We arrived in Sydney mid-afternoon on a Thursday afternoon. After watching numerous episodes of the television show, Border Security, about customs at the SYD airport, I was nervous. We made sure that we didn’t bring in any food and honestly ticked off the questions on the custom forms that applied to us. Wooden items – yes (I bought a wooden box in New Zealand). Had we been to a fresh-water body of water – yes (lake in Queenstown). Did we have athletic/hiking shoes worn in soil – yes. Since we declared these items, a customs officer interviewed us. He only wanted to look at our shoes. And, we were allowed in without any issues and little question.
We’ve been in Sydney for four days now and have had an awesome time so far.
Art Gallery of NSW
Friday was our first full day in Sydney. There was a Picasso exhibit at the Art Gallery of NSW (New South Wales). Being Picasso lovers, this was just perfect. This exhibit, on loan from the Picasso museum in Paris, was especially poignant because the paintings and sculptures are from Picasso’s own collection. These were the paintings that he kept for himself. There were pieces from his early, early years (12 years old) to his last days (from his 90s) to everything in between. I feel so lucky to have seen his work throughout our trip – in Buenos Aires, Madrid, and Sydney. He’s my favorite artist of all time.
Sydney Aquarium & Wildlife Sydney
After the museum, we headed to the aquarium and a little wildlife exhibit. We saw some penguins, sharks, and heard a lecture on the Great Barrier Reef at the aquarium. At Wildlife Sydney, we saw some koalas, wombats, wallabies, and kangaroos.
On Saturday, we had some time to kill before our bridge climb. There were a couple of weekend markets happening so we hit those. First, we went to The Rocks Market. Second, we headed to Paddy’s markets.
The Rocks Market had dozens of stalls of artisan’s goods. It’s always fun to see the works of artists and their craft. We picked up some souvenirs for our moms and some wine glass charms for us.
Paddy’s Market in Chinatown was quite the opposite experience. There are a few floors of shopping. The ground floor had stalls and stalls of the same cheaply made stuff. The other floors were like a typical shopping mall.
Sydney Bridge Climb
Before our trip, I knew that I wanted to do the Bridge Climb. I boasted to my friends and family. I “liked” them on Facebook and got updates of all the celebrities, proposals, and weddings that happened on the bridge. I was so excited. The problem that I forgot to acknowledge is that I have a significant fear of heights. Well, not heights per se but I hate walking on things where I can see underneath me. I walk around or jump over manholes and sidewalk grates in fear of falling through.
Throughout the trip, the Bridge Climb was always in the back of my mind “Can I do it?” When we took the tram at Ocean Park in Hong Kong, I was terrified. In Auckland, when we visited the Sky Tower, I couldn’t walk on the glass floor. In Queenstown, the chair lift to the luge scared me. One day, Chris looked at me and said “Honey, I don’t think that you are going to be able to do the Bridge Climb.” And, I reluctantly agreed.
But then, on our kayaking trip in Queenstown, the couple from Colorado convinced me that it wasn’t that bad. The walkways were solid and you couldn’t really see below when you are walking up the bridge. I could handle that. No problem.
On Saturday, Chris purchased tickets for us to do the twilight climb. I couldn’t wait. Our climb started at 6:45 pm. We were there almost 30 minutes early. I was excited, scared, nervous, and happy.
The first line of business was to sign a release and do the alcohol breath test. Everyone in our group passed and we went on to the next step: clothes. Everyone has to wear a jumpsuit, safety belt, a radio, rain gear and a headlight (for twilight & night climbs only). You can wear sunglasses but they had to be attached to the jumpsuit. Everything has to be attached so nothing can fall out and land on a car or person beneath the bridge. No cameras. No caps. No watches. Nothing in the pockets. And, they take it very seriously. We had to go through a metal detector to ensure no one brought stuff in his or her pockets.
After we were fitted with everything, they took us on a practice course to ensure we were comfortable with the ladders. The steps are very close together. But, I felt good going though the practice course. No problem.
We started the walk toward the bridge to start our climb. The guide latched us onto a thin metal line. The first part of the climb we walked on wood boards. What?!? Wood can crack and break at any second. The freaking out started. The cold sweat started. Suddenly, I was really hot. I was thinking to myself “You can do this. You can do this. Breathe. Breathe.”
We finally passed the wooden planks. Next came the ladders. Uh, that little practice course did not prepare me for this. There were a lot of ladders and what felt like a million little steps. AND, AND, AND, I could hear cars driving by as I made my way up the ladder. At one point, there wasn’t anything on my left side and I could see down. “Don’t look down, don’t look down. Get down this thing fast.”
Whew! Got through the ladders and the rest was cake. Nice incline on a solid surface. And, the views were FANTASTIC! Doing the climb at twilight was perfect. We got to see the sun set while the city lights slowly turned on. As we were heading down, we were witness to a couple of firework shows across the city. Our last view was the huge moon hanging low in the sky.
I am so happy that I did this. It was really fun in between the panic and anxiety.
Pancakes on the Rocks
Two friends recommended a pancake restaurant called “Pancakes on the Rocks.” On the Rocks refers to the location of the restaurant. “The Rocks” is a neighborhood in Sydney where we happened to be staying.
We ended the Bridge Climb around 10 pm. We deserved some pancakes and headed to the restaurant. Luckily, there wasn’t a long line and we didn’t have to wait long for a table. We had the best pancakes that we have ever eaten. IHOP sucks compared to this. We both had ICE CREAM on our pancakes. No butter – ice cream. Chris also had cream on his. Chances are we’ll go back again before we leave.
Boating on the Sydney Harbour
We spent Sunday on a boat with Captain Colin. I read about him in the American Airlines magazine. We lucked out because there was just one other family on half of the trip. So, we basically had a private charter for most of the day.
The weather really cooperated with us. Every day we were in Sydney had little rain showers. But, on Sunday, it was sunny and warm without being too hot. We had great views “from the top” and equally beautiful views from the water. Colin provided a knowledgeable commentary of Sydney’s history.
We dropped anchor at a bay with dozens of other boats and yachts. I took a dip in the cool water (not as cold as the river in Queenstown). Chris was on shark patrol.
Colin provided us with a great lunch of prawns & scallops on half of an avocado on top of greens. Sliced chicken with chili sauce and bread rounded out the meal. Dessert was cheesecake and blueberries.
As we headed back, we noticed a storm brewing. Colin got us to Circular Quay (pronounced “key”) just in time. We briskly walked back to our hotel (10 min walk) and just as we got to our room, we saw the rain pour down. Talk about perfect timing!