One month in Oz – 7. Arrival in Sydney

Post 7 of a series detailing our Australian adventure. Access the full series here.

We arrived in Sydney at around midday, collected our hold luggage and said goodbye to our home of three days (a train, if you haven’t been reading up to this point!) It was then a long (at least it felt it) walk up the steep Fouveaux St and Crown St to reach our airbnb apartment, where its owner was waiting to greet us. We later found a far preferable route down Campbell St.

Once we’d settled in it was time to get to Manly Sealife Sanctuary for Steve’s ‘Xtreme Shark Dive’. The walk to the harbour was beautiful – Sydney seems full of grand museums, galleries and other cultural attractions, and Hyde Park which we walked through has a stunning fountain! More than anything else, we couldn’t help noticing how sparkling clean Sydney is – so different to London! It seems like they really care about how their city looks. And it only got better when we got to Circular Quay.

Ferry to Manly

We quickly bought our ferry tickets and piled on to the boat. Unfortunately the outside top deck was already pretty full when we got to it, so we didn’t get a great view of harbour icons the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, and anyway I was concentrating on eating my Connoisseur ice cream (pretty much a Magnum) without dropping chocolate on the people squeezed in besides us. From what I could see, the Opera House seemed smaller than I’d imagined and it felt a bit anticlimatic. Thankfully I’d have chance later to revise my judgement.

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Disembarking in Manly, we walked to the Sealife Sanctuary along the beach, which was full of people baking in the hot sun and running aroundwith their kids.

Sealife Sanctuary

We entered the Sanctuary through the gift shop, where I bought a new hat alongside my ticket.  We walked around for a while, photographing the fish and stroking starfish and anemones – the latter moved their spines together to clutch our fingers! – until it was time for Steve to get in the tank. I tagged along for a small tour and explanation given by the diving instructor beforehand, who, like all Australians working in tourism, just seemed incredibly nice, then was left to entertain myself for an hour while I waited to watch Steve dive (a female staff member kept reassuring me that I could stay while she threw everyone else out!)

It was now after closing time, and I more or less had the whole place to myself. I sat watching the little blue penguins for a while, then went to sit and chat with the other dive ‘observers’.

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Swimming with sharks

It was a very exciting moment when the divers emerged into the underwater tunnel, with Steve first to come out! They were walked around a bit, jumping over the top of the tunnel at one point, but spent most of the time lined up in a row while fish, sharks, giant rays and even bigger turtles swam by, and another diver snapped photos. It looked very cold and I was glad I wasn’t in there. Steve loved it though – so much so he bought all the photos and the video at the end! To be fair they did come on a very cool shark-shaped USB key.

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(c) Manly Sealife Sanctuary Xtreme Shark Dive

A German feast

When we got back outside the sun was just beginning to set. With a while to wait until the next ferry back to Sydney, we decided to have a drink at Bavaria, a German-themed bar and restaurant on the pier. One glance at the menu, though, and we had to eat there too! The Bavarian Platter – comprising chicken schnitzel, pork knuckle, pork belly, pork terrine, pork sausages, mash potato, sauerkraut, red cabbage, apple compote and beer jus – sounded too good to miss!

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Well, when it arrived it was just as massive as it sounds. I assumed that the meat would be in miniature tasting portions, but no – each piece of meat could easily have been the centre-point of a meal itself. And to our great relief, the quality was just as great as the quantity – the pork belly and crackling in particular were incredible, one of the best I’ve had if not the best! Of course, as often happens with us, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we barely made it through half of the food. Thankfully the staff (all dressed in lederhosen-inspired uniform) were happy to pack it into tupperware for us. The beer was good too, by the way – lots of choice!

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Sydney Harbour at night

We took the ferry back, on which we were able to appreciate the views of Sydney Harbour in their full glory. This time around the Opera House glowed with an ethereal light reflecting off its curves, and Harbour Bridge shone expansively over the glittering dark water. It was at this point that the icons took their place in my heart.

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Once back at Circular Quay we got a bus back to our place. Luckily it was the weekend so we were able to pay in cash on the bus – we were glad to leave the rigmarole of buying tickets beforehand until another day.

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All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton 2014, unless otherwise stated.

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