Bondi to Coogee

In keeping with the previous day’s theme of Sydney suburbs, I headed out to the famed Bondi Beach. Beautiful sand, glorious breakers, and a several mile coastal walk along the cliffs. (I’ve since been told that Bondi is overrated and too commercial, which I could see as being the case during the summer, but in late fall it was lovely.)

The coastal walk is absolutely gorgeous. Sydney and its environs are built on sandstone, which I assume accounts for the unusual shapes of the cliff face. I had been worried about my fear of heights being a problem during parts of the walk, but it was fine. More at issue was my being fit enough to climb all those stairs!

The shorter walk, with more of the dramatic scenery, is from Bondi to Bronte Beach. I decided to go the full route to Coogee, however, and even did part of it twice as I had dropped my fleece and had to go back to find it!

It was a lovely outing, wound up by some fish and chips that I almost got mobbed by seagulls for.


On Sunday I ventured into Sydney’s suburbia, to the town of Paramatta. There is an Australian mystery series called Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries that takes place in 1920s Melbourne. The costuming for the show is quite incredible, and there is a costume exhibit making the rounds of several Australian cities. Currently it is on display in the Old Government House in, you guessed it, Paramatta.

I lucked out, as Paramatta is located on the Paramatta River, and is therefore accessible by the ferries that are part of Sydney’s Public transit network. And on Sunday, the maximum amount an Opal Card holder can pay for the day is $2.50.

Despite the cold, I sat outside in the ferry for the hour plus ride, getting a magnificent view of Sydney Harbour.

From the website and map I’d picked up at the Visitors Centre, I’d expected a quaint old town. Not so much. It’s very much a modern suburb, and rather quiet on a Sunday morning. However, once I got to Paramatta Park and saw the beautiful Old Government House, I was happy.


The exhibit was great, letting you touch swatches of the fabric used for some of the dresses. Other outfits were vintage 1920s, including a constable uniform that the character Constable Collins wears. There’s a quote from the actor about how uncomfortable it is, which is funny when put in context with certain scenes from the show. There were even not one but two dress up rooms:


After the exhibit, I walked around Paramatta Park to the old Dairy Cottage, enjoying the greenery and families playing. Somewhere in that park is the presumed site of the first European farming in Australia.

Since I was all the way out in Paramatta, I decided to visit another house museum that had looked entertaining from the brochure, Elizabeth Farm. It was supposed to be an interactive museum in one of the oldest remaining European structure in Australia. Unfortunately it wasn’t as interesting as I’d hoped, perhaps because it was a quiet Sunday afternoon and I was getting tired. It looked like it would have great tours for school children, however.

Since the ferry only goes every hour on Sunday, I hastened back to the wharf and on to Sydney. Coming back into the Harbor, we saw magnificent views.

A rainy Saturday

Saturday morning was rainy and chilly, so I decided to use my Sydney Living Museum pass and check out two other museums located near Circular Quai. The closest, which is only open on the weekends, was the Justice and Police Museum.

I figured it would be a quick walk through but ended up taking a guided tour, which gave life to the old building and cases that were discussed. My favorite room was the old front room of the police station, redone as it might have been in Victorian Sydney. I half expected to see Constable Collins from the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries step into the room!


As it was still raining a bit, I visited the Museum of Sydney that was just up the road. Compared to the other two living museums, this museum just felt a bit slight. There wasn’t much there. Historically, the site is important, but the other museums do a better job of bringing the past to life.

The rain having stopped, I headed over to the Rocks, as I needed to stop by the Visitors Center and also needed some lunch. Lunch actually became tea as I stumbled across the Tea Cosy, which stated that it had the best scones in Sydney. I don’t know if they’re the best – I haven’t completed the experiment yet! – but they were piping hot and tasty.

After completing my errands, I figured I might as well visit the last museum that was part of the Sydney Living Museums pass, the Susannah Place Museum. This museum, similar to the Tenement Museum in New York, showcases rooms furnished in a historic manner in the setting of an old building that has not been restored, but rather left to show the changes and layers of time. It’s an archeological site of social history, if you will. For example, one kitchen floor was peeling so that you could see the layers of newspaper under lino that had been placed there as insulation.

Susannah Place is very special, in that these buildings are 170 years old (built in 1844) and pretty much at least one if not all of the residences were occupied until it became a museum. For a young country like Australia, that is a large portion of its European (as opposed to indigenous) history. (It’s been interesting and a little odd being in a nation younger than my own – I am so used to traveling places that have a long and storied history of nationhood.)


I took another free walking tour, this one of the Rocks, and then wandered about admiring the displays for Vivid. Vivid is a several week long festival part of which centers around light displays around various parts of the Harbor and CBD. The Opera House had about a 20 minute loop where the sails transformed into one magical landscape after another, a bright end to a grey day.

I’m Back!

It’s been a few years, but I’ve finally gotten the opportunity for another lengthy trip! Not part of a year of adventure, but a month long trip to Australia and New Zealand. Not too shabby in the adventure front!

And I must admit that I am woefully out of practice for long haul flights. My rear has still not completely recovered from sitting for much of 28 hours of travel. New York to LA, thence to Sydney. But I was fortunate in getting the bulkhead exit row seat that lets you stretch your legs, so I really can’t complain.

Tired and jet lagged, I took a few minutes to acclimate in the airport. It was both weird and wonderful to have spent so long traveling to wind up in a country where I can understand the signage and the language. Well, I can understand the language just fine barring any specific thick accents, but really, that’s the same in the States too, isn’t it? Usually when I arrive somewhere after a transpacific flight, I have a huge language barrier to deal with as well. It was lovely not to have to deal with that.

I got a map and directions on buying an Opal card (Sydney public transit smart card) from the lady at information and headed to the train. The train downtown (or to the CBD – central business district – as the Aussies call it) was easy and straightforward. Once off the train at Circular Quai, I could see my hotel, which made getting lost a non-issue.

On check-in, I was upgraded to a room with a harbor view, plus a wombat magnet! Marriott has never given me a magnet before – this stay was off to a promising start!

Eschewing a nap, I hoped my shower would wake me up enough to face the day. The sun was shining brightly as I ventured out. My hotel is very near the Rocks, which is lucky for many reasons, not least of which was that it allowed me to stop by the Visitors information center, stumbling onto a self-professed foodie market on the way.

After loading up with more brochures than was good for me, I decided to wander around Circular Quay to the Opera House and then head to the Botanic Gardens. What can I write about Sydney Harbor? The hype is true. It is absolutely gorgeous especially under a clear blue sky and the strong Australian sun. I’m hoping I can see a performance at the Opera House before I fly back.

I wandered into the Gardens. I had missed the guided tour but frankly my brain capacity was next to nil anyway due to fatigue. I admired the huge trees and was taken aback by screeching parrots? Cockatoos? I’m not entirely sure what the birds were but they looked exotic and strange, even if they sounded like nuisances. I also saw boat loads of what I later found out are ibis. 

I was planning on taking a free walking tour in the afternoon, so I exited the Royal Botanic Gardens and headed towards Hyde Park. On the way, I passed a number of beautiful buildings that looked to date from various parts of the 19th century. I later found out that several of the buildings were part of the old Rum Hospital, so called because Governor Macquarie in the early 19th century allowed several merchants a short-term monopoly on rum sales in exchange for them building the hospital. An interesting origin story, though I can think of several for a name like that!

Right at the edge of Hyde Park, I caught sight of another well proportioned early 19th century building, the Hyde Park Barracks, balanced by the similar architecture of the church across the road. Behind and to the right, tower spires rose, reminding me of English church architecture.

The Hyde Park Barracks are one of Sydney’s Living Museums, music to my ears as I love finding out about social history. I have to say this museum is one of  best interactive museums I’ve seen, especially for a history museum (as opposed to a science museum). The ground floor exhibit on convict life encouraged you to dress up as a convict, leg shackles included!

Hyde Park is another beautiful green space that Sydney seems to abound in.


I finally made my way to the town hall for the walking tour, which covered much of what I had seen on my way there. Luckily we did see some other buildings like the QVB (Queen Victoria Building), an (appropriately) Victorian building. There is a statue of the queen outside, and her little dog too. I mention the dog because it has a separate statue all its own, and…it talks. (Apparently it raises money for charity.)

The afternoon wrapped up with sunset views over the Harbor. I’d already gotten the impression that I was going to love Sydney, and those views didn’t hurt! I headed back to the hotel and was asleep before 8pm.