As I mentioned in my last post, Liz and I were SO excited to get off that plane. Customs was a little terrifying because I had a cold and had brought some Zicam and other vitamin/medicines with me to survive the flight. Ultimately I decided to chuck them at the airport because I didn’t want to risk getting in trouble with the Aussie Customs Department.
Once we retrieved our bags and made it outside, we felt a bit bewildered. Australia is eerily similar to the US, yet there were some things that were just different and we couldn’t put a finger on what. Maybe it was the Vodafone advertisements… maybe it was the strange accents coming from the PA systems… maybe it was a fact that our shuttle drove on the on the left side of the road?
So yeah, about that shuttle… Liz and I chose to take the KST Airporter from the airport to our hostel. It was a little pricey (about $12-15 AUD), and I’m sure we could have easily taken a bus for less money, but given our exhaustion we just wanted to get to our hostel quickly.
We chose to stay at the Wake Up! Hostel on Pitt and George streets based on the recommendation of a mutual friend. We did some web research prior to booking and found it had good reviews and a very nice website. Liz and I chose to stay in a 4-bed, female only room for $39 AUD a night. I believe the grand total for a 7-night stay was just about $300 AUD (after taxes).
I will be quite frank with you – I’ve never stayed in a hostel before and this hostel didn’t exactly make me a fan. I suppose it was a nice-enough facility, but after talking with Chelsea about her hostel experiences I found this one was severely lacking. The pros? They had a movie room, and a relatively cheap (but yummy) café downstairs. They did offer Internet access, but you had to purchase minutes in chunks of time. According to Chelsea, most hostels allow you to access Wi-Fi for free, and I definitely remember paying about $3 for every 30 minutes of internet use.
The bathrooms started out decent, but by the end of the trip they were absolutely disgusting. Dirty shower stalls and clogged sinks & toilets are not a pretty sight, and there were some hot water issues in the shower. Our room was pretty bare. The walls were painted a bright lime green, and there were two bunk beds with some ridiculous-colored linens covering the uncomfortable mattresses. No artwork or maps of the city or anything. Ultimately I felt like I was staying in a college dorm at the height of sorority rush week, and that really isn’t my scene.
The silver lining to all of this was that my lack of satisfaction with the hostel guaranteed that I spent as much time as possible out and about in the city. Which is exactly what I went there for, right?
THE FIRST WEEKEND
After we checked in and showered, Liz and I met up with my friend Dave. Dave actually used to work with my boyfriend back in the States and had transferred to Sydney to help open up their Apple Store a couple years ago. He proved to be a fantastic resource for us.
The neighborhood that our hostel was in was called Central Station, and conveniently, there is a free bus that runs from Central all the way down to Circular Quay (pronounced “key”) – Home of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, and all of the ferry terminals. The first thing I noticed about the bus was that it was SO clean. There’s no way that a free bus in the US would be that clean.
We spent our first afternoon in Sydney exploring Circular Quay, Sydney Harbor, and the nearby neighborhood known as The Rocks. The harbor was more beautiful in person than I could ever describe. Here are some photos that I took of Circular Quay & Sydney Harbor.
Dave took us to a fabulous pub/restaurant in The Rocks called the Australian Hotel. For lunch we dined on a Rocket Salad, a Kangaroo Pizza, and this fantastic snack known simply as, “wedges.”
Now, before you judge me, you should know that kangaroos are to Australians as cows are to Americans. They are seen as a food source and not just a cute bouncy animal. In Australia, “rocket,” is actually what we Americans would call arugula. So my salad was a bowl of arugula with fresh shaved Parmesan cheese and Balsamic vinegar. The Kangaroo Pizza was actually really good. Kangaroo meat is really lean, and has a slight game-y flavor. I’d say it compares closest to venison if you’re looking for a comparison.
Oh, and the wedges. These things deserve their own paragraph. All they really are is a seasoned potato wedge that you dip in sour cream, and then sweet chili oil. I know it sounds strange, but it is seriously the greatest snack ever. With a pint… with your breakfast… I swear, I could eat wedges at any time of the day!
I realized that I’ve forgotten to mention this fact – food in Australia is RIDICULOUSLY expensive, however you don’t have to tip. Service workers in Australia are (theoretically) paid well enough so you don’t leave a tip unless you feel the service is beyond fantastic. Obviously, the higher price of food makes up for the fact that you don’t tip.
On the weekends there is a great open-air market in the Rocks neighborhood aptly named: The Rocks Market. There are so many amazing vendors selling every type of ware that you can think of. I found a few souvenirs for my family, but I think my favorite vendor was the man who sold homemade licorice. His candy was so beautiful and tasty! It seriously puts Red Vines and Sour Vines to shame.
I understand that this post is insanely long, and thank you so much for sticking through until the end! There’s one last thing that I must mention to you in this post… Pancakes on the Rocks.
This restaurant was SO good. It was actually the only place that we ate at more than once the entire time we were in Sydney. I have no idea what they put in their pancakes but they are the fluffiest, most yummy things that I’ve EVER eaten. Pancakes on the Rocks is open 24/7, so you can fulfill your pancake cravings at any time of the day. I kid you not, if I could get a visa I’d move to Sydney mainly so I could eat there every Sunday.
I think this is where I’m going to end this post… It’s been a long one, and there’s still so much more to say! Keep your eyes open though, you can expect posts on Darling Harbour, the Taronga Zoo, the Hunter Valley, and Manly in the near future.
xxx (<– that’s British for “xoxo”)