Ode to Sydney

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Haven’t heard from your New York editor in a while? Yes, I apologize. I have been cheating on New York with another fabulous city: Sydney, Australia.

Following in our Boston editors footsteps, I was able to take a trip Down Under and loved my first visit to Australia. I visited Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra (for only a few hours). Since Blair already wrote about Melbourne and I barely got to know Canberra, let me tell you about Sydney.

While I wouldn’t equate Sydney with New York as much as Blair equated Melbourne with Boston, I definitely shared her sense of familiarity with Australian culture. England feels distinctly European, with its narrow, cramped streets and buildings hundreds of years old, it feels steeped in history and secrets. Australia, however, like the United States, is a relatively new country and is much more organized and cleanly built. The streets are wide and Sydney especially has a skyline with many modern skyscrapers. Like New York with its Empire State Building, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House (pictured above in the rain) give it a skyline that is distinct and recognizable anywhere.

I also had the opportunity to travel (again in the rain) to the Blue Mountains, about an hour and a half drive from the center of Sydney. There a got to experience a “bush walk,” and I was shocked to find myself in what looked like a rainforest. Now, I’m sure I’m not the only ignorant American out there who thinks of Australia as a land of dry, red dust with kangaroos hopping around. In the Blue Mountains, however, I was transported to a world filled with mist and eucalyptus trees shedding layers of bark onto the damp ground and spider webs on nearly every branch. Through the mist, we were barely able to glimpse the Wentworth Falls. Shockingly white against the green canopy, a sulfur-crested cockatoo gave a raucous call. It was incredibly captivating.

Back in Sydney, we had some great food. Like Melbourne, Sydney has some amazing Asian food. We sampled Malaysian cuisine, Japanese ramen and Vietnamese pho. All of these are available in New York, but the food in Sydney had just a bit more of something we couldn’t quite put our fingers on. Authenticity, perhaps. We also took a long bus ride out to Watsons Bay and splurged on a fancy dinner at the famous Doyles seafood restaurant. Set on the water, looking back across the bay, diners can gaze at the distant roofs of the Sydney skyline, while sipping fine wine from the Barossa Valley and eating prawns and John Dory caught just a few miles away.

I cannot close without mentioning the beaches near Sydney as well. From New York, getting to the beach seems like a journey to the end of the Earth. The beaches in the city are littered with glass and needles, while the shores of Long Island and New Jersey take forever to reach with all the traffic. Sydney was different. I had the chance to visit 3 local beaches, each with its own character and all spectacular. I drove (yes, on the opposite side of the road) to Whale Beach, about an hour north of Sydney’s CBD, and found a quite spot where I could have a whole section of the beach to myself, watch the surfers get pounded by the waves and walk along the shore to the headland, where I picked up some great fossilized plants. Manly Beach was technically closed when we visited due to a strong riptide, but you never would have known with the number of surfers in the water, kids running around the beach and couples holding hands in the surf. I swam at Manly and was terrified by the giant waves. The restaurants there were too expensive and the service left something to be desired, but it was a fun beach day nonetheless. Finally, Bondi Beach is an iconic Sydney beach and we spent the day there doing what Australians do best – chilling at a beach bar with old and new friends for hours, commenting on outrageous sunburns (and getting some of our own).

Next time I visit Australia, I plan to leave the cities behind and hit the lesser known wonders in the far reaches of Queensland and Western Australia, but I’m glad that my first experience was with the cities. The comfort and ease of these places made the trip wonderful and has left me craving more ever since I have returned. I’ll definitely be back.

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P.S. There are still wallabies (shown above) and kangaroos in Australia too!

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