So after three and a half weeks with my family in the Philippines
and three and a half months in Asia, Anthony and I headed out for our final continent. We took a midnight flight to Sydney on a Filipino airline that cost a fraction of the other airlines — $280 on Cebu Pacific vs $1100 everywhere else. No movies, food or blankets. I expected to find the seats outside the plane and the wings missing. But we flew eight hours without incident. Watched a beautiful sunrise from the plane. Looked like a rainbow with so many layers of colors. Also I took some sort of magic pill to combat my still-ohsopresent-fear-of-
flying and suddenly the skies were a muchhhhhhh friendlier place. When we were going through customs in Sydney, the agent told me I look different than my passport photo, which was taken back in October when I renewed. “You look much younger now. More relaxed.” At that very moment I knew this trip had been a success. Mission accomplished. I’ll need to travel much more please. Although now that I’m writing this I wonder if it had less to do with the restorative power of vacation and relaxing and more to do with the magic pills.
It’s weird to be back in a country where we can get into a taxi at the airport and not worry about a language barrier. With the exception of 5 days In Amsterdam back in June, this is the first place since leaving the States where everyone speaks English. I love the language barrier thing, but very excited to be in Oz. Our first stop: Sydney. And it is beautiful. Fell in love with the harbor as soon as we walked up and saw the bridge and the opera house. Iconic, breathtaking, the holy grail of scenic photo ops. 790 photos later both of my cameras died from overusage. Anthony and I did the bridge climb, locked into the structure and looking like Wiggles about to skydive in our jumpsuits and harnesses.
We stayed in Bondi Beach and it is truly stunning. A huge white sand beach flanked by baths, or salt water swimming pools, on either side. There is a beautiful walk up on the cliffs from Bondi to Bronte Beach, passing by Tamarama Beach in the middle of the two, which is actually my favorite of the three — a little quieter and filled with surfers. Anthony surfed one afternoon and I still don’t know how he did it. It’s spring here, heading toward summer, and the days are hot hot hot but the water is still ice cold. We stayed in a great B&B for a couple of nights called Bondi Beach Hotel, which was filled with vintage art and sweet rooms and super homey, then we extended our stay and had to move to another place also called Bondi Beach Hotel, only this one was a hostel and filled with every unwashed backpacker to ever come through Australia. I was the oldest person there by 27 years and I had to fight the urge to tell everyone to clean up after themselves and put their dishes away. But Sydney was packed and it was all we could find for under $300/night. Sydney, like the rest of Australia, is expensive. A bottle of Coke equals $3.50 US; same for a regular black coffee. My beloved flat white — like a latte with less foam — is another $1 more. Meals and hotels and taxis are more even than New York. Minimum wage is the equivalent of $15 US, and that applies to everyone, including servers and bartenders. We met a guy who makes coffee for $25 US a hour. I’m moving here if nothing else pans out for me. Speaking of moving here, we got to see one of Anthony’s old friends who is from Italy but moved to Sydney five years ago. Giovanni lived in our hometown of Kansas City years ago and became friends with Anthony and his brother. Last week the three of us went to dinner at Ume, a cute little amazing Japanese place in hipster-y Surry Hills (my favorite area of Sydney). My long-lost cousin Nina is the sous chef there. Her parents gave me her info when we were in Manila, so we got to meet her and have a 13-course dinner at the same time. She is the coolest and I’m still dreaming about the raw seared scallops and the lamb shoulder. Went out for drinks after she closed the restaurant, a feat in itself as the bars in Sydney have a midnight lockout — no one in or out after 12 midnight — and most close at 1am. As a result the streets were so beautiful and quiet at night, devoid of drunks or people yelling then vomiting on the sidewalk. But to find the rare bar that’s allowed to stay open you have to walk a bit more which was fine by us. The streets looked like something out of a movie set, maybe from the West Village back in the 60s, with their old building facades and storefronts preserved from an earlier era. Inside though we were told the places were completely renovated and some of the most expensive property in Australia. Ah and reason #456 I love traveling: we found a bar in Bondi that showed the all-important Royals game (Anthony has found a way to watch every single playoff game this past month) and met 3 other people from Kansas City while there. We had drinks and watched the game with them then headed to the beach together. You never know who you’re going to find. I love it. Off to Melbourne now to see some friends and (my sister’s) extended family. G’day mate.
PS We tried Vegemite and I still cannot understand why anyone would eat this unless they were dying from lack of sodium or were forced to consume it under penalty of death. We just got to Melbourne where we are staying with my sister’s boyfriend Dan and his family. Dan, an Aussie who is here right now visiting home, has promised to make me a better version. Wish me luck.
Where we stayed in Sydney:
Bondi Beach House (loved this B&B)
Bondi Beachhouse YHA (I don’t recommend this place for even a hot second unless you’re a) in college b) never got and reallllly want the backpackers/hosteling experience)
The lengths I will go to for the perfect picture — I call this Koala pose: