Sydney or Bust: Darling Harbor

For a summary of my trip to Sydney and details of our time near the CBD, see my earlier post.

Day 4

Day 4 in Sydney started with us leaving the CBD and the Four Seasons and moving to the Radisson Hotel and Suites at Darling Harbour. After relocating it was time to head out to our first stop, Madame Tussauds. Having visited both the Las Vegas and New York locations on numerous occasions as well as one in London, I had not originally planned on visiting the one in Sydney since I figured I had seen all the wax sculptures I needed to. However, since admissions came with our Sydney 5-Attraction Pass (discussed here) we figured “why not?” It turned out to be an awesome morning of dancing with Michael, chilling in the oval office and hanging out with my ex-Prince William and his wife (whom I now love much more than Wills).

Nearby to Madame Tussauds was both the Wild Life Sydney Zoo that we had visited on our first day in Sydney and the next stop on our journey, the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium (also on our 5-Attraction pass). For the most part it seemed like other aquariums I have seen before with tunnels to walkthrough underneath the tank and fishes and sea animals of all types to look at, but there were a couple unique options they had as well, which were pretty cool. There was a “Penguin Expedition” where we boarded a raft/boat to circle around the penguin enclosure. I loved that the air was so cold in the expedition, along with being a refreshing change from the hot summer sun outside it was nice to not see overheated animals wilting in cages like we tend to see in zoos and sea life aquariums in other cities. (Picture below was taken from our raft while on the Penguin Expedition.) The other item of interest I was unable to try due to Emily’s young age was the Great Barrier Reef where you can take a glass bottom boat over a part of the aquarium that is made to emulate the Great Barrier Reef.

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After the aquarium we walked along the promenade at Darling Harbor and decided to find a place to stop for lunch, cue Nick’s Seafood Restaurant. The place had a touristy feel to it and the menu certainly had tourist prices but the food was very fresh and the locations was the best.

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After Nick’s restaurant we headed back to the hotel to unpack and relax. While only 2 km away, there was a big difference between CBD and Darling Harbour. Having lived near New York City for nine years and spending a lot of time in Washington DC on vacation it reminded me a lot of the differences between those two cities. CBD was historic with pristine streets and lots of tourists while Darling Harbour had modern buildings, scaffolding abound and a more trendy atmosphere, or at least that was my take on the differences.

For dinner, my sister, Emily and I headed out to see Darling Harbour on foot and made our way to the famous Harry’s CafĂ© de Wheels for some renowned pot pies. We picked up a bunch of options to share for dinner and headed back to the hotel. The walk was a great way to get acquainted to the neighborhood but the pot pies turned out to be just okay.

Day 5

When I was still planning our Sydney itinerary back in March 2016, a high school classmate posted a picture of her lunch on Instagram. I was drooling and quickly went to see what local restaurant she had gone to, assuming it was a restaurant in Honolulu. I was sad when I found out that she was posting pictures from her lunch at the Sydney Fish Market, although it quickly made my list of places I wanted to visit. On Day 5 I got my wish as we started off our morning navigating the stalls of this delicious mecca. The food dish from Instagram that led me to the Sydney Fish Market is pictured below as the uni on a bed of rice with tobiko situated inside the sea urchin shell (found at Peter’s Fish Market). I bought two for myself and Emily, figuring that I could have the uni and tobiko and she could eat the rice. Emily did not apparently learn how to share yet and after she ate all of the uni, tobiko and rice from both shells I had to go back to get a round for myself.

Taking the train back to the hotel from the Syndey Fish Market, we stopped to peruse the aisles of vendors inside Paddy’s Haymarket where my sister had fun shopping for clothes and I just focused on trying to keep Emily from grabbing everything in sight.

For dinner that night my mom had her own plans and my sister told me that my itinerary was exhausting her so she was going to have a low key night staying near the hotel. Since poor Emily didn’t get a vote I decided to make it a mother-daughter outing. I strapped Emily into her into her stroller and with Koala in hand we took off, catching the train back up to Circular Quay to take in some of the Christmas decorations and to catch a ferry ride out to Manly. I didn’t actually have any plans to see Manly, but catching the ferry to the far away island is the cheapest sunset cruise you can get around the Sydney harbor and it was amazing. The sights of the little islands and houses we passed on our way out to Manly had me daydreaming of what my life would be like if I lived over there and took a ferry to work every day. I was all set to figure out a place to eat once we got to Manly but Emily started crashing and fearing that keeping her out too late would cause a monster sized melt down on her part, we hopped on the ferry back to Sydney Harbor to grab a bite to eat and head back to Darling Harbor for the night.

Day 6

Google “things to do” in Sydney and more often than not you’ll be told to do the “Coogee to Bondi Costal Walk”. While I’m exhausted just thinking about it 1.5 years later, it was one of the most memorable parts of the trip for me. Coves and beaches galore to see and swim at, awe-inspiring scenery and a pretty intense graveyard. The only problem is that while it is doable with a stroller, it certainly causes issues. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

The Walk: Coogee to Bondi – A lot of websites discussed walking from Bondi to either Coogee or Bronte but I really wanted to end up at Icebergs in Bondi, so we decided to fill up our Opal card and take the bus to Coogee for the start of our adventure. Getting off the bus we decided to grab breakfast at Little Jack Horner. The food was delicious, the view amazing (we sat right across from Coogee beach) and how cute was Emily’s juice cup?

Once we had gorged ourselves it was time to walk off our breakfast so we headed across the street to Coogee beach to start our 6 km trek, weaving our way from Coogee to Clovelly to Bronte to Tamarama and finally on to Bondi.

As I said, it was one of the most memorable things we did. However, if not everyone in your group is able to walk without help, really think about if the gorgeous views are worth it and how much you can handle. To get the best views, the hike takes you down and then back up very steep stairs near the beach. Emily was already too big/heavy for me to carry any time she got tired so we were definitely in need for a stroller. We attempted at some points to avoid the steps by taking the car path, but this added on to our walk significantly as we got hopelessly lost in the process. In the end the best way to make the trip was to have one person (my mom) carry Emily while one person (me) carry the stroller up and down the steps (sister got out of the heavy lifting on account of back problems). Doable but definitely tiring.

One of the most surprising parts of the walk was Waverley Cemetery. I believe the route from Coogee to Bondi would always route you past the cemetery, but since they were doing work on the beach path in the area, everyone was routed deep into the cemetery to see ornate tombs and tall statues.

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Finally over two hours later (I think the typical in shape (since I am not) walker without a stroller/baby in tow can do this trip in much less time) we finally made it to Bondi. I wanted nothing more than to relax at the famous Bondi Icebergs looking at the most amazing pool ever. Note: the pool is open to the public for a fee. If I ever get back to Sydney I think I may skip the walk and just take the bus directly to Bondi and spend the day in that pool. We were a sweaty mess with no reservations and I was embarrassed to even ask for a table amidst all the well groomed tourists and locals surrounding us, however the staff was very accommodating. That being said, after ordering we realized just how late it was and had to apologize, ask for our food to be provided to go (or take away as the Aussie’s call it) and raced out of Icebergs to catch the bus back to Darling Harbour. Worst customers ever! (A big thank you to Icebergs for putting up with that with class and finesse.)

Why did we have to vacate from Icebergs so fast? Because my sister and I had a date at a restaurant that had been on my bucket list for a LONG time: Tetsuya’s.

It was a dream of mine to eat at Sydney’s famous Tetsuya’s restaurant, but with a two year old in tow I figured I would have to bow out. M

A little bit about me: In my twenties I had a good job with a steady paycheck, no children and a tiny mortgage. I’d like to say that I was thrifty and squirreled all my money away for a rainy day and am now swimming like Scrooge McDuck in all my gold. But instead I had a bad addiction of eating at some of the best (and therefore expensive) restaurants in the world. I closely tracked the San Pellegrino Best Restaurants in the World and was such a fan girl over the top chefs. Today our kitchen is covered in tasting menus signed by chefs of the restaurants we got to visit. However, Tetsuya’s, located half a world away in Sydney, was never an option. Fast-forward a decade and Tetsuya’s had lost it’s star at the top of the Best Restaurants list. I wasn’t deterred by the drop in status however, and at least with the downgrade, reservations were not impossible to get. At the beginning of our trip planning I had thought I would have to bow out of getting to experience Tetsuya’s since Emily wouldn’t be able to go. My mom however offered to go alone to Tetsuya’s so that on a separate night she could watch Emily while my sister and I got to enjoy the restaurant. Best mom ever! And also why she was busy on Day 5 when I went out to Manly.

From the outside, Tetsuya’s reminded me of a consulate building, slightly unassuming around the corner from our hotel. Inside were small to medium sized rooms so that when dining it feels like you are in a tiny, cozy restaurant instead of a place that seats hundreds. The wait staff was impeccably dressed, friendly and knowledgeable about the meal. My one negative take away however, was that I didn’t leave stuffed. Maybe it was the fact that I had spent the day on our trek around Sydney’s coast but at $230/person before tax, tips, drinks or the add-on delicious oysters I felt I should get to roll out of the restaurant.

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The coolest part of Tetsuya’s was the end of the evening when the head waiter invited us back to take a peak at the kitchen. It was definitely a day and night to remember.

Day 7

I had plans to spend the day sightseeing the Blue Mountains. We were going to take a 2-hour train ride from Central Station to Katoomba. Once in Katoomba we would purchase tickets to ride the hop-on hop-off Blue Mountains Explorer Bus before returning to Sydney in the evening. A part of me regrets not following this plan. But for the most part I am happy that I threw in the towel on my itinerary. Waking up exhausted after our Bondi walk followed by lots of alcohol and a 10-course dinner, we all decided that spending a low key day wandering Sydney one last time was the perfect way to end the trip.

We started out our day eating breakfast at the Queen Victoria Building before wandering inside to view the shops decked out for Christmas time.

Next we wandered through Hyde Park, Australia’s oldest park and a beautiful piece of green amidst the city, watching street performers and walking through the pathways and trees.

We made our way back to Westfield Shopping Center in order to look at the Christmas window displays and to eat at one of my favorite restaurants: Ippudo. When we lived near New York hands down the best noodle and pork bun restaurant in our opinion was Ippudo, so I was ecstatic to find out that they had a restaurant in Sydney. This version did not disappoint!

Just one thing to note about all the restaurants in Sydney, they typically charge the customer back for interchange (e.g. the fee that companies like MasterCard and Visa charge in order to use a credit card), as opposed to the U.S. where the restaurants themselves typically take the hit for the charge.

The rest of the day was spent resting, packing, purchasing omiyage (i.e. a gift or souvenir you give to friends, coworkers, and family after returning home from a trip) and eating food from the Chinese restaurant next to our hotel. I did want to give a shout out to the Radisson Hotel. The rooms were a little worn but the space made up for it in droves. We had a kitchen, dining room, living room, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Emily loved getting to sleep on a twin bed right next to mine and it was great not to make the other members of our party keep it down when she had to take a nap.

Day 8

It was time for the majority of the group to head home (my mom continued on to New Zealand) so Day 8 was spent commuting to the airport and enjoying the Asiana first class lounge before flying back to Honolulu via Seoul. I have to say, airplane food can be awesome.

Goodbye Sydney! Until we meet again!

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