So I realize my last blog post was a little different than the others, but I needed a way to share a link to a writing sample while applying for Elite Daily. It worked- I was accepted as a contributing writer to the website and I’m super excited to begin working on articles! But for now, this blog is my travel journal and I have a lot to share about this past weekend!
First off, let me say that I never imagined I would love a city more than I loved London, England after visiting my junior year of high school. I really think I love Sydney just as much- if not more. I signed up for an excursion (my first as I have to pick and choose selectively to meet my parent’s budget) and wasn’t sure what to expect, but this trip far exceeded my expectations. We never had a dull moment and it was all so well run (props to our tour guides). We left last Thursday night, lugging our weekend bags and boxes of goon (the cheap wine marketed towards poor uni students like myself). The charter bus ride was brutal- it took ten hours to get to Sydney and as you can imagine, trying to sleep on a charter bus is no simple feat. We entered Sydney in a torrential downpour- which was indicative of the weather we would endure the entire weekend, unfortunately. It rained every single day and we rarely saw sunshine- but we still managed to have an absolute blast and get as much as we could out of the experience! I’ll break the weekend into subtitles so I can hit all of the important parts of the trip…
Walking Tour & Harbor Cruise Around Sydney
As soon as we got there we had a small breakfast and then set out into the city to explore. I made my most important purchase early on- a $6 umbrella from 7/11 that became my best friend in the misty weather. The first stop on our walk was the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park. The Anzac memorial is a memorial to Australia’s soldiers in World War I, but every year on April 25th Australians celebrate Anzac Day as a tribute to their veterans (similiar to our Memorial Day). Anzac comes from an acronym for Australia and New Zealand’s Army Corps. We learned that Australia is the only country to have taken part in all major world wars, a factor that I feel is vastly underappreaciated. It’s hard to imagine the people from Australia’s sunny beaches being anything more than peaceful and content, but I now know that Australia is extremely proud of their military culture. I would love to do more research on this in the future!
Inside view of the Anzac Memorial
We also toured St. Mary’s Cathedral, which was absolutely magnificent. This is the oldest cathedral in Sydney and the walls told pictures of Jesus’ crucifixition and ressurection. My favorite part of the walking tour was the Royal Botanical Garden. It houses Australia’s most beautiful plants and flowers, many with colors I could never capture on a camera. Because of the rain, we got a little “bonus” and were able to go in the Art Gallery of New South Wales for a few minutes. It reminded me of visiting the art gallery in Chicago with my mom when I was little and I knew she would’ve appreciated it. My favorite part was the Aboriginal artwork, including an exhibit of funeral poles that looked like Native American totem poles.
One of the gorgeous flowers in the Botanical Garden
From there we went on to see the Sydney Opera House. It was surreal to be able to see this building because it is so widely talked about in the United States. I must say- in the spirit of honesty- it was smaller than I expected. I was picturing massive shell-shapes but in reality they were about the height of a medium-sized building. The area was a little flawed by construction, but I knew that the grandeur of the architecture would be more impressive from a harbor view (it was, as I found out later). Finally, we ended the tour by going halfway up the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The view was insane- it gave a beautiful perspective from the city and was a prime spot for our touristy picture-taking. The whole city is like a much warmer London, which might explain why I loved it so much, and is also incredibly impressive given that Australia really has only had about 200 years to develop its culture (outside of the original Aboriginal culture of course).
Sydney Opera House from the Sydney Harbor Bridge
After that we returned to our hostel and took naps- we were wiped out after the bus ride and walking tour. That night we went on a cruise around Sydney Harbor- a tour rightfully dubbed the Booze Cruise. The cruise bar was free all night, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. I love being on boats of any kind- just being able to look over the railing and see water all around makes me feel so free. We got a great view of the city at night and the Sydney Opera House looked much better from a frontal view, especially lit up in the dark. It was such a great night being able to meet and socialize with the other group members (there were 100 of us!) and I was dead tired by the time we got back to the hostel.
The Three Sisters/Mardi Gras
On Saturday the rain really began to take its toll. We woke up early in the morning to take a bus to the Blue Mountains to see ‘Australia’s Grand Canyon.’ I was really looking forward to this event because I love the Grand Canyon in the United States (I’ve hiked it twice already and am hoping to go back next year). When we got off the bus, however, all we saw was a blank sheet of white in front of us. Looking off from the lookout points it seemed like you were on the edge of the universe, with nothing on the other side. You could barely see a person ten feet in front of you, much less miles of rocks and canyons. You can’t bargain with the weather but I was truly disappointed. Therefore I’m using this as motivation to come back someday (hopefully at a time when the sun decides to come out)! We managed to make our way down a flight of insanely steep stairs to a tiny bridge adjacent to one of The Three Sisters. The Three Sisters are three giant pillars of rock and our guide told us the Aborigine myth behind them. According to legend, three beautiful sisters, identical triplets, all lived together in an Aborigine tribe. One day a prominent and wealthy man from another tribe came in search of the most beautiful wife he could find to take back with him. He chose one of the sisters, but the trio didn’t want to be separated so they began tricking him and substituting themselves for each other whenever he wasn’t looking. They planned to all three go back to the neighboring tribe with the man. Unfortunately, their scheme was found out and the man was so angry at being deceived that he turned all three sisters into stones. I wasn’t sure what the moral of this was supposed to be, but I’ll pretend it was something about how men are mean and that’s why you should always stick with your girlfriends. :) Anyway, so that was the story behind the three sisters. I only wish I could’ve actually seen them through the fog!
The only decent view of Sister #1
When we got back from our rainy excursion we had a few hours to get ready for the main event: Mardi Gras. I have never been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans (although it’s definitely on my bucket list), but apparently Mardi Gras in Sydney is much different. Our tour guide told us that Sydney has a huge gay community and is one of the most accepting places for homosexuality in the world. I thought this was very revealing about the laid-back culture I love in Australia so I was excited to take part. The Mardi Gras parade is essentially a festival to celebrate and support the gay and lesbian community. Although homosexuality is and always has been a huge controversy in the United States and I have yet to identify my own feelings on the matter with complete certainty, I am a true believer in exposing yourself to other perspectives and lifestyles. I think you don’t necessarily have to agree with something in order to like or love people who feel differently. I wouldn’t want anyone to judge me on my beliefs so I choose not judge others based on theirs. Anyway, our tour guide told us that the dress code is basically anything-goes at the parade so my friends and I went to a nearby market to pick up cheap boas and fake eyelashes and whatnot. I love dressing up so I was super excited about the opportunity. The parade itself was wild! We had our own club on the main street the parade ran through, so we could grab drinks at the bar and dance in the club or go down to the street to see the festivities. Everyone- gay, straight, young, old, female, male, and in-between- stood on milk crates to be able to see the colorful floats celebrating sexuality and the LGBT community going by. After the parade ended, the streets were filled with people celebrating and walking around in wild costumes and coming in and out of clubs and bars. I had a great time dancing in our club and I absolutely loved the dj. It was such a fun and unique night!
Picture taken by my friend Taylor Larkowski of the parade going by
Ferry Ride/Manly & Bondi Beach
The next morning we set out early again and took a ferry from Sydney Harbor to Manly Beach. Once again, it rained but I still wore my bathing suit and even got in the water for a little bit. There were surfers everywhere enjoying the choppy waves the weather brought- they are truly fearless. I spent the majority of the time in a bar near the beach in conversation with one of our tour guides, Lawrence. This kid literally has the coolest lifestyle ever and I loved his stories. He builds yurts for a living (had to Google that one but it turns out they’re like little tiny houses), surfs, thinks that all Westernized government is corrupt, hates pedophiles with a passion (then again, who doesn’t), and looks like Jesus. After leading the tour he was heading off to Thailand for two weeks for ‘holiday.’ I have to admit, I’m insanely jealous of his lifestyle- he seems genuinely content and like he has all kinds of adventures. I would love to live like that- to do something I love, feel strongly about things and want to change them, and to be able to travel wherever I want. I hope I can have a future like that- actually, I know I can if I choose to. Anyway, from there we took the ferry back across the Harbor and took the bus to Bondi Beach. It was STILL raining when we got to this famous beach but the views were absolutely magnificent. We took a little walk around the edges of the beaches and got to play on the cliffs for awhile. The cliffs, the ocean, the crabs hiding beneath the rocks- it was all just so perfect. I couldn’t imagine being able to look out your window and see that every day. It was the perfect finale to an incredible weekend.
After that we said goodbye to our tour guides and got back on the bus for another long trip home. I was really sad to be leaving Sydney but I am really hoping to go back there someday. I read a statistic on the back of a bathroom stall in the hostel that said 94% of travelers will only visit Australia once. I definitely hope to be part of the 6% who break that trend. Time is catching up to me- I realized on returning back to Bond that I only have 38 days left until the date of my final exam… and then it’s time to go home. I feel like there is so much left to do and see so I’m going to squeeze as much as I can into these next few weeks. My friend Mitch is coming to visit this weekend so I can’t wait to show him around the Gold Coast- I know he’ll love it. I’ll be sure to share all about our weekend!