We spent the past week in Sydney – a work trip for me that spilled into a stayover weekend for us. Keen to cash in on the free hotel, Jess joined me, seizing the opportunity to visit a partially-subsidized Australia while I worked to subsidize the rest.
Our start was shit. The cab from the airport swallowed my corporate AMEX, forcing us to plunk down a personal card at check-in. Five minutes later, I found myself wrestling a broken couch-bed, working up a pissed off sweat in a humid room that, fittingly, smelled like piss.
Things improved rather quickly, as our first stroll exposed a positively grand city. Ornate brick buildings set beside Manhattan-scale skyscrapers, a skyline made epic when framed with the harbor bridge and Sydney Opera House. Fit and fashionable people. Clean streets. Nude beaches. What’s not to love?
And love it we did. I spent my days at the SAS office while Jess explored the city. We came together at night over something from the guidebook. Mojo Record Bar. Glenmore rooftop. Macquarie park.
And as you’d expect from the meltiest of melting pots, the food and drink was on point – not only exquisite but affordable compared to Wellington’s $12 pints.
One standout experience for Jess was a tour of wine country. As described to me through red wine teeth, she was driven two hours north to Hunter Valley, home of New South Wales’ finest dry whites. A single price afforded her a day of wine, cheese and chocolates – indulgence capped by long, and I’d imagine, thirsty ride home.
The next night we saw Yo La Tengo at the Sydney Opera House!
When the weekend hit, we checked out of the Vibe and ventured north to the home of our new friends Marissa and Ian. Jess met Marissa in high school, and though they ran with different crowds, they stayed connected on Facebook. A few conversations later and we found ourselves at their flat in Artarmon, just over the bridge from the CBD.
It was great bombing around the city with these guys. Sweet and well-travelled, they were good hosts and even better tour guides, despite moving to the city from Malaysia only a few weeks prior. Saturday started with the Taronga Zoo. The gorillas were my favorite. Jess liked the penguins.
From the zoo we took a ferry to Manly, a suburb with promise of local flavor. Here, on the outskirts of Sydney, camera-wielding dads were replaced by surfboard-wielding 20-somethings. After a storm came and went, we found ourselves alone on the beach with our duty-free Jameson to watch the sun set cream over the aqua water. It was a scene every tourism ad tries to replicate. Dream city.
All told, six days in Sydney was about right. This clean capital of Australian cool will impress, but like the sharks that patrol its waters, it will bite you as well. I sit aboard this plane both sunburned and broke – satisfied with the passport stamp, but eager to return to the cozy, welcoming arms of Wellington.
View the entire photo gallery on my Flickr page.