Here I was relaxing in my hotel room having completed my first day as a solo traveler in Sydney. While I was relaxing in my room inwardly gloating about having traveled some 9,200 miles from Chicago to The Land Down Under, I decided to unwind by going on Facebook. Magically a post appeared on my stream (without me searching for it) from Allison Smith (aka The Sydney Fashion Hunter on her blog of the same name). Photo: Allison Smith (The Sydney Fashion Hunter) and Robin (This…I…Do…For…Me!) Hanging Out in The Pub at The Great Southern Hotel.
Although I can’t remember, at the moment, what she posted about, I do remember, however, that I posted on her thread that I was currently in her city and was loving and enjoying it to the hilt. Allison, who immediately responded to my comment, checked to see if I was available for drinks and dinner for the following evening. It was at this point that I could see my trip really taking form, and as excited as I was to see Sydney solo, I was grateful for this new connection in the form of Allison.
Allison met me the following evening at my hotel which conveniently had within its walls a really nice pub with the best drinks (their fruity Pimms Cup was out of sight) and great pub food (later in the week I had the Prawns and Spaghetti). During our first visit, we talked about life in both Chicago and Sydney. We talked quite a bit about racism in the United States and its impact on the everyday lives of its citizens. I also asked a lot of questions about the Aborignal population.
As the evening ended, Allison checked to see what activities were on my agenda for the next day, and after I ran down a litany of my activities, she said that she planned to check her itinerary for the week so she could show me some other areas of Sydney. When we connected again two days later, Allison took me to the 47th Floor of an office building that also housed a revolving restaurant. Sipping some of the best Riesling I’ve had, I was given another opportunity to soak in another and even more panoramic view of Sydney Harbour.
Not knowing that I am a fan of Chef Jaime Oliver, Allison and I (to my great surprise) walked over to Oliver’s restaurant. I was blown away by the food and dessert. To top the evening off, Allison presented me with a large gift bag of Aussie candies and other delectables — Tim Tam, various kinds of Cadbury Chocolates, Malt Teasers and other sweet treats that make you want to move to Sydney just to have easy access to these. Oh, a jar of iconic Vegemite (a healthy Australian food paste) was also included.
As exciting as solo travel was proving to be, I still found that there is still nothing as exhilarating as a native showing you around. Sure, the trip I planned was exciting, and it encompassed most of the sites I wanted to visit, but there are just somethings you won’t get to experience without the caring and historical knowledge of a native.
An example would be the section in downtown Sydney known as Martin Place where in 2014, several hostages were held at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe. Allison showed me how Martin Place was turned into a field of flowers. During the crisis, Sydneysiders, in a steady procession, brought hundreds upon hundreds of flowers to show love to the hostages. Imagining all of these flowers, I could feel the passion of Sydney citizens. Being shown this area by a native had a greater impact than either stumbling across it or planning a touristy trek could ever be.
By this point, Sydney had sealed a place in my heart and memory.
In Part 3 and final installment of this Sydney, Australia blog series, I will share some of my most memorable aspects of this wonderful city, its fun words and names to describe funny situations and people and some of the other great people I met.