I think it’s finally safe to say…we’ve settled in to daily life in Sydney. We’ve lived here for 7 months now (landed on Oct 17 2014), so you might say “well yeah, of course you’ve settled in”, but here’s what the first 5 months of our time in Sydney looked like:
Land in Sydney and move into temp housing
After 2 weeks we switch temp housing
Pam goes to Korea for a week for work and the day after she comes back…
We find a permanent apartment and the day after that…
Nick goes back to Ottawa for 3 weeks and the day after he comes back…
We move into our permanent apartment, and the next weekend after that…
Nick and Pam go to Vegas (Pam for work), SF, and home to Ottawa for Christmas.
Two weeks after we get back from Ottawa we go to NZ to visit my grandma.
The week after that Pam goes to San Jose for work
A month after that Pam goes back to Korea for work
So after all of that, it really feels like we didn’t really start to put down roots here until March or April!
But, at this point, we’ve explored our neighbourhood, hung our pictures and set up our place. I’ve been thinking about this post for a while and reflecting on how to best portray life in Sydney to our family and friends back home. One of the things that I don’t think we realized until we lived here is just how ubiquitous the Harbour Bridge and Opera House are. They’re almost always in the background somewhere, and so iconic that I can’t help but take a million photos.
THE OPERA HOUSE
Fun fact: most people think that the Opera House distinctive shape is meant to evoke sails. Actually, that wasn’t the intention – the shapes are simply parts of a sphere. You can read all about the Opera House at the Wikipedia article, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Opera_House
THE HARBOUR BRIDGE
Fun fact: the Harbour Bridge is sometimes called “the coat hanger” due to its shape, and always just called “the bridge” by Sydneysiders. You can read about the Harbour Bridge at the Wikipedia article, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Harbour_Bridge
Here are some other photos of our day to day lives here in Sydney:
Sydney is a stunningly beautiful place and one of the best ways that Nick and I have found to explore it has been via the many walks Sydney has to offer. We thought we would share some of our favourites!
This is our definite favourite of the walks we’ve done. It’s a decent workout (10km with some ups and downs), it’s fun (at high tide you might have to swim part of the trail near Forty Baskets beach, or take a pretty significant stairway…we opted to wade), there’s lots of friendly native wildlife (water dragons and golden orb spiders abound), it ends at Manly Cove (my favourite swimming spot – and steps away from a local brewery, 4 Pines), and taking the ferry back to Sydney is always a pleasure.
Bondi to Bronte (ok, Coogee)
So, technically this walk is Bondi to Coogee, but Nick and I have only made it to Bronte. We couldn’t figure out how to stay on the trail (and not walk through normal town streets) and get to Coogee from Bronte. Granted, we didn’t try very hard as it was an extremely hot day and we wanted to go for a swim in the gorgeous Bronte ocean pool.
The Bondi-to-Coogee walk begins at the Icebergs in Bondi, which is a cool combination pool club/restaurant/bar. They bill themselves as “The Home of Winter Swimming”. From there, a cliffside path wanders along the edge of beautiful rocky cliffs looking down at the gorgeous ocean below.
The Bondi to Bronte walk is about 4km long (with some ups and downs so it can be a bit of a workout) and to hit Coogee will take you another 5km (same), which is why we opted to stay at the Bronte pool on a 30 degree day in January.
Manly Beach to Shelly Beach
OK, this is a totally short walk, but it’s great for strollers or if you’re not super fit, and bonus! you can hang out at gorgeous Shelly Beach and escape the Manly Beach crowds.
From the Manly ferry terminal, which is likely where you’ll be arriving if you are based in Sydney, it’s just a short 20 to 25 minute walk (depending on your pace and the crowd) along a lovely scenic walkway peppered with sculptures, water dragons, and amazing views (Weekend Notes has a more detailed recap).
Pam’s Daily Commute
I know, a bit funny to include this one, but I just love my daily commute! It’s a 15 minute walk to the office through a leafy pathway, across the Pyrmont “town square”, with a stroll beside pubs, shops, cafes, and restaurants, and finally across Darling Harbour on the Pyrmont pedestrian bridge.
I most enjoy the commute in the early morning, when I’m on my way to the gym around 6:15am. It’s so quiet and there’s almost no one else around (although there are always at least a few other people around – I mean this is Sydney, after all), and I’ve seen some lovely sunrises.
Warning: this post contains a lot of photos of food! So don’t bother reading farther if that sort of thing annoys you 🙂
Momofuku, which means “lucky peach”, was started in NYC in 2004 by David Chang, as Momofuku Noodle Bar. The Noodle Bar began as a typical ramen restaurant but soon exploded in popularity when Chef Chang gave the team of cooks permission to use whatever ingredients they liked and cook however they wanted. You can read more than you ever wanted to know about Momofuku at the Wikipedia article – but suffice it to say there are now 12 Momofuku restaurants worldwide, each with a different theme or specialty, along with several “milk bars” (bakeries) in NY.
Momofuku seiōbo was the first Momofuku restaurant to open outside of New York, in 2011, right in our very own backyard (it’s about a 10 minute walk away from our apartment), and we were very excited to check it out.
We made a booking for Feb 19th, the 5th anniversary of the first night we went on a date. BTW, you can only make bookings online, and only about 3 weeks before the date…needless to say tables book up quickly!
The big night arrived and we got dressed up and headed over to the Star, the casino where seiōbo is located. The door to the restaurant is extremely well hidden, but the staff inside was extremely warm and welcoming.
There is no menu at seiōbo, you hand over your dining experience to the wonderful chefs, who serve something different every night.
We started our night with five “bar snacks”. Right away, we were blown away with the first standout being the little zucchini gems on top of black garlic.
after snacks, the meal really got started: 9 courses with the full wine pairing:
A few weeks ago, Nick and I were at our favourite local pub having a mid-day pint (as one does) and discovered brochures for something amazing: a gay & lesbian Mardi Gras! It’s effectively Sydney’s gay pride festival, stemming from protests in 1978 (homosexuality was still illegal until 1984 in New South Wales). You can read more about the history here at the Wikipedia article. Nick and I learned that Mardi Gras is Sydney’s second-biggest tourist even of the year!
The celebrations began on a Sunday with Mardi Gras fair day – a day of live music, food, and drinks. Next year we will stay for the whole day as we were having a lovely time, but we had a Chinese New Year parade to get to later in the evening.
The following weekend (actually, last night) was the parade. Nick and I were super excited for this event and it did not disappoint. The floats, costumes, and dancers were amazing.
Happy new year! Nick and I celebrated Chinese/Lunar New Year in style this year in Sydney, which seems to celebrate everything in style!
First, there were fireworks to kick off the two weeks of celebrations for the New Year. I went with some friends – Nick missed out on this one as he was stuck at home with a very bad cold.
However, the following week he was back to himself and we spent the day wandering around the festival in Darling Park…
After riding the merry-go-around (we asked, and the woman selling tickets assured us that we can never be too old!), it was off for dinner at Din Tai Fung in downtown Sydney, a world-famous dumpling chain. They had these adorable sheep dumplings for dessert, and we couldn’t pass them up…
After dinner, it was off to find a good spot for the parade – which we did, right up against the guard rails! We had a great view of all of the floats and wonderful costumes.
The parade ended late, so we missed the closing fireworks show in Darling Harbour (which I’m sure was spectacular!), but opted to walk around the paper lantern display in Darling Harbour. The lanterns were beautifully aglow, it was a lovely way to end the evening. Happy new year, everyone!
I turned 30 in September of 2014, and as I predicted, definitely did not achieve all of the items on my list! I did have an amazing time checking off the ones I did complete, and checked off a few other things that weren’t on the list in the meantime.
Of the items left on the “Still To Do” list in September 2013, here’s what I did manage to accomplish:
Take A Course On Wine Tasting: Nick and I attended a one-night seminar at J Lohr in San Jose and learned a lot about what makes a wine sweet vs tart, what gives it that viscous mouthfeel, and how to spot different scents (J Lohr set up about 50 wine glasses with berries, fruits, nuts, coffee, etc mixed in with the wines to help with this – so cool!)
Run a 5k in under 30 minutes: After posting last time that this was a goal I really just needed to suck up and check off, I started a running program and signed up for a 5k color run (that actually turned out to be a grueling 5 miles), and I’m happy to say achieved my goal!….and then promptly abandoned running 🙂
Visit Australia: OK, so even though I technically completed this one a month after my 30th birthday, and technically relocated to vs visited, I’m calling this a win 🙂
So, to recap, here’s the full list, with completed items in bold. Hey, 20 out of 30 ain’t bad!
Skydive (Abel Tasman, NZ, 2012)
Wine tasting tour in California (Sonoma, Napa, Livermore, Paso Robles…you name it – 2012 through 2014)
Visit New Zealand with my brother & sister (2011)
Learn to snowboard or ski (Calabogie, 2011)
Shoot a gun (Stittsville, 2011)
Bungy jump (Queenstown NZ, 2010)
Visit Paris (2009)
Visit London (2009)
Visit somewhere surprising (Tokyo, 2010)
Fly first class (2010)
Get a tattoo (2011)
Visit Vancouver (2012)
Visit Las Vegas (2010)
Take a course on wine tasting (2014)
Run a 5K in 30 minutes or less (2014)
Visit Australia (2014)
Learn to sail
(Re)learn a language
(Re)learn a musical instrument
Stay in a presidential suite
New England Road Trip
Visit every continent (except Antarctica)
Take a last-minute trip
Lose 30 lbs
Be making some progress on some sort of formal education (MBA, Bcom)
The last four are goals that I am not comfortable sharing publicly, but I have achieved them! Yay!
Next up…move some of these to the 40 before 40 list! 🙂
One of the first things on our Australia bucket list was to visit my grandmother in New Zealand. I am very close to my grandmother, and Nick loves her as well, so it was a pretty high priority for us to go and see her as soon as we could. That plan came together during the second-last week of January.
Just to show you how amazing my grandmother is, here’s a picture of her in her heyday as a go-go/cage dancer, after she had given birth to 4 sons:
And without further ado, we were off to the airport!
The first thing we did upon arriving, after settling in, was visit the bustling downtown of Oamaru, which is where my grandmother lives. Oamaru is an adorable Victorian heritage town in the South Island, about 3 hours drive south of Christchurch. It has a stunning, bright blue harbour, gorgeous buildings made from limestone (or “Oamaru stone”), and a Victorian-inspired bustling tourist industry.
There’s also quite the “steampunk” presence in Oamaru – in fact they label themselves as SteamPunk World HQ. If you’re not familiar with the steampunk thing, my understanding is that it’s sort of like Victorian-era machines – more info at the Wikipedia page. Regardless, there’s a steampunk showroom, which we visited, and which has lots of machines you can play around with and climb on:
During our visit, in addition to hanging out with the awesome lady who is my grandmother, we also wanted to do a bit of exploring. Given the short amount of time we had (about 5 days total), we opted for a short road trip down to the Catlins.
The Catlins are a district of NZ on the southeastern coast of the south island. They have the reputation of being isolated, wild, and beautiful, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.
There are also many waterfalls – one of the key activities touted by the Catlins guide is to hike to all of these waterfalls:
The last one – Niagara Falls – must have been named by some homesick Canadian, because they are hardly a waterfall and more maybe more of an eagerly bubbling creek?
Nick and I stopped for dinner at the Niagara Falls Cafe, which calls to mind the words “touristy” and “overpriced”, but was actually really lovely, everything there is home made (I had the salmon, which they smoke in-house!).
Also, one of the daughters of the owner won Bronze, Silver, and Gold in the London 2012 Olympics, and the medals and several photos are on display in the restaurant:
Next up, the petrified forest at Curio Bay. This forest is 180 million years old, and incredibly historically significant as it is one of the most extensive and least disturbed petrified forests in the world.
Then, we headed off to Slope Point, which is the southern-most tip of New Zealand! The South Pole is only a mere 4,803km from where we were standing in the picture below. We could certainly feel the antarctic winds!!
We then went to check out “Jack’s Blowhole” (ha ha). A blowhole is basically a hole in the roof of a sea cave. Jack’s Blowhole is a 55m deep hole 200m inland from the sea, which sounds pretty cool, but in actuality the best part of this little excursion was the beautiful hike there. The blowhole itself was not very special to see.
And one final stop, at the Flying Gypsy, which had been recommended to us by the waiter at dinner the previous night. The Flying Gypsy is an emporium(?) of sorts, full of lots of inventions and machines cobbled together from shells, scrap wood, old toys, etc. It was a very cool place and I would definitely recommend paying the $5 for admission into the “theatre” which is more like a little maze of inventions and machines.
We then made our way back to Oamaru, where we had just one more day trip up our sleeves before we headed back home to Sydney. My grandmother has a ritual of sorts whenever people come to visit her. We always visit the Moeraki Boulders, the town of Moeraki for lunch, and then the ancient Maori Pā.
The boulders are perfectly round huge rocks that emerge out of the cliffside and move down towards the ocean over time on a beach near Moeraki. It’s quite amazing to see and I don’t mind making a ritual of it either.
And lunch in Moeraki is always lovely, as long as you get the fish – it’s a fishing village and the product is always fresh and perfect.
And finally, it was time to close our visit with a trip to the ancient Maori Pā, located in the hills near Moeraki. A pā is a fortified Maori settlement, usually found on a hilltop or headland. It is holy ground and one must be very respectful – no food or trash or disrespectful language is allowed on the pā, and she always gives a respectful greeting before we step onto the holy ground.
I really love visiting the pā, not just because it is truly beautiful, but also because there is amazing wildlife there – lots of birds, sea lions, dolphins, and endangered yellow penguins.
And with that, we dropped grandma off at home in Oamaru, and we headed to Christchurch to catch our flight back home to Oz.