I used to tell people that my ideal city was if you could take Vancouver, British Columbia and combine it with Quebec City – then put it in Hawaii. That’s pretty much what Sydney, Australia is. I can’t believe no one ever told me.
I’ve only spent less than 24 hours in Sydney so far – but I love it. It has everything – ferries, boats, skyscrapers, surfing, beaches, museums, big green parks and botanical gardens, and every type of restaurant you can imagine. In many ways, it feels more like an Asian City than a European or North American one – which makes sense, but it feels clean, safe, fun, technologically advanced, and easy to get around. Everyone speaks English (obviously) and even though I changed money, I could easily have just used my credit cards and Apple Pay for everything. Okay, I didn’t actually physically change money, I just used an ATM to withdraw some cash in Aussie dollars.
Customs was a breeze. I caught the train to the city and walked to my hotel. Okay, I’ve said before that I was doing this trip on the cheap – the thing is, I’m 48 years old and hostels aren’t as fun as they were when I was in my twenties – so I didn’t want to do that. Plus, they were more expensive than I remembered – so I was looking at options and I found something cheaper – and it was something I’ve wanted to experience for a long time – capsule hotels. I thought I would have to go to Japan to experience capsule hotels (when I was in Japan, I stayed in hotels because money wasn’t so tight at that point).
On this trip I’m in Sydney, then to Melbourne for a day, then back to Sydney for three days, then to Launceston in Tasmania for a couple of days, and back to Sydney for a couple more days. With the exception of Melbourne – I booked my whole trip in capsules. I’ll review capsule hotels later – for now suffice to say they were a super cheap way to make sure I had a private bed, a bathroom, and a place to stash my gear if I needed. Total expenditure for capsules was less than $250 for ten days.
It was evening when I arrived and the train was mostly underground until just before my stop at Central Station. I grabbed a kebab (because you can’t get a good kebab in Hawaii) and walked around Sydney in the dark – went to Chinatown, wandered some streets, and saw that I was staying in the district that could easily be called the massage district. Thai massage, Japanese massage, etc. It was incredibly windy and the temperature was perfect. I didn’t get hit by any cars or trams – but the other side of the road is hard to get used to. After a 10-hour flight and days without sleep, I wasn’t up for getting a meal, going out, or anything else – so I crawled in my capsule and went to sleep.
I woke at 5am fully refreshed and decided to take a walk through Sydney before I went to the airport to catch my flight to Melbourne – a 10:40am flight. I wanted to see the Sydney Opera House and as usual, instead of looking at maps or reading a guidebook, or checking the distance – I just set off on a wander and figured I would go in the right direction. I grabbed a lovely cappuccino from a Georgy Boy’s, a local chain, and set off walking.
Somehow, I managed to wander to the Anzac Memorial, Hyde Park, the Botanical Gardens, and after about an hour was at the Sydney Opera House looking at the Sydney Harbor Bridge and marveling at how much bigger things are in real life (except the Mona Lisa and the Sphinx) than they look in pictures. The skyscrapers, the towers, the colonial buildings, churches and more. Australia isn’t an old civilization – but there are areas in Sydney that certainly have some history.
It was amazing to walk back to my capsule and be among the amazingly good looking people in dresses and suits on their way to work. It sort of felt like maybe you aren’t allowed to live and work in Sydney unless you are very good looking – but of course, that can’t be true – but none the less – I was struck by the fashion and fitness of the majority of the people I passed and walked with.
I was back at the capsule by 8am, had a quick shower, grabbed the train to the airport and was ready for American style department of homeland security – nope. This was a domestic flight and in Australia – that means that I checked in online, got texted my boarding pass, walked through security without having to show it or my ID to anyone, and went to the gate. The only question the X-ray people asked was “Do you have any aerosols?” to which I honestly replied nope.
With that, I drank a coffee and boarded the aircraft. Next stop, Melbourne, which I know nothing about except that my friend Gaye lives there.