We arrived for an overnight port of call in our final stop on the Arcadia. Pulling in to Sydney Harbor on a raining, foggy, cloudy morning made it less impressive than the brochures present it. We pulled in at 6 am, so it wasn’t all that bright out yet either. It was still very cool. We were at anchor near Rose Bay with great views of the city, the Harbor Bridge and the beginnings of the eastern suburbs. The ship tenders dropped us off firth at the base of the famous Sydney Opera House and the Royal Botanical Gardens.
Our first day was spent with some necessary housekeeping as we would be getting off of the ship and staying in Australia for a while. We headed into the Central Business District in search of a phone store. We were successful in replacing the SIM cards on our phones and are now the proud holders of Australian phone numbers. We also found a bank and got Australian money and a Post Office and got postcard stamps! So easy to please!
We then spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the Botanical Gardens, and the Rocks which the oldest neighborhood still standing. After all of that, we stopped at a brewpub and motioned at two ladies if we could take the other end of their picnic table. They welcomed us and with our thanks said, one asked the other “are they yours or mine?” We fessed up to being American and she said “yours.” Turns out they are longtime friends thanks to the American’s (a retired teacher from Virginia) participation in People to People. They met in the 70’s in Boston, UK and have been friends ever since. As we chatted it came up that we were on the Arcadia and they could not believe we hadn’t run in to each other as they were also on the ship. Our casual style and avoidance of eating in the dining room was determined to be the primary culprit. They were lovely table companions, too bad we hadn’t run in to them in the previous 21 days.
The next morning we disembarked from the first phase of our journey and said goodbye to the Arcadia and really began our Australian adventure. We managed to figure out the transit system and purchased our Opal Cards – giving us access to the great public transit in Sydney, buses, trains and ferries! The visitor center had a really great tourist map of the main parts of the city and we took advantage of it and found our way to so many great places. We had several days to wander around the city and see the tourist sights.
The fish market claims to be the largest in the southern hemisphere and it certainly had a lot going on! Most of the vendors were large companies so the size of the actual market did not reflect the amount of commerce that happens there. The variety of fish and seafood was pretty amazing. We saw huge king crab, lobsters that were the size of small pets and so many prawns!
From the fish market we headed toward Darling Harbor where there were museums and lots of restaurants and bars. This is an entertainment area and there was a lot to see from public art, historic and interesting boats, and lots of new building. It was also the area where we encountered a little rain that did allow us to determine if we had the right clothes. Fortunately, we had rain coats and hats and quick dry everything else. This is an area where the city is making a big investment in public space, transit and private development. A keystone is Barangaroo Park, a lovely greenspace overlooking the harbor and the bay bridge.
This was a great exploration on our way to my ultimate plan for the day – Claiming Walsh Bay! Alright it is already claimed and named, but I wanted to check it out. A nicely redeveloped area that is part of the arts district for Sydney. The main building which houses several theaters was under renovation, but you could walk along the water right up to the Bridge.
On another day we took the train to the Kings Cross neighborhood to check out their weekly market. A nice collection of local and organic produce, flowers, crafts and food. The neighborhood is very trendy and full of nice older homes. Everywhere in Sydney is dense in terms of housing, even the suburbs we saw, and Kings Cross is very dense given the age of the neighborhood.
Most days we found ourselves back in some area of the Royal Botanical Garden. Each time we saw different areas. It is am immense space with great views across the harbor and interesting plants everywhere. One day we came across a group of Cockatiels feasting on flowers. We saw these birds everywhere. They are very noisy.