Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Australia ~ More on Sydney

After a few days of sleep and activity, I think I can speak in full sentences again. So, recent highlights ...

Met a very cool guy on the flight over from LAX. Greg is from Phoenix, and is planning on spending a couple of months in Australia, hopefully doing some web design work. And after introducing him to the whole GlobalFreeloader/CouchSurfing, he's invited us to stay with him in the Phoenix area some time. Although he's warned us away from the summer months. Can't wait for our northern Arizona & ... roadtrip!

Sandy and Tony were a couple we met through GlobalFreeloaders, and were our first "freeloading" experience. So we had no idea what to expect. They were incredibly friendly and down-to-earth. We felt instantly comfortable with them, and their teenage kids were great and a lot of fun to talk to. I really think all the little things they did ... a ride from the airport, coffee and shower, little tips and advice, and just the friendly conversation ... helped us to get adjusted to the time difference, get over the jet lag, and really appreciate Sydney.

After the very helpful shower and coffee at Sandy & Tony's place, Gregg and I took the train and bus to the north of Sydney, and hiked the Manly Scenic Walkway (description). Not sure how long it took to walk, but I made the error of walking in the water early on in the hike, and then rubbed my feet raw on the rest of the hike. But, the hike couldn't have been more beautiful, and the trail was exceptionally well maintained. So what are a few blisters and a little blood?!

Once at Manly we took a few moments to eat and check email, and then hopped on to a ferry to return to Sydney. The view of Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House were fantastic! After walking the Quay ("key") for a bit we hopped back on the train, and to Sandy & Tony's place. Sandy had put together a feast of vegetarian lasagna (the creamiest veggie lasagna I've ever had), complete with mushroom appetizers, served with some excellent (many awards winning) Australian wine, and topped off with a lemon meringue pie. And naturally she made everything from scratch ... even the pasta! She claims it's very simple, but we'll continue to leave that sort of thing to the experts for now.

The next day (Sunday), they drove us to the Darling Harbor area. We toured the Powerhouse Museum, and after a little lunch walked the scenic restored harbor area to the Sydney Aquarium. That whole area has been re-done beautifully, with fountains and brick walkway everywhere, and a very long pedestrian walkway (Pyrmont Bridge) over the harbor. It connects the Maritime Museum, Aquarium, Powerhouse Museum, Chinese Garden, and many more downtown sights. By far, this was my favorite area of downtown Sydney. Sandy & Tony met up with us later, and we shared dinner at a seafood restaurant. We had the best seat in the house ... outside, perfect weather, the nearest seats to the harbor. Gorgeous! After dinner they drove us over to their favorite gellato joint, located in Newtown. We both found the area very interesting ... lots of restaurants and entertainment, and a really diverse crowd of people. Probably worth a look when you're in the area :)

Monday was quite a bit warmer. I don't actually know how warm, and it really doesn't matter, but neither of us drank enough water. After walking all over downtown ... first touring the Australian Museum (I really enjoyed this one ... very informative for the non-Australian ~ local birds/snakes/wildlife, and history), trekking around the area searching for the restaurant that our guidebook recommended, then searching for someplace to eat (losing faith in the guidebook), and then hiking around the Botanic Gardens ... we were both exhausted. A quick-ish bite to eat at a little cafe downtown (fantastic roasted vegetable rissoto!), a train ride back to the house, propping my feet up for an hour, and then crashing in bed ... and that's a wrap.

We woke up pretty early today, and hitched a ride with Tony to the train station. We're finally getting lucky with the public transportation. With very little trouble, and very little waiting, we took the train from Miranda to Katoomba. Had a quick stop downtown to have a little breakfast. I'd heard about the cheap and good meat pies to be had in the area, but being a veggie wasn't interested. Turns out they also have a fantastic vegetable pie! Yummy! Then to Blacktown to visit the Featherdale Wildlife Park. We spent a few hours there, feeding Kangaroos, petting Koalas, listening to the Kookaburra laugh, and just generally touring and photographing all kinds of Australian animals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. It was fantastic. Back at the train station a couple of local teens noticed us looking lost, and jumped in to help us out with directions, and probably saved us half an hour! People here are so friendly!

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