I spent the first two and last six nights of my trip to Australia in Sydney, and I left loving the city wishing I had more time. I did not fall in love with Sydney right away, because initially I was so busy visiting the locations I had always seen in photographs (i.e. Opera House, Darling Harbour, etc…). The city seemed one-dimensional and lacking charm until I ventured out of downtown to Sydney’s neighborhoods and beaches. Anyone planning to visit Sydney must make time to visit the tourist sites, but you do yourself wrong if the only view of Sydney you can recall is from standing atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Make the time to venture out – it is worth it.
I was able to catch a drag show at the Sydney Opera House which will go down as the funniest and most extravagant I have ever seen, I’m sure. The show was called, “Drag – Camp as Christmas”.
You can check out a promo video clip here
or do a search on Facebook to see more. As I said to a few of the drag queens later that evening, they could teach Ms. Spears a thing or two about how to lip sync.
The drag show was only the tip of what turns out to be a mountain of options when contemplating what to do each evening. In addition to all the activity in the CBD (Central Business District) night ferries provide endless options and are both easy and affordable. I also enjoyed spending time on Crown Street in Surrey Hills
, which is easily accessible from downtown and filled with galleries, antiques, cafes and pubs. I also enjoyed a great meal on Victoria Street which was quite a mixed crowd and near the gayborhood.
Since I never made it out to see the nightlife in Melbourne, I made a concerted effort to check out what Sydney had to offer. Like many cities, “the scene” is pretty concentrated on Oxford Street. The area is a bit dumpy similar to the Castro in San Francisco, but I enjoyed checking out the clubs, sipping coffees at Coco Cubano (note there is good wireless here and it is free) and even nosing around in the GLBT bookstore, The bookshop darlinghurst, where I made several purchases. The two main clubs that I visited could not have been more different except that they both had a lot of energy and some very good people watching. The clubs I visited Arq and Slide will probably end up changing names (as all clubs do) but I had a great time and would suggest even if you are not a club-kid (as I most definitely am not) it is still worth checking out for fun and laughs.
As with my write-up about Melbourne, I’ve also included a slide show which is a collection of photographs from my trip, please enjoy.
A huge reason I’ve fallen head over heels with Australia is because of a city called Melbourne
. There is a magnificent contrast of architecture that compliment rather than compete with each other and provides a sense of charm that I was hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Some of my favorite activities included: strolling down Lygon Street which is chalk full of Italian cafes, shops and gelateria; checking out the ever so hip Gertrude Street which had a definite San Francisco-vibe; seeing the Fitzroy Gardens and in particular the conservatory; hanging out in Federation Square which has been scorned by many but I think is an excellent example of modern architecture and houses interesting cafes, restaurants, pubs and museums – not the least of which is the Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Melbourne is surrounded by wine country, which is so easy to visit if you are willing to drive on the other side of the road. I opted to select an overnight in Hepburn Springs, which is next to the quaint town of Daylesford. The drive is easy and picturesque making it a great overnight trip, although I will admit I did not want to leave and would have enjoyed spending more time there. On the positive side, I made the excellent decision to book at the Peppers Springs Retreat which is 1-2 hour drive from Melbourne depending on 1) how fast you drive and 2) how direct your route is to get there. After taking the indirect route to see the countryside, I can tell you that your best bet is to drive directly there (the scenery is beautiful regardless of the route) and the towns prior to Daylesford and Hepburn Springs simply are not worth visting.
If you do book a stay in the country, I would definitely recommend the Peppers Springs Retreat which is less than a 5 minute drive to Daylesford downtown. Request a room in the main building with a private deck that overlooks the countryside. The two owners, Chris and Wayne, are as warm and friendly as the rest of the staff and the trip provided the perfect respite between visits to Melbourne and Sydney (Australia’s two largest cities). If you want to learn more about the retreat, you can read my glowing review on TripAdvisor.com here. Visiting wineries from the hotel is easy to do, but I preferred the pampering of the natural springs spa on sight and eating at the hotel’s restaurant – rarely have I ever been so full in my life. Below I’ve included a sampling of photos from my time in Melbourne, the drive out of the city and the stay in Hepburn Springs.
While I was in Australia I briefly wrote about my snorkeling adventure with Sergio while we were vacationing in Port Douglas. At the time, I was not able to include our photographs from the day trip to the Great Barrier Reef. If you are fascinated by the reef or enjoy snorkeling I think you will like these photographs. Thanks to Sergio who took all these pictures.
Expand to full screen to get maximum effect and if you have speakers turn them on to listen to the cheesy music I’ve selected to accompany the slide show.
As I’ve just commented on the coffee-wars (read the entry below). What I did not share was the cafes where I started my mornings or ended my evenings – often with Sergio’s laptop so I could include a tweet or update my blog. The two places I spent the most amount of time was Port Douglas and Sydney so it was in these places that I made friends with local baristas.
Port Douglas is a sleepy little town which made it perfect for spending a few hours each day in a coffee shop to escape the sun. After one day, both Sergio and I staked out Rehab (a local cafe) and it was not long before we started chatting with Daniel. He pours a strong cup of joe and is extremely personable. Daniel has a wedding in Canada in the summer of 2009 and it would be wonderful to have him come out and visit us. We will see what happens but anyone who pours such a nice cup of coffee is a freind of mine.
Equally nice and certainly as cute is Chris (in photo above) who works at QV Bar & Cafe
. I hope that last comment does not embarrass him, but he is as sweet and friendly a person you’ll meet. Quick with a comment and always smiling, I appreciated seeing him despite being groggy from late nights out in Sydney. Chris too has an open invitation if he ever decides to travel to the States. I’ll be sure to find him an amicable barista to make him his morning coffee.
On our last day Sergio took a group photo of the team at QV Bar & Cafe which I’ve included. What a handsome bunch.
I’m a travel-junkie plain and simple. One of the things I love about international travel is seeing how people live in other parts of the world, because as large and different as the U.S. is, we are a homogenous country. Life and attitudes in Boston do not differ that much from Boise. If you don’t believe me, check out life in another country (sorry Canada doesn’t count). It is precisely these differences which can cause consternation for American travelers and it is always interesting to witness this firsthand.
The most common frustration I saw on this trip did not revolve around politics, protocol or even language; rather it revolved around coffee. In the U.S. we are accustomed to filtered coffee – whether that is Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks or your local café – coffee shops all make coffee pretty much the same way. In Australia, coffee is from a French Press or espresso machine with hot water added; Australians call this a Long Black (not Tall Black as I incorrectly requested repeatedly).
Without waxing on endlessly, there were other observations which I found both funny and interesting and if you’ve ever been to Australia, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts – please feel free to share a comment.
1) If going to Australia increase the amount you plan on spending for food. I found it hard to have a meal for less than $25-30 per person – this was especially true in Sydney. Of course if you love junk food you can get a fast food value meal for about $8-10.00 per person.
2) Despite being an English speaking nation, the Australian accent and propensity for slang left me baffled more often then not. This is a country that refers to red heads as “blueys”; Arugula or lettuce as “rocket” and coffee as “long black”. Never has a common language caused such a divide. However, I will admit I did fall for the accent and despite nearly continual confusion I was able to pick up most of the slang.
3) If you are staying in Sydney – beware those large black birds blotting out the setting sun each evening are actually bats (fruit bats I think to be exact) and while they are harmless; several hours after the sun sets and their bellies are full you need to beware of two things 1- bat poop falling on you as you walk under trees; it is truly sickening how much a bat can poop. 2- freshly fallen bat poop, which can result in horrible if not comical slipping, sliding and potential falling. While none of this actually happened to me there were several close calls. Never has Joseph Conrad’s words “The horror… the horror” rang so true.
Three weeks in Australia resulted in more photographs taken than anyone would ever want to see. Perusing these pictures earlier today, I noticed something not unique to my travels but different from the typical traveler; very few pictures of women. Family members and friends who are not likely to enjoy bare-chested 20 somethings might prefer to skip this slide show. I on the other hand will revisit these photographs to keep me motivated and to get my lazy ass to the gym through out this winter.
I’m sitting at my favorite coffee shop – QV bar cafe in the Queen Victoria Building sipping my last cup of coffee (a.k.a. long black) as slowly as I can to savor and reflect upon the past 2.5 weeks in Australia. My favorite barista in Sydney (Chris – pictures of this handsome coffee maestro will follow) has made me my last cup of coffee and when I’m done I need to go back to my hotel to pack what can only be described as a mountain of dirty clothes; not an enviable chore.
The ‘saudade‘ I feel in anticipation of my pending departure is sweet because this has been a fantastic trip exceeding my expectations in more ways than I can adequately describe. After I return home I will download my pictures and videos to share. I’ll also add my commentary about what I did and what I would recommend others do if / when they travel here so if you know anyone considering a trip to Australia, please feel free to send me a comment. I can guarantee that I will not tire of talking about Australia for quite awhile.