First major surprise was that an off-peak fare to Syndey and back (for "students") was only $4.50 each! I have no idea how much the non-concession fare was, but we convinced ourselves that if we were asked for our tickets we would feign ignorance and claim we thought NZ student ID's were valid.
After arriving at Wynyard station (and enjoying a meal at "Hungry Jacks", AKA Burger King), we began the surprisingly difficult task of finding our way to the waterfront. We didn't really know what we wanted to see or where we wanted to go, but we figured the Opera House would make a good start. This was the first really warm day we'd had, so even with sunscreen on we felt compelled to weave our way down the streets, ducking from tree to tree, so as to spend as little time in the sunlight as possible. Once we arrived at the Opera House we realised that there was no shade whatsoever, and that we were getting roasted, so we decided we needed hats (and I needed sunglasses). To Australia's credit, the prices in the nearby tourist shop were surprisingly reasonable. $10/20 hats and $25 sunglasses. Sydney was much more enjoyable once I knew my head was not going to turn pink (much to the amusement of our Aussie hosts).
Random tidbits from our wanderings:
- Never realised the roof of the Opera House is made up of hand-sized white and grey tiles, arranged in a pattern.
- The botanic garden had bats in the trees. Hundreds of them, in broad daylight. And they were they noisy enough to drown out the cars, the sea and the chatter of tourists.
- What are those random chicken-sized birds with the long curvy beaks which walk around all over the parks? They can't be very good to eat or they would have been extinct by now.
- Air conditioned shops are wonderful.
- I should have worn shorts. Bloody jeans.
On behalf of Ellie we also checked out Sydney's malls. She had bought a present for her boy, hi Ryan ;-), but it had fallen out of the bottom of a plastic bag, so we were tasked with buying a replacement (which we failed at). While the malls in Sydney were substantially larger, they were also much more densely packed. You could easily get lost and wander through 3 separate malls and a couple of department stores before you found your way out. Lots of choice, but much more confusing.
At around 6 we met up for a drink with my (current) boss, who happens to be in Sydney on business. Long story short we ended up being taken to a very nice restaurant (Victoria Room) by a client and her boyfriend, all paid for on the company card. The food was an assortment of different styles, and came served in a number of small portions which were then shared amongst the table. The food was wonderful, and the wine flowed freely and I'm glad I wasn't paying for it :)
Side Note: Sydney's homeless (a contingent of which was waiting outside the restaurant) seem to be a lot more persistent than Wellington's. The "scuze me, do you have a couple of dollars..." guy from Courtenay Place had nothing on this lot.
We arrived home very late (around 1:30, hooray for the Sydney train system for still being open), and apparently had missed a long session of family bonding (primarily involving an expensive bottle of Whiskey and 2 bottles of Baileys). I'm still deciding whether I should be disappointed about that...