sydney - Where's Byrne?


27.05.2012 – 30.05.2012 Sunny 19°C

We arrived in Sydney at half eleven at night and set off to find a hostel. The first one, YHA Central wanted $40 for a dorm bed each, we carried on looking. Across the road on George Street, I spotted the place where I stayed on my previous visit to Sydney, the Palace, but they wanted $95 for a double room for the night. Third time lucky, we crossed George Street again and walked in the Wake Up! hostel. $29 for the first night and $32 after that. It was a big place with seven floors and a club in the basement. It wasn’t ideal as I hate big hostels but was too tired to care. Our room had ten beds in, seven of which were taken, we ended up with two of the upper bunk beds with a fat gorilla sleeping below me and an annoying noisy Asian below B. 3am we got woken up by pissheads coming back from the club downstairs. 5am, the Asian’s alarm went off and he spent the next half hour getting ready for work. 7am, another alarm went off. 8am my alarm sounded so I got up and went to get ready for our packed days sight-seeing. Appropriate name for this hostel; Wake Up!. We walked the entire length of George Street until we spotted attractions on the free map we picked up in reception.

Cadmans Cottage. A small building named after John Cadman, a convict sentenced to death but who later had his sentence reduced to being banished to New South Wales. His crime? Stealing a horse. Can’t remember what he did to have a cottage named after him. As you can tell it made an impression on me…

Museum of Contemporary Art. This was next door to John’s cottage. Gave it a miss as contemporary art is usually a load of shit in my opinion. Some broken raw pasta thrown against a wall covered in glue, is not art.

Circular Quay. This was the hub for the ferries crossing the river and had some nice cafés etc around.

Sydney Harbour Bridge. We walked along Argyle Street and up some stairs to get to The Bridgeclimb, the place where you can book you ascent over the bridge. I was all set for it, even after finding out the price of $208 each, until I found out you don’t actually cross the bridge. You climb up to the middle, cross to the other side and walk back down the same way you came. We went to the Pylon Lookout while I mulled over whether to do it or not. The photo’s of celebrities were amusing, while most were writing about the view, Steve Coogan’s ‘what a marvellous piece of British engineering’ comment raised a smile.

The Pylon Lookout. This was rather good. The bridge has four pylons, two at each end, and you’re able to go up one for a look over the harbour in exchange for $11. Quite reasonable and loads on information on the bridge if you get bored with the unbelievable view. Watching two groups climb the bridge while I was in the pylon made me decide against it.

Sydney Opera House. Travelling on a budget sometimes does hamper your sight-seeing opportunities and the Sydney Opera House is one of those shall I, shan’t I, things to do. Sure, you can walk around the entire building for free, taking as many pictures as you like, but the one hour tour around the inside is $35. I’d read on the back of our map it was $20 so I was disappointed to see the price hike when we did arrive. £45 for the two of us to walk around it is pricey, especially as I only really wanted to see the organ. Decisions, decisions… We settled on a no. Better things to spend $70 on.

Government House. Maybe the biggest disappointment of the day. We walked the fifteen minutes from the Opera House to Government House and into the grounds via the Royal Botanic Gardens, only to find out it’s closed weekdays. Half the grounds are open but they were a bit shit, the magic’s inside. Sort your advertising out! At this point our camera died so we walked through the gardens a bit more then took the free bus back to Wake Up! to do a quick recharge. The free bus runs on a loop every ten minutes around George Street and Elizabeth Street from 9:30 to 3:30. Handy. Number 555. Camera semi-charged but plugged into the USB of our netbook charging while we were walking around, we changed direction and hit the…

Chinese Garden of Friendship. I didn’t even realise this was a special area as it moulds into a big paved area along with Tumbalong Park. The few bits of Mandarin here and there add the Chinese element.

Tumbalong Park. A continuing slabbed walkway with a few posh cafés and restaurants. Benches, fountains, some sand and deck chairs, an information centre and plaques complete the deal. We did go in the Guylian café for a coffee and pastry as I was getting peckish. The pastry was better than the coffee but not a bad exchange for $6 considering some slabs of chocolate were priced over $50.

Darling Harbour, Cockle Bay Wharf and the Pyrmot Bridge. Darling Harbour was a particular favourite of mine previously because of the happy hour deals available in the bars surrounding the water. There didn’t seem to be as many this time but was still enough to choose from. We did a circuit of the harbour, crossing the Pyrmot Bridge and into Pyrmot Bridge Road, where we stopped at a bar for a $3 beer and Wi-FI. Back on foot we walked up to the Lyric Theatre and Star Casino. I remember there being a ton of bars up there but they’re now shops. Times-a-changing. Back in Darling Harbour we went to the Blackbird Cafe for their happy hour then next door but one (the name I forget) for theirs. We eventually left at midnight, hammered on whisky/rum and cokes. We stopped at McDonald’s to help relieve their stocks of double cheeseburgers and continued back to our hostel, where I promptly passed out.

Next day we got up early after being woken up by the idiots in our dorm room, especially some trog who thought it was acceptable to turn on the light at 5am. I promptly shouted at him to turn it off but stayed awake for the rest of my supposed slumber time. Tosser. Big dorm rooms really are shit.

State Library. We hopped on the free bus after waiting nearly an hour in the pissing rain and headed back to where we left off the day before, The State Library. A quick use of their free Wi-Fi and some photos taken we moved next-door to…

New South Wales Parliament House. The building was quite grand but considering it was the place where parliament used to meet, it was a bit small but built-in British tradition. I didn’t find this place interesting in the slightest and the most exciting thing that happened whilst we were there was me being ‘told off’ for sitting in their equivalent to the ‘house of lords’. It wasn’t cordoned off so I presumed you could take a seat. Apparently not.

Sydney Hospital. Next-door to parliament was Sydney Hospital. Que photo taking and a coffee break.

The Mint. The following building in the row along Macquarie Street was the old mint which was genuinely interesting. An old woman jumped us as we walked in and offered to show us around and gave us a lot of background knowledge to the place, which was welcome. It’s now used by the Australian Heritage people who look after stuff that needs preserving.

Star Bar. With Hyde Park Barracks next up, we took a break from sight-seeing to grab some lunch and opted for the Star Bar, a place where I’d had a $5 porterhouse steak and mash  five years earlier. Remarkably they were still offering the same deal, albeit the price had gone up to $8. The result? As good as I remembered and for $8, arguably the best meal deal in Sydney.

St. Andrew’s Cathedral and Sydney Town Hall. Outside the Star Bar was St. Andrew’s Cathedral and Sydney Town Hall. Photo, photo, done.

Queen Victoria Building. Along the same road was the magnificent Queen Victoria Building, a huge Victorian structure that has been converted in to levels of arcades of shops but having been restored to its original state, keeping all the bits and bobs that should be there including the sliding gated lifts. Great for a cup of coffee.

The Strand Arcade. The Strand was another nice shopping arcade located further down George Street from the Queen Victoria Building and it led out to Pitt Street Mall, a pedestrianised walking street full of posh shops. Nothing of note to write about this, arcades are getting close to my list of ‘you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all’ along with waterfalls and temples…

Sydney Tower Eye. Outside the arcade in Pitt Street is the Sydney Tower Eye. We didn’t go up it but it did look good. I’d expect the view would be pretty spectacular.

St. James’s Church. Heading back towards Hyde Park Barracks we passed St. James’s Church, a nice old building in keeping with the area. Another photo opportunity and we crossed that off. This led on to…

Hyde Park Barracks. Hyde Park Barracks is where the prisoners lived, it provided digs for the ones working in government employment around Sydney until its closure in mid 1848. It also served as a female asylum and the base for Australia’s law courts and government offices. It’s now a museum and was inscribed as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2010. There’s not much to it, the grounds are well-kept and there’s some court rooms which are available to see for free. We didn’t go in the actual museum, although the entrance fee of $10 seemed reasonable we were both flagging and wasnt in the mood to take in all the information.

St. Mary’s Cathedral. Across the road from Hyde Park Barracks was St. Mary’s Cathedral which is pretty spectacular. I’m not a religious man but the building itself is pretty amazing. Good place for a pit stop.

Hyde Park and the ANZAC War Memorial. Hmmm. It’s a park, quite a nice park but a park all the same. The Anzac Memorial makes a nice centre piece and is an important reminder of the soldiers lost at war. Stopped for a coffee from 7/11 and sat on a bench there for a well deserved rest.

3 Wise Monkeys. We went to the 3 Wise Monkeys pub after reading how good it was in the Lonely Planet and a review on the back of our map. I should have realised, yet again that LP’s reviews are more miss than hit and not bothered. A flat beer and a greasy chicken schnitzel burger didn’t go down well. The Wi-Fi was shite too.

Star Bar. Throughout the afternoon the unbelievable porterhouse steak I had at the Star Bar earlier was replaying on my mind. After my share of the horrible schnitzel and various snacks since lunch I didn’t really need dinner but told myself I wouldn’t be able to have another ever again, so went back there for another porterhouse which was as smashing as the one before. I would definitely recommend this place.

IMAX Cinema. Full up on steak and mash we headed back to Darling Harbour to the IMAX cinema where we bought two tickets to see Titanic in 3D. $22 each with a discount voucher from our map we went in and settled in our allocated seats bang in the middle of the back row. B had never seen Titanic (I know, unbelievable) so she was particularly looking forward to it. I’ve seen a few 3D films now and pretty much, they’re crap, you get the odd scene where something flies towards you and that’s about it. This though, was different. It was really 3D and once the boat went down the action didn’t stop. I was well impressed and would recommend. Knocking on midnight, we went back to our hostel and collapsed into bed knowing we had to be outside Central Station at  8am for our bus to Canberra. Fun this traveling lark.

Sydney was excellent. I appreciated it a lot more on this visit, the last one was just spent getting pissed up. It was a shame we only had two days there as you could fill up five pretty easily, we didn’t even venture over to Kings Cross or out to Manly or Bondi plus the fish markets over the other side of the Pyrmont Bridge had good reviews. Onwards and upwards…

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