Sydney, a sunken city
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  Posted September 14th, 2014 by Zdenko  in Travel | 5 comments

Australia travel

By: Zdenko Kahlina

Not so sunny Sydney
When we decided to visit our friends who live in Sydney, Australia, we were getting ourselves ready for the hot and sunny summer in Australia. Little did we know… This blog is a brief summary of our trip to Sydney.

We left unusually warm winter weather in Edmonton, aboard Air Canada plane and after a long flight (14.5 hours in the air from Vancouver) we arrived in Sydney on one Sunday morning in January 2012. Our friends were there to greet and take us to their home in Hurstville.

Arriving in Sydney

Hurstville is part of Greater Sydney Metropolitian areas, about 15km or 20min train ride south of Sydney CBD. With a population of about 77,000 Hurstville’s residents come from very diverse backgrounds now and it makes the local Westfield shopping Centre very interesting and good value for money. However I have noticed that majority of the people here were Asian. Hurstville has a range of restaurants and quite busy streets. The proximity to city is somewhat convenient, plus better than average public transport to and from city. During our stay we went to the city several times with the train and train took less time than it would with the car. 

Vera with the view on downtown Sydney

Train that would take as from Hurstville to the City in 20 minutes

Not so sunny Sydney
Sydney was recently voted to have the world’s best climate and friendliest people. Friendliest people yes, but the best weather? First several days in the city, we had warm and sunny days. Than one day everything changed and monsoons arrived, with heavy showers and flash floods across Sydney. This definitely spoiled our holidays, but didn’t stop us of doing our touristy things every day. Every morning we were hoping the weather has changed and we will have wonderful day, but when we looked through the window it was not what we wanted to see. It was still foggy, raining and gloomy.

Every day in the morning while we were having breakfast at our friend’s apartment, we would be planning our daily activities. Mostly the schedule looked like this: early morning breakfast at home, and then going out for Sydney’s attractions. We purchased combined tickets to visit ‘Skywalk’ tower, Sydney Aquarium and ‘Wild life’ – the animal adventure, journey into Australia’s most famous locations. We walked around the famous bridge and Darling Harbour; we visited beautiful ‘Chinese Garden’ and Sydney’s Opera house. Boarding the ‘Magistic’ sightseeing Sydney Harbour cruise was also memorable experience. These were all good experiences, and even constant rain couldn’t change that.

View of Sydney’s Tower Eye from the street level

My friend drove us around the city with his car to see the Sydney’s South beaches beginning with the most popular beach: Bondi beach and than continuing our ride south to visit Coogee beach, Maroubra beach, Malabar beach and all the way to Botany National Park and Botany Bay. We browsed Sydney houses for sale and visited some of our Croatian friends who also live in Sydney. On one of the other rainy days we went to cruise  North Sydney and drove through the beautiful Mosman area all the way to Manly town at the far north outskirts of Sydney.

Skywalk at the Sydney Tower Eye have you feeling on top of the world. We were walking on air 250m above, with the CBD directly beneath our feet. This is the tallest building in Sydney. The breathtaking 360-degree, sky-high view takes in every detail for more than 80km in any direction, from the Blue Mountains in the West and Botany Bay in the South, to Sydney Harbour in the North and the Pacific Ocean in the East and everything in between.

Sydney Tower Eye

View of St. Mary’s Cathedral from the Sky Tower

Zdenko, Durda, Vera and Ivan in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral

Arial view of Sydney

We could look down through the glass floor viewing platform for a bird’s-eye perspective of the bustling city below. We didn’t go for a walk outside to the ‘real’ top of the tower, as they would charge extra for this activity. But what we’ve seen was good enough. I took a lot of good pictures from this spot.

Sydney’s most popular attraction: Old Harbour bridge

Sydney’s Mono Rail

Vera in one of the ‘passages’ in the city

Anzac war Memorial in Hyde Park

This is an event in Sydney’s Darling Harbour where you walk through iconic Australian habitats and encounter some of the most loved and feared animals. Wild Life Sydney features interactive and entertaining daily shows, captivating daily feeding sessions and enhanced walk-through habitats including Koala encounters, The Outback and butterfly tropics.

Darling Harbour ‘Magistic’ cruise
We enjoyed our cruise of Sydney Harbour with Magistic Cruises. We boarded the Magistic Catamaran at the King Street Wharf, Darling Harbour. They served a lunch, buffet style immediately after boarding the ship. The buffet was really excellent, and plentiful.

I found it very good value for money, but I was panicking a bit when we were still at the table eating and the ship was leaving the dock worried that I would miss opportunity to take pictures. The boat was very well maintained, roomy and afforded good viewing opportunities. The staff was very friendly and performed their duties with a high level of competence. There was a running commentary explaining the historical highlights of this very beautiful harbour.

One area of concern was that this trip was more about the food than about cruising the bay. It smelled like a ‘tourist trap’… Overall a very pleasant way to spend one sunny Sydney day (one of the very few we’ve had).

Sydney Opera house at night

This is one of those iconic landmarks that will be instantly recognisable all over the world, the Opera House has a charm that is hard to describe. The Essential Tour (which we didn’t take) is highly informative, dispensing information on the history of the site as well as the building itself, from start to completion. For those who visit Sydney in June, you might be able to catch the Vivid season which transform the shells of the Opera House into a colourful explosion of images.

Canadians in front of Sydney’s Opera House

Zdenko by the Opera House

A must do is walk around the outside, up the great stairs, into the great rooms… take a tour or self-guide, attend a performance. It’s one of the worlds most renowned structures and you need to get up close and personal to really appreciate it in all its glory. This building looks like a group of sailing yachts or from behind (near Botanical Gardens) looks like the back of whales diving into Sydney Harbour.

Sydney Aquarium
At Sydney’s Aquarium you get face-to-face with sharks in an underwater oceanarium, become delighted by little penguins, you marvel at giant rays, find Nemo in the Great Barrier Reef and look out for the secretive platypus! Sydney Aquarium boasts the world’s largest collection of all Australian aquatic life with over 12,000 animals!

Very interesting fish

Close-up with the sharks

No worries, mate… there is a glass between us!

This place is just lovely and well worth the visit. The trees and plants are exquisitely laid out and it is easy to forget where you are. Once inside you are in Chinese heaven, just two blocks from the megacity of crowds. The gardens are beautiful along with the ponds with Koi Fish, and the Pagodas. I really felt like I was in China, and not in Sydney at the southern end of Darling Harbor. The surroundings are just stunning. There is a tea house where you can have Traditional Chinese Tea.

Chinese garden in the middle of the city

Vera in ‘heven’

Chinese family taking pictures

As we were walking around we noticed people dressed up in gorgeous Chinese Costumes. It was especially cute to see a Chinese family with little children in the Gardens, laughing and playing in the little houses and spots where perhaps a dragon or princess might lurk. I’ve got some gorgeous pictures of one little girl dressed up with the perfect background! Such a tranquil place. Definitely worth a visit for a nominal fee.

Oatley Park bike rides
Being cyclists, we didn’t want to waste opportunities to ride our bikes almost every day. We would go out with the bikes, even when rain stopped only for several minutes.

So, almost every day we would go to Oatley Park in southern Sydney, where we rode on Christensen Circuit through this beautiful park. This is the course that my friend Ivan is using very often as he’s riding there with the local mates all the time. The course was only about 10 minutes bike ride from where he lives (Hurstville), so there was very little time spent in traffic. Once in the park, we did two easy laps and than four fast ones. Ivan was measuring time for each lap, and according to his timing we had pretty good times.

Mates riding in the Oatley Park

Testing my new ‘Babici’ bike through Oatley Park

 The Oatley Park is popular with visitors all year round enjoying a variety of recreational and sporting activites. As one of Sydney’s finest areas of natural bushland, Oatley Park is noted for its trees, shrubs and native flowers, as well as the river beaches and prolific bird life. The scenic road was constructed around the river foreshores and is used by bikers to train in the middle of the city, without worrying about traffic.

Aussie’s rule in Royal National Park
On our last day in Sydney, my friend took me for another bike ride. This time we went out of the city into the Royal National Park with three local mates Sasa, Kev and Greg.

RoyalNational Park, some 29 kilometres south of Sydney city centre, is the only “royal” Australian national park, having acquired that distinction after Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Australia in 1954. Located at the southern edge of the greater Sydney metropolis, with picnic and camping areas, walking tracks, beaches where it faces the Pacific, and water sports and activities, the park is arguably the most visited national park in the state, if not in Australia.

Zdenko, Sasa, Ivan and Kev before the ride

We met with the Aussie boyz in the Oatley area and than rode our bikes thru the Neverfail Bay and across the pedestrian bridge into Sutherland’s Loftus Avenue, where we turned to Farnell Avenue and into the Royal National Park. The ride – rolling to very hilly, traffic was heavy and the road narrow, until we reached the Royal National Park.

In the park we crossed the Kangaroo Creek which flooded the road, and car traffic was next to nothing. Beautiful scenic road, constantly going up and down. Sasa took this opportunity to force the pace, trying to outpace Ivan and other guys. Well, we hang on for dear life, but we stayed with him. Later on Sir Bertram Stevens Drive, we settled into a good rhythm and rode in a group together again.

Ivan and Zdenko enjoying the sunny day… finally!

Once we reached last hill on McKell Avenue into the Waterfall, this was the end for me and some others. Sasa and Ivan took off and we’d see them again after the top on the Princess Hwy, which we used to get back to the city. Entering the city, Kev got his chance to win one more sprint over Sasa and other mates. It was a perfect ride with lots of fun and once back in the city we were ready to stop somewhere for a beer. This was a nice park, but the climbs were very long (for me).

Croatian mates posing in the Oatley Park

Last evening in Sydney at Mythos Taverna& Bar
Mythos Taverna Bar, Located in the heart of Leichhardt’s bustling Norton Street has been chosen by our friends for the ‘going away’ party. This bar is a leading party venue in Sydney providing vibrant entertainment, great food, music and dancing.

When we arrived in Norton Street, there were already lineups of girls waiting to be seated inside. Apparently there were three different ‘bachelorette’ parties (female bonding before wedding) in the bar that night. We were the only guys in the bar… and what a party it was!!!

Dancing was part of the fun… Vera with brides to be!

Here, we’re all dancing and having a great time!

Upon our arrival at 7.30pm, their friendly staff started bringing food and usual Greek entree included – Greek salad, dips, haloumi cheese and pita bread. This was followed by delicious platters of seafood and all sorts of meat.

They turned our small celebration into an unforgettable event! This dynamic MC had all the right moves to get us in the party mood for an enjoyable and fun evening. They had a D.J. playing great music from the 80’s, 90’s, latest hits, R ‘n’ B, House and Greek music. Good thing we were warned to have our dancing shoes on, as we were called out to participate in some light hearted dance competitions on stage. My wife Vera was the centre of attention in front of all those young girls around her. She did great!!

While we were left for a moment to catch our breath, they brought energetic and colorful belly dancers to entertain the whole ambiance with some Brazilian and Belly dancing shows. Be prepared if you catch their eye though, you could be belly dancing and sambaing with them too! We did!!!

Ivan and Zdenko

Afterwards, getting back to the Greek vibe was easy as we were invited to do the lively Greek dance, the Zorba. That is not where the dancing stops, as you can express yourself dancing the night away to the latest sounds of Sydney’s best DJ until late.

This was a tremendous finish to our memorable stay in Sydney. Next morning we picked up our luggage and Ivan and Durda took us to the airport for the long flight home!

Overall it was a great trip during which we packed a lot of traveling in our time there, but never really felt tired or having enough. After 20 days in Australia we were seating in Air Canada Boing 777 on our way home. Sydney and beautiful Australia seemed like a distant dream. Shame that weather didn’t do any better as we would expect from legendary sunny Sydney, but it doesn’t matter any more.

As they say in ‘down under’ country: ‘No worries, mate! Until next time!’

Have a good and healthy season.

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