Living in The Land Down Under

I have always had a thing for Sydney.  She is clean, efficient and beautiful.  I had been there several times before for both work and pleasure back in the 1990s when I was working in Hong Kong and always had a blast.  It’s also a very active city, much like San Francisco.  Each of its citizens and visitors seems to be in a constant state of working out.  The Aussies are all well known for their drinking and partying, but walk down any beach in Sydney and you’ll see runners, walkers, surfers, skateboarders, body builders (yes, there’s a Muscle Beach section of Bondi.  No, I didn’t go) doing their thing.

Bondi Beach

This trip only served to strengthen my endearment to Sydney.  It helped that we lived like locals for a week due to the generosity of our friends Tiff and Adam (whom you met in my Queenstown, New Zealand blog post) who have a gorgeous penthouse apartment overlooking Bondi beach and gave us their spare bedroom and a spare key (thanks guys!).

View from Tiff and Adam’s penthouse apartment.

There is so much to do in Sydney and one week is not nearly long enough to even scratch the surface.  Plus, we had been traveling ourselves ragged for three months we were looking forward to just chilling out and not doing much.  Of course that didn’t happen.  Between our consummate hosts who had arranged a ton of great events for us (but always assured us “you can do all of it or none of it”) and our natural propensity to keep ourselves busy, we ended up doing quite a bit.

We ran and took walks along Bondi beach including a few walks with Tiff and Adam’s Westie Jax…..


Bondi surfers

Skateboarders at Bondi’s skate park – an empty swimming pool

While Tiff and Adam were at work one day Francesca and I took the bus to Circular Quay and caught a ferry to the Taronga Zoo, our rendezvous point to meet my friend from business school Akiko Bateman who brought along her adorable son, Henry.

View from the ferry heading towards Taronga Zoo.  Franny and I were all about the public transport.  We bought a week pass for unlimited busses, ferries and trains in Sydney.

Luna Park….we didn’t go, but I liked the big clown face entrance.  Franny thought it looked spooky.

Taronga is a well appointed zoo with all of the major animals you’d expect.

I know photos of an ape at the zoo aren’t all that unique or interesting, but I liked this shot so I put it in.

I love Meerkats ever since I started watching the hit Animal Planet show “Meerkat Manor”.

Who knew we were so closely related to primates?!

Sydneyites will tell you that the Taronga Zoo boasts some of the best views of Sydney harbor….especially from the sky tram.  I’m not sure I would bestow “Best” honors on them, but they weren’t bad.

For those of you who were wondering….I am taller than the smallest bear in the world and quite a bit shorter than the world’s tallest bear (the Kodiak).   I had to elbow a couple of eight year olds out of the way to get this shot. Back of the line kid! 😉

I have always liked zoos even though I have not been to one in quite a long time, but I have to say that, having recently been on an African safari and a bush walk in Madagascar where we saw wild animals roaming free in their natural habitats, it really struck both Franny and me how cruel it is to keep these animals caged up behind bars.  I give them kudos for trying to recreate the animals’ natural habitat, but no matter how much the creature feels at home, it’s still confined to a small space and not free to roam.  Only the gorillas seemed to enjoy putting on a show for the humans.  The rest just seem really depressed….including two of Australia’s own.

Me, Akiko and Henry after lunch.

Tiff and Adam also took us out to hang with their friends from Sydney including “Mexican Night” with their friends Helen and Julio – he’s Venezuelan, by the way, it was the food that was Mexican.

Helen, Francesca (hidden), Tiff & Julio

Franny had met Helen before on a trip to Venezuela with Tiff who used to work with Helen at Goldman Sachs in London.  Got that?  There will be a quiz later.

Julio’s parents (Julio senior and Julia) and his sister (the lovely Eglys) were also in town visiting.  We ended up back at Julio and Helen’s apartment for some delicious homemade hot chocolate and chili (aye carumba!)….

…..and danced the forbidden dance.

Julia – with infinite patience – teaching me to dance salsa…or maybe it was meringue?  There is video of this, but I am not about to show any of you.  So there.  Julio, apologies because I appear to be staring straight at your mothers cantalupos!

Franny and I also got our culture on with a tour of the Sydney Opera house.

Interior of the Sydney Opera House.

The story of the design and building of the opera house is fascinating.  It was years ahead of its time in terms of design – they started construction before they even had the know-how to build Danish architect Jorn Utzon’s vision – and ended up millions of dollars over budget and several years behind schedule.  If you want to know more about this incredible story click here.

One of the unlikely highlights of our trip to Sydney was seeing James Cameron’s film “Avatar” at the Event Cinemas at Bondi Junction in “Gold Class”.  I’m quite sure I will never see another movie again in anything but Gold Class.  While you are waiting for entry to the theatre you sit in a bar/lounge area and can order cocktails and gourmet food for immediate consumption or you can specify when during the film you would like the wait staff to bring it to your overstuffed reclining chair.  I know we have such theatres in the States, but I had never been before.

Not a great shot, but you get the idea.  Oh, by the way, great film!  Check it out if you haven’t seen it yet.

Sydney Harbor Bridge

We didn’t add much to the list in terms of “play” in Sydney, but we did climb the Sydney harbor bridge which, while not particularly dangerous (and VERY expensive), did require a saftey harness and, in my book, anything that requires a safety harness qualifies as “play” for the Eat, Play, Love RTW tour.

You can see several groups of people climbing the outer arch of the bridge.   We did the sunset climb which provided some great night shots.

I know this looks like we shot it on a green screen or in front of some photographed background, but it is the real deal.  Great shot.

Our tour group.  You get a good look at our Oompa Loompa like jumpsuits……

For those of you into stats, the bridge is 456 ft. high and 3,770 ft. long and was opened in March 1932 after nine years of construction.  Sixteen workers died during construction, but only two from falling off the bridge.  One lucky young construction worker from Ireland survived a 400 ft. fall from the bridge when his drill slipped!  The luck of the Irish!  Back then there was no worker’s comp or an ease back into work program so he was back on the bridge working three weeks after his fall.  Not so lucky.  Click here for more info on the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Tiff and Adam also got us tickets to the 19th annual “FlickerFest” short film festival since they know I’m all into filmmaking.  We saw a slate of seven or eight international films in the open air Bondi Pavillion which happened to be conveniently located across the street from Tiff and Adam’s apartment.

Francesca cooked dinner for all of us one night that we ate alfresco in Tiff and Adam’s roof top garden.

Tiff and Adam are big live music fans and so they arranged for all of us to go to this huge music festival in Sydney’s Moore Park called “Days Like This”.  It was super hot, but a lot of fun.  We saw a ton of great bands including the awesome, eclectic Melbourne based band “The Cat Empire” who’s music is described as a fusion of jazz, ska, funk and rock with heavy Latin influences.  Check ‘em out.

On our last day in Sydney we met up with recurring blog characters Duncan & Allie (See Cambodia, Vietnam and Kuala Lumpur postings) who were in town to see the sights and stay with Allie’s aunt in The Blue Mountains a few hours from Sydney.

Famous Sydney Yum Cha with Duncan & Allie (and apparently a sleepy Francesca). Wecontinue our quest for the best Chinese food outside of China.

As always we laughed non-stop and enjoyed ourselves tremendously with our new travel friends.  They have been traveling for about as long as we have, but they are going to be on the road for another two or three months.  Hey guys, we hope you are still enjoying your travels you lucky devils!

Duncan with one of several Starburst mutant variations.  The one on the right is called “crazy babies” and appears to have a green baby with blood pouring out of his stomach on the packaging.  That baby IS crazy!

That evening Tiff and Adam took us out on their boat for a sunset and dinner cruise of Sydney harbor along with their friends Lachlan (an Aussie) and Jackie (an American) Wark.

Tiff (piloting while drinking and not looking – what skills!), Lachlan and Adam.

Me, Jackie & Tiff


Sunset at Sydney Harbor.

We were sad to leave Sydney after our week was up.  Not only because we had such a great time – it was the first city where we felt like we were living there and not just tourists – but also because it meant our round the world journey was coming to an end.  The next day we took the bus to the Sydney airport for our flight to Bali, Indonesia where we would spend the next seventeen days before returning to NYC.

Country Stats:

Official Name: Commonwealth of Australia

Official Language: None apparently, although English is the National Language.  (I’m not sure I appreciate the difference between “official” and “national”).

Population: 22,128,000

Capital City: Canberra (nope, not Sydney, the largest city)

Government: Federal Parliamentary Democracy and Constitutional Monarchy

Current Leader(s): Kevin Rudd (Prime Minister)

For more information about Australia click here.


2 Responses to “Living in The Land Down Under”

  1. Lots of great photos today. Thanks!

    Don’t mention the trip ending. I feel bad and I’m not even on the trip with you!

    • aroljahns Says:

      I know, but the trip ending has been hanging around our necks like an albatross. We’ve been counting down the days. its horrible. We’ve also been brainstorming ways to keep traveling (South America would be next) for little money so we may not be done just yet. Thanks again for being such a loyal reader.

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