You know how everything you read about Sydney goes on about the beautiful harbour and the stunning architecture of the opera house? Well it turns out to be fully justified. It isn't until you travel through the harbour that you really realize how big and how beautiful it is. And the opera house is truly a remarkable building, lovely from every angle.
A few other random observations about Sydney, and the bit of Australia we've seen so far:
The Aquarium is world class. Unfortunately, it knows it. Admission is pricey, refreshments are exorbitant, and on a weekend in January the crowds are nearly impenetrable. Not a high point of the trip.
The Olympic site is absolutely massive. Really drives home what an enormous undertaking the Olympics really are. I took the younger two children for a swim, and we spent hours playing in the wonderful new splash pool at the aquatic centre.
Australians warned me that we couldn't get Tim Hortons here. No worries, I thought --I find Tims to be over-rated anyway. What they didn't tell me is that you can't get regular coffee here at all! You can get very good lattes, espressos, mochas, etc at every turn, but a plain coffee with milk? Forget it.
Parramatta, by the way, has the largest concentration of coffee shops on the planet. It's the suburb of Sydney that we stayed in. No word of a lie, in a one block stretch of road beside our hotel there were eight coffee shops.
We had expected Bondi to be overcrowded, overpriced, and over-rated . It wasn't any of them. Yes, it was very busy, but it was a great beach, and the town itself has that funky, fun vibe that you find in all well-used beach towns, combined with a rolling, higgledy-piggledy road system that had me glad I was riding a bus. Think Wasaga Beach meets Quebec City with a slightly faded 1920s facade.
The Blue Mountains are absolutely stunning. We did a day trip from Parramatta (1.5 hours on the train each way, with a hop-on hop-off bus pass to get around the towns of Katoomba and Leura). Breathtaking scenery, and a fantastic hike through the rain forest.
City Rail is the best value for families. The trains are clean and on time, and right now you only pay for the first child in a family. We have hardly missed a car at all in our time in Sydney.
Now we leave Sydney behind, and take the night train to Melbourne. (It was supposed to be the day train earlier today, but that fell victim to the Murphy's Law that seems to be our constant travelling companion these days.) Just a short trip to Melbourne, then we fly up to our new home on Saturday.