Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Back from Sydney

Ah, Sydney, what a city!

I was in Sydney, Australia, for World Youth Day from July 13-23. First off the negatives: It was peak winter season in Australia, and I underestimated how warm my clothes should have been. It was a nippy 47 degrees F the night we slept out at Randwick Racecourse, and I must have been wearing five shirt layers along with sweat pants under my jeans. We also walked a lot to various events as that was often the only way for pilgrims to get out of these large, gated areas. One day we did a five-mile (not exaggerating) pilgrimage walk from The Domain to Randwick. The next day we had to walk back from the racecourse to our hostel, another three miles. Both times we were lugging all our sleeping bags and camp-out items! I had some blisters after that.

But honestly, even with the cold and the walking, World Youth Day (which is actually six days long) was an amazing experience. Seeing people from all over the world, singing, chanting, carrying their nations' flags and just full of the spirit is something I won't ever forget. And I saw the pope!

There he is. Doesn't he have the best car ever? I need me a popemobile, without the pope part.

After the official events were over, my group spent two and a half days playing tourist. I'd already gone to the Sydney Opera House for a Sydney Symphony performance of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis on July 18. The view from the opera house's northern foyer windows of Sydney at night is breathtaking. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera that evening, but here is a photo of the opera house taken during the day from a ferry.

We were on the ferry because we were headed to Taronga Zoo, just on the other side of the Sydney Harbor. We saw lot of iconic Aussie animals like kangaroos, wombats, wallabies, Tasmanian Devils, echidnas and ...

KOALAS! This 2-year-old female was just hanging out and eating when we photo ambushed her (actually me and three others split the $20 cost to take a photo with her).

The giraffes have an enviable waterfront home with a million-dollar view of the city.

The following day we went to the Blue Mountains, a 2-hour train ride west of Sydney, and took an Explorer Bus around the Katoomba/Leura area. Here are the Three Sisters, a famous rock formation with an accompanying aboriginal legend about a witch doctor that turned, you got it, three sisters into rocks for their protection.

You can sort of see that blue haze that gives the area its name, apparently caused by the sun hitting the eucalyptus oil in the air at a certain angle. We had a great time traipsing through nature after being in the city for the past week. It was a beautiful area, but even more beautiful of a sight was my lunch at a corner store in Katoomba, the infamous (at least in my mind) Burger With the Lot and a side of chips (a.k.a. french fries).

You can't really see it but at the bottom are beets and a pineapple circle and at the top an egg and ham. It was really tasty, especially after all that hiking.

We had to leave Wednesday afternoon to get to the airport for our evening flight, which brought us back to Hawaii the morning of the same day. That's the closest I'll come to time travel. Before we left, I and two other girls took a ferry to Manly, a suburb across the harbor from the CBD (Central Business District) that is right on the Pacific. It's normally a popular beach destination, but when we went arrived it was drizzling and cloudy. That did not stop the surfers out that day as you can see below.

It was still a lovely area even on a gray day and I managed to find the cheapest Cadbury Dairy Milk bars I'd seen so far at a Coles supermarket. By the way, I did a taste comparison when I got home between a Dairy Milk Caramello made in Australia and one made in the U.S. by Hershey and the Aussie chocolate won out. I'm afraid I won't be able to go back to Hershey's bars anytime soon.

I'm already wanting to get back to Australia. In the meantime I will have to live vicariously through the Aussie families I babysit for.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I've been busy the past two weeks getting ready for my work trip to Australia. At the tail end of it, I'll get two and a half days to do what I like. The Aussie families I sit for have given me lots of suggestions. Among them:
  • Take the ferry to Manly: Northern Sydney peninsula with a nice beach and the ferry ride there is supposed to be great.
  • Order a burger with "the lot": An Aussie specialty burger with cheese,pineapple, bacon, egg, lettuce, beetroot (pickled beets) and tomato. That should be interesting. Other foods they said I need to try in Oz are a proper bacon and egg sandwich, fish and chips, and a cappuccino.
  • Visit Taronga Zoo: You need to take a ferry ride across Sydney Harbor to get there, but it's supposed to be great, plus there's a sky tram across the zoo.
  • Take a day trip to the Blue Mountains: West of Sydney and apparently a gorgeous area to hike and explore. I would love to do this, I just hope I'll have time.
  • Go to Bondi Beach: Famous surfing beach, though supposed to be a bit touristy. I was told if I had to pick between Bondi and Manly I should pick Manly.
  • See a performance at the Opera House: Which I am doing! I have tickets to a symphony performance there and I am thrilled about it.
Well, this post has gotten me more excited about exploring Sydney and the surrounding area. Now I just need to pack and wish I had an Australian accent.