When I began planning our epic adventure to Australia and New Zealand, it was firmly with the “go big or go home” mentality. As I’m sure you can imagine, it takes a lot of time and resources to venture to that side of the world, so we figured this would be the only time we’d go there, that this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. After one day in Sydney, we realized how foolish that assumption was. Yes, it took us nearly 30 hours, four planes, and two days to make it from Detroit to Sydney, but it was 100% worth it, and we looked at each other with knowing smiles and said, “Yup, we’ll be back.”
I’m not going to lie to you, the mere idea of a combined 30 hours flight time is daunting, but I’m here to tell you it’s not that bad. The worst part, honestly, was all the layovers we had, two out of three fairly lengthy (almost four hours in Chicago and six in San Francisco), but the flights themselves were honestly quite manageable.
Because of last-minute packing the night before we left, and having a super early flight out of Detroit for the first stretch of our trip, I got maybe three hours of sleep the night before our departure. By the time we got on our flight to Fiji in San Francisco, I’d been up for about 21 straight hours. By the time we took off and had eaten our dinners, it was probably closer to 24 hours. Which sounds miserable, I know, BUT on the plus side, it also ensured I was super tired for our 11-hour overnight haul. I slept for six relatively uninterrupted hours on that flight, which is pretty much unheard of. Aside from, you know, being utterly exhausted, I also had a super boring audiobook playing while I slept, so whenever I woke up, I was quickly lulled back to sleep out of sheer boredom. I also had a footrest, which sounds kind of weird, I know, but for shorties like me, it helped make me a little more horizontal and it also helps with circulation, so, you know, it was a win-win.
I was also worried about adjusting to the HUGE time change—Sydney is 16 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone in the States, but the hubby and I actually adjusted surprisingly well. I was awake pretty early (probably around 2 am local time in Fiji), but I forced myself to stay awake, and it wasn’t really that hard—I was so excited to be in Sydney!
We stayed in a tiny studio apartment in Darlinghurst, less than a block from Oxford Street, which is the center of the LGBT community. After freshening up, we hit up a little shop near the apartment for sandwiches. We didn’t realize Grill’d was a chain, but they’re all over Australia, and their burgers are delicious. They’re not like a lot of the chains we have in the States, where everything’s cookie-cutter and processed and not very fresh. Everything was so flavorful and so fresh. I had the Bird & Brie, which had a delightful cranberry sauce on it. It was like Christmas in my mouth. I also had a super tasty ginger beer made by Brookvale Union. I drank a lot of ginger beer in Australia, y’all, but this was by far the best. I dream of this ginger beer. I’m really sad I can’t get it in the States.
After a very satisfying lunch, we decided to head toward the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The only thing I had on the docket for that first day was the Sydney Bridge Climb at 4 pm. I was thinking it would be good to do something a little adrenaline-inducing and crazy on our first day, you know, to help with the jetlag and that late-afternoon sleepy slump. We took our time, though, walking through Hyde Park with its ANZAC War Memorial, a WWI memorial; there are actually quite a few monuments in remembrance of both World Wars scattered around Sydney, which is cool, because I think it’s really easy for non-Australians to forget the role that Australia and her soldiers played in both wars.
It was a beautiful day that day, probably close to 80 degrees, the sun was shining. It was almost perfect…right up until the moment we ventured into BridgeClimb Sydney for our first adventure. As we were waiting for our orientation to begin, dark clouds rolled in, the wind picked up, and the heavens opened up. Still, we suited up into our giant onesies, went through the training, got all harnessed, and began our trek across the bridge. The rain was coming down in sheets, but we had raincoats and the view of the opera house was pretty cool. Nope, the rain wasn’t the problem, but there were storms all around us. Ones of the lightning variety. So we had to wait a while before getting the green light to start climbing. About half of our group started climbing before they were told they had to come back down because another storm was rolling in. It was actually pretty cool to see all that crazy lightning off in the distance. So we were all waiting under an overhang, high up over the water when the hail started coming down. TENNIS BALL SIZED HAIL, YOU GUYS. IT WAS CRAZY. The sound was deafening, and the hailstones were so large that we could see them pummeling the water, even from that high up. The next day, the news was calling it an ‘insurance catastrophe.’ Needless to say, we didn’t end up actually being able to do the bridge climb, which was a total bummer. We tried to reschedule, but the only time we could do it was in the late afternoon, which was when the storms had been habitually rolling in. Pretty much everywhere we went in Sydney over the next couple of days, that charming coathanger was in view, and every time we saw people up there climbing the bridge we got so angry. That could have been us, dammit! But on the bright side, we now have the perfect excuse to go back to Sydney. (Look at us, looking on the bright side!)
Unfortunately, we were not prepared for this unexpected deluge of rain when we left our Airbnb earlier in the day; we had no raincoats, no ponchos, no umbrellas. So we had to wait out the rain a little bit in the BridgeClimb building before we made our way to Mr. Wong Chinese restaurant for dinner. Apparently, the crappy weather actually worked to our advantage, and we got a table in fewer than 30 minutes, which I guess is unheard of on a Thursday evening. I’d read about Mr. Wong on several websites and blogs (I’m pretty sure Lonely Planet recommended it as a must-do), and it was pretty delicious, but it was also very expensive. We weren’t prepared for how expensive food was in general in Sydney, but this dinner cost about $140 AUD, which is about $100 American dollars—yikes! And that was for two drinks, a dim sung platter, pork hock, and fried rice. A tip for eating at Mr. Wong: The meals are meant to be shared, and rice is not included with your entree, and it all adds up. On the plus side, we had leftovers to eat another night—bright side, again!
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