odd jobs for 3-6 months, then they travel for a bit before settling down in another city to find more work. Instead of renting an apartment like most normal people would do, they just hole up at a hostel. We’ve met people who have been living at the same hostel for 7 months. Uggghhhhh.

I’ll tell you what’s wrong with this scenario. It completely ruins hostels for normal travelers like us. By the time we show up, all of the good beds are taken. Space heaters and nightstands are perfectly positioned in front of their beds. Their shower crap is set out all over the bathroom as if it were their house.

The other day I had a depressing moment when I looked down at the bottles overtaking my dorm’s shower. There it was staring back at me…a bottle of Axe body wash with the scent, “Hangover Cure”. My immediate thought was, “I can’t believe I’m sharing a bathroom with someone who this would be marketed to”.

We are sad to say farewell to Sydney, but we could not be more excited to leave its depressing hostel scene. The door will probably hit us on the way out. But hey, let’s take one last look at the Opera House.

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