Thursday, October 9, 2008

Just keep that Bono off my back

Sorry that it's been awhile since my last blog. Thankfully life and work have picked up for me and I don't spend as much time at home. I'll try to be better about keeping you informed on what's going on.

It was Labour Day weekend in Australia this past weekend, so we got a three day weekend. It’s just the spring here so things are starting to warm up and the trees are turning green. I thought it would be a good weekend to have my first excursion outside of Canberra. My friend Michelle and I decided to head to Sydney for the weekend. Sydney is about three hours from Canberra when you’re driving. We booked rooms at the Amora Jamison (apparently the Accenture hotel of choice) and booked our round trip bus tickets (yes, the bus!). We decided not to plan anything specific to do in Sydney – we’d just see where things took us.

We left work early (we work on the same project but different teams) and caught the bus to Sydney. Thank god for Ipods – I don’t know how I would have made it otherwise. We arrived in Sydney a little bit after 7pm on Friday night. From the moment you step off the bus, you can feel the difference between Canberra and Sydney. Beyond the temperature and humidity difference, there were so many more people walking around. You immediately have the big city feel. It was great after being locked into Canberra for months. We dropped our bags off at the hotel and decide to have dinner at Darling Harbour. I didn’t take any pictures of Darling Harbour and I’m not real sure how to explain it. There were restaurants and bars along the water – all of them with outdoor seating. The ferry boats and yachts were lined along the dock, there’s an IMAX and the Sydney Aquarium there as well. Oh – and the monorail – all weekend, it made me think of Disney World. We found a seafood restaurant – I had the Barramundi which is the local fish. Very good – if you come to visit, we’ll be sure to have some. After dinner, it started to rain, so we made a stop to get some ice cream and wait it out. Once it cleared up, we walked around checking things out. I was a bit tired from work and the bus ride, so we called it an early night.

We woke up Saturday to overcast skies and a high probability of rain. We get dressed and head to Starbucks! FINALLY! Starbucks after two months!! They closed all the stores in Canberra so I’ve been having to get coffee from the local restaurants, which is fine, but there is something about Starbucks that is just…better, to me. Michelle and I decide to come up with rainy day activities and head back to Darling Harbour to see the Aquarium. Unfortunately, when we got there, there were a billion kids and the line was a billion miles long. Those two things together do not make a happy Dana, so we passed. We jumped on the monorail and headed to Paddy’s Market. Paddy’s market is a huge indoor swap market type thing. For the fam, think of Nassau in the Bahamas, right off the boat. It was just like that but with better stuff. I could totally have spent the whole day there but, there were a billion people, so again, after awhile, not a happy Dana. Here’s a picture of Paddy’s Market.

From there, we decided that the best rainy day activity is to, well, shop. So, we hit the shopping district and spent the rest of the afternoon shopping. We couldn’t buy too much because we had both brought small bags and we weren’t real sure how we were going to get it home. We were pretty tired from our strenuous day of shopping so we went back to the hotel and napped. From there, we made plans to meet up with some other ex-pat friends that live in Sydney for dinner. They took us out to Bondi Junction which is near Bondi Beach (but you couldn’t see the beach). To get there, we took the subway. This was probably the most advanced subway system I’d ever been on. It was two levels deep and the trains were double-decker. I felt very cosmopolitan. After dinner, we headed out to meet an Irish friend from work that was also in Sydney. He had us meet him at an Irish pub (go figure). We had to be wanded with a metal detector before we could go in. Even in the US, I’m not sure I’ve ever had to do that. The bar was ok though – nothing special. It was a pretty early night by Australian standards – we were home by 1am. Oh! I forgot a part…prior to heading to the Irish bar, we were going to have a drink at a bar in the King’s Cross area of Sydney. For those of you not in the know, this is the “red light district” of Sydney. Strip clubs line the street and men stand outside recruiting other men to come inside. Creepy.

Sunday, we slept in for awhile then headed off for more Starbucks. We then hit the market at The Rocks. It’s a pretty neat little market – lots of arts and crafts. A little more high class than Paddy’s. We stopped and had pizza for lunch and then headed over to Circular Quay to catch the ferry to Manly Beach. The only problem – we forgot it was daylight savings. So we missed our first ferry but thankfully, the people working at the docks were nice enough to let us catch the next one. Manly Beach is one of Sydney’s most popular beaches. Unfortunately, the weather was still crap so we only got to walk around. Thankfully though, there was a Jazz festival going on so we sat on the beach for awhile and listened to some music. It just happened that the NRL Grand Finals were in Sydney that weekend and the Manly team was playing. All the bars in the area were packed full of people watching the game. Which made it easy to get into a restaurant. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel and got changed for a night out on the town. We headed out for a few drinks.

We were out late enough that on Monday we decided to sleep in as late as we could. Then we packed up, dropped our bags at the concierge, and headed back out. First we hit the Sydney Fish Market. There was food everywhere! And it was so good. I think it's one of my favorite places in Sydney. The weather wasn’t quite as crappy but still not great so we headed to the opera house. We needed to kill some time so we took a tour of the Opera house. Then we headed off towards the bus stations. Everyone in Canberra must have been in Sydney because there were four buses on the return trip.

Here are some pictures. I took more so if you’re interested, shoot me a message and I’ll end you a link to the rest of them.

Opera House

Sydney Bridge

Manly Beach

Sydney Fish Market