Sydney in Nature

Part 3 of my Sydney posts. Check out Sydney Icons & Shopping Sydney if you missed them! 

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Sydney is home to many gorgeous natural sights. Where some cities suffer from cement suffocation (looking at you, Toronto), Sydney manages to balance a bustling modern city with beautiful parks, gorgeous beaches, crazy cool mountains and delightful furry friends.

Right outside the famed Opera House are the Botanical Gardens; a gorgeous park that literally winds along Sydney’s busiest streets.  You can go from gridlock to greenhouse in a matter of metres.

Garden

The Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens have lots of picturesque spots and are often the sight of many weddings. I especially loved the archways filled with flowers, ancient statues and rose garden.

The Gardens lead into another beautiful place, Hyde Park. The main walkway is shadowed by a canopy of tall trees and leads to an impressive fountain in the middle of the park.  To the left, is the famous St. Mary’s Cathedral. And to the right, lots of shopping!

Hyde

Walkway into Hyde Park

The beaches of Sydney are also pretty spectacular. I started my sandy tour with the idyllic Manly Beach, a ferry ride away from Central Sydney.

A few days later and I got a little more serious about my beach visiting. I did the well-trekked path from Coogee to Bondi beach. The walk is about 6km but with lots of uphills, downhills, stairs and people to weave around, it feels a lot longer.  It probably didn’t help that I felt a compulsive need to take a photo every 50 metres.

Blue

Gorgeous Sydney blue!

Coast

The gorgeous coastline…and a cemetery?

But the long walk was so worth it! Sydney’s coastline is incredible! There are a bunch of beaches to check out and lots of interesting sights along the way (like a cemetery). I would absolutely recommend this walk to any future Sydney-visitors.

Bondi

Made it to the very popular Bondi Beach

The Blue Mountains are located in Katoomba, about 2 hours from Sydney by train. The town is very small (kinda like Yamba) and it’s safe to say the mountains are the main draw.  You can take a local bus from the train station to Echo Point, for your first view of the mountains. After two hours of fairly flat train-viewed landscape, I was immediately taken with the huge expanse of hills, valleys and greenery. I did a baby-hike (20 minutes tops) to get a closer view of the stars of the Blue Mountains, The Three Sisters.

3Sisters

The Three Sisters

For the more adventurous (and less afraid of heights) people, there is lots to do at Scenic World, Blue Mountains’ viewing Mecca.  You can take a cable car across and then a separate one down to the base of the mountains.  Or you can take the world’s steepest railway to the bottom. Once you’re down there, you can enjoy a sky walk or a variety of hiking trails.  Unfortunately, being fairly uncomfortable with heights, I decided to keep my viewing on solid ground at the top.

BlueMountains

My view from the top, not too shabby

Looking to fill my Aussie animal viewing quota, I took a day trip to the Koala Park Sanctuary, about an hour outside of Sydney by train.  It was an awesome park; a cross between a zoo and a reserve. It was very quiet, and the animals had a very cozy natural setting. I wandered around and encountered wallabies, echidnas, wild birds and other native Australian animals.

Wallabies

Wallabies: basically mini kangaroos

Next, I walked into the open kangaroo enclosure where you’re able to feed, pet and snuggle up to the kangaroos! It wasn’t as impressive as my first time seeing wild kangaroos in Yamba, but it was still pretty amazing. They were very nonchalant about people petting them and were only too happy to eat right out of my hand!

Kangaroo

This hungry one almost jumped the fence!

Roo

RooSelfie

Selfie with a very disinterested roo

But the best part of Koala Park was obviously the koalas! An adorable little colony of koalas were sleeping in Eucalyptus trees in the centre of the park. They were so much smaller than I thought they would be. Sleeping, they looked fake! The stuffed animals I’ve seen are fairly accurate representations. I hung around for one of the employees to come and tell us more about koalas. After a brief lesson, she brought one guy, Junior, down from the tree and plied him with leaves while we all took turns snuggling up to him for a photo.

Junior

Me & Junior

Koala

I swear he looks plush!

In NSW, it’s illegal for non-keepers to hold koalas, so the best we could do was pet and cuddle with them. But it was still awesome! Their fur is incredibly soft and they’re just as cute up close. I’m hoping to see some wild ones before I leave Australia (fingers crossed!).

Junior

Junior working up an appetite from all that posing

From my meet with the koalas, I headed over to a sheep shearing demonstration. After a fairly lengthy talk about the history and present job realities of sheep shearing ($2.80 is the going rate for a sheep and shearers are expected to shear about 200 a day while some get up to 400), Justin brought out a sheep and a few minutes later, the sheep was naked! It was fairly impressive, and a little scary, to watch up close.

Sheep

Despite how this photo looks, I can promise no animals were harmed in the making of this wool blanket

On my way out, I wanted to say a last goodbye to the koalas. Luckily, the keeper was still there and offered to bring out another one for the small group of us hanging around. This time we met Kamara, an eleven year old female koala. Snuggling up to her was a perfect ending to my day at Koala Park Sanctuary.

Kamara

A final goodbye with my last koala!

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Shopping Sydney

2nd in my 3-part Sydney post. In case you missed part 1, click for Sydney Icons.

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During my week in Sydney, I got a little taste for some of its beautiful sights, natural wonders and spend-happy shopping culture. I am a huge fan of markets, among other shopping venues, and Sydney did not disappoint.
The Rocks
Mini Cupcakes! So adorable :)

Mini Cupcakes! So adorable 🙂

Street musicians perform at The Rocks

Street musicians perform at The Rocks

The Rocks is a cool area of Sydney right by the harbour. It has cool cobblestone and funky restaurants tucked into laneways. On Saturdays, The Rocks hosts an outdoor market that, while mostly outside of my budget, was beautiful and fun to walk through nonetheless. There are dozens of stalls set up selling cool varieties of homemade jewellery and crafts. Around the next corner, the craft stalls turn to food and luxury street meats are served up to eager pedestrians.  Alongside all of this is live music and great views of the harbour.

 

Queen Victoria Building (QVB)

In Australia, you can pick which sushi rolls you want. Each roll is about $2 and probably equal to 4-6 of the little cut up rolls we order at home

In Australia, you can pick which sushi rolls you want. Each roll is about $2 and probably equal to 4-6 of the little cut up rolls we order at home

Just a little mall filling a laneway

Just a little mall filling a laneway

The QVB is located on George St., one of Sydney’s biggest shopping areas.  Some areas are pretty extravagent (hosting labels like Chanel & Louis Vuitton) while others are a bit more budget conscious.  One part of this area is completely pedestrian friendly and shoppers take over running from big name brand retailers to tiny boutiques stuffed into laneways.  The QVB is at the centre of it all.  Apparently, it’s designed based on shopping hierarchy: the most expensive stores are on the top floor while the more discounted stores are at the bottom. So, I didn’t go beyond the first floor. But I did find a great deal on a new purse, really yummy sushi and a very cute German bakery! 
Sydney Fish Market
SEAFOOD

SEAFOOD

I was eager to check out the fresh seafood action at the Sydney Fish Market. Unfortunately, as I later learned, most of the action happens at the crack of dawn when the fresh fish is brought in and sold to retailers. So when I strolled in around 9:30am, it was pretty quiet. Nonetheless, it was pretty cool to see tables full of delicious looking seafood. I selected some salmon sashimi and sat outside by the water with the few other brave souls who could stomach seafood (and raw seafood at that!) before 10 in the morning.
St. Paddy’s & Market City
The view from the top floor of Market City

The view from the top floor of Market City

Market City

Market City

Market City is a huge complex in Sydney’s Chinatown. The first floor is home to St. Paddy’s Market: an indoor market with hundreds of stalls selling discounted scarves, jewellery, souvenirs, tech items, clothing. etc. It was a little overwhelming and took me quite some time to get all the way to the back (where the market strangely turns into a produce grocery store).  After walking a handful of aisles and picking up a few little things, I noticed there were a lot of repeats and decided to check out the rest of the building. The other floors house discount clothing shops, restaurants & an Asian food court. I resisted browsing (mostly) and convinced myself I didn’t need anything really. I did head upstairs for some coveted good-bad Chinese food (aka food court Chinese food).
More shopping to see…
Sydney definitely has a lot more shopping to see. There are a bunch of other markets that I missed like Paddington’s Market (only open on Saturday’s which was my designated stalk-Prince-Harry day) and a few I passed on my bus. As I said, huge fan of outdoor markets so will definitely try to check out more the next time I come back to Sydney!
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Next post: Sydney’s beaches, mountains & furry friends! 

Sydney Icons

My first post about my time in Sydney and I thought I’d start by addressing all things iconic about Sydney!

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On my first day in Sydney, I wasted no time heading down to Circular Quay to walk along the harbour. It was pretty busy (though no where near as crazy as the weekend) and I soon found myself in a gorgeous little area called The Rocks headed to The Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Ready to start my walk over the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Ready to start my walk over the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Starting at the harbour, you actually have to walk away from the bridge if you want access to it. There are 5 ways to get across the bridge: car, bus, rail, climb & walk. I, of course, chose the cheapest way and walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge!

View from the bridge!

View from the bridge!

It was a beautiful walk with insane views of the ocean, harbour and Opera House. Unfortunately, I’m not crazy about heights so I had a hard time getting close to the iron-grate fence. About 15 minutes later, I arrived on the other side, walked around Kirribilli and decided to ferry back.

Taking the ferry back to Circular Quay

Taking the ferry back to Circular Quay

Sydney’s ferries are also quite iconic. They come in a few different sizes, can hold a scary number of people and act as a pretty great way to tour the area. Amazing views – especially when I took the ferry out to Manly a few days later.

From the ferry stop, I walked along the harbour to the Sydney Opera House. It’s much smaller in person, but still pretty impressive. It’s definitely an icon and worthy of the many photos it stars in, but I can’t decide if I actually think it’s pretty or not. The fact that it has the beautiful blue ocean as its backdrop probably doesn’t hurt.

I decided to see a production of Romeo & Juliet at the Opera House. It wasn’t playing in the main theatre, but a smaller one on the main level. It was awesome to not only be able to see the famous building but be able to go inside it.  The show was also pretty cool – they had a revolving set, modern costumes and wicked music.  But I had forgotten just how long Shakespeare could make his characters whine on for (3 hours!). I also started to find some serious faults in the world’s most famous love story (she was 13 years old and they knew each other 1 night before getting married).

On Saturday, I returned to the harbour for Sydney’s International Fleet Review.  A whole week has been set aside to honour the 100th anniversary of Australia’s navy.  War ships, tall ships, helicopters and army planes from all over the world were gathering in Sydney.  It was a pretty spectacular sight! The harbour was full of huge boats, roaring air crafts zoomed overhead, sailors popped up on every street and the harbour became a mob scene on Saturday.

The Opera House and just a couple people who decided to show up....

The Opera House and just a couple people who decided to show up….

Air show!

Air show!

This rockin' military band performed some traditional naval tunes such as Call Me Maybe & Moves Like Jagger.

This rockin’ military band performed some traditional naval tunes such as Call Me Maybe & Moves Like Jagger.

Every Sydneysider and tourist descended on the harbour to watch the official review (aka ships going past), crane their necks for the air show and be dazzled by the night’s fireworks and light show. Of course, I had to join them.  I walked across the bridge again and it was packed!  But on my ferry back, we were right in it with all of the ships and the start of a helicopter show.  A guy even waved to us from the copter.  I had to line up and have my bag searched to get anywhere close to the Opera House.  Once at the Opera House, I got to enjoy an overpriced chicken wrap while I listened to military bands and waited out the fireworks….

This shot doesn't do it any justice. So just take my word for it that the fireworks at Sydney Harbour are a must-see!

This shot doesn’t do it any justice. So just take my word for it that the fireworks at Sydney Harbour are a must-see!

….which did not disappoint! It was the most incredible thing and I’m so glad I got to see fireworks in the Sydney Harbour! They had a projection onto the Opera House and bridge explaining the history of the Australian Navy. I loved when they used the fireworks to help tell the story; they had a series of low red firecrackers to act as gun shots go off under the bridge as they described the navy’s involvement in WWI.  The best thing was that the fireworks were going on all around us. I literally kept turning in circles to see fireworks from every angle.  The display was amazing and it was kind of beautiful when everyone clapped at the end as the image of the Australian flag was proudly projected onto the Opera House.

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Next up: the natural side of Sydney (beaches & furry creatures) and lots of ways to spend some money around the city.

Bye Yamba!

My first two weeks in Australia are coming to an end and they were relaxingly spent in Yamba, NSW.

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Yamba is a small town and I didn’t get up to a whole lot while I was there. I did really enjoy staying in Anne & Paul’s beautiful house, exploring the locals parks, beaches & lake with Molly and faking a real adult life by cooking for myself. A few highlights from my time in Yamba:

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Walking Miss Molly along Yamba’s dog-friendly beach

 

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Spotting kangaroos at the golf course! There were tons of them but this Kanga & Roo were my favourite.

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Pelicans on the waterfront! Hilarious creatures and one of many cool birds that call Australia home.

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The famous Yamba prawns! Delicious fresh seafood was definitely a plus. 

 

 

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Snuggle time with Molly after dinner 🙂 

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The Clarence River Market – lots of people, crafts & food! 

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Walking along the Yamba coast – beautiful! 

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Tomorrow morning, Anne is giving me a lift to the Ballina Airport where I will catch a flight to Sydney! I’m really excited to explore Sydney, walk along the beaches, see the Opera House & Harbour Bridge and spot Prince Harry, who will be in Sydney on Saturday! Bye Yamba! 

Siyabonga, See You Later & ‘Ello!

Over the last month I’ve stepped foot in 5 countries (4 continents), chalked up almost 50 hours in the air (possibly more in airports) and have finally made it to my next adventure: Australia!

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We left Swaziland on August 19th and boarded a bus for the longest ride of our lives (close to 12 hours) to Durban, South Africa.  The next week in Durban was fairly blissful.  We walked along the beach, visited cool markets, met up with friends, went to a South African braii, got our haircut, took part in amateur shark cage diving, went surfing (I just watched) and enjoyed some delicious seafood, hotel breakfasts and Indian cuisine.  There were a few hiccups, including a mouse-finding adventure in our hotel room, but overall it was an amazing week and a perfect end to our African experience.  Before we left for Durban, we were working really hard to finish everything for our project at our placement.  After finishing our final workshops, binders and reports, we had a last hurrah with our host family, went horseback riding, and savoured our very last chicken wrap an hour before the bus left.

From Durban I flew to Joburg, to London, to Vancouver and, finally, to Toronto.  Very exhausted, I collapsed into two weeks of visiting friends and family, celebrating birthdays, sending my sister off to university, helping mom pack and move to our condo and trying to get everything sorted out with my UBC online courses and upcoming trip to Australia.  On September 10th, I boarded my flight (with an extremely light and well-packed luggage, I might add).  Final destination: Yamba, Australia!

I landed in Sydney and took a connecting flight to the Gold Coast.  Once there, Anne picked me up and drove me to her home in Yamba.  Yamba is a small town on Australia’s east coast.  It’s known for fishing, golfing and tons of beaches, lakes and green space.  I arranged to spend my first two weeks in Australia house and dog-sitting in Yamba.  While Anne and her husband Paul are off in New Zealand, I’m hanging out with their collie, Molly, and settling into Aussie life.

Aussie life has been pretty relaxing so far.  I spent the first few days getting to know Molly and touring around Yamba.  I got to walk Molly along the dog beach and explore the “town” (approximately 2 blocks of shops) before Anne took me to the local golf course to see….KANGAROOS!

The roos were amazing! As soon as we walked onto the course, I started snapping away.  But we were able to get so close without the kangaroos moving at all.  At first we came across 4 of them grazing by the 8th hole.  They barely looked up; the kangaroos could care less about some over-excited Canadian hiding behind her camera.  And then we noticed a mama with a baby in her pouch. It was the cutest thing! And those pouches really stretch; there was one joey trying to jump in who I didn’t think would fit.  After a few more minutes, the roos hopped on and we took it as our cue to head out.

Since then it’s been relaxing and rainy.  I’ve enjoyed spending time with Molly and having the house to myself.  I even managed to make a pretty delicious pasta featuring the famous Yamba prawns.  Looking forward to getting ahead on these online courses, taking a river cruise, chilling by the beach and spotting some more kangaroos! 

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Author’s note: I intended to include some photos with this post but my super slow super unreliable internet is not having it.  So just imagine a cute baby kangaroo, beautiful white sandy beach and adorable puppy!