Sydney Adventures :: Taronga Zoo and Vivid Sydney

For our last day in the city we decided to take it easy in the morning with a couple spa appointments at the hotel. Feeling rejuvenated, we took the ferry over to the Taronga Zoo. We wandered through the Zoo watching Kualas snooze in their trees, kangaroos hopping around freely and giraffes, elephants, and zebras roaming. It was quite the menagerie. We came very close to petting a kangaroo. We learned from one the volunteers that kangaroos understand territory, so for the enclosed area they were in… they new the grass was their space. If they chose to walk along the pathway from humans then they would have to share and interact with the humans. The volunteer told us that they will ofter stroll onto the pathway from attention and pets but once they rise up to move then people should stop petting them and let them bound away. Eric and I were about to get our pets in when the Roo raise his head (sad face) so we stepped aside… I was not about to get pounced by a Kangaroo on this trip.

Near the end of the day we hung around the Kuala trees in hopes of catching them feed. Sadly, the eucalyptus was not tempting enough to awake their slumber but we learned that Kualas are solitary animals that sleep 20 hours a day. We also learned that baby Joeys are born within 35 days and are strong enough to crawl their way to their mother’s pouch where they stay there for a few months until they outgrow their mother’s pouch and then crawl onto her back until they are able to survive on their own. The other fascinating tidbit of information was that a Kuala is not initially able to digest their main source of food. They have to eat their mother’s PAP I order to get the proper bacteria needed to digest the eucalyptus. Sadly, at 4:30 we had to leave the Zoo where they closed down for an hour before reopening for Vivid Sydney. Rather than waiting for the Zoo to reopen we hopped the ferry back to Circular Quay in hopes of seeing as many of the light installations as possible.

With no real agenda for the evening we stopped in Bulletin Place (by the Marriott Hotel in Circular Quay) for a couple tiki styled cocktails, a charcuterie board, and some recommendations from the bartenders on where to have dinner. The Bulletin Place was yet another unique cocktail experience that we stumbled into. The menu was written on a large kraft sheet of paper, which changed every few days. Creative names and vessels made you want to try every cocktail on the menu! If only I had a second liver…

After a couple cocktails and recommendations procured we headed over to Restaurant Hubert to put our names on the list for dinner and then strolled down to the Circular Quay to see some more of the light installations. This was night too of the Vivid Sydney festivities and we were prepped and ready! Our list was set and while we knew it was impossible to see all 82 light exhibits in one night we hustled to see as much of it as possible. After a quick dash and a couple hours of magical light installations, we made it into Hubert! A bustling french restaurant with a Moulin Rouge flair and a food menu that caused you to drool with delight. We were in heaven (once again).

The following are some videos and pictures from Vivid Sydney.

Disclaimer: some of the videos contain ooos and ahhs from our shaking hands… we did not have a tripod on hand.


Sydney Adventures :: Manly Beach

By Wednesday we were finally making our way to the beach. The soft sandy beaches we have heard so much about. We made a quick stop for breakfast at a coffee and bagel shop near the ferry terminal for yet another flat white and delicious fresh pressed juice – Garden Park Kitchen – The Bagel Shop. Tickets in hand we boarded the ferry for a speedy ride to Manly Beach.

After a few days strolling around the city it was refreshing to slow down the pace. Our first stop was the beach (naturally) for a relaxing and soothing view of the ocean. We watched surfers catch some morning waves and others set up shop for a day at the beach. After a while we strolled across the street for a glass of wine at Manly Wine, a beachy wine and oyster bar overlooking Manly Beach.

A little way further on the coastal walk we found the Fairy Bower Pool – triangular in shape  – adorned with two sculptures  along the rock edge known as ‘The Sea Nymphs’ or ‘The Oceanides’, which were created by Helen Leete. To the left of the Fairy Bower Pool was The Bower Restaurant where we sat outside (again enjoying the beauty of the historical pool) and peeled some rock shrimp with a fresh salad and coconut water. We even got to watch three dolphins galavant and play near some surfers catching waves. A perfect beach day.

After a relaxing day at the beach we grabbed the ferry back to Circular Quay and sipped on a happy hour glass of wine at Tapa Vino and freshened up for what we hoped to be our first evening out on the town.

We popped into the Absinthe Saloon in Surry Hill, on our way to dinner for an aperitif, where we chatted with the owners about how Absinthe is made and the different types available. The saloon had a Parisian Gothic feel that was intimate and cozy. We also learned Marylin Mason has his own brand of Absinthe called Mansithe. While we didn’t get around to trying the Mansithe, we were told it was well regarded but not heavily marketed by Marylin Manson himself. After a couple glasses and some truffles to go we headed over to Four in Hand in Paddington for a lovely dinner. By now, most of the meals we ate were Asian influenced so it was a nice change of pace to have lamb and steak options. Post dinner and a mild food coma (these dinner portions are no joke) we headed over to the much acclaimed Eau de Vie for a post dinner digestif. By now, we realized that all of the cocktail spots on our list were hidden from street view. We had to enter through a hotel building and down a dark hallway. Through a black door that blended into the wall we emerged into a packed dimly lit room (cocktails shaken, clanked and gulped)… just the place we were looking for. With an impressive cocktail list, ranging from confectionery cocktails to cocktails that claimed to grow hair on your chest and a robust whisky selection, Eric had found his version of Canon in Sydney.

Sydney Adventures :: Darling Harbour and Pylon Lookout

By Tuesday the jet lag was starting to subside thanks to the heavenly beds at the Amora Jamison Hotel. Not only are the beds insanely comfortable but they also have a pillow menu that you can select from. Want a down pillow that is extra soft or a memory foam pillow? Not a problem, it’s just a phone call away. Each day we found ourselves calling for a new pillow. When the options are available, why not try them all out, right?

Okay, beauty rest aside we hopped an Uber up to Surry Hill for a Mediterranean breakfast at Cafe Mint. Once we got out of CBD the morning crowds and traffics began to thin and most of the people were ordering take always before heading to the office. By now, Eric and I have called defeat… Sydney coffee is where is it at… long black, flat white, double espresso… they have it all. Sydney knows what they are doing. This morning at Cafe Mint was no different… almond milk and espresso powder for my flat white and Eric’s cardamom infused latte.

Another thing that I am loving each morning is the abundance of Halumi cheese with my eggs and avocado toast mash. Seriously, why can’t all breakfast spots in Seattle offer a side of Halumi?

Bellies full (once again) we headed down the hill to Darling Harbour to visit the Chinese Garden of Friendship. This mini oasis in the city was funded by the Sydney government and a Chinese Heritage group and was designed by architects from Guangzhou, Sydney’s sister city for Australia’s bicentenary in 1988.The garden interweaves pavilions, weeping willows, waterfalls, lakes, paths and lush plant life. By the time we arrived, it was time for the koi carp feeding. We watched the fish compete with the birds for their early afternoon meal and then strolled over to the tea room for a pot of jasmine tea and a couple bbq buns.

After a couple hours in tranquility we left the oasis and headed down to the Circular Quay for the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout. When visiting Sydney, there are three options for those who want a view from the bridge: a) take a stroll across the bridge b) do the bridge climb or c) walk 200 steps in the Pylon Lookout. Not wanting to take out special life insurance or spend copious amounts of money we decided to do the Pylon Lookout. We first strolled around the Harbour and then up to the bridge to take in the beauty of the city. We then walked by the Pylon steps where we could see the bridge climbers greeting the crest. Maybe because it was later in the day and a Tuesday afternoon the Pylon Outlook was (for the most part) empty. On the stair climb unto the outlook there were 3 levels of exhibits where we learned about the history and construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the men who built it, and the vision of JJC Bradfield, chief engineer. It truly was a fun way to see the city and learn more about its history.

Because we hadn’t walked enough that day, we decided to stroll back over to Surry Hill to check out Tokyo Bird – a Japanese whisky bar (run by Jason Ang and Yoshi Onishi) with an impressive selection of whisky and yakitori delights. Eric was in whisky heaven and I thoroughly enjoyed the craft cocktails that these bartenders stirred up. I even got to pour my own cocktail as the infused smoke billowed out the top!

Want to watch a 6 minute video of Koi Carp eating their feed in slow motion? Of course you do!


Blue Mountain Adventures :: Katoomba

After a packed city weekend we decided to get out of Sydney and see the Blue Mountains. Fortunately, the train system easily takes you out of the city and straight into Katoomba where the Blue Mountains are located. Per the recommendation of family, we purchased two explorer bus passes to hop on and off at various sites along the way. Our first stop (and I’m not going to lie… Our only stop) was the Scenic World. Little did we know we were entering the Mother Nature equivalent of Disney World. The bus ride over was where we  met another tourist coming from Syndey for a little day trip adventure. Our new friend coincidentally was on the same flight to Sydney from LAX as us and was staying a hotel a few blocks from ours. With our wristbands strapped on we decided to hit the rides. Yes, there were 4 options that we could take from the Scenic World – the cableway, Sky ride, railway, and the more pedestrian option… The walking paths. The following pictures and videos are from our day adventure in the Blue Mountains with a highlight of the The Sisters.

Because we are visiting in the winter months, the sun sets a little before 5 PM. A two hour train ride later we were back in the hustle and bustle of Sydney. Unlike Seattle sea of blue badges (Amazon) we were thrust into a see of blue business suits. We learned quick to stay to the left and keep pace with the urban professionals. With a couple hours to spare we decided to duck back into The Baxter Inn for another delicious dram. The Post work Monday scene was drastically different from that of Saturday night. The Jamison and apple cocktails were no longer pouring and the high ball cocktails were replaced with blue suite professionals and sniffer glasses.

Post cocktail, we headed over to Potts Point for our reservation at Cho Cho San a modern “inventive” Japanese fusion restaurant where we enjoyed an impressive chef tasting menu. While I agree prices in Sydney can be high for food and beverage the amount of food we received was way more than we ever could finish in one sitting. We gladly accepted the doggie bags and played a game of Jenga with our hotel mini fridge. Day 3 was in the books and we successfully stayed up till 9.

Sydney Adventure :: Paddington

After a 12 hour blissful rest our super human powers had worn off and we were left to go about our day at a more normal speed. Bright eyed and bushy tail we decided to do what Aussies do… Go for a run around the Sydney Opera House and the water front trail in the Royal Botanical Gardens. 

The Royal Botanical Gardens and The Rocks are busy getting ready for Vivid Sydney at the end of this week, which is Sydney’s major winter event combining light, music, and ideas. There has been quite a bustle in the Rocks no matter the time of day but the morning jog around the Opera House was serene.

Fresh off our run it was time for a little breakfast. We took a short stroll from our hotel, through Hyde Park,  where it is under construction to build reflection pools leading up to the Anzac Memorial (the main commemorative memorial in Sydney). In Darlinghurst, we brunched at Edition Coffee Roasters a Norweigen and Japanese-fusion breakfast spot, where we feasted on passion fruit matcha pancakes with  miso syrup and a pork hoggi sandwich (called the porco rollo) topped with wasabi aioli and shredded cabbage.

On day 2 of this trip we are really digging the coffee scene… A bit like Stale Coffee Roasters (in Ballard) but on steroids. So, options a plenty, the only thing to do was order multiple forms of caffeine. Case in point, a coffee elixir. Now, elixirs are not something out of the ordinary for me but a coffee based one was new. The description on the bottle said, “looks like whisky, tastes like black tea, made from coffee beans… and unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before”. The description was right on, and the taste was amazing. 

Bellies full and heads buzzing with caffeine we headed out to the Art Museum of New South Wales. The galleries are free but the special attraction was a reasonable $16 (AUD) a ticket.  When we realized the special exhibit was all about the C’hang Dynesty we couldn’t resist.  The gallery was full of treasures and was right up Eric’s alley. The crowning exhibit was an augmented reality tour of the inside of an excavated tomb. Holding onto an iPad pointing at each wall the tomb came to life with amazing carvings, paintings, and statues. Another interesting attraction was the Embassey of Spirits. This featured several individual ‘Embasseys’ which allowed the patron to explore a series of different emotion evoking pieces of art. 

After a quick glass of wine (because we are us and had to have wine) we headed out of the museum and down to Harry’s Cafe de Wheels for a quick snack. This meat pie stand is world famous for its Tiger Pies, which are filled with curried beef and covered in mashed potatoes, peas, and gravy.  Admittedly we both found this place to be underwhelming; okay for a quick bite but we wouldn’t recommend actively seeking it out.  

Our next stop was the Paddington Resevior Gardens, which once accepted water from the Botany Swamps and pumped the station in the 1800’s…  From the Art Museum NSW to Paddington we walked through Darlinghurst. I don’t know about you all, but when I visit a new city I like to explore the neighborhoods and pick out the one I would most likely live in. For me, Darlinghurst was the one… Plush gardens and ornate iron fencing these beautiful homes screamed “buy me Liz”. The biggest challenge of this neighborhood was the steep hills we did not anticipate climbing to get to the Paddington Resevoir Gardens. 

So back to where I was… Oh yes… The gardens. Now it’s a beautiful and scerene garden escape plopped right in the middle of Paddington. A few photos later we headed to the Wine Library for a refreshing glass of white wine; after all, we had just walked a good 7 miles. Re-charged we headed over to The Winery for a second glass of wine and one of the best cured meat plates we’d ever had. Bellies full of meat and fermented grape juice we realized it was time for a more substantial meal so we headed over to Mr. Wongs for an amazing spread of Dim Sum, Wok fried seafood, fried rice, and twice cooked green beans with spicy pork. If the food was amazing, the cocktails were other worldly and the ambiance was superb. Part of me regrets not taking a picture of the glorious decor but I was too busy basking in food heaven.  This was certainly the best meal of the trip (so far).  

By the end of dinner we had made it to 8 pm, about another 90 minutes later than the evening before. The 8 miles of walking/jogging, an early sunset (5 pm), and a few libations had caught up with us. We retired to our hotel room for another blissful night of sleep.

Sydney Adventures

A 15 hour flight and a missing Friday later we landed in Sydney. What is the first order of business when you land in a new city? Get your SIM card situated, of course.  

Newly acquired connectivity in hand, we grabbed an Uber to City Center. While our AM flight into Syndey allowed us to enjoy a full day of tourist delights, it was gamble as to whether or not our hotel room would be ready for our arrival. 

I know a lot of people encouraged Eric and to go the AirBnb route while in Sydney but I have to be honest… AirBnb falls in the category of camping…. I would much prefer to have room service at my finger tips than have the option of cooking my dinner.

So, our hotel room gamble played out in our favor and we were able to unpack and situate ourselves for the next 9 days. With fresh clothes on we decided to find our IV drip of coffee… Which by the way… News flash! Sydney is just as coffee crazed at Seattle… Eric and I had found our new favorite caffeinated city.

With a little assistance from Yelp crowd sourcing we found a gem  near our hotel with an inspiring Flat White and Breakie. With our viens fully pumping caffeine we were charged up for the day and it wasn’t even 10. The next stop on our morning jaunt was a stroll around the Sydney Opera House, followed by a few hours in the Royal Botanical Gardens. Our sister in-law wasn’t kidding when she said the birds in Australia were vocal. We found ourselves in what was more of a bird sanctuary in the middle of the city. It was a glorious site to see. We were also forewarned that everyone in Sydney would be running. This was not an exaggeration… Everyone was in their athletic gear… Welcome to the land of the beautiful people. 

By noon, we had already plowed through most of our agenda for the day, so we decided to cap off the morning with a trip to the Sydney Museum for a quick history lesson. While the Sydney Museum is not large, it was a great way to start our trip in a city we new little about.  Post muesum and a little cognitive overload, the day was still young… we were going to need more coffee…

We headed back to the hotel for a pit stop before heading out to Malay-Chinese to get some fiery shrimp and chicken laksa.  

Bellies full and out mouthed, faces, and hair on fire we headed over to the Sydney Observatory to learn how the Venus Tansit related to telling time by celestial beings. 

With our fill of touristy fun, we decided it was time to focus on one of our favorite past times…. Food and libations. We headed over to the Blu Bar at the Shangri-la Hotel where we were greeted with house beat music, underwhelming decor, and a somewhat redeeming view. After waiting 30 minutes for our cocktails we left to go find something more our speed and taste, which is where… with a bit of skeptasim… we stumbled down a dark alley, into a basement, passed a storage nook, and into a non-descript door. With the door flung open, we found a room brimming with people and cocktail shakers…. we had found our whiskey paradise. This bar in an alley made our beloved Bath Tub Gin feel like a cake walk to find.  With over 300 whiskey’s on the chalkboard to choose from we had arrived.  3 inspired drams, 1 smokey Manhattan, and a barrel aged ‘on-tap’ old fashioned later we had made friends with the bartender affectionately called ‘Sausage’.  (On a side note… If you want to follow our whisky libations… check out Eric’s @thatsmydram on Instagram). 

At this point it wasn’t even 6 when we said adieu for another evening. Our sands of time were slowly running out, so we dashed over to Frankie’s Pizza for a slice and a beer/glass of Shiraz before our time was up. With our tummies full and drinks imbibed, we headed back to the hotel at 7 pm, just as the cool kids of Sydney are headed out for the night. 

Welcome to OZ

A 7 hour cat nap and 2 Oscar movies later we have touched down in the land of OZ. Our Dreamliner flight out of LAX was surprisingly empty. Everyone on standby made the flight, everyone listed on the first class upgrade list received their upgrade and even then every row in economy had at least one empty seat. Oh the glory.

With the extra leg room and ability to spread out, we were able to sleep for a “good” 7 hours. Eric and I are ready to drop the bags off at the hotel and start exploring what Sydney has to offer. Since it’s 7 AM on a Saturday here,welcome to the future, friends and family back home! 

We are off to explore. There are sites to see, food to consume, and libations to embibe.