Trip Report: Part 2-Sydney

Jun 27th, 2006, 04:03 PM
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Trip Report: Part 2-Sydney

Because we have been to Sydney previously in 2004, this report won’t convey the depth of activities that a first timer’s would. We have, in the past, visited most of the major sights, climbed the bridge to the Pylon, seen the Opera House, the Aquarium, Circular Quay and the Rocks. Those interested in detailed ‘what to see’ for a first time visit should check out the wonderful and recent reports provided by Muck from Cardiff, or Percy, a Canadian from Edmonton. We are back to catch the things we cared about and missed, including the Taronga Zoo, Featherdale Wildlife Park, and the Blue Mountains. Unfortunately, this report will have a subtitle: How Not To Visit the Blue Mountains. I’m also including some off the path things others might enjoy.

We are staying at the York Apartments, as we did in 2004. Recommended by another poster on another board last time, we loved this place, the location and the comfort of accommodation. The York is a serviced apartment hotel, mostly business travelers, a few tourists, and designed for longer stays. Located between George and York Streets on Jamison, it is barely a 10-minute walk to the Circular Key, and on a parallel with the Rocks. The York offers one and two bedroom apartments and some studios, full-furnished kitchens, and balconies. Since our last visit, the one-bedrooms have been refurbished in a spare Asian style which isn’t really my taste, but our apartment on the 16th floor is comfortable with a queen bedroom, stainless appliances, beautiful bath with separate tub and shower, and a stack washer/dryer unit. There’s a full living room with two sofas, dining room table and chairs, a desk, TV, VCR, and nice CD player. Very spacious. Our balcony looks out on George, a great city view, and the double glazing keeps out all but the worst traffic noise. On the 6th floor there is a small exercise room, and a large outdoor, heated, salt-water pool, and hot tub spa. It’s beautifully landscaped and has sun lounges, although you are somewhat aware that office workers could be gawking at you from the surrounding, taller buildings. You also get free, yes, free parking for one car in their enclosed garage. We paid $A225 per night.

Day 1: One of the best things about the York is the staff, who have a great answer for any question you have about dining, places to go, directions, etc. On the day we check in, we ask the bellman, who also sort of doubles as a concierge, if he knows about train connections to the River Postman boat, from Brooklyn down the Hawksbury River. He doesn’t, but will find out. Ten minutes later, our phone rings and we have the information, the train schedule, and in fact, are booked on the boat for the next day. Doesn’t get better than that. We head out for Wynyard Station, and the Coles underneath it, to stock our breakfast provisions and snacks. This is what we love about having apartments rather than hotel rooms for weekly stays.

Day 2: We’re running late, so we grab a cab to Central Station to catch the 8:30 train to Hawksbury River. After paying the driver, my husband, in a moment of complete distraction, leaves his wallet on the seat of the cab. He realizes within two minutes, but of course the cab is long gone. We are paralyzed – but only briefly. I am in charge of paying for travel, so I have all the cash within my debit card’s reach, and we use my credit cards. Inconvenient, but not fatal. He files a report with Lost and Found and the cab company, and we move on to the train. It’s a lovely hour ride to Brooklyn, comfortable seats and pretty views. We cross the road and easily find the little dock where the River Postman will depart at 9:45. No credit cards taken. This boat is the mail delivery boat, and brings other things as well, to folks who live along the river. There is no car access to their homes, although some have docks and small motorboats attached. As we leave the dock in Brooklyn, we are sitting contentedly on the top deck in the sunshine, with only five other people, a British couple, a Kiwi couple and a lone Aussie young man. It is a delightful three hours. The boat docks to drop off mail, in official mail bags at designated points, delivers a huge load of bread for a camp at Little Wobby, and will stop if hailed by individuals simply wanting a ride. We see every sort of dwelling: unbelievably luxurious ones with lots of glass facing the view, modest little weekend homes, small near-shacks clinging to the hillsides. All have water tanks. Hard to imagine how some were even built. It strikes us as an organized way of life by necessity, no running out to the 7-11 here. We get tea and coffee and a cookie mid-cruise, but by the time we are back to Brooklyn we are starving. There is a fish and chip shop at the pier, so we wait for the train back eating barramundi and chips straight from the bag while we wait. Delicious. Thank you to Neil, pat, peteralan and others here who provided details on how to do this excursion – it’s a great day out of Sydney. Back at Central, there is no wallet turned in, but we are urged to make a report to the Sydney Police at the office under the station. Not much else to do, so we head for the Rocks.

The Tourist Office in the Rocks has been moved since 2004, but we easily locate the newer, bigger one. It’s beautiful, and since there’s internet access, I finally convince my husband to at least email our bank and Visa providers and cancel the cards. We buy our tickets for Taronga, the Bondi explorer tour, and get dinner suggestions. Of many offered we end up at the Australian Heritage Hotel close to the bridge climb, which specializes in pizza. I’m don’t want to try crocodile or kangaroo – we choose proscuitto and rocket – it’s great. A clear night and fun to sit outside under the heat lamps. It’s an easy walk back to the York.

Day 3: Today’s our day for Taronga, and we enjoy all the animals. Thanks to Alan, I am alerted that there’s a photo waiting to happen of the giraffe with the Opera House in the background. The Matilda’s ferry we catch back does a tour from Lido to the Casino stop and back to Lido before heading back to Circular Key so it’s a nice harbor ride. It’s starting to rain, so we head back to the York by way of several galleries in the Rocks. On the ground floor of the York there are two, side-by-side Japanese restaurants and for tonight, that’s the perfect thing. Great tempura at small, inside seating – more outside with heat lamps. Our favorite of the two is Condor, no credit cards here either.

Day 4: Last time we missed the Sydney Fish Markets, so we’re spending this Saturday morning there. In the main hall, big Asian families are table-sharing big feasts of oysters, octopus and other good things. The displays of lobster and shellfish are outstanding – we are fans of the Pike Street Market in Seattle, but this tops that! We settle down to our own lunch of barra and chips, prawn cutlets and prawn packets. We decide to spend our afternoon on the Bondi explorer, visiting the beaches and some of the more luxurious areas. Leaving from Circular Quay, it’s a two hour trip total, but we get off at Watson’s Bay and walk the cliffs, and have a lovely ice cream until the next bus. Our driver is funny and informative, but the clouds are rolling in, and the surf at Bondi is getting big. Tonight we walk over to King Street Wharf, where there’s lot of dining to choose from. Our choice is Nick’s Seafood, sharing a huge Caesar salad and two different pastas with scallops, shrimp and local fish. No room for dessert! Walking on King’s Wharf is lovely at night on the water, and watching the dinner show boats load.

Day 5: With one full day left in Sydney, we’ve arranged to pick up a car from Avis, largely because there is an outlet at the Marriott, three blocks away. The plan will be to leave Sydney tomorrow for the Blue Mountains, stopping at Featherdale on the way. We’ll overnight in Katoomba and then return via (we hope) Mt. Wilson, Richmond and Windsor. With a car in Sydney for today, the York staff recommends driving over the bridge and having brunch (it’s Sunday) in Manly. This turns out to be a terrific idea, since the Food and Wine Festival is in full swing. Although we have a nice late breakfast at Café Steyne, the sea front is teeming with people, guys in wetsuits are surfing, there’s lots of wine pouring and salmon grilling going on. It’s just nice to drive around. Returning to the York we sit in the spa. The police ring up and say they are still working on the wallet – we’re impressed – it’s long gone, we figure. We take advantage of the car again later by heading to Little Italy in Leichart for dinner – dozens of restaurants in a two block area. At Fernando’s we splurge on steaks with garlic sauce and sauce Diane, big salads, plenty of fresh veggies. Again, no room for dessert!

Day 6: We awake to pouring rain. Not in the plan. It’s making havoc on Sydney streets for commuters and the traffic is in a snarl. This isn’t ideal for the trip we’ve planned, but we have no Plan B at this point. In retrospect, we should have stayed put at the York, cancelled in Katoomba, and spent the day in museums. But, optimists that we are, we hope it will clear, and set off. We get to Featherdale Park, and it’s not raining but plenty wet. It’s a great place with lots of koalas, terrific birds and and kangas, I come away with little muddy kanga paws all over me. We have trouble getting back to the M4 and the weather is worsening. By the time we’re at Katoomba the fog has descended and the visability is barely 10 feet in front of the car. We go to the information center, see the lookout, that is to say, the edge of the lookout because the rest is fog. Finding the lodging does not improve the mood – it’s old, dingy, decorated in the 50s and cold. My husband pronounces it ‘rustic’. I’m not even going to name names here, because the manager was very nice, it was stupidly cheap, it was clean, and there actually was heat. Breakfast, of the boxed cereal variety, was included. In the now pouring rain we drive to Leura, where we peer at beautiful houses in the fog, walk the main street in the wet, get ignored by two snooty clerks in the nicer interior design stores, and collapse over a hot chocolate. The stores are closing. We make it back to Katoomba slowly, have an unremarkable Italian dinner on the main street, return to the motel and have hopes for tomorrow.

Day 7: It is not to be. The fog in the morning is worse if that’s possible. We go back to the lookout – nothing. I’m sure the Three Sisters are out there somewhere, but not on this trip. This was NOT the way to visit the Blue Mountains! But our prospects improve! We leave and head back towards Sydney, abandoning the notion of Mt. Wilson, but as advised by Neil in a previous post, turn left at Springhill and head for Bells Line of Road. The weather almost instantly improves. On reaching Bells, we turn left for Kurrajong and Kurrajong Heights and are rewarded with great views over the valleys and the discovery of the magical Café Sassafras. A stunning café-in-a-gallery, it boast a windows to a deck over the view, wonderful breakfast including homemade cinnamon scones, a magnificent display of glass and watercolors by local artists. A separate gift shop has pretty woolens, fun children’s toys, unusual cards and jewelry. We enjoy our trip through Richmond to Windsor, enjoying the fine buildings, little museum, Anglican church and the pedestrian shopping area, with a water wheel and iron railings on the balconies. We head back toward Sydney with one more animal stop on the itinerary – the Koala Park. Much the same with koalas and kangas, but also a sheep-shearing demo, and the opportunity to pat a wombat! “Matilda” is unceremoniously scooped up by her keeper, and sat on her butt on his lap. You must sit next to “Keith” and pat her from the side. Keith, obviously, is in everyone’s pictures. One guy doesn’t hear the directions and approaches from the front to nearly lose his hand. There are elderly ladies who work the shop who tell stories of how Matilda, when little, ran loose around the shop, nipping at ankles. One day she got big enough to bite, and that was the end of her visits! It’s a long day and we’ve still got to make the airport. Just outside, the skies open up. We realize we have no idea where the Holiday Inn at the airport is. So we drop the car and jump in a cab and find it easily. It is raining so hard the airport is closed.

At 7 am the next day we are off to Norfolk Island, and what will prove to be the most unusual part of this trip! Part 3 follows shortly.





oliverandharry is offline  
Jun 29th, 2006, 11:29 AM
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Yoo-hoo! Oliver? Harry? Breatlessly awaiting your Norfolk Island report.
Betsy is offline  
Jun 29th, 2006, 01:06 PM
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Great Report...I'm Honoured to get a mention too !!

Shame about the Blue mts weather, we found the views to be wonderful.

Did the wallet ever turn up?

Muck
Mucky is offline  
Jun 29th, 2006, 06:32 PM
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Oliver and Harry,

good grief, I'm having deja vu!

Nicks is one of my favorite places to eat and the very first wombat I met on my very first trip to Oz was "Matilda"!

Good to know she's still delighting people and now I must do some research to see the wombat lifespan, as that was quite awhile ago!

My first trip to the Blue Mountains was almost the same as well; I think I have pictures of me shivering and trying to smile without my teeth chattering.

Great post!

Regards,

Melodie
Certified Aussie Specialist
wlzmatilida is offline  
Jun 29th, 2006, 08:29 PM
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Melodie, Matilda is now 16, and apparently the wombat life span is about 20. They way she gets scooped you'd think she hate it, but the keepers say she hangs out next to her enclsoure door, waiting for the next tour bus!
Yes, Norfolk Island in the works.
OK, won't keep you in suspense. Four days after we arrived home in Denver, a letter arrived from the Australian Consulate indicating that they are returning the wallet (no cash, obviously) which was delivered to them. We are stunned, but pleased. Getting the new driver's license is really a total pain in the butt.
oliverandharry is offline  
Jun 30th, 2006, 06:24 PM
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I don't know any other way to mark this so I can find it later when planning my next trip, other than to post a reply! I hope you don't mind, and also want to let you know how much I'm enjoying your report!
Toucan2 is offline  
Jun 30th, 2006, 06:49 PM
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Just the other day Harriet the tortoise, possibly the world's oldest living creature, died at the Australia Zoo aged 176. She was taken from the Galapagos Islands in 1835 as a mere 5-year-old and spent some years in Britain before moving to Queensland in the mid-19th century. It was believed that Charles Darwin himself had taken her home, although DNA tests suggest that she came from an island that the great scientist didn't visit.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2006, 07:16 PM
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I was at the Galapagos Islands and there is a turtle there at the Darwin Research Centre called...

"Lonesome George"... age about 155years.

Now I know why he is lonesome !!!Someone took Harriet away!!!
Yes, it was on our local news that Harriet had died.

Hi Neil_Oz

Enjoyed your report oliverandharry.
I hope more is coming.
Percy
Percy is online now  
Jul 5th, 2006, 02:55 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2006
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We too heard about Harriet the tortoise.

Your trip report is fantastic, keep it coming. Though I must say that you missed a sure bet when you passed up the kangaroo pizza at the Australian Hotel -- it's great!
fnarf999 is offline  

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