Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day 5: Sydney

5 Dec 2008, FRIDAY

We packed and moved to Harbourview Hotel where we were booked for 2 nights. The hotel was offering some special deals and we decided to splurge a little. For a price of A$428 for 2N stay, we got to enjoy a bottle of sparkling wine, chocolates, 3 course dinner for 2, complimentary garage parking, drinks voucher, buffet breakfast for 2, $25 petrol gift card and late check-out. We thought it was a good deal...and of course, the harbour view from our room was priceless!

As the room wasn't ready, we just parked the car in the garage and left the suitcases in the car boot. Then we took off to explore Sydney via the rail. The North Sydney subway station was just adjacent to the hotel. We bought a CityHopper ticket each for A$5.60 which allowed for unlimited all day travel around 11 stations within the city area. There are also other value for money leisure tickets that you can purchase depending on your travel needs

I have always loved the Sydney rails. The trains' seatings are available in 2 split levels and the trains are spacious and quite comfortable. Depending on the direction in which the train is travelling, you can actually flip the backrest over so as to be in the same direction where the train is heading...this is especially useful for someone like me who tends to get motion sickness when having to sit in the reverse direction of the movement of the train.

As the train headed into the city, we caught a quick glimpse of the beautiful harbour bay area from the harbour bridge. Our first stop was at Town Hall station. We had wanted to visit the Queen Victoria Building (QVB)

Like many other Victorian architectural buildings, the QVB was a feast to the eyes. Not only did it look amazing on the outside, the interior was equally impressive. It is no wonder that some people hailed it as the most beautiful shopping centre in the world! I particularly loved the central dome where a 3-storey tall x'mas tree had been erected. And the beautiful stained glass windows and skylights on the roof not only looked terrific but also let natural light into the building. The intricate colonnades, arches and vibrant wall colors all served to make the exterior looked totally opulent and fit for the queen indeed. There are also 2 mechanical clocks ornamented with moving figures which depicted the history of Australia.

Outside of QVB, we caught sight of a street artist drawing a picture of santa using colored chalks. I always admire the passion of these street artists and performers and I make it a point to make a small contribution in support of their efforts.

After QVB, we walked down George Street and from a distance, I saw this beautiful building with the most intricate decorative detailing on the facade. As i walked closer, I suffered a rude shock to find, to my disgust, the golden arches of the infamous global food chain prominently displayed at the foyer of the building. The historical Plaza Theatre has been converted to a MacDonald's! *horror* I must say that was one hell of a MacDonald's with huge crystal chandeliers, beamed ceiling covered with beautiful motifs!

From George Street, we eventually made a right turn and headed towards Darling Harbour. Although not as pretty as Circular Quay, Darling Harbour does have its own charms There are many things to see and do around here i.e. take a cruise, visit the Sydney Aquarium, Widllife World, Australian National Maritime Museum, Powerhouse Museum, catch a movie at IMAX or try your luck at the Star City Casino. There's also the Sydney Visitor Centre where you can pick up NSW travel brochures and maps from a very extensive that'd be a good place to make your first stop if you are planning to explore Sydney and the NSW region.

There was a college band performing festive tunes while we were there. Despite the photo below, the band was actually quite good. The tunes brought on a very christmasy spirit to the waterfront area.

From Darling Harbour, we walked for about 10min to Paddy's Markets Good old Paddy's still looked and felt the same. However I noticed that almost all the stalls are now being run by asians. I thought I used to see more Australian stall owners in the past? Paddy is a good place to pick up souvenirs for your family and friends. We bought 6 t-shirts for A$40. Do note that Paddy's is only opened from Thu-Sun & on Public Holidays.

Apart from the usual tourist souvenirs, there's also a fresh food section where you can buy anything from vegetables, fruits to fresh meats. The produces looked really fresh and were very reasonably priced. I noticed many locals doing their grocery shopping there.

There are also many eateries, supermarkets and shops located on the upper levels of Paddy's Markets. I found one supermarket selling mostly asian products. From Paddy's, we walked back to Town Hall and took the rail to Circular Quay. The weather was beautiful and I managed to capture many pretty shots of the quay area and its 2 most iconic structures.

The Circular Quay Wharf is the terminus for all public ferry routes in Sydney. From here, you can catch a ferry to Manly, Taronga Zoo, Mosman Bay, Rose Bay, Watsons Bay, Parramatta and many other locations

I had really wanted to do the bridge climb but it was just too costly at almost A$200/pax A much cheaper alternative is to climb up 200 steps to the Pylon lookout - a similar view as that of the bridge climb but for only a minute fraction (A$9.50) of the price of the bridge climb

We saw a big group of japanese high school students on an overseas excursion.

A street performer playing on his Didjeridoo at the quayside.

Saw this cute installation opposite Circular Quay Wharf. Reminded me of my own tan lines.

From Circular Quay, we took the rail again to Central Station where we walked around the area and then found a nice cafe where we had a hot cup of coffee each (our first cup of decent coffee after so many days in Australia!).

We then headed back to the hotel as we had made dinner reservations for 7.30pm. Dinner was at the LB's Harbourview Restaurant. From where we were seated, we had a nice view of the Lavender bay towards the harbour and the city. The food was great but it was such a pity that my appetite wasn't good as I was still sick from flu and fever. Somehow, our dessert orders were much delayed (according to the restaurant manager, the chef had burnt RG's pie)....and to make up for their delay, the cost of our drinks were waived.

We turned in early for the night as I was still running a fever. I figured if my temperature didn't subside, I'd have to call for a doctor by tomorrow. At least I'm covered under travel insurance.

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