When I left Sydney four years ago I promised that I would be back again someday, and despite making that promise upon leaving countless places that have yet to be returned to, somehow four years, five months and approximately eight days after making the promise I had found my way back. It was however, a very different Sydney that I landed back into. The first time I flew into Sydney it was three days before Christmas, it was packed with tourists, I was with my boyfriend and we were meeting my sister to spend two weeks in the city for Christmas and New Years. I was starry eyed, in love and overexcited at being in this place that I had dreamed of visiting since I was a little girl. This time though it was a half empty city I walked back into, the airport was eerily deserted, the pubs quiet and the streets lacking the crazy hustle and bustle of city life. I was travelling solo and completely wiped out from my time in the outback.
Despite my exhaustion the first thing I did was dump my bags at my hostel and immediately head out into the city. I made my way down Pit street, through the main shopping area straight to the harbour. I may have been tired and drained but there’s a kind of adrenaline that takes over when you arrive in a place, whether its new or a place you’ve loved before, that itch to get out and explore takes over and can miraculously overcome any travel fatigue any heartache and any jetlag. I got myself a Hungry Jacks hash brown cheeseburger, sat on a bench staring across the water at the Opera House to eat it and let the giddiness take over me. I’m a country girl but so much of my heart belongs to the city and I was back in this iconic one that I loved. I was stupid happy.
The first time I was here we spent two weeks whizzing around the city at full speed ticking off every tourist hotspot on our to do list. I loved it. I love that kind of full pelt travelling, throwing yourself into city and seeing and doing as much as you can in the time that you have. And the places we saw, the things we did I would ten out of ten recommend. Visiting the Opera House and the Botanical Gardens, the Aquarium, Taronga zoo, catching the fireworks in Darling Harbour, walking across the Harbour Bridge, exploring the Rocks, taking the ferry to Manly, spending Christmas day on Bondi beach and New Years Eve watching the fireworks over Harbour Bridge The list goes on. And if you visit Sydney you just have to do all this, do everything.
This time round, I did return to so many of those tourist spots but I got to take my time. I walked through the Botanical Gardens again but this time I spent the morning at the art gallery of New South Wales and spent the whole afternoon lying in the sun staring at the view of the both the bridge and the opera house. I slept in and then spent the afternoon in Darling Harbour sipping 2 for 1 cocktails. I returned to Bondi beach but I took the day to walk along to Coogee soaking in the sun and the views along the way. And I fell in love with Manly, taking the ferry over just to chill on the beach or by the pier and watch the people (and the dogs) go by. Most of all though, I spent so much time just walking. I walked all over the city. Through China town and Surry Hills and the vintage shops, under the bridge and across the bridge and through the Rocks, invariably treating myself to coffees or pancakes or dumplings along the way. And as I wandered the tension from the outback melted away. Although you could feel the effects of covid with the noticeably empty streets and lack of tourists , there was a quiet kind of buzz, it was a city starting to come back to life, and being able to explore it without hoards of tourists everywhere was actually a bit of a treat.
It was such a privilege to return to this city and to be able to take my time and absorb it. To make new memories not as the starry eyed, in love girl but as the slightly older, solo traveller happier in myself but still ridiculously overexcited to be there. Because when you think of Australia, lets be honest you think of Sydney. Australia is a vast continent made up of a thousand different and wonderful landscapes, and every backpacker will argue which place they loved the best, and tell you to go see it all, but to the little girl dreaming of visiting it was the image of Sydney I always had in my mind and it will always have a place in my heart.