a blog about seeing the world

Pies in the park: a visit to Sydney

Warm, sunny days, waterfront eateries, good beer, and beautiful parks are the recipe for a perfect city experience. And that’s exactly what we got during our two days in Sydney.

After an unappealing drive in through the suburbs, we checked into a hostel in Glebe, a lovely residential neighborhood lined with cafes and large trees. Leaves fluttered down and collected on the shaded sidewalks in crisp, cool autumn perfection.

Sydney’s harbor is as beautiful as we’ve always heard. We wandered along the docks in Darling Harbor in the morning—taking note of upcoming happy hour specials—and made our way out onto the Harbor Bridge.

Our first glimpse of the water at Darling Harbor.

Midway across, the sun cast the bridge’s shadow onto the sparkling blue harbor, and illuminated boats of all sizes that ply its waters. Scalloped dark green shores extended into the distance and the city’s iconic Opera House lured wandering eyes directly below.

We expected the Opera House to disappoint. Synonymous with Australia, slapped on a million postcards, and featured in many a token travel photo, the Opera House is victim to the kind of overexposure that often ends in letdown upon seeing the real thing. But it’s awesome. As we walked further across the bridge, the differing angles changed the shape of the sails entirely, giving it a totally new look. Up close, it’s even better. The tiled roof— actually, those of three separate buildings— soars into the sky, sloping gracefully away from your eyes, with the harbor and bridge as an unbeatable backdrop.

Landmarks aside, Sydney’s incredible Royal Botanic Gardens were by far the highlight.  The 75-acre gardens hold countless plants from all over the world, arranged aesthetically for maximum pastoral enjoyment. Enormous fig trees spread shade over swaths of grass, their thick branches almost skimming the ground. Vegetation of all shades and shaped is scattered around, while birds and flying foxes twitter from the treetops. At a turn of the trail, you can find yourself in a different environment— from the Oriental Gardens to the Rainforest Walk to the Fernery and the succulents. It’s just incredible. And it’s free.

One of the garden's many sprawling fig trees.

A perfect mix of garden and open space— this is how to design a city park.

The cool and quiet Fernery was a favorite spot.

 As evening fell, we retraced our steps to take advantage of the daily deals and happy hour specials we had so cleverly committed to memory. Beer specials and $10 steaks on the waterfront? Yes, please.

On our second and last day in the city, we woke early, crafted a plan that centered around consuming meat-filled pastries, and began carrying it out with merciless precision.

A morning stroll through Hyde Park.

Good timing...

A tram ride to the city center, a walk through downtown, and a return to the Botanic Gardens filled our morning, and then we began filling ourselves with Argentinean empanadas and Australian meat pies.

These pastries look like they popped out of a Martha Stewart catalogue, and are filled with something fancy, like rose-infused rhubarb or lavender and peaches, don’t they? Well, they’re not.

The park’s picturesque trails are also a magnet for exercise enthusiasts. Legions of excessively fit, spandex-clad joggers zoomed past. Others did crunches and push-ups, ran up stairs, ran down stairs, huffed, puffed, checked their exercise gadgetry and shouted out times and distances and they blew by. It was quite amusing, really. Still laden down with carnivorous delights and buttery crust, we waddled slowly along the fringes of the path to avoid being trampled by triatheletes.

The rest of our time was spent wandering around and exploring a handful of Sydney’s many neighborhoods. A favorite was The Rocks: an old, quiet part of the city tucked between the bridge and the Opera House.

Unfortunately, the perfect weather broke in the afternoon, and as rain started to fall we were forced inside… inside the nearest pub to be exact. Our fine-tuned fiscal reserve went out the window in the presence of so many frothy temptations.

We spent a whopping $100 on beer in our two days here. To be fair, beer is ridiculously expensive in this country, especially if you want it to taste like anything. For the sake of our budget, it was time to leave.

Sydney does not even make it into the top fifty of the world’s largest cities, but it now ranks right up there on our list of favorites. It might have been a factor of the excellent weather, the tasty food, or the lovely neighborhoods we saw, but we hope to be back.

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4 responses

  1. Jesse Littlefield

    That pic of Nate is so funny! Those pastries do look delicious! That was a nice glimpse of Sydney! Looks beautiful!

    May 30, 2011 at 11:34 pm

  2. Tanya Casavant

    Next travel destination: Sydney

    June 1, 2011 at 12:08 am

  3. Pingback: Australia Through Five Eyes «

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