Sydney: Ticking off the Tourist Stops

Seeing as my time in Sydney was so limited, I didn’t have the chance to get to know it like Melbourne – and I wasn’t overly bothered about doing so either. Sydney is a gorgeous city; the views, city skyline, awesome beaches, and of course the Opera House are stunning, but for me, that was where it ended.

As soon as the rain cleared up and the sun came out, I headed straight for the sights: the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. While you can climb the bridge itself, I didn’t fancy passing out from vertigo and scaring myself to death, so I walked along the pathway instead. Exploring The Rocks was next: the old buildings and classic architecture was a nice break from sleek, steel skyscrapers. As I walked around the Opera House, crowds of well-dressed, suited people started to descend on the area, and I left. Turns out that Kate, Will and the baby were visiting – you really can’t escape the royal family.

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The first half of my week in the city was rainy, grey and cold, so I spent the morning exploring the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the various exhibitions it was featuring. I love art galleries, but mainly for people watching: what paintings or installations people are drawn to; how long they spend with certain pieces compared to others; what ones they avoid entirely; how they engage with the piece in front of them. Seeing as it was the Easter holidays, there were plenty of people around, and a lot of thought provoking pieces of art. It’s free to look around, and you can easily spend hours inside; the building moves you around of its own accord.

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After we had finished at the gallery, a friend of my mum’s took me to a spot you wouldn’t normally associate with Sydney: there were no white sandy beaches, surfers, girls in bikinis or spectacular horizons, but a ferocious cliff edge, and high wire fences. The Gap, a cluster of rocky cliff edges, is notorious for its synonymy with suicidal jumpers, and it’s easy to see why. I visited on a grey, stormy day, the weather suiting the mood of the park perfectly. It was austere and unforgiving, and unsurprisingly one of Alfred Hitchcock’s favourite places.

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As we drove back into the city, the sun began to set behind the Harbour Bridge, streaks of vivid orange breaking through the white-washed sky. Though it wasn’t the scene you get on the front of postcards, it was breathtaking all the same: a constant reminder of how beautiful Sydney is.

Next up on my whistlestop tour of Sydney, was Manly and Taronga Zoo. I caught the ferry over to Manly, a quick 30-minute journey across the bay. No matter what form of transport you’re used to using, catching the ferry is a definite must: the views you get of the city as you move further away are incredible. Being back on the beach was exactly what I needed: Sydney is a lot more ‘cityish’ than Melbourne: it has London’s unfriendliness, and it was a shock to the system seeing people walk around wearing make-up and smart clothes again. Manly’s a brilliant town: a beautiful beach – and enough of them to keep you occupied for a while – a cluster of surf shops and ice cream cafes, and a selection of buzzy bars, already full in the early afternoon.

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Everyone I’ve met has raved about Taronga Zoo, so it was top of my list of things to do in Sydney. Admission was pricey at $44, but it was worth paying just for the views of the city alone. Taronga’s built around a hill, so looking over the city and across the water is like looking at a postcard – especially with tall ships sailing around the Opera House. It’s an immaculate zoo, with beautiful grounds and well-taken care of animals. The highlight of the day was the bird show: eagles, owls, galahs and cockatoos soared around the mini amphitheatre, demonstrating their hunting abilities – or their personalities (I would very much like to train a cockatoo to take gold coins off people).

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No visit to Sydney would be complete with going to Bondi (and my brother was fanboying over Bondi Beach Rescue or whatever the show is). It’s easy enough to get there from the CBD: either take a bus, a train and a bus, or a train and walk. I chose to get the train to Bondi Junction, then walk from there as the weather was so lovely – although on the steep walk back, I was slightly regretting it. As it was Good Friday, the beach (and buses) were packed. A long, sloped lawn with plenty of shade sits in front of the beach itself, ideal for those who don’t fancy sitting in the sun or on the sand all day. I’m sure I could have made my first TV debut and gone for a swim (and therefore nearly drowned/been rescued by lifeguards/made it onto the show), but the size of the waves made the possibility of actually drowning a bit too likely.

Watching the surf, and the surfers (though sadly no lifeguards, sorry bro), made me realise how much I’m going to miss this: for the last almost three months I’ve never been more than 30 minutes from a beach. Going home will be strange.

Sydney was different: I don’t think I gave myself enough time to properly explore the city, and I never felt that instant connection with it like I did with Melbourne. Everything was too normal: women were wearing make-up, people wore normal clothes, and it was about as unfriendly as London can be. Next up is Byron Bay, and judging from what I’ve heard, I may never leave.

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