Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sydney: 24 Hours

We left Tuateawa for the last time on Sunday afternoon, taking the ferry from Coromandel to Auckland. On the ferry, Dave and I met a new friend, Alex (age 7), who was very upset at leaving her mother to visit her father in the city. We played cards, walked around the deck, and admired her school portfolio, and she seemed much happier by the end of the ferry ride.

In Auckland, we had a quick Thai dinner at Food Alley per Bexie's tip (thanks, Bex!). We took the bus to the airport and found a nice bench to spend the night (the first of many nights spent in interesting places).

Once in Sydney, we headed for Circular Quay, home of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge, via the train. The Opera House is much cooler in person than in pictures... it's an amazing work of architecture! The Harbor Bridge was, uh, a bridge. I don't understand why folks get so excited about it.

After a lunch with one of Dave's friends from a 2005 semester abroad in Sydney, we wandered around in the drizzle, wrapped up in our rain shells, backpacks tucked into rain covers. At one point, I found myself eating ice cream in front of a neuron-shaped modern sculpture while watching some parrots and thought, "This is a little bizarre—but I would rather be no where else right now!"

We noticed a crowd of people standing at the waterfront and went to investigate. Someone said it was a free ferry, so we decided to hop on, without really knowing where it went (why not!). It went to Cockatoo Island, a former penal colony/ ship yard that has been turned into a home for contemporary art. We wandered around, watching video of tap-dancing men in white suits feeding meat to wild dogs, contemplating Balinese-style wood-carved sculptures of suburbanites as Eastern-influenced gods, and realized the day couldn't get weirder. Or more awesome.

The next morning, we met up with Dave's cousin Jess, who happened to be in the city for a vacation. We got breakfast, wandered around, and chatted for a while. She's a lot of fun, and I'm happy I got to meet her. After saying our goodbyes, it was time to take the train back to the airport... ready for more adventures!

A few recommendations for Auckland and Sydney:

In Auckland, Food Alley is located on Lower Albert Street, 2 blocks back from the harbor. The food selection is amazing—every Asian nationality you can name—and it's fresh, tasty, and cheap (which you won't often find in the CBD of large cities).

If you're going to sleep in the Auckland airport, arrive early and snag a padded bench in the "Observation Lounge." Follow signs for "viewing point." Bring earplugs and a bandana to block out disturbances.

In Sydney, the Opera House is really cool. Yes, it's a toursit attraction, but it's also a beautiful piece of architecture. Give yourself some time to really appreciate it.

The Circular Quay area of Sydney is home to $30 lunches and $80 dinners. Head down to Chinatown, east of Darling Harbor, for the cheap eats and people-watching.

The fastest, most convenient, and least confusing way to get between the Sydney International Airport and the CBD is the train. Suck it up and pay the $15 each way. Unlike us, make sure you know from which terminal your flight departs—some seemingly "domestic" flights are actually a leg of an international journey—or you'll have to pay another $5 for the hassle and inconvenience of the inter-terminal shuttle.

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