I went back! For work again, but for three weeks this trip, which was just long enough for me to feel like I had actually moved to Australia. I was kind of actually ok with that! I arrived on the last night of Vivid Sydney (which is why the Opera House is lit up like Doctor Strange above), to Winter temperatures and rainy weather. It was colder this time and I didn't visit any koalas, but Sydney was still beautiful and still full of lovely neighborhood names like Woolloomooloo and Barangaroo and definitely still capable of making my jeans less likely to fit.
I explored a few of the same eating grounds as last trip (what can I say, I like me some gelato and donuts), but I also branched out with some Millennial-priced avocado toast and one very excellent rosemary paloma. I discovered a white negroni and a donut with Nerds on top, and a coin-op hair straightener in a restaurant bathroom. It was still incredibly hard to get servers to bring the bill, but I've now mastered the art of watching the other diners for 30 minutes while desperately wanting to either go to the bathroom or leave, and then figuring out exactly which server to go up to and point in the general direction of my table. Magically, they got the check right every time.
I spent a Saturday morning hiking North Head in Manly Beach, on a trail that took me through a (literal) hole in a wall to a swamp to old gun battlements to spectacular views of the harbour and the city, and then finally to the place where Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban got married.
(Why I know where they got married I don't know. I just know things sometimes.)
Most shockingly, I ordered tea with milk in it ON PURPOSE after first accidentally ordering it and loving it, and I returned twice more to the same cafe for it so I can't turn my nose up at dairy-filled tea now, I guess. I'm probably still only making an exception for this particular brewed chai, if only because adding milk made it feel like a meal in itself. Tell me, how do people drink lattes and still want breakfast?
After two weeks running around Sydney on my own, my mom joined me, and I took her around to all my favorite tourist sites, including the Botanical Gardens, the Opera House, Circular Quay, and the Rocks. Not entirely original touristing, but she only had one week there so I wasn't taking her anywhere off the beaten path before I took her to all the highlights.
She visited koalas while I went to work, and then we ate and drank and ate some more. It was so helpful having someone to enjoy half the menu with this time! You better believe I dragged her along for a brewed chai, but then I had to watch as she stirred an entire pot of honey into hers and now I'm scared my mother has a honey problem.
We ended the Sydney trip with a trek out on the train to the Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters, where we froze our butts off and I then forced my mother to climb down maaaayybe 20 stone stairs and walk across a bridge above a teeny canyon. Isn't it great how the photos below really make it seem like she enjoyed it?
It's ok, the cold and the heights were just good prep for what awaited us in New Zealand. More next time on how I'm definitely getting disowned!
Fika Swedish Kitchen I ate here THREE times! Repeats are kind of a no-no for me when traveling, because I'd rather try more new-to-me places than just keep going back to the same place, but the brewed chai and the breakfast buns made it hard to stay away.
Anason Did you know Turkey makes wine? I didn't, but it's delicious, and you should go get a glass and drink it outside, facing the water with the spicy labneh and sesame pastry.
Chica Bonita Until I went here my idea of Sydney and Mexican food was "does not do well" but this place was pretty good! It helps that I went there on a night I was desperately in need of eating some vegetables, and they have pretty killer veggie menu options, like the kale quesadilla and veggie tacos. Also, that aforementioned rosemary paloma.
Jellyfish A local coworker told me about this breakfast spot in Manly, and it's worth going to alone for their giant portion of avocado toast. The pancakes I spied at the next table looked pretty amazing too.
Spice Alley This place is like an outdoor Asian food court in yes, an alley, and it was overwhelming in the best way. I don't know that anyone would claim the food as the most authentic, but who cares? I'm going back for lunch next time.
Mr. Wong Maybe the most painfully hip restaurant I went to? It's tucked away in a back alley in the Financial District and there is a line out the door when they open. But it's delicious, and if you go solo or with one other person, you can probably get a seat at the bar and watch a guy rotate Peking ducks around all night. I promise that's more fascinating than it sounds.
Mug Life The 90's are back, apparently, but all that means is I feel old. It's ok, I drowned my mortality in gin-spiked hibiscus tea and nerds-coated donuts and tried not to wonder too much why or how 90's era NBA came to be such a prominent decor theme in a Sydney cafe.
Bills The ricotta pancakes are insane, like two inches thick, and you should go eat them immediately. I, for one, am going back at a more appropriate hour to try their crab and kimchi fried rice.