I think our 24-hour stopover in Sydney has to be one of the most surreal moments of our entire trip: firstly, because of how oddly familiar it all felt and secondly, by the fact we’d been dealt a rather strange but beautiful round of weather, which made every scene light up in golden orange shimmers, all tied up with a beautiful rainbow hanging over the Opera House. It was quite the ‘welcome back’, I must say.
I have to admit that this inexplicably picturesque weather set-up put me in an odd mood; on the one hand wanting to do as much as we possibly could with our time in one of the world’s best cities; and then the other just wanting to sit back and take it all in. Therefore, as somewhat of a compromise with these opposing feelings, we headed down to the world-famous harbour for a drink at the Opera Bar, which I still believe is one of the best places to have a drink in the entire city. Not only does it have a cosmopolitan vibe that could compete with any rooftop bar in New York , but it also possesses uninhibited views of two of the world’s most recognisable feats of architecture: the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Whilst James was in the loo and I sat contemplating my thoughts with a very overly-friendly seagull, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a hilarious story I’d read that day in Bill Bryson’s informative yet laugh out loud tome ‘Down Under’. Apparently, after a worldwide search for the right architect to design the Opera House, the task fell to Danish designer Jørn Utzon. Although this might sound like the accolade to end all others, it was a rather sad tale that played out for Utzon considering he was arrested upon entry to Australia for possession of a substantial amount of pornography and unfortunately never got to see his masterpiece in the flesh. Or as Bill Bryson so perfectly puts it the poor guy “missed out on arguably his greatest erection”. I defy anyone not to have a giggle at this hilarious yet tragic irony. Well, me and the seagull did anyway.
This rather out of character diversion in my writing completely sums up my experience of Sydney really. It was the only place I felt the strange twilight-zone sensation that I had never left (from when I visited all those years ago). I guess there’s a lot to be said for a city that has everything: perfect sunshine, bright yellow beaches, cosmopolitan city life, brimming surf culture, picturesque suburban comforts (all with a view of that unforgettable skyline). Sydney really did make me stop and wonder if it really is possible for a place to ‘have it all’…
When we got one of the many harbour ferry rides over to the stunningly quaint little fishing village Watsons Bay for brunch the next morning, I was all the more convinced of Sydney’s perfection. This place looked like it was straight out of a J Crew catalogue and we couldn’t find a better brunch location to confirm this than Dunbar House (pictured below). All I can say is that after sitting on this sunlit veranda of this 1830s mansion with a freshly pressed juice, a plate of French toast lightly dusted with icing sugar and a velvety smooth flat white, I could have sworn I’d morphed in to the catalogue fantasy myself. This morning boat ride across the bay from Circular Quay really couldn’t have been any more faultless if it tried.
So, is Sydney really one of the only cities in the world that can claim to hold the secret of perfection? Well, on our way back from Watsons Bay I was reminded that it might just be short of the mark when I saw all of the shark nets in the sea. Oh yes, we’re still in Australia, I thought to myself and it will always hold that ever-present downside of all of the myriad ways that its landscape and nature could one day do you in before you’ve had a chance to think twice. But, I think this particular trip has made me realise there is so much positive going on here it might even be possible to live here happily in spite of this rather scary fact.
I’m aware that you have been listening to the ramblings of a rather pleasantly stunned person and for this I really do apologise and by way of making up for this I’ve put together a list of must-do activities for Sydney, some of which we did on this visit, and some I encountered on my last, but both of which are no less relevant today:
Circular Quay: Home of the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge… what more could you want?
Darling Harbour: where you’ll find the awesome Aquarium and our dear friends Nemo, Marlin and Dory.
Bondi Beach: One of the most famous surfing beaches in the world with a spectacular retro lido to boot.
Manly Beach: Where they film ‘Home and Away’ – need I say more?
The Botanical Gardens: They’re just so pretty.
The Sydney Sky Tower: To get that ultimate view.
The Blue Mountains: If you’re feeling adventurous!
Otherwise just talk your time and walk around – that really is my favourite thing to do here.