Shannon and Ryan arrived shortly after I did at the Sydney airport...with their giant backpacks!
We had agreed to bring backpacks on this trip, but it was just too heavy for me to carry everything on my back, so I bailed on it and threw everything in my suitcase. They were so mad when they saw me wheeling that thing around and they had everything on their backs!
Anyways, we didn't waste any time. We were all ready for a shower, so we hopped in a cab and took off for the Intercontinental hotel in downtown Sydney. Pretty much the nicest hotel in Sydney. Shannon swore she got a really good deal on it, so I went along with it.
On the way, we drove by one of the giant airplanes we flew over on. One of the biggest ones I've been on I think!
It's so weird that it's winter here. I mean I haven't wrapped my head around it yet. I got on a plane on Wednesday night in Dallas. Summer time and 90 degrees. Fell asleep, and woke up Friday morning in Australia...winter time. Leaves were falling off the trees. It's just so strange.
$58 Australian dollars later...there were backpackers at the Interncontinental, haha! Such a fancy place. Waterfall out front and people trying to carry all our stuff for us...
They didn't have a room ready for us yet (it was like 8am), so they sent us up to the pool/gym area on the top floor to shower up there. The view was ridiculous from there! The Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House were right outside our window!
Shan and I took over the shower area and unpacked our bags to get to our stuff. Such a process to find what you need! (And yes, we have matching Patagonia backpacks!)
The showers were ice cold, so I was barely in there long enough to rinse off. Didn't wash my hair or anything, but it felt good to be clean and have some different clothes on. Shannon over heated the cheap little hair dryer in there, so while she waited for her hair to dry, I went down to the lobby to use the wifi. Ready for Day 1 in Sydney in my American flag Toms shoes!
Ryan snuck in a quick workout, and it took us long enough to all get ready that they had a room ready for us by the time we got back down to the lobby. So we went back up and dropped our bags off before setting off for the day.
The location of the hotel could not be any better. Its like two blocks from the main train/ferry terminal, The Rocks shopping/eating area, and the Sydney opera house. Everything is within walking distance, which is nice.
I was hungry (imagine that) so we stopped just a couple of blocks away at a little cafe along the water. We ordered salmon and egg sandwiches to go, and while we waited, these colorful little lorikeets were just hanging out next to us! I can't believe these beautiful birds are wild here!
All of a sudden, as we were walking along, these seagulls came out of nowhere and started attacking us! They were trying to get our sandwiches, but seriously, I'm not even joking. We had to put our sandwiches away and run after one landed ON my head and pecked down at my sandwich! It was nuts!
It started sprinkling about that time, so we took cover under an overhang...and all the birds just stared at us. It was so creepy. While we were standing there, we noticed all the people in the office building behind us were just looking at the window at the bridge. And then we saw police lights, a helicopter hovering, and NO traffic on the bridge. Something was up...
So I goggled "Sydney Harbour Bridge shut down" and sure enough, an article popped up. Some man climbed to the top of it and I guess was going to jump!
None of us were interested in seeing some guy jump to his death, so we kept it moving around to the other side of the opera house to take some pictures. The rain had stopped for the most part, thank goodness.
It was a little chillier than we had expected, so we ran back up to the hotel room real quick to grab rain jackets before heading to the ferry terminal to go to Manly Beach. We managed to figure out how to get an Opal card and put money on it AND get to the right ferry right on time!
Of course the sun came out and it got nice since we had our jackets now.
More Sydney Opera House pictures from the boat!
And 40 minutes later, we arrived in Manly! Easy, calm ferry ride. (I was worried I might get sick.)
The beach was just a couple of blocks away, so that was our first stop! Well, after shopping a little and paying a restaurant 20 cents for a paper cup so we could have some water from the water fountain.
It was a little chilly for a beach day, but there were still surfers out there.
I tried on this rain proof/wind proof jacket at RipCurl before we got to the beach, and I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I just decided what the heck. I'm going back to buy it. I was sold as soon as the guy poured water on it to show me how water proof it was. I only brought a light little orange jacket that I don't really like for a rain coat, so this one was WAY better. Day 1 and I'm already shopping. Going to be a problem considering I have ZERO space in my suitcase!
We were all ready for al little snack after our walk along the beach, and we read in the Lonely Planet book that Manly was famous for juice bars. It wasn't hard to find one. Shan and I got a green smoothie and Ryan got some muesli surprise smoothie. They were pretty good and like $9 each, but in Australian dollars, which is like 30% more than USD.
We walked around and went to a few more shops, but decided to head back to Sydney on the ferry. We had a long list of things to check off today, and we were all a little tired from the jet lag, so if we kept moving it distracted us from wanting to sleep!
Back at Circular Quay in Sydney, we got off one ferry, grabbed a little sushi roll snack, and hopped right back on another ferry just a few docks down to go to Luna Park across the water.
It was some amusement park thing that was honestly pretty creepy! I mean look at the entrance through clowns mouth!
It was oddly dead there. Actually, all of Sydney had been pretty quiet and empty all day. So weird to me. I know it's winter and all, but it's not bad weather! Where are all the people?
I can't pass up one of these photo ops. Especially not one this funny! W laughed forever over these.
We weren't there very long. There was nothing going on there. So back on the ferry...over to Darling Harbour this time.
We wanted to get to Darling Harbour to see the fireworks that were there...at 7pm. It was like 4pm when we got there. Loooottts of time to kill. And we were dragging. The time difference was killings by this point.
We walked all around, up and down the harbour. Mostly restaurants, a few shops and an Imax movie theater. Across the bridge was a Hard Rock Cafe and all kinds of American stuff. We joked that it was jus like America and refused to go over there.
I was hungry (AGAIN) so after debating and stopping at multiple restaurants, we settled on a little place that had good salads.
And they had Jewfish as a special. What in the world is a Jewfish!? We all had a good laugh about that one.
After an appetizer of potato wedges -- I guess they're an Australian thing -- we ordered dinner. I got a side of steamed vegetables for $4.50 and Shannon and Ryan split some chicken dish. And we chugged lots of water to try and keep us awake.
Also, I decided we were at a gay bar. All the tables were full of dudes. Everywhere. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I just thought it was funny that out of all the restaurants we stopped at, we ended up at that one. And just across the water was a big #Orlando light up display on the side of a building! Cool to see the support all the way in Australia!
Ryan has been the Lonely Planet book man this trip and has his nose in it every time there is a free minute. I don't remember what he was looking up here...but it was either the book or the camera to keep him busy!
We decided to go scope out our spot to watch the fireworks. I thought the bridge would be the best spot, so that's where we went.
There was some weird smoke/fire show at 6:30 that we suffered through, laughing the whole time about how awful it was. And then more waiting and doing anything to stay awake for the fireworks show.
The real joke was the sound. Or lack of sound I guess. They had these tiny little speakers on the light poles. Like every 3rd light pole. And you could not hear any of the sound/music that was going with the show. We were probably sleep delirious by that point, but we died laughing about that.
And we only laughed harder when the show finally started. The fireworks were a total bust of a show. Small-town Kansas fairs have way better fireworks shows than this! We laughed and laughed and laughed about it. The fact that we waited for THREE HOURS for THIS was too much. None of us could believe it.
There were all of these warnings about "Severe population control" or something ridiculous like that, basically saying to avoid the ferries and the masses of people. And we still were like, "Wait...where are all the people!?" It was nothing like the crowds we have in the US. But heeding the warning, we practically ran to the ferry stop...and there were like 10 people there in from top us. What the heck...
(Oh wait, I forgot we went to the bathroom and an Asian lady who didn't speak English tried to just cut the entire line and sneak in to a stall...and I literally grabbed her and said "NO, there is a line, you need to WAIT!" Shannon's eyes were huge, hahaha. Don't mess with me when I'm tired, hungry, cold, AND have to pee.
When the boat pulled up, it was pretty packed. I'll give them that. But nothing "severe" by any means! Not in our world, anyways.
The ferry ride was SO. COLD. Like, wind blowing, numbing kind of cold. But we toughed it out and stayed outside anyways for the short ferry back to Circular Quay.
Downtown Sydney looked beautiful from the water, all lit up for the Friday night "Vivid Sydney" show.
We understood a little more of the "sever population control" warnings once we got off the ferry in Circular Quay. It was PACKED. Like, barely room to walk kind of packed.
As exhausted as we all were, we really wanted to see the Cathedral lights thing, just on the other side of the Opera House, which was also lit up. So we decided to just suck it up and take the extra "10 minutes" and fight the crowd to walk over there...
We knew we made a big mistake when we got close and the masses of people just stopped. It was not moving at all. It was cold, I was tired...beyond tired. I couldn't deal. I wanted to just turn around and walk back out, but that wasn't an option. But apparently other people were also over it and were just walking around the outside of it, instead of in the middle of it, which was a total cluster.
So around we went. It was still slow moving...but at leas it was moving! And honestly, I didn't care at all. I mean, this Cathedral thing was high on my list of the Vivid Sydney lights I wanted to see, but after experiencing that...no thank you. I"ll pass. It wasn't THAT cool!
We got the heck out of there as fast as we could. All we wanted to do was go to bed! So back to the hotel we went. Still haven't wrapped my head around winter time here and all the dead leaves on the ground. It's just so weird. I know I said that earlier, but it is!
So anyways, off to bed in our hotel room that is already trashed with all of our crap everywhere. I don't think any of us will have any trouble at all sleeping, but I took a Benadryl just in case...