Arriving in Sydney we made our early morning rendevous with Andrea's mum, Anci, who had flown in from Pittsburgh to spend the next ten days with us. She was holding a sign as she came out of customs with "Andrea Webb" in big black letters... just in case she wouldn't recognise us!!!
We were greeted by the sight of rain, not exactly what we expected from Australia but a refreshing change from the heat of Cambodia anyway. We stayed with friends who live in the suburb of Strathfield, about 20 minutes on the train from the center of town. Simon, Jaki and their 2 daughters, Georgina and Poppy were the perfect hosts - not forgetting their dog, Ford, who stole all of our hearts!
Dumping our luggage at the house, we wanted to get going so that the jet lag didn't get the best of us - particularly Anci who flew for 22 hours and wasn't sure what planet she was on! We went down to Circular Quay for our first sightseeing trip and the sight as you step out of the station is the world famous Harbour Bridge to the left and the Opera House to the right. We walked in the direction of "The Rocks" the oldest part of Sydney. As we battled our way through the rain (and Anci's comments about no rain Australia!) it was hard to miss the excitement in Andrea and Anci's eyes as they saw these great sites together!
For us, it was slightly strange being back in a "western" country after being away from it for the last 6 months. I think the biggest shock, eventhough we tried to mentally prepare for it, was the price of lunch!! Getting used to paying more than 70 cents for a beer was going to take some getting used to!
The afternoon saw a return to sunshine and we took the opportunity to refuel with a drink watching the world go by at the Harbour while we tried to catch up Anci on all of our travel stories (AND she stayed awake!!) The view really is spectacular - the combo of the bridge and the Opera House having an almost magical quality about it. As the sun falls in the sky the colour of the tiles on the roof of the Opera House change colour from a dazzling white to a more muted shade of blue and pink - adding to the magical appearance.
A wonderful dinner was waiting for us back at the Gibbins household - good old Aussie beef and shrimp - and one thing we have missed terribly over these months - CHEESE! It was also great to spend time with friends in their home - something else we have really missed on our trip. Of course this was washed down with copious amounts of Aussie wine, which in combination with jet lag, left us ready for a good nights sleep.
On Easter Sunday after exchanging eggs with all, we went to Taronga Zoo - which is on the north side of the Harbour and is situated on a hill side which has a spectacular view of the city. Anci had not been to Oz before and was looking forward to seeing some of the native wildlife upclose (read: KOALAS!!!) The trip over from Circular Quay is by ferry then a gondola meets you and whisks you up the hill to the entrance! However, the koalas were less than cooperative, seemingly happy to remain in their trees, without a care in the world. We had more luck with the kangaroos who agreed to pose for our photos!
We also managed to make it over to Manley Beach where I had a surfing lesson whilst everyone relaxed in the sunshine. The surf was slightly bigger than the last time I tried the sport at St Davids on the Welsh coast! I had a great (if tiring!) time, especially when I actually caught a wave (albeit with a big push from the instructor!) Andrea said I looked like I was out of Hawaii 5-0 in my stinger suit as well so it was well worth the effort! We had a great night out with everyone at a local Italian restaurant....boy did we miss this!!
Our last few days in Sydney were spent shopping, visiting the large department stores and also Darling Harbour to stock up on all those essentials we have missed for so long! On our last night in Sydney we ate at Rockpool - a brilliant restaurant located in the Rocks area of Sydney. We walked off dinner with an evening stroll around the Harbour for a final time.
Thanks again to Simon, Jaki, Georgina, Poppy and Ford for being such great hosts! We really do love Sydney... Anci was thrilled to finally see the Opera House and the Harbour and we echo Anci's words - we wish it wasn't so far away!