Monday, February 7, 2011

Australia - Sydney: first impressions

Monday, February 7, 2011

I'm starting to lose track of days and dates but I'm pretty sure it's Monday the 7th.  We left Melbourne this morning and boarded a flight to Sydney, the last city in Australia on the tour.  After we landed, we got bussed around to see a bit of the city and did a brief stop at the Sydney Opera House for anyone who wanted to get tickets for a show then went to Bondi Beach.  I passed on getting a ticket - although I'm sure it would be awesome to see a production at the famous Sydney Opera House, I have to admit that opera's not really my thing.  They're showing Carmen on Tuesday and Madame Butterfly on Wednesday.  I've already seen Madame Butterfly long, long ago and I'm going to Blue Mountains tomorrow for the whole day and didn't want to worry about getting back in time for Carmen.

The opera house was very impressive though.  We have the official tour on Wednesday so I'll reserve my commentary for then.  On the way to Bondi (pronounced bond-eye) Beach, our bus driver toured us around the city and gave an interesting talk on the sights and history of Sydney.  The ocean view from Bondi was spectacular.  Being from the Bay Area, I love any views involving an ocean and this was no different.  We also lucked out incredibly on the weather during this entire trip.  Sydney had been under a heat wave prior to our arrival then cooled off considerably just before we got here.  Temps are in the 70s which is perfect for me.

First impression of Sydney is it's very much a combination of New York City and Hong Kong.  As in literally, if Manhattan and Hong Kong ever got married and had a child, they'd name it Sydney.  It's definitely got much more of a big city, bustling feel than Melbourne although they're approximately the same population (Melbourne is about 2.1M people and Sydney is 2.2M or thereabouts).  It also feels more crowded with tighter streets, more cars and more people moving faster.  Where the Hong Kong impression comes in is there are a ton of shops here.  I can shop but I conceded defeat in Hong Kong as I couldn't possibly shop enough there to even hit a fraction of the stores.  I get that same sense about Sydney.  There are also a number of foodie shops along the streets and many places to eat although I'd have to give the nod to Melbourne on that.

I keep looking for "real Aussie food" but in Sydney, it looks like the plethora of Asian and Middle Eastern food is "real" Sydney food.  Coming from the diversity of the Bay Area, this doesn't strike me as anything new.  I had to concede my search for barramundi fish n chips tonight and go Italian with a really good slice of bbq chicken pizza.  Heavy Italian influence here as well so that's still technically "Australian food".  I think.

Tomorrow: the Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters

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