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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Sydney, City Redefined

Continuing from where we left off post-New Years, my days in Sydney have been nothing short of thrilling. Taking the ferry from Sarah’s flat in Abbotsford (a suburb) each morning was divine. I’m sure the novelty wears off, but seeing the Harbour Bridge loom large against the backdrop of every color of sky never ceased to amaze this city girl. I’ve always defined city by the bar of Manhattan. We all do, us New Yorkers. But, Sydney raises that bar a bit. Sydney is city redefined. I spent a day walking it from end to end. From the wealthy, leafy streets of the suburbs of Darlinghurst, Potts Point, and Paddington on high, through the sea-level neighborhoods of waterside Woolloomooloo’s (say THAT three times fast) Finger Wharf of trendy restaurants, past the lush Royal Botanical Gardens that open onto the Opera House and the Harbour, to the oldest part of the city, the historical Rocks district. Yes, I wore flip-flops. No, I shouldn’t have.

But past the city center, in every direction, are the beaches. Glorious, glorious beaches. The eastern beaches (Bondi, Coogee, Bronte, Tamarama) face off with the northern beaches (Manly, Palm Beach) and you belong to one school or the other. Each of them offers a different vantage point to take in the amazing coastline, but also each caters to a certain slice of life. Bondi is the original, the mack-daddy (who even says that, sorry…) of Sydney’s beaches. Expansive and eclectic, Bondi caters to all. Tourists mingle with locals on the surrounding strip, peppered with restaurants and cafes, of both cheesy and classy varieties. On Bondi, the energy is always magnetic (as well as the surfer boy bodies…). Tamarama is the see-and-be-seen beach, while Coogee and Bronte (my favorite) are laid back and gorgeous, without as much attitude. Then, there’s (touristy) Manly Beach, farther north. A ferry ride away, Manly is chock-full-of-foreigners (as if I should talk…). I closed my eyes for 20 minutes and woke up nose-to-nose with a Spanish contingent that deemed it perfectly acceptable to invade my personal breathing space. Regardless of which beach, everyone carries a surfboard, everyone “dips” in the water, and everyone loves the sand. Sydney’s a total eye-fuck, all of it.

Deciding to get out of town for a bit, Sarah, Tim, Sally (Tim’s sister) and I went up to the Hunter Valley for the day. “The Hunter” is the Sydney’s local wine region. I’ve never done the Napa thing (shocker…) so, this was a whole new ballgame for me. Miles and miles of vineyards, far as the eye can see. At noon we started at Audrey Wilkinson, where I discovered verdelhos and semillions. Forget the shiraz, who knew white could taste so good? By midmorning we were tipsy, by mid-afternoon we were “blind,” as Sarah would say, bolting out Celine Dion ballads in the car ride home, making a visibly annoyed Tim (our designated driver) pull over on the side of the road to go “clear his ears” a time or two. How we made it out that night is beyond me, but these Aussies don’t EVER turn down another cocktail or a good party, so onward we went to meet Sarah’s friends. All great, Leigh stands out as I’d heard so much about her over the past year (and she presented me with a Harbour Bridge bookmark for my travels, aww…). She’s headed to South America for the next 5 months. Not that I can actually be jealous…but, well, let’s be honest, I am.

My last days in Sydney brought the Harbour Climb, where true to the name, I climbed the Harbour Bridge. While it was a perfect day and the views were astounding, reaching every nook of Sydney’s landscape, the climb itself was a little anti-climatic. I wanted trembling knees, rickety steel girder passes, drop-offs that gave me a birds-eye view into the art of suicide. Nope, nothing so dramatic. I guess the tip-off should’ve been that my group was largely comprised of 65-year old with hearing aids and a couple from Ohio that won their trip to Sydney from Visa (yes, those sweepstakes pay off sometimes…), but I was still craving the adventure aspect of the morning. No dice. I couldn’t even bring my camera so had to shell out tourist robbery prices for the “official” Harbour Climb produced photos. Yes, I had to do the Climb (it’s one of those things you have to do here), but afterwards, I totally felt like a sucker.

I went out of Sydney in style. A true Saturday night out with the girls. Dinner was Thai (Australians eat thai like we eat sushi) at Longrain (yes, it was on my “list”) where I felt right at home when Lachlan Murdoch walked out of the restaurant as we were walking in (I just can’t get away from Harper…but he’s adorable in person). From there we went to Hugo’s in King's Cross, an indoor/outdoor lounge/club where we partied until about 3 AM. Then, went with the runner-up from Rockstar Supernova (I never heard of this show, am learning…) and a former hook-up of Miss Leigh to Lady Lux, some after-hours bar. When I looked at my watch, it was 5 AM. OK, I don’t know the last time I was out until 5 AM in New York. Maybe at Star Room in the Hamptons, circa ’99? Limelight circa ’96? Bedrox circa ’91? Regardless, I had a date at 6:30 AM! I was driving up the coast with Josh’s friend, Simon. Never met him, but had committed to a 9 hour drive with Simon the Stranger. And now, it was 5 AM. Shit, shit, shit. I’d only have one chance to make a first impression. I’m not exactly charming without sleep. Let’s face it…I’m NOT AT ALL charming without sleep. Uh-oh.

Gotta sleep, sorry…nap.
More soon,

~ M

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