I think I may have broken a world record today: for the largest area of Sydney covered by a tourist in a single day. I decided that, with so little time, I could either absorb fully a select few areas of the city, or I could attempt to briefly touch upon all of the main sights. Well, they don’t call me beckymayhem for nothing, so inevitably I chose the latter, more bonkers option. It’s a good job I like walking, that’s for sure…
So, this is how my day went (due to the huge number of places I’ve been, I’ll attempt to limit my descriptions to one sentence per area but, as I am sure you have noticed by now, I am of the ‘why use one word when you can use ten’ school of literature, so we’ll see how it goes…)
6:30 am – I strolled down an eerily quiet Oxford Street, remembering the contrasting sounds of high spirits from the night before. The only other people stirring were the cafe owners, firing up their machines to tend to the collective hang-overs of the previous night’s revellers. (Oops, I’ve failed on my one-sentence objective already). My destination was the Sydney Ashtanga Yoga Space, where I had an excellent, inspiring session with a very helpful teacher.
I then walked a circuitous path back to the hostel, sewing a meandering seam between the love-hate neighbouring districts of Darlinghurst and Kings Cross. The genteel jacaranda tree-lined streets of the hip suburb of Darlinghurst awkwardly rubs its organically moisturised shoulders with the sweaty, tattooed versions of next-door Kings Cross, a seedy but buzzing area where the streets are lined with neon signs advertising all kinds of sleazy hedonism. (I tried the old Dickensian trick there, of creating a hugely lengthy sentence that could span pages. Yes I know, I’m only cheating myself…)
The sterile serenity of Darlinghurst…
… versus the gritty sleaze of Kings Cross.
After a brief post-yoga de-ming back at the hostel on Hyde Park, I then headed south-west, through the sleepy, charming residential areas of Chippendale (sadly no oiled-up, over-muscled eye-candy observed here) and Darlington. The houses along these quaint streets are generally two-tiered, divided vertically by pretty, ornate metal railings. I loved the fact that each house has its own veranda, which becomes an al fresco window into that family’s own peculiarities. Musical instruments, artwork, hammocks, wellies, dogs, fairy-lights, stacks of books, record players… This is an area where life is lived on the balcony.
Balcony life in Darlington.
Autumn was very much in evidence along the maple-lined streets here, despite the unseasonally hot weather (even the ozzies are exclaiming at the warmth).
I thought that Darlington seemed a very ‘nice’ neighbourhood, with its smattering of fruit and veg cooperatives and organic cafes. I particularly liked this sign, on the wall of a Darlington school.
Eventually the quiet streets shifted along one of those almost imperceptible urban cross-sectional gradients between different areas. Shops and restaurants crept in amongst the houses, until I was surrounded on all sides by the bustling and very funky older area of Newtown. Grafitti replaced clematis as wall cover, and record shops and vintage clothing pop-up stalls spewed out an eclectic, alternative crowd. The odd sleek bar poked out snootily between the rough-and-ready eateries, and the heady scents of multicultural cuisine vied for my nasal attention. I loved it, and stopped here for quite a while to eat lunch and people watch. (I was so fascinated I forgot to take any photos, oops.)
From here I took a local train north all the way up to Circular Quay and rejoined the hordes of tourists to take in the usual fayre of street-theatre, live music, over-priced, uninspiring eateries hogging the best views and tacky souvenir stalls. I have discovered today that, although I have an enormous respect for didgeridoo players, the incessant drone DOES grate rather a lot after a while, especially when set to irritatingly poor-quality ‘trance’ tracks. God knows how the people that work in that area every day cope – I guess they have probably found a way to zone out the sound.
Nooooo, not more didgeridoo, please – my ears are bleeding….
This guy was seriously talented – you can’t see it here, but he was also juggling machete knives.
From here it was a short walk east to The Rocks, a reinvigorated area that has had a turbulent political history but is now a rather upmarket enclave, which is almost a bit too ‘toy-town’ perfect. However, it was a pleasant place to wander round, and the history seeped out through the interesting architecture and mellow, honeyed colours of the stone buildings. There was also a fantastic harbour look-out point from below the mighty harbour bridge, with an awesome view of the opera house.
Interesting stone-work of The Rocks, presiding over the posh restaurants.
Fantastic opera house view.
I then crossed back across the quay area and visited the northern end of the botanical gardens to rest in the shade of an awesome fig tree for a while, and enjoy a moment of tranquility whilst being entertained by a masked lapwing (I told you I’d get a photo of this bird, which has entertained me greatly along my ozzie travels).
Masked lapwing – I don’t know why these birds make me smile, but they do.
Another rather lovely sign – I think I did talk to the birds (solo travelling does funny things to you).
I then took the 4pm ferry over to Manly on the north-shore, from where it was lovely to watch the harbour receding into the golden afternoon light.
Different perspective on the opera house, seen from the retreating Manly ferry.
I just had enough time on Manly to walk over to the famous surf beach and eat an icecream on the sand, watching the surfers rather enviously. Manly was a refreshingly relaxed antidote to the fast-paced, hectic city centre – flip-flops and boardies were de rigeur, and people hefted their surf and skate boards through the streets, enjoying the day’s final rays.
Sunset surfers on Manly Beach.
I then took the very popular 5:15 ferry back into town, in order to enjoy the sunset views over the approaching harbour, along with a whole crowd of other people who thought they were being similarly clever. It was stunning though…
The day was finished by an amble around the pretty Darling Harbour and then back to the hostel via the buzzing Chinatown. My weariness from doing all of this has now extended into recounting it, so finally, I managed to achieve my one-sentence objective!
View across to the CBD from the other side of Darling Harbour.
Brightly brash Chinatown.
And now to bed, after an epic day of sightseeing and an epic blog (I can’t be arsed to proof-read it so apologies for any typos). I can’t believe I’m going to be in Thailand this time tomorrow – exciting times!