Five days in Sydney, Australia

Sydney is an incredibly modern city with a multitude of offerings. Built around a picturesque harbour known as Circular Key are two of the world's most photographed architectural achievements: Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. I was fortunate enough to visit both on my trip.

Five days in Sydney, Australia

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Fly_Girl on November 28, 2003

It''s in the BBC''s list of Top 50 Things to Do Before You Die, and I''m glad I got to do it. If you haven''t guessed by now, it''s climbing the Harbour Bridge, and it comes in at number 12 on the list.

But there''s more to Sydney than just the "coat hangar", the name Aussie''s affectionately call their bridge because of its distinctive shape.

Captain Cook Harbour Cruises, the Taronga Zoo, the Opera House, and historic walking tours were just some of the lasting memories I took home with me from the land down under.

Sydney is also known for its many fine restaurants featuring cuisine ranging from regional dishes, such as crocodile, kangaroo, and "bugs" (a type of custacean), to international fare with Pacific Rim and Asian influences.

The city is also known for fabulous shopping, be it fashion, aboriginal handicrafts, or their world-famous opals, which are mined in remote areas of Australia and brought to Sydney''s many jewelry shops. Be sure to do your homework before you purchase any stones; they vary in quality and synthethic opals abound!${QuickSuggestions} If this is your first trip to Sydney, be sure to begin at the Visitor Information Center located at Circular Quay (pronounced "key"). There you''ll find brochures and information about everything Sydney, from lodging and dining to local points of interest and tours.

While there, I witnessed a stranded tourist with nowhere to stay assisted by one of the center''s staffers. Even with no notice, they were able to find him (and his family) accommodations for that night, in his price range and transportation as well. WARNING: The lines there can be long because staff members really take their time to fully assist each visitor.${BestWay} A car is not necessary in Sydney. Everything is accessible by ferry, monorail, train, bus, taxi, or good old-fashioned walking! Try to choose a hotel that is centrally located for even more convenience!

Enter the Matrix - Westin Sydney

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Fly_Girl on November 28, 2003

One of the lesser known facts about the Westin Sydney is that some of the scenes from the original Matrix movie were filmed there. That alone makes the hotel a destination...but there is so much more to be said for the property.

The hotel is actually two properties in one, consisting of the historic G.P.O. (General Post Office) building and the ultra-modern tower.

I stayed in the historic section of the building, which used to be a post office, but has now been converted into oversized rooms and suites featuring modern bathrooms (with waterfall showers) and (about 20-foot) high ceilings. I was glad for the high-speed Internet access, too!

The service at this property was fabulous! The concierge made my activities reservations for the hard-to-book twilight Harbour Bridge Climb, and even provided coupons for savings on the private tour of Taronga Zoo. Turndown service, including a complimentary bottle of water for each guest, was a nice touch. I was also impressed that the staff insisted I wait inside for my driver, at which time the concierge came over personally to tell me he had arrived.

The location was just an easy 10-minute walk to Circular Quay, and convenient to many shopping and dining options. There's even a restaurant/lounge complex on the lower floors.

I plan on returning to Sydney next year, and would definitely stay at the Westin.
Westin Sydney
Pitt Street
Sydney, Australia

Getting the Spins at the Sydney Tower Restaurant

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Fly_Girl on November 28, 2003

The Sydney Tower Restaurant is located at the top of the Centrepoint tower. I had dinner at Level One, which is the name of the A La Carte restaurant. There is also a self-select restaurant (which is what many call a buffet), available on another level, which I did not visit.

The menu at Level One is comprehensive, and includes regional specialties such as Australian game and crocodile, along with the more commonly found fare, like steaks and pasta dishes.

As you sit down, you can't help but notice the incredible view, which you'll get to experience from all angles, as you slowly spin 360 degrees each 70 minutes during dinner. One hint for the careful where you put your handbag. If you try to put it on the windowsill, it may (or may not) still be there by the time you realize it's missing...because you'll have moved, and the window doesn't come along for the ride.

The food seemed average, but it's not really the food you're paying for with that $50 AUD food minimum per's the view, so enjoy the drinks and get the spins at Sydney Tower Restaurant!
Amp Tower
100 Market Street
Sydney, Australia
+61 (2) 8223 3800

A Personal Matter -- Harbour Bridge Climb

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Fly_Girl on November 28, 2003

For many visitors to Sydney, climbing the Harbour Bridge is a personal decision, mitigated by several factors: sense of adventure, comfort level with heights, fitness level, and finances.

One's sense of adventure must dictate a desire to climb the bridge. Why do it? The answers vary from the nonplussed "because it's there" to the exuberant "for the amazing views of Sydney!" Personally, I just felt that I couldn't go all the way to the other side of the world and NOT climb it.

One of the people in my group was uncomfortable with heights. He felt he would freeze up and need a rescue team to bring him down, and therefore, would not even attempt the climb. (My guide later told me that there is a team on call for just this situation, but in the history of the Bridge Climb, they've yet to be called upon! Where can I sign up for that job?) The rest of us were okay with heights, and eager to climb.

I was slightly worried about my fitness level, but I realized it was of no consequence. As long as one can walk and climb a ladder (there are four of them), there is no reason to be concerned.

Finances may dictate when (and possibly if) you'll climb. For $225 AUD, I took advantage of the (premium-priced) twilight climb, and can't recommend it enough. Seeing the sun set from the top of the bridge and the city lights come up on my way down was something I'll never forget.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
5 Cumberland Street, The Rocks
Sydney, Australia, 2000
+61 (2) 8274 7777

300 Steps to Fame - Sydney Opera House

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Fly_Girl on November 28, 2003

As the title implies, this tour of the famed Sydney Opera House included 300 steps, so before embarking on it, be sure you are reasonably fit!

The tour takes you into at least three of the many performance spaces available, limited by the theatres currently in use, of course.

It begins with a walk into one of the small theatres, usually occupied by a local theatre company, where you'll sit in the seats and hear about the history of the Opera House and its designer/builders. You'll continue on to the Concert Hall, and finish up in the main theatre, where the most popular plays and operas are performed.

Unfortunately, no photos are permitted inside the complex, so if you appreciate history and theatre, and are in reasonable shape, then take this tour, or a more abridged, 200-step version.
Sydney Opera House
Bennelong Point
Sydney, Australia, 2000
+61 (2) 9250 7111

The Koala Whisperer -- Taronga Zoo Private Tour

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Fly_Girl on November 28, 2003

My tour guides at the Taronga Zoo now refer to me as "The Koala Whisperer." Koalas aren't like dogs; you can't call them over to you, but I found the secret! Read on...

During my private tour of the Zoo, which can be booked with the zoo directly or arranged by your hotel concierge, I got to see (and even touch) many animals and places that are usually off-limits to most zoo visitors. This made a typical day at the zoo much more fun, interesting, and educational.

Two tour guides provided our party of six with ample opportunities to get up close and personal with snakes, amphibians, koalas, birds, and kangaroos. While it's apparently against the law to hold koalas at New South Wales attractions, we got hands-on visits with many of the zoo's other residents. It was nice to have knowledgeable animal handlers to answer our questions, too.

Here's a tip for zoo visitors...take the bus to the TOP entrance of Taronga. That way, your zoo tour will be downhill all the way.

Oh, and you want to know the secret of Koala Whispering? I think the trick is drinking a lemon-lime-flavoured Lift soda; at least one koala seemed very attracted to my soda-breath! My guides said they'd never actually seen the sometimes ornery animals ever try to kiss someone before. It's an experience I'll never forget!
Taronga Zoo
Bradley's Head Road
Sydney, Australia, 2088
+61 (2) 9969 2777

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