A couple of weekends ago, Tim and I went for a 3 day visit to Sydney. I hadn't been to Sydney for a few years, so it was great to be back again to play tourist. We stayed at The Russell Hotel in The Rocks (pictured above), which we subsequently found out is popular with viewers of a Japanese anime series called Eternal Summer, because Room 25 was used in filming. We are not fans of Eternal Summer, and we did not stay in Room 25, so for us, it was just a fun fact. We loved the old world charm of The Russell, including the stairs, but if you or your loved one has mobility issues, this is not a good place to stay. As a bonus, a breakfast bar breakfast was included in the room price, so I was able to indulge in muesli, fruit and a boiled egg on toast every morning. The staff were super helpful and friendly, and each night, you receive a chocolate and a philosophical phrase card on the folded down sheets.
After checking in, we went to La Renaissance Patisserie in Argyle Street for some morning tea. We enjoyed coffees while sharing this delicious buttery almond croissant:
We were seated in the courtyard behind the patisserie, which has a very cute French feel:
To walk off some of the pastry, we headed up to the Botanic Gardens, which are celebrating 200 years this year:
We continued to walk through the Botanic Gardens to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where we visited both the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition and the Archibald Prize exhibition. I loved the black and white photos of Frida and the films of Frida and Diego - it was fascinating to see these intimate portraits of their lives.
After a good couple of hours in the gallery, we had worked up an appetite, so we walked to Potts Point and down to The Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel. I enjoyed a cider and a pulled pork burger with fries ($18):
We then went walking on a path by The Harbour, where we met these hungry cockatoos pecking in the grass:
We continued on the path to Mrs Macquarie's Chair:
then walked back through the Botanic Gardens to our hotel. We had a rest and watched the news, by which means we learned that the Opera House was lit up that night to celebrate the Olympics. Being nearby, we walked down to see the spectacle:
Afterwards, we went to dinner at a curious Italian establishment in The Rocks called Appetito. The food was good, but the service was confused and left a little to be desired. I was particularly bemused by the fact that I seemed to be prohibited from having tap water because I had ordered mineral water for my drink. I had the minestrone ($17) because I was still quite full from our late, hearty lunch. We also ordered the plain ciabatta ($5), which was delicious, and nicer than the grilled focaccia that came with the soup.
After breakfast seated at the window where we could people watch, we visited The Rocks markets, where we met Biggles:
Following a morning browsing the markets (I only bought some licorice allsorts), we boarded the ferry to Watsons Bay for lunch at Doyles On the Beach:
We were seated in a quiet corner near this reproduction advertising sign:
Both Tim and I ordered Doyles Red Seafood Chowder ($18.50) for entrée (starter):
It was chunky, spicy and absolutely delicious.
For main, I ordered the whole baked snapper with Thai salad ($40.50):
I was amused when the waitress checked that I understood that "whole fish" meant bones and a "face". This was delicious, and the salad was quite refreshing, but it was a big meal on top of my chowder.
Tim ordered the Doyles Selection ($42.80) which, as you can see, is a mixture of nearly everything:
After our satisfying meal, we rolled back onto the ferry, and motored on to Susannah Place Museum, being Sydney's answer to New York's Tenement Museum:
As you can see, unless you knew it was a museum, you wouldn't notice it at all. It turned out to be a highlight of our visit, and for the bargain price of $8, you get a juicy slice of Sydney history. A guide takes you through a row of four terrace houses built in 1844, and discusses the lives of 4 families that lived in the houses at various times in their history, from their construction (the Cunninghams), during the Second World War (the Sarantides), and through to their being declared a museum. The houses have been authentically furnished with items from the relevant time in history, and in some cases, with possessions actually owned by residents of the houses. Former residents and their relatives were interviewed to build up an accurate portrait of how the houses were furnished and how the residents lived.
I found it fascinating, because I enjoy seeing how people lived, although I would not want to swap - the living conditions in the houses were not comfortable by modern standards. One resident lived in her house until the 1990s, despite the rising damp, cramped space, steep stairs, small yard and lack of electricity, because she wanted to ensure that the government did not demolish the houses to make way for new development. Thank goodness she did - these houses are living history, and without them, it would be difficult to conceptualise the lives of the residents. Imagine having to warm the water for your bath in a copper in the cold stone yard, then carry it into the house to fill a tin tub on the kitchen floor, and everyone in the house having to use that water for a once-a-week only ablution!
Across the road from Susannah Place is an archeological dig known as "The Big Dig", where you can see the remains of houses and various artefacts from residences that were bulldozed in the early 1900s to eradicate the plague. There are also lots of photos on display so that you can visualise what the streets in the area looked like at the time.
Afterwards, we went to Harts Pub, an old and eclectically furnished pub, across the road from Susannah Place:
I dug the Chesty Bond guy behind the bar! I also liked the two cockatoo lamps that lit up either side of the bar.
That night, we went for a walk around the Opera House foreshore, dodging the hundreds of people catching Pokemons:
and were treated to a P&O cruise ship (the Pacific Pearl) being towed out to sea by a tug boat:
We were still too full from lunch to want dinner, so we just had a Copenhagen icecream instead. I had two scoops on a waffle cone - mint chip and vanilla with salted caramel ribbon.
The next morning, we again walked around the Opera House foreshore, and spotted these seals (mother and baby) flopped on the stairs:
They were a popular tourist attraction, especially with the littlies.
We then caught a ferry to Balmain, where we explored the main street before stopping for a coffee at Our Place on Darling (where we admired a little boy's super hero costume as he paid at the counter), and scoffing a cannelle each ($3) from Zumbos in the park.
We then headed back to the ferry terminal at Circular Quay and wandered up to The Lord Nelson for lunch:
We went for share plates, starting with olives and feta marinated in rosemary, thyme and garlic ($8):
Next, we had Tim's choice, the pork pie served with mustard and chutney ($6.50):
I had never eaten a pork pie before, and this was delicious!
To finish, we had my choice, the baby school prawns (shrimp) dusted with chilli salt and burnt orange ($19):
These were also delish - the chilli gave just enough kick, and the orange added an element of freshness.
We then continued wandering up past the Hotel Palisades:
and we stumbled upon a new recreational area called Barangaroo, which we had not heard of the day before when someone asked us for directions to get there. Here is a view of the Harbour from Barangaroo:
Our final stop for the day was the Sydney Observatory:
We went inside and looked at the free displays as well as exploring the outside of the curious looking buildings.
My request was to buy a treat for each of us at The Bakers Oven, close to where we were staying. We walked past the tempting treats in the window every day, so I couldn't leave without trying them. It was quite expensive - about $7 per pastry; however, it satisfied my curiosity. I went for the cherry strudel:
while Tim went for the tiramisu:
We ate our goodies on the bus seat across the road. The strudel was quite dense but reasonably tasty; however, for my money, I'd go back to La Renaissance instead.
Then it was time to collect our bags and head to the airport via train from Circular Quay. It was a magical weekend, and I was sad to leave.