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Whitney was asked to be a bridesmaid in her best friend Prue’s wedding and we immediately jumped at the opportunity to make a second trip to the other side of the world. We decided to take the long way around this time (upwards of thirty hours), connecting in Dubai on Emirates and arriving in Sydney late in the evening for our second visit “Down Under.”  The last time we were in Australia, we only spent one day here before moving on to a new destination to keep up with our usual nonstop itinerary.

Knowing we will enjoy this city for nearly an entire week, we excitedly squeeze ourselves into our economy rental car and GPS our way to our Airbnb apartment.   We manage to find the key under the mat in the dark and enter our lovely two bedroom flat in East Balmain.  It sits fairly close to downtown and happens to be only a few ferry stops away (I highly recommend getting a place on the ferry line if you’re not staying downtown).  As we walk in we are immediately drawn to the incredible nighttime views looking out into the harbor and gladly relax after the long flight to take in the late night views of the skyline across the harbor.

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Before long, the sun is pouring through our windows early in the morning.  Usually the bright sun piercing my dreams would be unwelcome, but this morning I was ready for it.  We brew a couple of coffees using our French press (Australians don’t use the American drip coffee, “it’s not good enough”) and share a relaxing morning on our balcony.

Morning apartment view     Morning apartment view 2

Soon after we are out the door on our first day in Sydney for the “Hens” and “Bucks” party day (bachelor/bachelorette)…oh the excitement (sarcasm included)!  I drop Whitney off with the girls and meet the guys at Carmel’s Cucina in Wareemba.  I decide to forego the bircher muesli and instead, enjoy an amazing bacon and egg roll (Fried egg, smoked bacon, provolone cheese, BBQ sauce on a long Italian panino) and my much anticipated cappuccino (with chocolate powder sprinkled over the top…this is the Australian way).

thumb_IMG_0679_1024    Carmel coffee shop 2

Our plan for the “Bucks” party is bowling at Clovelly Lawn this afternoon and then heading to a bar downtown this evening…we will see how it goes from there.  When I hear bowling, I think of a dark warehouse type building with wood planked lanes, TVs with crappy music videos and if we are lucky neon lights and a disco ball spinning above.  So when we pull up to Clovelly Bowling Club I realize I’m in for a treat.  “Since 1947 the Clovelly Bowling Club has been located on the edge of the cliffs at Clovelly just around the corner from both Bondi and Bronte beaches.” Here I discover lawn bowling is quite a game of skill, rolling a biased ball (weighted on one side to curve when rolled) to stop as close as possible to the “jack” (a small ball placed at the end of the green).  I bowl a little while taking in the impressive views and soaking up the sun on the first day of our vacation.

Lawn bowling 3     Lawn BowlingLawn bowling 2     Lawn Bowling 4

Next, we head downtown for dinner.  One of the interesting things about going out for dinner in Australia is the need to order all drinks and food at the bar or counter (this is true even for the nicer places).  Tipping isn’t expected at all…the menu price is the price you pay, inclusive of tax, tip etc.  On the flip side, service is not what we’re used to as Americans, but at least we don’t have to practice algebra after having a few drinks.  We order at the counter/bar, receive a number to place on our table and wait for everything to arrive.

We eventually close out the night at Opera Bar, an iconic location next to the Sydney Opera House looking out toward the Harbor Bridge.  This is a must-do for anyone spending time in Sydney, and as you’ll see it’s a frequent stop for us during this trip.

Opera House night

The next morning brings our first beach day.  We gather our towels and sunscreen and head to Palm Beach which is a little over an hour’s drive north of the city and away from the crowds at the Sydney beaches.  As usual I’m in the ocean within minutes of arriving; Whitney and the others are taking selfies, applying sunscreen, or fixing their hair or whatever.  I’m already body surfing by the time they start looking for me.

Palm Beach J camera     Palm beack j camera 2

Soon the sun is bearing down as the ladies decide to take a swim.  I easily talk Whitney into coming out deeper into the surf and before I know it a huge wave knocks her off her feet.  The force of the wave tosses her around in the surf and successfully rips her wedding rings from her hand.  All I hear is “Jeremy, the rings,” as she stands up between waves with her hair splashed across her face.  I scramble across the waves and try my best to find the rings, bravely opening my eyes under the salty sandy ocean water.  It doesn’t take long to realize there is no way I’ll be able to recover them. Thankfully it’s insured.  “Upgrade!” says Prue.  Here we are smiling minutes before it happened.

Palm Beach selfie

Early that evening we find ourselves boarding the ferry just outside our apartment.  It’s a scenic ride through the Sydney Harbour taking us around Darling Harbour which is lined with numerous intriguing restaurants and bars.  I would especially recommend a late afternoon lunch or happy hour if the weather is nice to avoid some of the dinner prices.  Additionally, the ferry service takes passengers through most of the waterways of Sydney and even out to Manly which is a great inexpensive cruise and a nice beach that is a bit less crowded than the well known Bronte and Bondi beaches.

Ferry 6     Ferry 8Ferry 10     Ferry 11After our eventful day at the beach there’s nothing nicer than another relaxing evening at Opera Bar.  We disembark at Circular Quay (not to be confused with “Circle K”) and make our way over to enjoy over the same iconic view of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

Opera House looking out     Opera House Looking out 2Opera House Night Selfie     Ferry at night

The following morning, Whitney is scheduled to help with her best friend’s final dress fitting.  Up early, I chauffer the ladies into downtown and take time to do a little “solo sightseeing.”  I snap some photos of a few of the historic buildings and shop around for a little while I wait.

Solo Sightseeing Sydney 4     Solo Sightseeing Sydney 5

The Queen Victoria Building is built on the historic site of the Sydney Markets and is home to numerous boutique type shops.  It was great to see and since Whitney was with the others I didn’t spend a dime!  I later wander into The Strand Arcade, another Victorian-style building housing a number of other shops.  Here I only snuck some chocolate from Haigh’s Chocolate right at the entrance.

Solo sightseeing sydney     Solo Sightseeing Sydney 3

Next we drive up to North Sydney for harbor kayaking.  We chose to use Sydney Harbour Kayaks located in Middle Harbour near Parriwi Park and the Mosman Rowing Club.  It’s a short drive from downtown but allows for calm waters to paddle through.

Kayak Harbour 3     Kayak dock whit selfieKayak Harbour     Kayak Harbour 5

Knowing that I can’t go through a wedding weekend without a ring on my wife’s finger…I sneak in a “re-proposal” while floating in the sound.  Whitney’s response is priceless.  Fearing I bought another diamond ring on a whim, she exclaims, “What did you do?!?”  I laugh and let her know that Cubic Zirconia is very affordable…she is finally able to say “Yes” again.

Kayak Harbour 7

We spend a few hours paddling through the sound stopping only to take a dip in a protected sea pool at Balmoral Beach.  I enjoy a few swan dives from the platform before paddling back to the dock.

We eventually return to Balmoral Beach for an amazing and relaxing lunch on the patio at The Boathouse Restaurant overlooking Hunters Bay.

Lunch Kayak     Lunch Kayak 2

Our drive home takes us to Headland Park in Mosman.  World War I era remnants lie on the overlooks while incredible views of the harbor exist.  On the first Sunday of each month, venture into rarely-seen tunnels and gun emplacements and explore beautiful bush-land on the Harbour Trust’s guided walking tour at Headland Park…we were there on a Wednesday, so we only enjoyed the view before heading home.

Fort view 3Fort Pic View 3

The next morning, we rise early to gray skies and a little rain, but decide not to let this hinder our plans.  We want to check off another must-do in Sydney by making the Coogie to Bondi Beach Walk.  This exciting path runs along the coastal edge between these beaches features stunning views, beaches, parks, cliffs, bays and rock pools.  I do this hike with the bride-to-be and her bridesmaids as they have an impromptu “bridesmaid boot camp” workout.  I take in the sights when not distracted by their shenanigans and simply enjoy the spectacular views of the coastline.  The walk is incredible even with overcast skies (The pictures do it no justice, but I tried).

Coogie to Bondi Walk 15     Coogie to Bondi Walk 12Coogie to Bondi Walk 3     Coogie to bondi walk 10Coogie to Bondi Walk 19         Coogie to Bondi Walk 18     Coogie to Bondi walk 17     Coogie to Bondi Walk 14     Coogie to Bondi Walk 4     Coogie to Bondi Walk 16

Our last excursion on this visit lies just outside of town at Featherdale Wildlife Park highlighting most of the animals best known in Australia.  It’s about an hour’s drive outside the city.  We choose this particular animal sanctuary for the chance to “mingle” with the animals.  It was exciting to be able to feed the wallabys and hold a koala, but next time I’d probably choose to go to the Tarronga Zoo right in Sydney rather than make the drive out to Featherdale.  Overall it was a good experience.

Featherdale 13     Featherdale 17      Featherdale 4 Featherdale 19 Featherdale 18

That night we take advantage of our Airbnb waterfront apartment and invite friends over for a great Australian barbecue…we have steak, without “shrimp on the Barbie.”  It’s starting to feel like home now.  Apparently we skipped any pictures that night though…I must have been cooking up a storm.  The next morning we drive out to Bowral for the wedding weekend (See Wedding Weekend In Bowral).

After the wedding we have one final day and night in Sydney before continuing on to New Zealand for an exciting road trip.  (See New Zealand South Island Road Trip).  We spend this night in the Kings Cross area of Sydney where our hotel sits near what I’ll call “hostel row.”  Multiple hostels line the streets as well many bars and restaurants catering to the joyous travelers.  Lunch is our own personal pizza at a small pizzeria.

Last Day Sydney 2     Last day Sydney 3

 We get a final opportunity to spend time with our friends both old and new at the Beresford Hotel Restaurant and Beer Garden.  Whitney and I both order the Chicken Schnitzel and it does not disappoint. The night fills with laughter and fun as we share stories from our travels and consider the possibilities going forward.

Last night Sydney

The next morning it’s back to Sydney airport for an early take-off to New Zealand.

Last Day Sydney 5

Goodbye Sydney, for now anyway!

–Jeremy

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