Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

If you asked me what my biggest fear in the world is I would without hesitation tell you it is heights. I tear up on the Ferris wheel at the Orange County fair and for a long time would refuse to walk up stairs that were see-through in-between with fear that I would fall through. But, with the number of people that told me the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb was a "must-do" I was determined to do it. One morning, my family decided they were doing it and I knew the FOMO would be very real if I did not go with them. This led to me signing up the morning of my sunset climb (which most people book weeks or months before)!
As you can tell from these photos I ended up having a blast and tried my best to ignore that I was so high in the air. It was an amazing experience that I will recommend to anyone and everyone who visits Sydney. It helped that our instructor was witty and a little sarcastic in the funniest way to keep me laughing, even when I was most terrified. However, the biggest distraction from my fear was the incredible view. I remember turning to my sisters so many times and saying, "Can you believe we are actually here right now?" 
Cameras are not allowed on the bridge climb, which I ended up enjoying because I am often found taking pictures of everything and forgetting to take in the moment, but they take a few photos of you which you can purchase. This last one shows how crazy the wind was the whole time we were up there and I mean wind so strong it was pushing me side-to-side a little. I think that made it a little more suspenseful, which I embraced as you can tell by the unposed photo that was taken. 
All in all, you MUST do the Sydney Bridge Climb if it even remotely interests you! It gives you the best views of the Opera House and the city, they give you that adorable outfit to wear ;), and you will never experience anything else like it! 

Queen Victoria Market

I am such a big fan of markets! The idea that small retailers are selling their specialty goods makes me so much happier than purchasing lunch from a long-time chain restaurant. Not only is it supporting local businesses, but most of the time it is a lot tastier! 
Queen Victoria market was not only the biggest market I have been to (there are clothing and food trucks outside of the building in a huge parking lot), but it was also the most charming! There were hundreds of locals with little baskets to carry their purchases and really unique displays that I have never seen anywhere else. These croissant and coffee stands stood out to me for two reasons. The first being the handwritten signs under the pastries shows such a personal touch as opposed to all of the perfected marketing signs seen in chains all over the city. The imperfection really speaks to the character of the stand. Secondly, if you tell me all of these mugs are not the most charming display you have ever seen you must be lying to me!
Notably, there were many different meat stands in the market that showcased a lot of different treats! My mom actually purchased some classic salami and cheese that was so delicious, however, our location called for a unique type of meat that was at every stand! Yep, kangaroo jerky was not only in every one of these meat stands, it is also been in every grocery store that I have walked into (next to the emu and crocodile jerkies, of course). Can you say culture shock? 
I spent little time in the produce section because it was full (and I mean wall-to-wall people) of locals purchasing their goods for the week, or next few days. It is fascinating to me that people in different countries, like Australia, grocery shop at beautiful markets like this one, while I make it a one-stop trip to my local Trader Joe's. It really inspires me to find more farmer's markets in Los Angeles and maybe cheat on Trader Joe's sometimes. Though I was only in Melbourne for the weekend, luckily for me, Sydney still has plenty of different markets throughout the week that I could visit during my time in the city (however, none topped Queen Victoria's)! 

The Rooftop Bar, Melbourne

I have become known for finding rooftop bars in almost every city I have visited on my Australian adventures (& I am not complaining about it). Whether it be of the ocean in my hometown or big cities, like Melbourne, a good view is always better with a glass of Sangria and delicious food! This rooftop bar stood as one of my favorite ones I have ever been to. Not only was it refreshing to see a new view, but it was also warm winter weather in Melbourne while we were there (65° F), which made for a beautiful, sunny day to take in the city views and indulge in this burger! 
Let's just take a moment to appreciate the mouth-watering burger and addicting french fries (or "chips" as the Aussie's call them) that they served and I devoured.  As a California girl, I am constantly surrounded by In-n-Out, Shake Shack, and every burger joint in between, so the fact that I enjoyed this one so much has to say something. I am so happy my co-worker, who used to be a Melbourne local, pointed this place out to me. If you are in Melbourne, I would say you must stop by this place and get a drink and a burger. For reference, I ordered a rosé sangria (and I enjoyed every sip), the cheeseburger, and (shh, two baskets of) chips! 

Southern Highlands Wine Tasting

As a part of the program I was on, one of our excursions was wine tasting in the Southern Highlands. Obviously, I would never turn down a full day of wining and dining (literally). While Sydney's most famous wine region is Hunter Valley, we went to the Southern Highlands. It was my first wine tasting experience (perks of being legal outside of the US).  We made three stops on our wine tasting tour: Cherry Tree Hill, Eling Forest, and Joadja Estate. 
Given that my parents are very into wine I had known a few terms and how wineries generally were, but it was interesting to learn about the differences between Californian and Australian vineyards. The people at every winery were so welcoming and passionate about their products. My friends and I ended up purchasing a bottle at our second stop, which we took to a delicious, Italian dinner in Surry Hills later that week! 
It's safe to say my first (of many *fingers-crossed*) wine tasting experience was a success. And yes, I base "success" on the fact that I had a lot of laughs, saw beautiful views, and last, but certainly not least had a nice buzz by the end of day! 


Bondi Icebergs Club

When I thought of Australia, my mind would immediately picture those pools that hug the ocean and yes, the ones on everyone's' Instagram feeds! The Bondi Icebergs Club was not my first stop in Sydney, but it did get a lot of my attention during my time there because it reminded me of home and Bondi was by far my favorite part of Sydney! 
A part of the Icebergs Club that most people don't post about is their food and drinks! Let me be (possibly) the first to tell you that their sangria is amazing!! The view might make it taste even better, but regardless it was so refreshing even during a chilly, winter day. Those who know me know I am all about balance, so we ordered salads and wings (weird combo with the sangria, I know)! All of the food was delicious too and you bet it was half the reason I kept coming back (the other half being the view). 
Despite how "basic" the Bondi Icebergs Club has become on Instagram I hope I proved to you how there is more to it than another post of 'those cool pools in Sydney, Australia.' Now, take your picture and run inside for some sangria!

Melbourne, Australia

After just four days of settling into my new summer home, Sydney, I was ecstatic to start traveling! My family, who would be staying in Australia for two weeks, and I set off to explore another well-known city, Melbourne. I was surprised to find that it is noticeably different than Sydney. One of the first things I realized was that Melbourne is more of a late-night town compared to Sydney. One night, we ate at a posh, sushi restaurant called Saké and it was crowded with dinner guests around  9 PM. I don't know about you, but back home I'm used to 7 PM dinner reservations. 
One of the other amazing adventures my mom planned (she is basically a traveling agent btw) was going to Fisher's Island to watch the smallest penguins in the world (literally) venture out of the ocean and into their burrows where they sleep. I was so happy we did this unique excursion because 1) the Penguins were one of the cutest animals I've ever laid my eyes on, 2) the island we were on was where the Hemsworth brothers grew up (which not many people can say they've seen), and 3) the sunset was incredibly beautiful and reminded me of home. Unfortunately, they do not allow photos of the penguins because they are very sensitive, but I did have the chance to capture the sunset! 
As far as food and shopping, Melbourne is without a doubt a dream! (My food adventures are linked here. The Rooftop Bar / Queen Victoria Market) I enjoyed unique spins on classic food and even spent my time in one of the most amazing markets I have ever been to! The Emporium Melbourne had every store I could think of and was interesting to walk through. 
One of my favorite parts of Melbourne was the free walking tour. I only take these when I'm with my mom traveling because she is obsessed with them, but this one stood out to me because of the witty and sarcastic guide that made landmarks more entertaining than your average (boring, sorry) tour guide. This one made me realize that I should take these tours more often because they always lead you to hidden gems in the city that I would be very unlikely to cross paths with otherwise. One of these gems being this charming coffee shop that is beloved by locals and the walk-up sushi places that were on every other block. While I did not have the chance to try the coffee (still craving it), I tried some sushi from a walk-up restaurant. I will admit I was a bit skeptical, however, I devoured two rolls and enjoyed every bite!
I have a passion for art and I have a slight obsession with seeing other peoples' works of art, especially street art. To me, street art is such an amazing form of self-expression because it is free to see and it usually always tells a story about the artist and/or city. Also, anyone can make street art which allows everyone an opportunity to showcase their talent. Melbourne is recognized for its street art, which I took advantage of seeing. From walls to allies with artists at work. It was incredible to observe such a clean city like Melbourne embracing street artists and their talents. 

Manly Beach

Growing up in a beach city I have an appreciation and love for each one I visit. Australia is home to so many, but Manly would have to be one of my favorites! 
For all of my Southern California Natives, I would compare it to San Clemente, while Bondi Beach relates to Laguna Beach. The difference is Manly and San Clemente are both lowkey beach towns versus being tourist attractions. While they are just as beautiful, in general, the crowd that is looking for Instagram photos instead a chill day at the beach would be found at Bondi instead of Manly!
This is one of my favorite moments I captured in Australia because this is a completely unposed stranger, whom of which is probably a local. Witnessing little, local moments like this is the reason I love traveling outside of the tourist traps.
We walked around the boardwalk and saw incredible views that I will forever cherish and remember Australia for. After about a mile of walking, we ended up in a little cove called Shelly Beach where the cutest restaurant, called The Boathouse, was packed with guests! In this instance, we followed the crowd for this one and wow it was worth it! In honor of Happy Hour, I ordered a Moscow mule and delicious fish & chips! Aside from the much-needed meal,  The Boathouse was decorated to match the beach aesthetic of the town. Needless to say, Manly Beach is a must-see for laid-back and tourist-avoiding travelers out there. 
When I had a day off of work I chose to go back to Manly because I felt like I only went to the basic spots. I decided to just explore the quaint neighborhoods and started by walking along the beautiful beach. 
 Then, I walked through the streets to find little gems that were off the beaten path. I was alone and just walked around taking in the everyday life of Manly Beach locals. 


My favorite part about living in a big city like Sydney is seeing the city lights at night. For me, nothing compares to a late night uber ride through dark streets that are lit up by the surrounding buildings. When I arrived in Sydney I failed to realize that the light festival taking place over the course of the next few weeks, known as VIVID Sydney, was so popular. Not only did almost every restaurant and hotel have signs for VIVID in their windows, but I also found that people traveled from all over Austrailia to experience the light festival and its unique beauty. 
Aside from lighting up the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, VIVID also hosted different interactive light shows throughout the harbor area. This included a sky of lit up origamis that changed colors as well as lights that changed with the sound of a clap or physical movement. Also, these buildings were on a street above the main harbor stretch that was closed after sunset and reminded me of Main St. in Disneyland. The colorful lights prove just how inviting and cheerful this event was. 
Of course, the night would not be complete without a drink, especially when adjusting to working a full-time internship (okay, maybe I had two)! A friend of mine recommended this rooftop bar which is located on top of The Glenmore Hotel. I found this bar to be my favorite place to see a great view of the VIVID lights while hanging out with friends. Once I began chatting with different people at the bar I realized that it was a place with the perfect local-to-tourist ratio, (which is my favorite kind of place.) So, if you are ever looking for a great drink with good company and an even better city view now you know where to find it!

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