Pic of the Week – Sunset over Sydney Harbour Bridge

I’ve been writing a lot about our Australian adventure recently, as so much of that trip was filled with “pinch me” style moments.  Is this real?  Are we really here?  Am I really staring at these beautiful Sydney landmarks?  Yes, yes, and yes.  And in the spirit of keeping those pinch me moments at the forefront of my memory, here is the beautiful Sydney Harbour Bridge at sunset.

sydney harbour bridge
Sunset over Sydney ❤ ❤ ❤

Do you come from a land down under? Our Honeymoon, Sydney, AUS

Our honeymoon was a three week long Australian adventure that I will never, ever forget.  My husband and I came to an agreement, I plan and pay for the wedding, he plans and pays for the honeymoon.  He definitely got the better end of that deal, but I’d rather have myself in charge of venue decor and planning than him (sorry hun!).  So with a lot of planning came a lot of excitement, and stepping onto that Qantas flight (aka the greatest airline of all time) in L.A. started the most incredible adventure.

Precious cargo present and accounted for!

We touched down in Sydney at around 530am local time after a 15 hour flight.  I slept like a baby and was hopped up on adrenaline by the time we landed.  After assuring customs we had no animals and flora of any kind (suck it Johnny Depp & Amber Heard), we shoved our bag’s into a taxi and headed for the Sheraton on the Park Hotel (for those that watch Keeping up with Kardashian, Khloe stayed here, and for those that watch Real Housewives of Melbourne, Season 2 Gamble takes the crew here.  I watch both, no regrets and no shame).  By some miracle, our room was ready for us at the crack of dawn, and we were able to go upstairs, shower and freshen up a bit before our walking tour.  We ended up watching the Red Sox Saturday night game in the US on Sunday morning which certainly tickled us.  This trip happened in October 2013 so for all you Red Sox fans out there, you know it was a big year. 🙂

Upon freshening up we ventured out to our free walking tour to help acclimate ourselves with the city.  Walking tours are the best! I know, I know, you hear that a lot from me.  This walking tour was 3-4 hours in length, and gave us a history of the city, took us to an area called The Rocks (where we returned to later), and obviously, the Sydney Harbor Waterfront.  Seeing the Sydney Opera House was surreal.  Australia was always one of those places that I loved the thought of, but never actually thought I’d see, in person.  But there we were, staring at it, and the view never got old.  Pinch me!

Sydney Harbor
The Sydney Opera House!!

I can’t remember how we spent the rest of our day, but the next few days were jam picked full of fun little adventures.  We took a ferry ride over to Manly and hiked along the waterfront paths to get a gorgeous view of Sydney.  We also checked out the beach, enjoyed some of the beach front shops, and headed back to Sydney for a night at the Opera House.  I was so excited to get dolled up and head to a show a world away.  I should have put that as one of my bucket list items!

night at the opera
Off to see South Pacific!

One of the great things we both loved about Sydney, is the access to beaches.  It’s rare to find a city that also incorporates beach culture, and we loved it!  We took public transportation (a bus) over to Bondi Beach the following day to complete the Bondi to Cogee beach walk.  And what a breathtaking walk that was!  It’s a beautiful hilly hike along beachside cliffs and into small little coves of beaches.  My husband stopped to swim while I sunned myself, and literally watched a men’s bathing suit print-ad being shot.  I asked the make-up artist what it was for and he was shooting the cover for GQ.  Naturally I used our DSLR camera to try and sneak in a few shots of my own.  After our Zoolander style interaction, we continued along the walk finally reaching Cogee, eating a delightful little meal at Moo Burger.  My husband was thrilled as he’s a barbecue sauce not a ketchup guy, and Moo Burger gave a Costco sized bottle of BBQ for his use and pleasure.  So rare!

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One of the natural salt water pools at Bondi Beach. So cool watching the waves crash into the pools while people swim.

After heading back to Sydney we truly enjoyed walking around and exploring new neighborhoods.  Yelp! really came in handy here to find places to eat.  As a result, we wandered into the Surry Hills neighborhood of Sydney and had dinner at Il Baretto and rolled our full and fabulous bellies back to the hotel.

When I go on vacation I like to pick up a Christmas tree ornament from everywhere I go.  I call it my travel tree, and I love to unwrap the ornament and ever so briefly be taken back to that spot or that moment where the ornament was bought.  My husband on the other hand, likes to visit aquariums.  So to the Sydney Aquarium we went!  The Sydney Aquarium was fabulous, though my husband would be the better person to provide a review.  We had a great time there and that’s all that matters.  We even bought a small bottle of vegemite.  I was too scared to try it after my husband almost spit it out, but when in Rome.  Peanut butter is not for the Europeans and Vegemite is not for us.

Sydney Aquarium
Checking out the fish

Now many people on Trip Advisor mentioned to do the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb.  I am very much afraid of heights, and while I probably could have done it, it was very expensive.  Many reviewers mentioned that while a wonderful and unique experience, you can see many of the same views by simply walking over the Sydney Harbor bridge.  So we saved a pretty penny and spent the rest of our time walking through Sydney’s botanical gardens, taking in the sights, and even going on a whale watch.  We did in fact spot a few!

whale watch

Sydney was such a wonderful and welcoming city that I hope to someday go back.  With the first leg of our honeymoon complete, we headed to up to Cairns for a week in Port Douglas.  Great Barrier Reef here we come!

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Sydney Harbor Bridge
bird cage
Forgotten songs art installation. Alleyway with hanging bird cages with bird calls from extinct or endangered birds.
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Overlooking Sydney from one of our hikes in Manly. Manly is 15-20 minutes ferry ride from Sydney with beautiful beaches, hikes, and cliff walks.
Heading out on whale watch and admiring the view of Sydney
surfin bondi
Surfers at Bondi
manly beach
Manly Beach! It was a beautiful day for a dip!

The Beauty of a Walking Tour

Ah the walking tour.  If you’re anything like me you’re probably thinking that a walking tour equals an umbrella wielding guide in an old colored woolen jacket trying to coral a gaggle of foreign tourists down the street while shouting “this way! this way!”.

Well, walking tours have started to get a bit of a face lift, and are really worth using to your advantage.  I know there are plenty of free apps out there that provide maps and walking tour information, but when visiting a foreign country, my husband and I like being social.  We like meeting new people and talking with inevitably the local who is leading the tour. Tour guides are full of local knowledge and always provide recommendations that are off the beaten the path.

My main disclaimer here is that not all travel destinations will offer or even need a walking tour, but if you’re in a city, there’s a fair chance you can find a ton that fit your taste and requirements.

So why walking tours? They are a great way to get acclimated to a new city, as well as find new areas, restaurants, sample local fare, and get really great tidbits.  When we touched down in Sydney, Australia, the first thing we did (after we showered, changed, and face-timed my parents) was a walking tour…and it was free!  For three hours twelve of us explored Sydney with an incredible guide during the I’m Free Walking Tour.   The tour hit on all the sweet spots, and as someone who loves ice cream, the tour guide gave us a fantastic gelato recommendation (the Robert Brownie Jr was to die for!).  Since a walking tour is just a taste, my husband and I were able to identify areas of the city or landmarks we wanted to explore further, and were thrilled that we were able to spend our first day staring at the Sydney Opera House.  Granted – we had a whole week to explore Sydney, but what should you do if you’ve got only 24 hours to spare and are moving on to some place new?

aussie gelatoWe have also been in that situation* and there are many paid tours out there that focus on culture immersion (predominantly around food and wine).  I also find this to be an incredible way to see hole in the wall little spots and find out what the heck this place you’ve decided to visit is all about.  My husband and I put that to the test in Lisbon, Portugal, where we only had about a day and a half to really explore the city.  As a result – we chose a half day walking tour with Inside Lisbon that involved stops at local pastry shops, butcheries, wine and cheese shops, and Ginjhina bars littered throughout.  We also learned about the city’s history as it related to the Moor’s, and were taken to so many different neighborhoods along the way, including a ferry ride to a great seaside restaurant for lunch.  While I’d like to think we would have ambled in for a shot of ginjhina on our own, knowing the backstory really made us feel like one of the locals.

pastries belemSo while we love a walking tour, they’re not for everyone, and they’re not always available.  However, they offer a great opportunity to help you not only acclimate yourself to a city, but immerse yourself in it, even if you only have 24 hours or so to enjoy it.  Personally, I’m looking forward to our next tour – a walking food tour of Italy.  Stay tuned for that!

*Note: we also went on a walking tour in Seville, Spain, separate post on that later!