It's already midway through January, so WHY am I still blogging about my Christmas/New Years holiday? Will somebody slap me? Well, get ready to buckle down and sit in your chair at your computer until your bum goes numb and your eyes glaze over in their sockets, because I'm doing all of Sydney in ONE POST! That's right. I'm not stopping. I'm going straight through.
New Years Eve
On the morning of December 31, we left my beloved Melbourne to embark on a pleasant Qantas flight (they always are) to Sydney. We were in the air for less than an hour, but they still took the time to serve us cereal and a hot bread roll (the cereal was actually gross, but I forgive Qantas for all error).
We then jumped into a big taxi that took us to our hotel: the Intercontinental. This is where Oprah stayed, so we knew it had to be good. We didn't get a suite, but we did get a spectacular view.
After we checked in, most of us got a much tastier breakfast at Pancakes on the Rocks
. I didn't take any pictures, but let's just say that they have a lot of pancakes there. I go there every time that I go to Sydney. Afterwards, I took a much-needed nap on the biggest and most comfortable pillows I have ever sunken my head into. After that, Al and I walked around to see if we could find a styrofoam cooler and a hearty supply of beer for the evening's festivities. We came back empty-handed and soaking of sweat. It was very
hot out there. At least we had wine. More on that later.
Look at our views!
Helllloooo Royal Botanic Gardens and Sydney Harbour (I took this photo on the last day, when it was much more overcast)!
After our afternoon alcohol hunt, we prettied ourselves up for dinner. We ate dinner at Etch
in the lobby of our hotel. It's a fancy-schmancy restaurant, and I was worried when I saw the menu in advance and could only understand about five words on it. There was no need, however. Our five-course meal was one of the best I ever had in my life!
To start, we had pickled baby heirloom vegetables, Edith's Ash and grape gel. Are you starting to see why I was confused? The vegetables were a combination of tomatoes and carrots, and they were beautifully placed on the plate. They actually delicately peeled the bottom and sides of the skin on one of the small tomatoes and flipped it up inside-out on the top so that it looked like a flower. You can kind of see it in the left corner. The green and red dots are different sauces, so there were lots of tasty varieties. There was also a soft cheese (I'm not sure what it was, but it tasted like brie), so I was very pleased. I cleared my plate and then ate the rest of Al's veggies.
I guess I forgot to photograph the second course. It was the only one that I didn't finish. It was pork belly, scallops, pea and truffle. It tasted warm and buttery, but not in a bad way. I devoured my scallops, but I could only eat so much of the pork belly. I know that it was perfectly done, but I just can't eat pork belly. I don't like the taste of it.. Jon and Al had to fight over the remains.
The third dish was a Wagyu sirloin, kromesky, sarladaise potato and red wine vinegar juis (it's funny how my spell check on here is going crazy. I guess it doesn't know any of these words either). This was divine. I wouldn't have shared this with anybody. I used to never eat steak, but now I'll have small bites of it every once in a while. This seemed to melt in my mouth and made me wanting more with every bite. The sauces were also great for dipping. The meat in the middle was breaded and lightly fried. That was also perfect. So were the potatoes. I could have easily had a second helping of that plate.
The fourth dish was a cola cloud with raspberry sorbet and vanilla creme fraiche. It was unlike anything I've ever had before for dessert, and I loved it. The 'cola cloud' is that brown puffy thing that you see. It tasted like frothy Coca Cola, but so much better. They placed the sorbet on top of it and raspberries in the front. This was all on top of a thick vanilla ribbon that was edible but indescribable. I was very satisfied by this point, and I was even more pleased to know that there was another dessert dish on its way.
The final dish was a cherry and coconut parfait with macerated cherries and cocoa bean tuile. Does this look like your normal parfait? It looks more like a tiny and edible checker board that happens to be pink. I think the cocoa bean tuile was the white ball on the right. The brown runner through the plate is actually some sort of chocolate that stuck very well to the plate, although you could sort of eat it once we ate all of the food. Believe me, we all tried.
We also had some drinks with dinner. We left feeling full, but not too full. I actually felt depressed when I left, because I did't know the next time I would be able to get food that good! Thank you, Etch! You made all of us happy. Really, if you can make my dad clean both of his dessert plates (and he never eats dessert), then you have done well!
After dinner, we headed upstairs to change into more comfortable clothes and grab what little booze we had for the fireworks. You see, although we were allowed to bring alcohol into our area, we couldn't bring anything in a glass bottle (hence why we searched long and hard without success for beer cans). They also threatened to confiscate our booze if we brought too much in with us, so we really didn't have that much. My parents bought two bottles of wine that they transferred to plastic water bottles, and Jon brought some of those teeny tiny plastic whiskey bottles. Unfortunately, they didn't sell any alcohol there. I usually wouldn't care about all of these alcohol rules, but I always celebrate my night with some champagne.
On our walk over, I caught a very blurry picture of police on horseback patrolling the area outside of the Royal Botanic Gardens. There were hoards of people. We were lucky to have gotten tickets in advance, because people without tickets literally camped out the night before to get a decent spot and view of the fireworks.
So many of the streets in the city were blocked off to motor traffic.
I can't stress how wonderful it was to have tickets. We whisked right through security and were guided to our viewing area in the Botanic Gardens. We could see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge almost perfectly.
It was just starting to get dark by the time we laid out our blankets and pulled out the wine. Oh yeah, there were definitely people who brought in champagne in glass bottles and gallons of booze. Too bad we followed the rules.
Once it got dark, we saw the 9pm fireworks display. This was for families with young kids and earlier bedtimes. It was nice, but it was nothing compared to the display three hours later. From 9:10 until 12, we sat around (after running out of alcohol about 15 minutes after arriving). Since I had wine at dinner, I was exhausted and even cranky. We had nothing to do (I forgot my cards), but it was still well worth the wait.
I, of course, couldn't get any pictures that remotely resembled a firework in the sky. I tried again and again to get a good photo, but I finally decided that it was more important that I try to enjoy myself. I put the camera away. The fireworks lit up the entirety of Sydney Harbour. There were sparks flying off the bridge and illuminating the sky. There were all kinds of fun shapes and variations. It was impossible to pull my eyes away.
It was well worth every penny for a good view. All in all, sobriety and all, it was the perfect night. We planned to go out to some pubs afterwards, but everything was packed with people. We were also exhausted. I was thrilled to wake up on January 1st feeling refreshed and NOT hung over!
New Years Day
New Years Day was spectacular. We woke up to watch the London fireworks live (the time difference still shocks me). It was a hot and sunny day outside, so Jon, Al and I lathered ourselves up with sunscreen and headed over to Manly Beach. Of course, you can't just walk there from Sydney's Central Business District.
Manly Beach is a famous Sydney beach, although it's not quite as popular as Bondi. This is appealing to many people, because you won't always be competing for towel space during the summer months. I've already been to Bondi twice, so we decided to try something new.
Manly is on the far opposite side of Sydney Harbour, so the best way to get there is by ferry. We were less than a five minute walk from Circular Quay (I LOVED our location), so it was very easy for us to get there. We missed the first ferry, so we had to wait about 30 minutes to catch the next one. We were first in line, so we got our choices of spots. We decided to stand outside on the front of the boat. We wanted the best views.
Here we are, leaving the ferry dock!
Can you believe that people use this mode of transport to get to work every day in Sydney?
I snapped a photo of our hotel. It's the second building in the from the left. You can almost make out the "Intercontinental" letters on it.
Hello, beautiful! Really, it never gets old.
This view never get old, either :)
There are so many boats in Sydney Harbour. I wouldn't mind taking my boat out there every day.
We got surreal views without any heads in the way. I'm glad that we stood where we did.
I took a lot of pictures of the Harbour. Probably too many. There are many more than I posted. A woman eventually asked me to move over so that she could get some photos without my head in the way. Luckily, she didn't stay there very long.
This is where the Harbour opens up into the sea. It was also surreal.
A very short while after that, we arrived at our destination. Hello, sunny Manly! All together, our ride took about 25 minutes. That is, once it left the dock.
Lovely beach, yes?
Even though I was covered with sunscreen and kept reapplying, my back still turned bright red. It hurt for a couple of days.
We had to walk through the town to get from the ferry to the beach. There were so many adorable shops and places to eat. I was especially amused by this 'drinking station'. It's just for people to fill up their water bottles. They had a lot of those on the promenade.
After I realized that I had a burned back, Al and I left Jon at the beach in search of somewhere to sit in the shade. We walked back to the ferry dock, where there were tons of places to eat and sit around. We settled on the Bavarian Bier Cafe.
I sipped on a glass of savignon blanc (probably the only thing that was under $10, and it was gross) while we stared at this view. Not bad,right?
We caught the ferry home as soon as Jon came back from the beach. We met our parents for dinner in Darling Harbour, and then we went on our own little bar crawl. We had fun, but luckily not too much fun. I was lucky to have a hangover-free vacation!
The Last Day :(
The last day of our holidays was sad, but we still made it fun. My mom decided to leave all of the pictures until then (I guess we didn't have time to do them earlier, anyway).
The picturesque Royal Botanic Gardens
We were hungry around 2:30 pm (Al and I still hadn't had anything to eat), so the family followed us to Wagamama
in Darling Harbour. I first discovered this place in London in 2009, and I never looked back. Terrible service, but great food!
I don't look happy in the photo, but I was enjoying my noodles and mojito very much.
Jon and my dad went to the aquarium (I've already been there twice, and my mom and Al have been there once, so we skipped it), and the rest of us went back to the hotel to relax. Then, we got ready for our final dinner.
Here is my dad sitting in the lounge in the lobby of the Intercontinental that night. It was so beautiful. I'm not sure why we didn't take more photos. There was a gorgeous old-fashioned elevator just to to left of him.
We had our last meal at East Bank
in Circular Quay. It was my second time there, and I was not disappointed. It was raining and slightly cold (for us), so we decided to eat indoors instead of taking in the Harbour views. On the way to dinner, I posed with my hood. If you know me well, then you know I don't like getting my hair wet!
There is the lovely Harbour Bridge with some light display underneath. When Oprah was here, it was a giant red "O"!
Delicious mussles with the best tomato sauce I've ever eaten in my life! I was eating it right out of the bowl. Table manners are overrated.
Jon and Jen!
Jon, Barb, Jen!
NOOOO! I don't want this to be over! I've had so much fun recapping all of this. If I was a more consistent blogger, I would have blogged almost every day of vacation. As a result, I would have taken and posted more pictures and memories. I still think I did an okay job. I guess it's time for me to go back to my every-day blogging. It may not be as exciting, but it's all me!
In other worlds, I can't believe that Brazil and southeast Asia are also having terrible flooding. It's so bad here, but people are getting by day by day. The water has now spread to New South Wales and Victoria. Look at this
from last week (this is from Queensland).
The amount of support for the flood victims is remarkable. There are volunteers from all over the place helping clean up. I heard that there were 90 buses in Brisbane picking up volunteers and taking them around, and those buses kept emptying out and filling up with more people. It's all very inspiring.
Okay, good night friends! I hope your eyes are still in your sockets!