by Anna

Where Melbourne charmed us with its eclectic neighborhoods, fashion and culture, Sydney wowed us with its stunning harbor and surrounding beaches. We also couldn’t help but be especially excited for Sydney, as we were staying at the Westin for five nights free with our fabulous Starwood points! We knew that any hotel would be a luxury, but the Westin really delivered with its amazing location downtown, a couple blocks from Hyde Park and St. Mary’s Cathedral, and its unique architecture, housed partially in the beautifully grand old General Post Office (GPO) building. We also lucked out with a cool view of the historic GPO clock tower.

The GPO/Westin lobby The view from our room
St. Mary’s Cathedral Hyde Park

Our first priority in Sydney was, of course, to head down to the water to see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. After seeing these landmarks (especially the Opera House) on so many postcards, travel shows and basically all tourism advertisements for Australia, I for some reason wasn’t expecting to be that blown away by seeing it firsthand. However, Johnny and I were pleasantly surprised with how wowed we were by the site of the Opera House and harbor. It is truly a stunning structure and really does mimic the movement and shapes of the hundreds of sailboats flying past. After spending some quality time with the Opera House, we took a beautiful walk along the water, past the Royal Botanic Gardens and Finger Wharf to Woolloomooloo (maybe even more fun to spell than Mississippi!), where we stopped at Harry’s Cafe de Wheels for one of its famous “pies n peas.” After another stop at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and some more wandering through the city, we returned to the Opera House for a sundowner at the Opera Bar, where the after-work happy hour goers mixed with opera attendees and tourists along the water’s edge with fantastic views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

Looking back at the city from the Opera House
Sydney Opera House Sydney Harbour Bridge
The view from Mrs. Macquaries Point
Harry’s Cafe de Wheels “Tiger Pies” with peas and mash
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Opera Bar
Not a bad spot for a sundowner Sitting along the wall at the Opera Bar

Aside from the sights in Sydney we were also really excited to be seeing some friends while in town. Our first rendezvous was a reunion with our crew from Lake Como – Robyn and Dennis, our friends from San Francisco, and their friends Linda and Philippe, Sydney natives. All four of them recently moved back home from London and took advantage of some time off to travel. We were lucky enough to bump into them in Lake Como, and while Dennis and Robyn are wrapping up a couple more months of travel before returning to Northern California (check out their travel blog here), Philippe and Linda have settled back into a great apartment in Manly and are getting married this coming Saturday, February 18th! We had so much fun checking out Manly, sampling beers at 4 Pines Brewing Company and downing a tasty array of pizzas at Beaches – a great spot that Linda’s brother Simon suggested. What a treat to be able to spend another memorable evening with this group in yet another beautiful part of the world!

Manly Wharf
The Corso Beer tasting at 4 Pines
View of Manly Beach from Linda and Philippe’s apartment
Pizza party at Beaches Dennis, Robyn, Anna, Johnny, Philippe, Linda & Simon
View from the ferry ride home

We had also really been looking forward to getting together with my friend from high school, Katy, and her husband Doug. They had been living in San Francisco and decided to take an adventure ‘down under’ for a couple of years by way of a work transfer through Doug’s company. After having been in the super cool Darlinghurst neighborhood for the past year and a half, they knew the most awesome, hidden gem of a bar to commence our night out. Down an alley and through an unmarked door in Surry Hills, we entered the low-lit, taxadermied world of Shady Pines Saloon. The atmosphere and drinks were so good (especially the freshly-juiced green apples with vodka) that we went through several rounds and hours until realizing that it was time for dinner. The night only got better with Katy and Doug’s local Indian food haunt. I couldn’t believe it was midnight when we finally made it to the bottom of several delicious curries, a big bowl of Basmati rice and a basket of garlic naan…but I guess that is what happens when you’re having such a good time! Thanks, guys, for all the drinks and such a fun night!

Shady Pines Saloon The entrance…not an easy place to find
Post-Indian feast with Katy and Doug

For our final day in Sydney we took Katy and Doug’s advice to take the bus to Coogee Beach, stop for some toasted banana bread and ‘flat whites’ (coffee culture is a very serious business in Australia), and then follow the ocean side path to Bondi Beach. We lucked out with the best weather we’d seen in a week, and the walk along the cliffs, past sparkling coves and beaches was beautiful. It was the perfect way to spend our last day in Australia, and we even got in a dip at Bondi in the Tasman Sea before the clouds rolled in and the rain came down.

Coogee Beach
Cemetery along the cliffs Perfect beach day
Even the birds were enjoying the weather One of many beautiful coves on the walk
Bondi Beach

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