The first thing we did when we arrived was follow what felt like “Amazing Race” instructions from the train to our apartment. Once we got that sorted, we wandered down to Martin Place, to see the smallest of the Vivid zones, before grabbing cereal for breakfast and heading home for an early night.
The hardest moment of the trip was on our walk at North Fort, when we realised the bus only went every 2 hours, and we were probably 3 minutes too late to walk to the other bus in time. I was in agony with some back problem, and I actually cried. Head down, power on, walk another 3km back to Manly just nicely in time to grab a gelato and board the ferry back to the city.
An unexpected highlight was definitely seeing Humpback Whales on our ferry TO Manly. Maritime requirements meant that our ferry had to slow right down to a stop to figure out exactly where they were, so for $2.50 (a Sunday fare), we got a whale-watching tour thrown in! I didn’t get any photos of the whales, sadly, but still!
A key tourist attraction we skipped this trip was Taronga Zoo. Even though they had a special Vivid exhibition, we didn’t want to tie ourselves to being over there for at least two hours (between the ferry and the exhibits), when there was so much to be seen in town. We opted not to visit in the daytime either, as we did there last visit (in 2009) and will most certainly do it again when we take Mr4 sometime in the next couple of years.
Our most abiding memory would have to be the crowds around the Vivid installations. Massive crowds. And it wasn’t even a public holiday weekend! We definitely agreed that if we were to go back for another year, we would go during the week, when hopefully it might be slightly less crammed.
We got off the tourist-beaten track and did a couple of coastal walks. The first, after a super-early wakeup (yay jetlag) was from Bondi to Bronte. The swells out there were incredibly powerful, and the rocks very dramatic. The other was North Fort from Manly, which took much longer than we were advised, and really did treat us to 4 seasons in one day – we went from wishing we had taken togs for a swim at Shelly Bay, to wrapping up in every warm layer we had plus a blanket at the café we stopped at for lunch.
The most tourist-obvious thing we did was simply enjoying Vivid! Its what drew us there, and it was worth it. We wandered the Rocks, Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, Mrs Macquaries Chair, the Botanic Gardens. It was all amazing.
It turns out that you can get quite a nice view of both the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge if you walk along the Cahill Expressway (and it surprises me that you are allowed to!). Probably the single best spot we found on our guided photography walk on Sunday night. Friends who also went up there didn’t go far enough along, and wound up with just the bridge.
Something we’ll have to go back for is the Saturday market at Bondi school. Something like 75% of the food stalls offered gluten free options, including dumplings (something I desperately miss!). We had only recently had breakfast, so didn’t get anything to eat. If we’d started at Bronte for our walk, it would have made a great lunch stop!
The very last thing we did before we left was go for a swim at Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre. I was in agony from back spasms, and needed to get weightless for a while to try and resolve them before our cattle class flight home. The pool felt colder than the reported temperature, but was still a relief. Closing the curtains over our last glance out the windows of our AirBnB was a little sad, but our train trip to the airport was smooth and check in uncomplicated.