We’ve made it! The land down under!
To be honest, while I’ve always wanted to visit Australia, it actually wasn’t high on my list. The reason for this is I heard Australia was similar to the United States, and why would I want to travel halfway around the world to go somewhere like home? That’s not what travel is about, at all.
But now that we’ve been to Australia, we can say that traveling here isn’t what we thought it would be. Sure, some aspects reminded us of the US, and some of the activities were the same, but Australia has its own culture and its own look and feel, completely different from the United States. Australia was so interesting, filled with great people, fun cities, beautiful nature, amazing festivities; we enjoyed it a lot.
That being said, one aspect that is similar to the US is Australia’s size: Australia is huge! Australia is also expensive, like the US but moreso. Because of this, Inna and I were only able to visit a small portion of the country, but we really enjoyed the parts we went! Keep reading to learn all about them; this first post is on the country’s largest city, its economic and international headquarters: Sydney!
Here is Sydney, complete with the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. This city was so beautiful, and it offered another one of the best skylines in the world.
Sydney quickly became one of Inna and my favorite cities. And this despite us having different responses to it. Inna says Sydney reminded her of Southern California, whereas Sydney reminded me of England, but with the weather of Southern California. Either way, that is some good company!
First things first: we’re in Sydney, it’s time for the beach. This is Bondi Beach, one of the most famous beaches in Australia. This beach was so So-Cal (for lunch we had fish tacos made by a guy from Santa Barbara) it was amazing. And while this wasn’t the first beach we visited in our year of travel, it was our first beach experience, which made our visit even better.
Like many So-Cal beaches *cough* Venice *cough*, Bondi Beach was very into artwork, murals in particular. These were two of our favorites.
Bondi Beach also has a great beachside community, filled with shops and restaurants, and we even saw a cooking show filming on the boardwalk. Soooo LA.
Finally, Bondi Beach has a beautiful coastal walk, and lucky us, we visited during their annual sculpture event, Sculpture by the Sea!
The sculptures were nice but the views from this walk were amazing.
Our walk ended at a Mackenzies Point, which had been turned into a massive sculpture garden for Sculpture by the Sea.
Next up: another water activity, a cruise through Sydney’s famous harbor. We took our cruise on one of Sydney’s public transit boats, and we went on Sunday when all day transit passes were only 2.50 AUD. As I’ve said before, Inna and I travel cheap!
Views from our harbor cruise. This city is incredible!
After our cruise, we checked out the harbor up close. Here we are walking along the waterfront, on a beautiful boardwalk that was right up with Vancouver as the best waterfront on our trip.
Another aspect in which Australia is the same as the US: when both countries were created, the indigenous people on the land were almost completely wiped out. I’d always heard that Aboriginals were not as well ingrained in Australia as Native Americans in America, but I’ve never seen as many Native Americans in US cities as I saw Aboriginals in Sydney (and Cairns too).
This is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, one of the most famous bridges in the world. This bridge, built in 1932, remains the world’s tallest steel arch bridge to this day, and it also was the widest long-span bridge in the world for 80 years (it was surpassed by the Port Mann Bridge, one of many large bridges in Vancouver, in 2012).
Alright, it’s taken long enough to get here, but here it is, Sydney’s grandest building, one of the most iconic architectural works in the world: the Sydney Opera House. The Sydney Opera House was designed by Jorn Utzon, who won Sydney’s international design competition with what he believed could be one of the grandest buildings in the world. Utzon won the competition in 1957, and it took sixteen years to build the Opera House, years that were mired in controversy, mainly design changes and cost/schedule overruns. Things got so bad that Utzon eventually resigned from the project. All this drama reminded me of the challenges that occurred with Fallingwater, but on a much grander scale.
Another picture of us and the Opera House. This is a beautiful, beautiful building.
At this point, Inna and I moved inland to explore Central Sydney. Here are two of Sydney’s oldest (~120 years, Sydney is not an old city) buildings, Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building.
3D artwork outside the Queen Victoria Building. Be careful Inna! Don’t fall!
Queen Victoria Market and the surrounding neighborhood offered incredible shopping. This was another area that reminded us of Southern California, this time Beverly Hills.
Even the trees in this area were stunning!
While in Sydney, we discovered that the Russian National Ballet was touring Australia, constantly showing up in the cities we visited less than a week after we left. Inna was super bummed about this but I was kind of relieved myself; I’m not a ballet person and I imagine tickets were very expensive.
Australia is obsessed with WWI memorials. New Zealand is too. Every city we visited had one, and the larger the city, the grander the memorial. All these memorials were built between WWI and WWII, back when WWI was known as the Great War. After WWII, these memorials were changed to honor the veterans of all wars, not just the “great” one.
Next to Sydney’s War Memorial was this memorial paying tribute to the Aboriginals killed by Australia’s early settlers. I’m sorry, but paying tribute to indigenous peoples with a giant sculpture of the items used to kill them? This is one of the worst memorials I’ve ever seen.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to make it to Sydney’s major art gallery, but they definitely knew how to get our attention!
The reason we didn’t make it to the Art Museum: we were in Sydney during the 2016 US presidential election, so we dedicated a good amount of time towards what was going on back home (this despite the fact that we knew what the outcome would be, we’d known since March). The above magazine was printed before the November 9th election and was in reference to the entire 2016 campaign, not the results. Australians reacted to the results in different ways; some were shocked, a few were happy, and most simply went about their business as usual.
Despite not having much Australian food (I’m not sure what Australian food is, other than Vegemite, which we didn’t try, kangaroo, which it isn’t very good, and beetroot, which actually was better than I thought it would be), the food in Sydney was incredible. Much of it was Asian or American, but Sydney also lays claim to the Italy’s 2014 best gelato winner, Cow and Moon. We tried it and it was amazing, not as good as Bologna but close, and that’s saying a lot.
Finally, here’s one last Sydney picture, taken by our Airbnb hosts who took us here (Tamarama Beach) before treating us to Indonesian food. Our hosts were also the ones who told us about and took us to Cow and Moon; they were awesome and we had a great time at their place and in this city, and now we have new friends!
This brings us to the end of our Sydney post, but not to the end of our Sydney trip. There was so much to do here, it was crazy! For example, if you are willing to drive just two hours outside city center, you have your choice of seven different national parks. Inna and I didn’t rent a car so we didn’t do this, but we did do something else, something even better!