A romance between a bridge and an opera house

What to say of one of the most beautiful cities in the world… I don’t know if it’s the magnificent and architecturally challenging bridge, or the delicate and charming opera house, or the stunning and blooming natural setting what make of this city an enchanting place and the scenery of a beautiful romance. Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House are the two main characters of this impossible love story, the two of them looking at each other day and night, so close but yet so far.

We found it impossible not to stare at the two most iconic features of Sydney as we walked around the city. From the harbour or from the sea, at dusk or at night… at every step we discovered a new angle, a new view that we hadn’t photographed and that we had to capture. I won’t exaggerate if I say we took over 100 pictures of the bridge and opera alone in the 3 days we were in Sydney. But probably the view that we liked the most was the view from the other side of the bridge, across the harbour, where the bridge frames the opera house as if protecting his beloved. We spent hours at this spot just enjoying the gorgeous sight. If any Finding Nemo lovers, like me or my sister, ever wondered if 42 Wallaby way was a real place, I’m sorry to disappoint you, it doesn’t exist. Well, it didn’t exist, but because we found this place so special we decided to name it 42 Wallaby Way!

We normally like to explore the cities on our own and at our own pace, but one of the girls in the hostel recommended the city’s free tour, so we decided to give it a go. The tour did start well, with the story of how Australia was founded by the British to house their convicts. With details of how Sydney decided to build the opera house to compete against Melbourne, which was chosen to be the host of the Olympics in 1956. And how they where forced to change the design of the harbour bridge once it was completed and build new pillars as people didn’t feel safe crossing it… As we were visiting The Rocks, the oldest part of the city, we passed by a group of children dressed up as sailors and convicts, both male and female convicts, and the guide explained that it was a school tour where the kids get to learn about the past of their country. I think it is somehow disturbing that the kids get to learn their own history by being robbers and prostitutes for a day… Sadly after the first hour the tour lost strength, and transformed into a tour to learn where to find cheap beer (an Oz cliché) and a constant demonstration of the rivalry between Australia & New Zealand: Australia is sunnier, pavlova is Australian… but of course, there was no talking about rugby.

Don’t you think we just loved Sydney because of the bridge and the opera, Sydney is much more than that! The city is full of parks and open spaces, there are countless restaurants and cafés, museums and expositions. As we like doing, we sat for a couple of hours in Hyde Park soaking the sun and watching the life pass by. The park gets packed at noon with all the Sydneysiders who take a break from work to enjoy a picnic lunch, go jogging or just take a nap. We also walked around the beautiful botanic gardens and enjoyed a wonderful sunset from Mrs Macquarie’s chair, as the governor’s wife used to do in the early 19th century.

We had seen Hungry Jacks (fast food chain) all over Australia, and we had yet to taste their burgers. Sydney was our last chance, so we didn’t let the opportunity go. As we looked at the menu we started to see some resemblances with Burger King… but it didn’t occur to us that they could be the same thing. But disappointingly, it was. In Australia Burger King is called Hungry Jacks. At least in Sydney we discovered a very authentic place where to eat traditional pies: Harry’s Cafe de Wheels. This iconic place has been open for over 70 years, serving pies to WWII soldiers and even celebrities. Their speciality, The Tiger: a yummy meat pie topped with mashed pea and potato, covered with a dark and rich gravy. Without a doubt the best pie we have tried in Australia, totally recommendable!

Taking a ferry to Manly is another must do while in Sydney, and it’s definitely a great and cheap way to take a tour of Sydney Harbour. As we cruised towards Manly we enjoyed the natural beauty of the harbour, and we understood why Captain Cook chose it for his settlement in the late 18th century. Manly is a cute little busy seaside town, famous for its surf but we didn’t really spent much time there. The views of Sydney as we headed back towards the city were stunning, pity that we didn’t time the sunset well, and by the time we were coming back the sun was already down.

Long time ago, just before I said goodbye to Ireland, my good friend Norbert and his family gave us a very special leaving present, a night of luxury at the Ravesis Hotel in Bondi beach. Norbert kept referring to the very special times he and Rachel had had here 10 years ago, and they wanted us to also enjoy the charm of Bondi and the delights of Ravesis. Bondi beach is Sydney’s preferred beach, constantly full of surfers, and where surf life saving was born back in 1907. It is also the beach we see on tv on New Years with bathers wearing Santa hats on a clear sunny day while the rest of the world is making snowmans. After 10 months living in hostels, cheap hotels and campervans, you can imagine how spoilt we felt in our one night at the Ravesis. We had a relaxing bath, a glass of wine from our balcony staring at the blue sea, a romantic dinner with oysters and steak, the most comfortable bed ever and a morning breakfast with a view. It was for sure a night to remember. Thanks a million Norbert and Rachel, it was a very unique and meaningful gift and we truly enjoyed.

After almost 2 months in Australia we had yet to try the famous pavlova, a delicate dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, which Australians eagerly claim they invented and not the New Zealanders. Finally on our last day in Sydney we found a place to taste it. And with the sweet flavour of the passion fruit, the crunchy texture of the meringue and with Sydney Harbour bridge on the horizon we sadly said goodbye to Sydney and Australia.

Visit our flickr gallery for more pictures!

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Accommodation

Eva’s backpackers – We stayed at this homely hostel in King Cross, just a 15 min walk to the centre. The hostel is located in a quiet lane, off the main street, this is not a party hostel. We stayed in two different double rooms and they were both big and clean. There are plenty of shared bathrooms and showers in each floor, enough for all the guests. The kitchen although a bit on the small side is very lively and homely. There is also a rooftop garden with a bbq and with great views of the CBD. The one thing that we didn’t like is that for late check-ins you are required to leave your passport as a deposit because they don’t take any money, but we were told this procedure is about to change. We would definitely stay here again. We paid 70 AUD per night.

Transportation

Airport Shuttle – We paid 12 AUD per person for the airport shuttle at the hostel. We found it surprising that there is no public transport to get to and from the airport in a city like Sydney. There are countless private companies that offer the transfer service and it’s a chaos. It took us one and a half hours to reach the airport on a quiet Saturday morning. The mini van spent almost one hour picking up customers around the city before heading to the airport and not everyone got seats.

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