Our first week in Sydney, Australia

We’ve been in Sydney for almost a week now. So it’s time to share a few more impressions.

I was supposed to say that Sydney is awesome and incredible. Well, it certainly is a nice and beautiful place, but maybe for us it’s just a bit too similar to other parts of the world we’ve been to.

Our first week in Sydney, Australia

UK and the USA

I think it’s a common pattern for people to describe new places comparing them with others they’ve visited in the past. This, of course, gives us an inaccurate picture, but it’s just human nature. We can’t  help it.

So the first days in Sydney felt as if we were in what I would loosely describe as a mix of the best parts of the USA and the UK. More precisely, it felt like a blend of San Francisco and London. Sydney has an outstanding public transport network based on trains, buses and ferries during the day. And nightly buses at night, when the trains are not operating anymore. Just like in London. The difference here is that trains are used, instead of the underground, as the subway is called in London.

The suburbs are similar to the ones in the London area and you’d drive your car on the left side of the streets, just like in the UK. But what’s different here, is that houses tend to be much bigger which reminds us of the suburbs of several American cities. 

The area around the harbor also reminds me of San Francisco. There, the Golden Gate Bridge is the main landmark, while here this role is played by the Harbour bridge.

But as I said before, it looks like a mix of the best aspects of both cities. The trains are cleaner than the London underground trains and they’ve got much more seats. They’re certainly less crowded two. 

Sydney is a city that received many immigrants in the past. So, walking around or taking the trains, we often see people from different origins. And we’re often listening to languages that we can’t understand. There are many Asians, for instance, and we always wonder: what language are they speaking? This multicultural scene is something that we really appreciate, and it’s one more thing that reminds us of cities like London and New York, for instance.

Poverty or misery still haven’t shown their face to us in Sydney. We saw just one person begging in CBD (Sydney downtown) while in San Francisco there are lot’s of people begging in downtown as well as in London.

Weather

To be honest, we haven’t had luck with the weather so far. Except for yesterday, when we’ve have a bright sunny morning, the rest of the days have been quite rainy. I know that this can have a huge effect on our impressions. After all, rain just plain sucks. It hinders your ability to move around and explore the city properly, specially in Sydney, where the best attractions are outside, like in Rio. So this could very well explain why the city still didn’t captivate us.

Different habits

Sydney seems to be a city that welcomes daytime outdoor activities. It’s mostly closed for business at night, with a few exceptions, of course. The thing is that Patricia and I are night people. We like to sleep late and we love cities where we can walk at night and find people doing the same, enjoying restaurants and all kinds of conveniences overnight. So, Sydney isn’t a great match. But I have to admit that most cities in the world probably operate more like the way Sydney does, than the way we appreciate the most. That’s probably why we like Buenos Aires so much. The nightlife there is extremely rich, which is a very welcome feature for people like us. :-)

I should add that shops close really early in Sydney, as far as we could seen. Just to give a quick example, last Saturday we’ve been to a shopping mall in the suburbs, near the house we’re staying in. It’s a big shopping mall with many excellent stores, supermarkets, restaurants and all kinds of conveniences. To our surprise, it closed by 6 PM. This is really early for us! :-)

Party

Last Friday our good friends, Fabio and Camila, hosted a pre-Christmas Party and invited us. Thank you, Fabio! :-)

We had a great time with them and their friends from different parts of the world. Enif, one of their friends, is an amazing cook. So she prepared a delicious meal that was very much appreciated by everyone. Them we had a secret Santa gift exchange, which was a lot of fun!

At some point Patricia and I were exhausted. Maybe we were finally feeling the effects of the jet lag. At 2 AM we just couldn’t cope anymore. The thing was: how to get back home?

We use the train to come back home and, as far as we know, trains just stop working during the night. A little bit before midnight, we checked to see the time of the last train. And the information we got made us believe that trains would be working all night long every hour. So we relaxed. Later, when we were really tired, we checked again and found that actually, trains really stopped operating and we’d only be able to use the night bus. When we checked before, we misinterpreted the information.

Theoretically, night buses are fine. But, the journey is longer and we’d have to learn how to use them at a time when we were already very tired. Fortunately, Juliana, one of Fabio and Camila’s friends, had a car and lived not far from the place we’re staying in. So she offered to bring us to a place near and we caught a taxi to cover the last miles. She can’t imagine how much we appreciated that. It really helped a lot in a moment when we were just incredibly tired. Thank you so much, Juliana!

Planning

I wrote about this because it’s something that raised my attention to something very important during our trips: planning. We wouldn’t have had any trouble coming back home if I had checked the train timetable before even going to the party. I had the timetable with me all of the time. So I just needed to check it and we’d have been much better of. Why didn’t I do that?

After observing people from other parts of the world, I came to realize that Brazilians are not very used to plan. Or at least, tend not to plan as much or as thoroughly as other people. I guess that is one the reasons why we’re always late. And many times, very late! :-)

This is an area where I’ve been improving a lot over the years, but there’s still a long way to go. Planning is essential for our trips and I certainly do a lot of planning before the trips. But it’s still very hard to me to plan the little details of a specific day. So deciding what to do tomorrow, what time to leave home, what time to do this or that, which time to take the train back etc is just very unnatural to me as a Brazilian. It’s something I’m still struggling with and hopefully I’ll get better at. I just need to and I’ll use a quick anecdote to explain why.

We have some friends in Switzerland that we visited several times. And one thing that always called my attention there is how they planned everyday so carefully. During breakfast, the family would always discuss briefly the plans for the day, with precise hours for each activity. For instance, at 9 AM we’ll leave for a hiking followed by a picnic. Then we should be back at 11:45h and have lunch at 12:15h. At 2 PM we’ll visit the lake, have some snacks around 4:30 PM and be back home at 7 PM for dinner. 

This kind of planning would happen briefly every morning. And it felt really strange for us as Brazilians. But you know what? By the end of the day, everybody managed to do a lot and have a good time, because things were well planned. It felt too rigorous for us at first, but the end result was excellent. So eventually I understood that this was actually a very good practice and I’ve been trying to apply it ever since. Unfortunately, though, I still have a long way to master it. 

Next weeks

Speaking of planning, we’re now trying to decide what to do on the next weeks. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. 

To the North, there are great beaches and the Great Barrier Reef. But I have to admit that we’re not very attracted by them. We’re very used to beaches and we’ve been to some amazing beaches in Brazil and the Caribbean throughout this year. So that’s not what we’re looking for now. Besides, going to those places and diving on the Great Barrier Reef we’ll certainly prove to be a beautiful experience but also a quite expensive one. Since we still have a lot to cover in this trip and other countries ahead of us, we’re preferring not to spend so much now on something that is, to some extend, more of the same.

Besides, finding reasonably priced places to stay where we can balance a bit of tourism and work is really hard. Specially because internet access in Australia is often offered with some serious restrictions that are often deal breakers for us. As a matter of fact, this is something that I really really didn’t like at all about Australia. The way internet access if offered here is awful. But, I also have to admit that I already knew that.

Going to the outback would be interesting, because it would really be a different experience. But, this is certainly not the right time of the year to do that. Visiting the desert during summer tends to be, well, too hot. And heat definitely doesn’t bring me a lot of happiness. 

So we’re probably heading south. We’ll probably move on to Melbourne and possibly visit some places nearby. The challenge now is to find accommodation, reasonably priced and with some serious internet access. By the way, have I told you how expensive this country is? On a positive note, people here are really nice and we feel very welcome everywhere we go. This is pretty awesome!

Finally, mind the fact that I’ve written this after spending the last three days trying very hard to decide what to do and where to go next, in a way that balances expenses, experiences, preferences and ability to work using a good internet connection. There are many options, there is a lot to do, and there are also some important constraints to pay attention to. It’s been a hard exercise so far. Hence, this write up might look a bit  sour. Australia is a nice country for sure, we’re just still trying to find our way around.

Cheers, mate.

Our first week in Sydney, Australia

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