On the road again! We’re continuing eastward to one of my favorite cities in the world – SYDNEY! It was a bit of a drive, but we had planned some great stops along the way. Our first stop – Darrell Lea Licorice factory. I found this delectable licorice in the states, but they are hard to come by. When I found out that the factory was on our route to Sydney, duh we were stopping! I was hoping for a tour of the factory, but that wasn’t an option. Good news – their store was open, and they were having sales! We walked out with 5 bags of licorice and one very happy girlfriend!
Our next stop was the Blue Mountains National Park. The first day, we spent 3 hours hiking to the Three Sisters, Giants Stairways, to Leura End and back to Katoomba. The scenery is just gorgeous here, with a variety of paths for every level of hiker. And at an elevation of 1,100 meters, the views from the upper mountain trails is unbelievable. Matt enjoyed looking aimlessly for wild cassowaries while I hung back and videoed his crazy antics. After our long hike, we settled into a free campsite for the night with a nice trunk-cooked meal. The next day, we continued hiking to Wentworth Falls and Valley of the Waters. We were surrounded by stunning waterfalls, lookout points and lush green forest. After our legs were good and tired, we found a quick beach shower and a gas station to camp out for the night. I woke up the next morning with a great need to use the bathroom. When the attendant refused to allow me the use of the bathroom, I figured I’d call his bluff. I walked to the dumpster just outside his window, and while starting him dead in the eyes, I went to relieve myself. Within seconds, he knocked on the window and miraculously a bathroom inside appeared! Ah the joys of car camping.
When we finally made it into Sydney, we were whopped after 2 nights of rough camping, and spent the rest of the day relaxing. When we got out to the city, our first stop was Hyde Park. It’s amazing that after 8 years, it still felt like heaven and immediately a sense of calm washed over me. We enjoyed the Kings Garden for a bit, and then ventured over to the St. Mary’s Cathedral. The whole city was covered in Christmas decorations, which seemed odd to us with the lack of snow and outside temperatures reaching 90 degrees. We made our way to Circular Quay to see the Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House! Matt was clearly in awe of the city and seeing these major world sites. At night, we wondered downtown and found Christmas carolers and a beautiful light show. It was just what we needed to get us into the Christmas spirit.
Christmas Eve came with many shops closed around the city, but we had enough groceries to make a nice Christmas dinner at our Airbnb. Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy. It would have tasted better had we not had over a bottle of wine each while cooking…needless to say it wasn’t my best. On Christmas morning, we had homemade cinnamon buns and enjoyed our 1st Christmas away from home. But we still facetimed our families to say Merry Christmas from across the world. Because we couldn’t really do our typical Christmas activities, we decided to go to the beach. We thought we would have a nice relaxing day with the whole beach to ourselves…well I guess that was everyone’s idea in Sydney! Bondi Beach was full of people cooling off in the 90+ degree weather, complete with Christmas palm trees and Santa bathing suits. We enjoyed watching the craziness, swimming in the cool waters and grabbing some seaside snacks.
The next day was devoted to the fishes. We started our morning with a long walk to the Sydney Fish Market, the 3rdlargest fish market in the world! We meandered through the stalls of fresh fish, seeing some scrumptious treats and some freaky bulging eyes. We grabbed a few oysters and watched the daily preparations in the market. Our next stop was the Maritime Museum, which was not too far away. We learned a bit about boating history, but my favorite part was stepping foot on the boat driven by the first solo female to sail around the world! The last stop for the day was the Sydney Aquarium. We saw thousands of exotic and unique fishes, but also a lot of “nemo” and “dory” fishes (or clown fish and pacific blue tang fish). They also had these long, enclosed tunnels so you could walk through the fish tanks. The tanks had huge rays, manatees, big fish and sharks…which happens to be one of my greatest fears. So, when Matt suggested we walk through, I was reluctant. Needless to say, we made it through, but I think I spent about 75% of the time with my head buried in Matt’s back. We saw a wonderful coral reef and anemone tank, as well as big sawfishes (super weird) and leopard sharks.
We spent the next few days putzing around Sydney, eating kangaroo, and laying on the beach, anticipating our next big holiday – New Year’s Eve! We purchased tickets to a party where we got free food and drinks for the first few hours, and then entrance to a dance party after the fireworks! At $100 a pop, we were determined to get our money’s worth and keep our budget from skyrocketing. We met some really nice people, took pictures and drank way too much champagne. After a little drunken mistake on my end, we left the bar with our new friends to go to Lowenbrau beer hall. We drank more, met some more friends and then ventured to find a good spot for the fireworks. Well, just like Time Square, anything resembling a “good spot” for the fireworks was taken at noon that day. We found a decent spot and watched the fireworks through the trees…not exactly what we were hoping but at least we were one of the first to welcome the new year! After, we headed back to the first bar where we paid for the dance party. We were a little hesitant after my embarrassing exit/removal a few hours prior, but we had paid for entrance to the party! When we walked in…the place was dead. Well, drunk Stephanie wasn’t having that, and starting encouraging others to join her on the dance floor! After about an hour, the bar was much livelier and more fun! Unfortunately, the host was not exactly happy to see me again, and promptly asked me to leave. Little did he know, I had already made friends with the bouncer at the other entrance…cue the beginning of a little game we like to call “hide from the front host”. We continued to dance, make friends, and play our little hide and seek until the wee hours of the morning. While we might not have been our classiest selves, we definitely had an amazing time!
Christmas and New Years in Sydney could not have been a better end to 2016! We’ve loved this city and can’t wait to be back in a few months!