Warning - LONG POST
After a little breakfast, we met our tour guide Richard at the hotel around 9:30 this morning. Take a look at the picture of the two of us - almost comical in that both of us were wearing blue jeans, a blue checked shirt, grey tennis shoes, and a vest - the one notable exception was the cookie duster he was sporting - again, what is going on in the Southern Hemisphere with the stache????
Anyway, Richard turned out to be one of the best and I'd highly recommend his tour company (My Sydney Detour) if you find yourself in the city. We spent four hours with Richard and in a very non-traditional way, covered a ton of Sydney and learned about its sordid history (founded by Captain Cook in 1770 although not settled until 1788 by the "first fleet" - a series of 11 ships that came over 50% of whom were settlers and 50% prisoners).
Our first stop was actually to a neighborhood known as Redfern, which coincidentally, is where Richard lives. This part of the city, which Richard referred to as their Harlem, has been transformed from an area rife with drug use to one with hipsters, coffee shops and property values that have tripled in just 12 short years. I knew we were in store for a non-traditional tour when our next stop was to Richard's house where we met his wife "B" and 2.5 y.o. daughter Eleanor. Richard proceeded to educate us on the aboriginal culture (one he and his wife have adopted as their own - little strange, but admirable), show us all types of weapons (boomerang, spears, etc.) and musical instruments (didgeredoos).
After we left his house in Redfern, we headed out to the beaches, traversing and stopping at three of the most famous - Bronte, Tamarama and Bondi. Pretty incredible that within a 25 minute ride of downtown, you could be at some of the most beautiful, surf-ready beaches in the world. Today was particularly interesting as the tide was out and the swells were exceptionally large (at least 8 feet and at Bondi, the largest Richard had ever seen). Definitely going to do the Bondi to Bronte walk while we are here. Got some great pics and then headed on to check out the harbor.
On our way, we stopped by the first lighthouse in Sydney (which was built by one of the aforementioned prisoners in 1818), saw the mausoleum of Charles Wentworth, the Thomas Jefferson of Australia and drove through several of the more well to do neighborhoods in Sydney (Double Bay and Rose Bay). If you do find yourself here, I would encourage you to go to Queens Avenue and drive to the end of the street - definitely the best view in all of Sydney.
Our last stop was to Parsley Bay where we had an opportunity to learn how the aboriginal people hunted, fished and generally survived. Within Parsley Bay, there were also a series of sandstone caves where the aboriginal people lived that we had an opportunity to tour -
these were made all the more interesting by the fact that less than 50 yards away, across the water, sat multi-million dollar mansion after multi-million dollar mansion (next time you see Helen and Yates - ask them how old the sandstone is - answer - 230M years old).
At the end of our tour, Richard dropped us off at a Chinese food institution - Mr. Wong's, which was down one of the famous alleyways of Sydney. As any of you who have dined with me know, dim sum is one of my favorite things and Mr. Wong's was legit. Highly recommend the peking duck pancakes and the chicken and mushroom dumplings.
We wrapped up the day with a swim at the hotel and then our big outing for the evening - a footy match at Sydney Cricket Ground between the Sydney Swans and the St. Kilda Saints. SCG is a beautiful stadium and I'm not sure there is a bad seat in the house. Ours, which I purchased this afternoon, happened to be two rows from the top and overlooked downtown - not too shabby. While we had no allegiance to either team and barely understood the rules, the Swans won, we had fun and definitely walked away glad to have captured a distinctly Australian experience.