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Reporting from the FCC on Sydney

 Let me take you back to the early 1990s. Global stories include America’s 42nd President (Clinton) taking the oath of office, 80 perish inside David Koresh’s Davidian Compound in Waco, the Chicago Bulls threepeat, and a car bomb explodes in the World Trade Center. Here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror has ended but the Southeast Asia country remains violent. At the Foreign Correspondent’s Club, journalists gather at this bar/restaurant to huddle with photographers and file stories for their respective news bureaus. So here I am, wanting to channel what those journalists might have experienced sitting two stories above the hectic Street 178 and Tonle Sap River intersection. Those who sat on this very stoop years ago wrote about contentious subjects while risking their very lives. In contrast, I sip a vodka martini with three olives and write about our adventure in Sydney, Australia.

Kings Cross Victoria Xmas Tree Manly Beach

My mind must travel back to early January 2010. We had just finished up a marathon twelve hour roadtrip from Melbourne to Wollongong to Sydney. Ashley read an entire book by Chelsea Handler and I had trouble driving an automatic after three weeks of manual adventure in New Zealand. Settling into our Kings Cross district hostel was a task, what for the loud bars, pharmacies slinging cold medicine, and strip clubs causing a ruckus 24/7. Wanting to explore the lively area, a frantic search for cheap sushi was launched and after one hour we hit the jackpot. Engulfing countless rolls and sashimi, Ashley and I were on Cloud Nine. That was until Ashley turned hyper clumsy. It was like watching a gag reel of the Stooges… she spilled a brimming glass of red wine on her lap breaking the vessel into pieces, dropped the wine cork in miso soup, and topped it off by pouring the miso soup into the bottle of red for no particular reason. I fear for our unborn children. Mainland Sydney needed a break from us so we joined Holly, Army Andy, Alexa (visiting from Wisconsin), and Carolyn on a ferry to Manly Beach the following day. Holly and I loved the surf while the rest absorbed modest amounts of UVA-UVB rays.

Sydney Skyline Sydney Streetscape Payphone!

A self guided walking tour of Sydney came next and our suspicions were confirmed. We loved this town! Between the romantic botanical gardens, quays bursting with boats, and a bustling downtown scene, we were impressed. The amount of construction cranes dotting the skyline and newish structures were a sure sign that the world’s 13th largest economy was navigating the financial crisis better than most. We sipped coffee while watching ferries unload scores of passengers from seaside suburbs. Sydney radiated a cool vibe. Even using a pay phone for the first time in years made me grin. After hearing positive reviews of the Sydney Aquarium, we paid our entrance fees hoping to see mammoth man eating sharks. Walking through a glass tunnel with water overhead was dandy, but the whole experience left us wanting. Perhaps biased, Ashley exclaimed that Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium is far superior.

Stingers Among the Sea Creatures Shark Scaring Children

One cannot visit Sydney without laying eyes on one of the most iconic structures in the world; the Sydney Opera House. True to its worldwide reputation, it is quite the sight. The distinctive white roofs resemble tortoise shells stacked upon each other, jutting out into the blue haze of Sydney Harbour. Though thoroughly enchanted by the Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge did not live up to its acclaim. Give me Cincinnati’s Roebling Suspension Bridge, NYC’s Brooklyn Bridge, or San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Maybe it is Sydney’s wild New Year’s Eve fireworks centered around the bridge that brings so much attention. Regardless, the blue sky reflecting off the harbour water coupled with the Opera House and the steel expanse connecting two shores made for an unforgettable view.

What a View Sydney Opera House View from the Harbour  

Hoping Sydney’s Wildlife World would make up for the aquarium, we spent the greater part of our last day among wild animals. But outside the attraction was a rather convincing T-Rex lurking with a handler that drove small children to tears. It was hard not to laugh, so we did. Other than the kangaroo reprising the roll of road kill we saw from Melbourne to Wollongong, this was our first experience with the strange looking marsupials. Ashley was enamored with the koala bears and longed to sleep in trees just like them. Maybe she had already forgotten how clumsy she had become. And now she wants to sleep in trees? Sad to leave Wildlife World, we packed up our backpacks in Kings Cross, did some coin laundry, and met Doug and Maureen (friends of a friend) for dinner. Doug’s Buddy Holly eyeglasses and superb wit suited me well as we plunged into social and political debate like college buddies. Our midnight bus to Byron Bay was approaching so we bid adieu to the ex-patriots.

This T-Rex Will Eat You Arachnid Careful

Recounting our time in Sydney and browsing the photos almost makes me feel like we are back there again. Almost. But then the tuk-tuk horns, children selling knock-off books, and a slightly noxious haze remind me that I am reporting from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. From the FCC, my favorite bar in seven months.

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

  1. You can buy dual entrance tickets for the Sydney Aquarium and Wildlife World and save a few bucks. If you have experienced a great aquarium before, save your money. Though the Wildlife World is certainly worth the price of admission.
  2. Australia is expensive, there is no getting around that fact. To counter the expense of lodging, we opted to take several overnight buses up the East Coast. Comfortable? Hardly. But if you can handle 8 – 10 hours in an upright position then save your money and bring an eye mask.

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