Saturday, November 9, 2013

We're in Sydney, mates!

The iconic Sydney Opera House

Time to leave our temporary home at sea.  Farewell to our ship the Volendam and hello to  Sydney,  Australia!  Our ship sailed right into Sydney Harbor and docked alongside the Opera House.  What a thrilling entrance!

Great view from 42 floors up!

We stayed at the Meriton Apartments on Kent St. in a fabulous apartment. Our spacious, fully-equipped apartment was located way up on the 42nd floor giving us an incredible view of Sydney from our balcony.

Fabulous view of downtown Sydney from "The Cross"
On our first night in Sydney, we took a walking tour called "The Crimes and Passions Tour" through the Kings Cross neighborhood.  Our guide Valentino was very knowledgeable and a lot of fun as he led us through the red light district known as "The Cross."

The real Kings Cross --  the underbelly of Sydney

Anne will be writing a detailed article on our walk for the Viator Travel Blog, so you can get the full skinny when the article is published.  Suffice it to say that Kings Cross is Sydney's underbelly with a long history of prostitution (now legalized), drugs, and gambling with plenty of great stories about all kinds of unsavory characters.

Colonial brick buildings in The Rocks
The next day, we took another walking tour, this one thru "The Rocks," the area where the city of Sydney began when the first convicts arrived from Great Britain.  Most of the convicts were petty thieves -- murderers, for example, would have been hung back in England and never made it to Australia.  So these were not hardened criminals. In fact, at the start of the Industrial Revolution so many people lost their jobs that 60% of the population turned to crime to survive.

Here's an interesting fact. The Aussies love to say that Australia exists thanks to America -- that Australia was only inhabited because America won its independence from Great Britain, and Great Britain was no longer allowed to send its criminals to America.  We don't see much about this in our history books, but apparently America started out as the Brits favorite penal colony, until the revolution began.  So I guess many of us could be descended from convicts, mate!

The Rocks Tour took us down to the water for some murky views of the famous Harbor Bridge (sometimes known as the "Coat Hanger Bridge").  The view turned out to be less than perfect because smoke from brush fires raging in the Blue Mountains (30 some miles away) blanketed the entire city. 

We visited the Blue Mountains in 2005, a gorgeous area famous for its eucalyptus trees that create a bluish haze over the area (which is how the Blue Mountains got their name).  Unfortunately, the oil of the eucalyptus is extremely flammable creating a ferocious firestorm -- the trees are sometimes called "gasoline trees" because their oils only exacerbate the flames.  The Aussies finally got the fires under control but hundreds of homes were lost.

All that walking through "The Rocks" gave us a mighty thirst, so we hiked over to the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel where Frank discovered his new favorite beer: a pale ale called "Three Sheets!"

Outside the historic Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel
"Aussie Frank" downs
a cold delicious "Three Sheets" Beer
On our last day in Sydney we took in a performance of the musical  "South Pacific" at the Sydney Opera House.  It was nostalgic to be back inside this iconic landmark (we took a tour of the building when we were here in 2005).  And "South Pacific" was a perfect way to celebrate our own trip across the Pacific Ocean.
  Lots of choices at the Noodle Market
On the way back to the apartment, we walked through Hyde Park (in the rain) and chanced to bumble into the Noodle Market.  Yea, it was raining, but what a selection of Asian goodies; it was worth standing in the rain for these yummy treats!  We love it all and stocked up on a mix of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai dishes for dinner tonight on our balcony.

This was one amazing Asian feast accompanied by a terrific Aussie wine!  And what an awesome view from our balcony after dark -- a fitting way to savor this beautiful city on our last night in Sydney.


Farewell, Volendam!!


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