No offense to Melbourne, but Sydney blew our expectations out of the water. Sydney is just an hour and a half flight northeast of Melbourne and is the largest city in Australia with 5 million in the greater metropolitan area. At the airport, our new guide Carmel picked us up and, since we couldn’t check into the hotel yet, made the wise decision to drop us off at the beach. We got off at Bronte Beach and were assigned to take a 30 minute walk along the coast to Bondi Beach, and it didn’t disappoint. The trail wove through the cliffs along the water (by far the bluest water I’ve ever seen anywhere close to a major city) before arriving at Bondi, a mile-long stretch of beach packed with waterfront food shacks, countless sunbathers, and 4-foot waves. What a great first impression.
Afterwards, we got on the bus and took a quick tour of Sydney. Sydney was one of the early convict centers in Australia, but has grown rapidly since then and had undergone a lot of improvements in time for the 2000 Olympics. St. Mary’s Cathedral, a giant church with flying buttresses next to Hyde Park, just had its steeples completed in time for the Games. Our bus tour took us everywhere in the city, from the upscale retail and restaurant area of Darling Harbor to Mrs. Macquarie’s Point, where we had a great view of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. We took the obligatory team photos with the Opera House in the background before finally checking into the hotel.
After a short stint in our rooms, we got together as a team at the Meat and Wine Co., a restaurant on the water at Darling Harbor. We enjoyed a variety of excellent burgers, steaks, and pasta before dispersing into small groups to explore the city further. My group walked around the shores of the harbor, took in a street performance, and crossed over into downtown, where we walked up to Hyde Park. Hyde Park is probably the closest equivalent to a Central Park in Sydney and houses the Sydney War Memorial for all fallen Australian soldiers. Other groups checked out neighborhoods such as The Rocks, Sydney’s original old town, and King’s Cross.
The next day we woke up early for a run over to a local park. Afterwards, we were free for most of the day. Most of us chose to head back over to Bronte Beach, where a couple of guys rented surfboards and the rest generally just got sunburned. A few even found a place to dive off cliffs into the surf. Finally, we returned to the hotel to prepare for our game against the New South Wales Lacrosse Club. Lacrosse is much more relaxed in Sydney than in Melbourne, and NSW reflected that. They were really great guys and it was a good tune up for all of us. Luckily we managed to finish before a thunderstorm overtook Sydney and sent us scurrying back downtown.
We had dinner at the Rose Bay Hotel, where many of us sampled Chicken Schnitzel, Australian style, for the first time. After dinner we were free to explore the city as we saw fit.