Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Minding the Gap

During our 4 months of traveling we had gotten used to answering "where are you from" with "the United States". End of conversation. But while checking into our hotel in Sydney the person at the front desk just blankly looked at us and said, "yes, I know, where in the United States - I'm from Ohio". That made us realize we did not meet many Americans during our trip. Europeans, yes. Australians, yes. And many many other Asians, but not many from the United States. We decided to take this as a stroke of luck and picked his brain about places to see in Sydney and boy did he give us a recommendation. He suggested we take a ferry up to the Gap Park in Watson Bay and take in the views from the top. But not just of the Sydney skyline, but the five other bays that make up Sydney's unique harbor, as well as the wild Tasman Sea! Lucky for us the day we decided to go turned out to be a gloriously beautiful sunny day!Remember in grade school drawing a turkey by outlining your hand? Well if you were to outline your right hand like you were drawing a picture of a turkey, the gap between your thumb and index finger would be Clarke Quay where all the ferries and the Opera House are. And the gaps in between each finger would be a bay and the tip of your pinky is where The Gap Park is situated. The gap between your ring finger and your pinky is Watson Bay. The ferry ride was pure joy for so many reasons. There was the water's view of the city the whole way.
Incredible views of the Opera House.And a relaxing day on the water.
The first stop was in Elizabeth Bay. The homes terracing the bay hillside made us dream one day of having a view half as beautiful as these homes have. Next we cruised around the peninsula to Double Bay with boats anchored in front of glass condos and dreamy beachside estates.We cruised pass islands in the harbor up to Rose Bay which highlighted the rolling hills of homes crammed on each peninsula.
We arrived at Watson Bay and disembarked.
One of the attractions to Watson Bay is a set of fish and chips restaurants along the water, but we were here for the view.But it was the view of the Tasman Sea from The Gap Park, situated at the top of Watson Bay's peninsula, that truly awed us.The park trail looped around the peninsula and had incredible views of Sydney's skyline and sailboats dotting bay on one side and the wild open Tasman Sea on the other. It was amazing.Boats could be seen everywhere. They were systematically docked at each bay.
There were lots of sailboats out on the harbor that day.
As well of other means of being on the water.
People in Sydney truly love being in, near and around water. All the buildings face the water and life seems to stem from the proximity to water, which made us love Sydney even more.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!

One of the most exciting and memorable parts of our trip was taking public transportation whenever possible. Sydney's public transportation system consisted of an underground railway that looked much like London's tube and buses that took us from the center of this bustling metropolis to a beautiful beach in less than 30 minutes. We've come to appreciate cities with good public transportation that allow us to feel capable and able to see all the different areas a city has to offer. And Sydney was one of the rare cities that has a monorail, giving us a bird's eye view of the city as well.The monorail is a large loop around the downtown area by Hyde Park, through China town, across Darling Harbor and back down. And on a warm rainy day it was worth the expensive ticket to ride the few mile loop to get a charming, slow paced orientation to Sydney. After riding the monorail for several loops we were excited to get into the city and explore up close.Sydney's cityscape is made of mixture of old colonial buildings and new shiny skyscrapers.We got off the monorail and immediately visited one of the premier examples of Victorian architecture at the Galleries Victoria, a very high end shopping galleria.The Galleries Victoria was filled with interesting shops, high end clothing boutiques, cafes, and a chocolate coffee shop that made the whole gallery smell delicious. We ventured out to further admired the ornate Victorian buildings and find something to eat.One of the surprising aspects of Sydney is how wonderfully diverse the population is. And this diversity could be seen in the variety of food available. Unlike the cities of Asia where you could find almost any type of food you wanted, Sydney had readily available European cuisine, including a Spanish district and pubs on every corner.Australia's proximity to Asia and the refugee boom of the last 30 years has given rise to numerous authentic Asian restaurants and after seeing the huge lines for a revolving sushi restaurant the day before we planned our day around arriving at the sushi restaurant as it opened. We were the first in line in a small restaurant which filled up within 5 minutes of opening. Mike was so excited he could barely contain himself.The sushi was fresh, authentic and reasonably priced - exactly what we were hoping for.Along with the authenticity of the sushi was the impressive incorporation of the Sydney's European heritage with green tea creme brulee and black sesame ice cream and green tea pudding with sweetened plums and whipped cream - delicious!After our spot on sushi meal we were ready to see more of the city and headed towards the older area around the Market City Mall and Paddy's Market, eventually making our way to colorful Chinatown.There wasn't much to see in either area. The stores at the City Market Building weren't very interesting and it was too late in the day for Paddy's Market, but we hear it is really great. Chinatown's promenade wasn't very interesting and very short, although this street performer was pretty interesting.We decided to head back to the hotel to relax and decide where we wanted to have dinner. We were instantly rejuvenated by Sydney's abundance of good restaurants that we decided to do a bit more research and found a small local brew pub, or a boutique beer cafe not far from our hotel. The Redoak was exactly what we were looking for - a great beer selection
on-site breweryand beer themed meals
We walked home from our dinner pass colonial buildings, skyscrapers, busy pubs, noodle shops and city parks happy, excited and a little homesick.