Wow, it’s good to be a Sydney-sider! (That’s what they call people who live in Sydney. We just call them lucky.) Sydney has to be one of the most drop-dead gorgeous cities we have ever seen. Maybe it was the perfect 80 degree Southern Hemisphere-summer weather, maybe it was the stunning harbor, maybe it was gorgeous Manly beach. Whatever it was, Sydney seems to have it all.
Having world-class beaches with great waves, surfers are everywhere in Australia, and so is the laid-back attitude that goes with it. “Good on ya!” means something like “that’s cool,” and you hear it everywhere in Sydney. Marc hears that from a business perspective, the Australian work ethic is perhaps more aligned with the French than the Americans — but can you blame them? Like the French, they have a beautiful city and take time to enjoy it, which also happens to make a very relaxing atmosphere for a vacation. If there is any downside to Sydney, it is the cost of just being there. Food, hotels, everything is very expensive — and that’s saying a lot from people who live in Singapore, the world’s most expensive city. The difference is that in Singapore, you can always find a $2 bowl of noodles at a hawker center. In Sydney, a sandwich is $15. Ouch.
We made the most of our time there by taking a city-wide, four-hour tour with Bonza Bike Tours. Mia did a great job riding her bike all over Sydney, and Andie did her part by sitting on the tag-along and not whining. The tour took us over the harbor bridge, around the opera house, through the botanical gardens, around the ANZAC memorial (Australia New Zealand Army Corps — we didn’t know either) to Darling Harbor and back to Circular Quay. Whew! Sydney by land, check!
The next day it was time to see Sydney by boat. Our travel agent booked a harbor cruise which we were a little wary of, but turned out to be lots of fun. The boat was about a 50-foot cabin cruiser with 8 other people on board. They served us lunch and we took a dip in the harbor, though the kids did not stay in very long after they learned that most of the beaches had shark nets! No, we did not see any sharks. We did see Paul Allen’s yacht, lots of racing sailboats, and fairy penguins.
At the end of each action-packed day, we would all rest up in the lobby of the Swissotel, where there were free wi-fi and half-price drinks at happy hour. Something for everyone!
On our last day, we toured the Sydney Opera House in the morning, and took the ferry to Manly and walked to famous Manly Beach in the afternoon. The Opera House Tour was interesting, even for the kids. We were able to see inside many of the theaters and learn the history of the architect, Jorn Utzon, who quit the project before it was finished and never returned to see it completed, and all the revolutionary building techniques that went into it.
After the tour, we took the ferry to Manly Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand and a fun beach town. At the beach, we started at a spot with incredible waves and lots of surfers, then made our way past a natural-rock swimming pool to a calmer section of beach where people were snorkeling and enjoying the clear water. Soon a rainstorm rolled in (I suppose it’s not sunny EVERY day in Sydney) and we ate a final meal in Australia (real hamburgers, yum!) before heading back to the hotel and leaving at 5 am the next morning.
On this half of the earth, Australia is a welcome island of Western-ness for Americans living abroad. Lots of Singapore American expat families went to Australia for Christmas break, and for good reason. As much as we love learning about Asian culture and embrace it whenever we can, there is something comforting about being surrounded by people who like the same foods. Tucking into our burgers and fries, we didn’t have to wonder if our french fries had seaweed powder instead of salt, or if there was a hardboiled egg hiding in the middle of our sandwich somewhere. Yet I was also really looking forward to returning to Singapore to some good noodles and bao. And that’s the best part of being an expat — being able to enjoy the best of many different worlds.
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