Sydney on a Rain-Soaked Shoestring

Okayyyyyy, so here comes another bullet point blog because, as we have learned, my mind is a dangerous place to be, there are no rules in there and no barriers to keep random thoughts from bounding in without invite. And if you haven’t learned that yet, that means you haven’t read any of my other blogs, so go do that after this yeah? Okay, deal. Moving on, you can definitely spend a ton of time in Sydney and not end up doing everything. This is because, surprise, it’s a massive city. Now, I am a small town girl (how many times can I say that, huh?) and am therefore not the best at traveling around big cities and doing everything I should. That absolutely does not mean you should stray from this blog post! It’s still going to be mildly entertaining, it’ll at least give you something to do while you’re waiting for that pot to boil (Carrie <3). AND, here’s some insider tips on what to do in the city when it rains! The tips are….sit in your hostel room and complain, and then drink cheap wine and play card games.

Kidding. Kind of. “Go to Sydney,” they say, “it’s nice and warm there,” they say, “you’ll get tan.” Anyway, maybe someday I’ll perfect the skill of budget traveling in a city, but until then, we’re gonna talk about the things I DID do. Including this trip and the last trip I did…unless it’s getting too long, and then in that case, fuck the last trip I did. This is a new chapter in life anyway right? And that, kids, is one of those random outbursts that we’re trying to avoid here with the bullet points. Mkay, shall we?

1. The Sydney Opera House!

Obviously I’m going to talk about the star attractions first. To get to the opera house? Super simple, just take the magical train to Circular Quay, it’s actually so hard to not notice it…and then just walk in the direction of the opera house.

I know, thrilling stuff here folks. The second time I saw the opera house (meaning this time) it was still so amazing. It’s so insane to see something that you’ve seen in photos for your whole life, right in front of you, real. Breathtaking really.

The first time I was in Sydney I went to a show at the opera house, Romeo and Juliet. It was actually really decently priced, I used my student ID from Uni because it didn’t have dates on it, which gave me a discount, sue me, but even without the discount it wasn’t outrageous. The show wasn’t upstairs in the well known section of the opera house, it was downstairs in the “Playhouse”, being a play, that oddly made sense. Go figure. Anyway, nothing terribly exciting about it, the play was good, the acting good, more fun really to just be able to say I’ve seen a show at the Sydney Opera House cause I’m a basic bitch. I did try to dress up, however all I had was a terribly put together dress (got it for $5 at Ross) and converse, and I showed up with pop-tarts for dinner.

The life of a backpacker. Anyway, you can do tours of the opera house in which you get to see some of the main theater areas, along with going backstage and such, I did not do any of these seeing as how I’m broke and the cost wasn’t worth it in the eyes of this cheap backpacker. I’m sure it’s a cool experience though.

  • Standard 1 hour tours are $40 AUD (actually so cheap I hate myself)
  • Backstage tours last around two and a half hours and are $175 AUD. This one says you need to have a certain level of fitness, and have on close-toed, rubber bottomed trainers. I’m assuming there’s a lot of stairs?
  • Taste of the Opera House tour runs four hours and is $295 AUD per person. You basically do a restaurant crawl around the opera house’s classy restaurants. Probably have to look nice for this one, I don’t think I would have passed inspection even if I had gotten some brain damage that made me want to spend three hundred dollars on a four-hour food tour.
  • There are language tours available as well in Mandarin, Spanish, Japanese, French, Korean, and German. If you’re reading this, you probably don’t necessarily need that though so….yup. Moving on.

2. Harbour Bridge. This is also located at Circular Quay, but instead of walking toward the Opera House…you walk toward the big bridge.

Shocking stuff, I know. This specific time that I was in Sydney I met up with a friend from home (miss you Britt) and the lovely Bex (previously mentioned as being a room 702 girl) to do our walk around the rocks area and see the sights of the day. We decided to walk across the bridge, because it was finally sunny for a moment and we thought, why the heck not eh? It was fun! Got a few steps in, had a good view of the opera house even though there was some serious fencing in place.

We were going to climb up to the top of one of the towers, but it turns out it cost something like $25 and we’re cheap so we decided no. There were security guards all along the bridge and I would love to know how much they get paid to just stand there all day. Literally, they don’t do anything. We asked one to take a picture of us and he told us he “isn’t allowed to.” Okayyyyy. You can do the Harbour Bridge climb tour, but it is insanely expensive, as can be predicted. Different times of day and times of the year have different prices, but on a regular spring day (meaning right now) they are as follows –

  • Day: Adult $303 AUD, Child $203 AUD
  • Night: Adult $263 AUD, Child $183 AUD
  • Twilight: Adult $368 AUD, Child $258 AUD
  • Dawn: Adult $388 AUD, Child $278 AUD (obviously this one must be the most sought after, I can imagine sunrise on top of the Harbour Bridge is insanely beautiful).

3. The Rocks. This is the area around the bridge and Circular Quay (pronounce ‘key’ by the way…not sure I’ve mentioned that). It’s the oldest area in Sydney and it’s where England sent it’s convicts, yay history! It’s also super fun to do a little pub crawl around or simply wander. There’s tons of cool architecture and little secretive passageways and staircases and such.

Really beautiful actually. And all of the buildings and pubs and restaurants are some of the oldest in Sydney. On the weekends from 10-5 there is a market with food, souvenirs, clothes, etc. It’s a nice little walk around and there’s free samples at some booths (yay free!). Two pub crawl stops that I think are worth mentioning:

  • The Glenmore: this place had a rooftop dining/bar area that is to die for. We were there when the sun had finally peeked out and at semi-peak time and it was insanely busy, but we managed to get a table. We only got some chips and had a few ciders, but what we did have was super tasty, and everything else looked so good as well. And with views toward either the Harbour Bridge or the Opera House (or both depending on where you’ve sat), it’s really quite nice. Check it out if you’re in the Rocks area and are looking for a beer or two. I didn’t take any pictures apparently though so here’s a photo of Britt and I with some ice cream instead.

  • Harbour View Hotel: also a cool ‘rooftop’ type area. It was raining when Britt and I visited, and it was night, but it was still super nice. Decent beer. And a good view is always hard to pass up.

4. Botanic Gardens. I spent a lot of time in the botanic gardens the first time I was in Sydney due to the fact that my hostel was in Potts Point which is on the opposite side of the gardens from the opera house. They’re actually quite nice, and quite large. There’s a point called Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, no idea why. I do recall visiting it and being slightly confused and mostly just antsy to see the opera house up close and in person so I didn’t stick around to check it out for too long. I did get lost every single time I went in to the botanic gardens, by the way. There are sidewalks everywhere going in every direction, it’s insanely confusing. I even had my phone map to look at and I still ended up going the wrong way over and over and over again. Also, here’s a little tip, if you don’t like spiders, don’t look up. Now, I don’t not like spiders…I am absolutely terrified of them, the arachnophobia is so real. The last time I was forced to kill a spider myself I almost had a literal heart attack, I had to sit down and deep breathe to keep myself from passing out. That being said, the botanic gardens have massive spiders with webs strung between the trees in the gardens. Huge. HUGE. I almost had a panic attack, I had to hold myself back from running straight out of the gardens, all I was picturing was huge spiders dropping out of the sky on top of me.

Also, the gardens close at 5:30. I didn’t take that into account when I went to the show at the opera house, and the botanic gardens were my way to and from my hostel at that time. So I got out of the show at…later than 5:30, and I had to figure out a new way back to the hostel. I used my phone’s map and it mapped out a course, man did I think I was witty. Wrong. Google maps does not care that the botanic gardens are closed, they still send you through, I didn’t realize they were sending me that way though because I was on a sidewalk that was directly next to the fence for the gardens. Plot twist, there is a sidewalk directly on the other side of the fence as well…you probably guessed it, google maps thought I was on that sidewalk, and not the sidewalk I was actually on. My sidewalk turned into a smaller sidewalk. And then into a road, a small underpass to be exact. I stood there for a solid five minutes, seriously debating if I was going to climb that fence to the gardens, and finally decided that, while that was a top notch idea, I wasn’t going to do so. So I went with the next best idea: running through the underpass as quickly as I could before a car came up behind me. Really interesting experience by the way, being in a place where only cars are supposed to be as a human not in a car. I did make it before any cars came along, and once on the other side I knew exactly where I was and I made it back to my hostel without putting myself in any other stupid, dangerous situations which I would later tell to people for the pure joy of letting others know just how smart I really am. Anyways, the point was that the botanic gardens, while being infested with 8-legged killers, are a nice area to take a lovely stroll. For some reason the only photo I have of the gardens though is an angry selfie…probably I was just showing how upset I was about the spiders.

5. Bondi Beach. This is a cool area to check out! Unfortunately I don’t have much to say about it because it was pouring when I did go check it out. You can take the ferry there from Circular Quay, but I heard that it’s more on the expensive side. Britt and I took the train to Bondi Junction (‘town’) and then a bus out to Bondi beach.

Full disclosure, I did binge watch the show Bondi Ink on Netflix, so I was geeking out a little bit because I recognized it a little, and then I did proceed to have Britt take a totally nerdy fan-girl photo of me in front of the building.

We were going to do a coast walk that Britt said was absolutely gorgeous, but, as I said, it was pouring. So we stopped at a bar and got a drink instead. It’s decently well known by picture, meaning I recognized it as soon as I saw this pool.

The bar itself was called Icebergs, and we of course had some tasty chips and a beer there. I would have loved to spend more time exploring here, but honestly it was just raining too damn hard and neither of us had rain jackets or umbrellas. So if you visit, let me know what you did!

6. Manly Beach. I visited Manly the first time I was in Sydney so I don’t actually remember much about it. It was definitely beautiful, and I spent some time laying in the sun and swimming. That was a time when I was utterly alone though, so I didn’t actually really want to be there. I actually forced myself to go because I figured I had to go to a beach while I was in Australia.

Look how excited I am.

I had a burrito (typical) and wandered up and down the beach. And after maybe an hour and a half, tops, I hurried back to the ferry and went back to Circular Quay. Can’t fault a girl for trying at least. It was really nice though, so if you’ve got a day or a half a day to kill, check it out.

I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than what I saw. Oh I also saw a cat in the grocery store waiting patiently for its owner.

Very important content. I know.

7. St. Mary’s Cathedral.

I’m putting this in because a) it is absolutely beautiful, as most big Catholic Churches are, and b) it saved Bex and I during an absolute downpour. We decided, during a lull in the rain, that we were going to walk to the opera house, since Bex hadn’t seen it yet. This turned out to be a mistake of semi-epic proportions. It started pouring. POURING. We both had super cheap umbrellas, but the sidewalks were literally covered in probably a centimeter of water. I had waterproof boots on and the water was getting through them. It was rough. But, alas, St Mary’s Cathedral was nearby! So we hauled our butts over there and decided to take shelter until this unfortunate downpour eased up a bit. It is, seriously, beautiful in there.

The lady working the gift shop was awfully rude when I asked her for change to make an offering for a candle, so I ended up donating a little less than they asked. I gave all the change I had, I wasn’t going to just take a candle, but the lady was so rude! I didn’t feel THAT bad about giving less than they asked. But now I kind of do because I can feel you all judging. Anyway, we waited quite a while and it was not letting up. At this point we were already soaked and didn’t really care to keep walking to the opera house so I looked up the closest train station and we made a break for it. Both of our umbrellas broke, I tried to hold mine, but water just poured from where I was holding it down my arm in through my hoodie, my pants were completely soaked through, as were my shoes, and Bex was exactly the same. Look, we tried really hard to see the opera house that day, but the Gods were obviously not having it. So we saw the Cathedral and called it good.

8. Queen Victoria Building. This is another spot I visited the first time I was in Sydney. It is a massive building that takes up an entire city block. It is absolutely beautiful, seriously, the architecture is insane. But, you will get lost. No joke. The QVB turns into the Sydney Underground. I honestly don’t know how far the underground stretches, but I did go into the underground in a completely different spot this time with Britt. When I was there the first time I ventured a little ways and then realized I would be so lost if I kept going, and decided to turn around and go back to the light. It’s got some seriously expensive shoppes though, so it was strictly window shopping for me.

Mostly I just stared at the turn of the century architecture and took a few selfies. Can’t find any of my photos though other than this. Guess they’re lost somewhere between gadgets.

9. Free Walking Tours. This was actually one of my favorite things I did the first time I was in Sydney. I found out about it from my hostel and I love free things so I decided to attend. There are three tours that go out per day, two of them are of central Sydney – one at 10:30 and one at 2:30, and they last about 3 hours.

(Random art installation that we passed by)

The third is at 6 pm and is of the Rocks area. They work on a tips only basis, so you pay what you feel is affordable and necessary, but seriously don’t stiff them, that’s fucked up. The tour guides are fun, enthusiastic, and amazingly knowledgeable. Seriously these tours are worth your time. I mean $5 (or more, follow your heart) and you get three hours of information as well as ideas on places to visit later if you’d like. For example, I decided to visit a rotating bar that they had talked about during our tour. I didn’t realize that it was a super nice place with a spend limit, I did however, show up looking and smelling like a homeless person. I had too much pride to turn around though so I sat and had two glasses of wine (to make it to the spend limit) and got judged (hard) and then high tailed it outta there as quickly as possible.

So yeah. That is my semi thought out list of activities in Sydney. There are a ton more things to do, obviously. I pondered going to a climbing gym while I was there this time actually, seeing as how it was pouring the entire time, but never ended up doing so. Through my research though, it did seem like Sydney boasted some seriously awesome gyms, so if you are trapped by rain as well, check one out and let me know how it is. I did also attend the Wild Life exhibit in Darling Harbour because we had discounts from our hostel, and it was mainly an indoor exhibit so it hid us from the rain. Honestly, HONESTLY, don’t do it. It was a waste of $30 for about 90 minutes of our time. If it wasn’t raining maybe it would have been cooler because there was a spot where you can do a walk-about with kangaroos, but they were all hiding from the rain so….yeah. I mean, if you’re only spending time in Sydney then please do so in order to see some animals, but go to a sanctuary or….the outback. Really. There’s much better places to see Aussie animals.

While I have ya here though, they were pretty cute so I can’t fault the establishment there.

Hey, seriously enjoy Sydney while you’re there though, I pray for you that its not raining the whole time because that puts a serious damper on your time (pun intended), but even if it is, take advantage of your time.

There’s tons to see, tons of history to be learned, and tons of pubs to crawl to and from. Buy a good umbrella if it is raining though. Just a little pro tip for you. Next blog will be about Cairns! Stay tuned!

The Opal Card: Big City Public Transportation in the Eyes of a Small Town Girl

I have been to Sydney before and therefore felt a certain sense of comfort flying here. I may not have perfect recollection of the area, but I at least knew I had made my way around successfully before, so I could do it again. That being said, I did it completely wrong the first time around! What a bloody fool I was! A good friend of mine has lived back and forth from the States to Sydney for quite some time now and he told me to get an Opal card. Okay? I’m from a small town in the Colorado Rockies…up until I spent some time in Singapore and was forced to use the train there, I had an irrational fear of trains. All those people knowing what they’re doing, and me not having a damn clue. The switching of lines, getting lost, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t have it. Anyway, last time I was in Sydney I got a shuttle bus that brought me to my hostel, it was probably something stupid like $25-30, but that kept me from having to deal with my train fear, the lengths I would go to. Then, all I did the entire time I was in Sydney, was walk. I walked everywhere. Granted I was staying in an area that was a quaint and decently beautiful walk to Circular Quay and the opera house, but still…all the time I could have saved and all of the other places I could have visited if I had just taken the damn trains. And now that my train rant is over, I will get back to my overcoming my fear and using the trains in Sydney, via the magical Opal card.

So you can get an opal card at the airport just outside the train stop/station whatever. Just turn right out of customs/arrivals and go past the McDonalds, those are the directions I’m providing, once you’re actually there…you’ll know.

(No, I don’t have permission from any of these people to put them in my blog, but they’re all looking away conveniently so it’s okay, right?)

The card itself is “free”, you just have to put a minimum of $35 on it the first time. Which is fine because the cost to get to and from the airport is just over $16, so…’re going to be using $32 just for your airport exchanges. I put $40 and moved along, and man the technology these days is astounding! You just tap it on the sensor and it lets you on through. DO NOT forget to tap when you’re getting off though because you will be charged the max amount for that line….which would suck. I feel like I just sound so star struck by this and I am, like I said, from a freakin tiny mountain town, the only public transport we have is the RFTA busses which are not fancy at all (free wifi though so there’s that). We didn’t even have taxis until a few years ago. This stuff is amazing! And so convenient! You can tap on and off with your opal card on trains, light rails, busses, and ferries. So cool! Okay I’m done, I promise.

Actually I lied, I’m not done. Just….get an opal card when you go to Sydney. Not only is it kind of the only way to get around, unless you want to walk everywhere and stay within just the city center or pay boat loads of money for a ferry to manly or bondi (see what i did there? Pun), but it’s also the cheapest and most convenient. You can buy single trip tickets every time you want to go somewhere, but it’s more expensive and takes way longer because there’s almost always a huge cue to pay for tickets. Another benefit is that there is a cap on opal card travel, so once you spend a certain amount during the day it stops charging you. Along with that, on Sundays you don’t pay more than $2 or something and then the rest of your travel is free. Magical.

You can get basically anywhere in Sydney with these, the ferries I think are a little more expensive than the trains and busses, but they’re a little quicker for some places like Manly. Also, you get a wicked cool view from the water of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, so definitely take the opportunity to take a ferry somewhere at least once. Part of my irrational fear of trains had to do with trying to figure out where I was going, which terminal and track to be at, which stop to get off at. I don’t know why, that’s why it’s irrational yeah? Anyway, if anyone out there has those same fears, I feel you, and Sydney is extremely easy to figure out. Signs everywhere about which track is going where and it lists each stop in order so you know exactly how many stops are before yours. Along with having departure times. Beautiful, convenient, easy.

Here’s your anecdote about figuring out the train stations though, and your chance to giggle at my stupidity/misfortune/total refusal to admit I’m wrong and turn around. I managed to walk out the wrong side of the train station. This was Central station by the way….so walking out on the wrong side only meant bad things for me, carrying two backpacks that equaled out to about half of my weight. What I should have done originally, while till in the train station, was look at the signs explaining which street I was coming out on. I didn’t do that. Rookie mistake. The next thing I should have done, when I realized that I had come out on the wrong side of the station, was go back inside and cut through the station. But, I refused to look like a lost little tourist with her heavy ass front pack by turning around and going back down and then staring around at signs…so I walked my happy ass all the way around the station. It was torture, and if I could go back in time and give myself a slap….I 1000% would. Now, after all of this, I would like to mention that, while it was ridiculous of me the first time I was in Sydney to walk everywhere, it is quite nice to walk around Sydney as well. Bex (from my hostel) and I did make the mistake of trying to walk to the opera house in the pouring rain which definitely kind of sucked,

but otherwise its great. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the area, check out The Rocks area and do your own little pub crawl (I’ll probably write about that soon). It’s actually a pretty cool city and walking around is not only heart healthy, but getting a little lost sometimes is just what you need.

Anyway, it’s not until I’m writing these blog posts that I realize how many things I SHOULD have taken photos of, but didn’t. And unfortunately this is one of them, so I’m sorry for the lack of media. I’m using some photos from the internet instead but I’m going to make sure to give credit where credit is due. Next post will be about my hostel! Sorry this ones short and shitty! The OG plan was to write about my hostel in this one as well, but it got obnoxiously long sooooo, yeah. Stay tuned!

Look! A photo of NOT Sydney! Pretty though right? Even with the glare #nofilter (basic bitch here; it’s Auckland by the way…and I did actually take his one, ten points) Also! I almost forgot until just now when I’m posting this, opal card does, unfortunately, only work in Sydney, I’m pretty sure you have to get a different one for Melbourne and other areas. Okay…Sayonara for now.