Monday was my one free day to be a tourist before the whirlwind begins, so I set out on foot to check out the bay. Exploring Sydney on a hot, humid summer day, laden with sleep deprivation (almost three days with less than 3 hours sleep!) was quite an experience - kind of like walking underwater, in slow motion.
I spent most of the day exploring the Royal Botanical Gardens (see above, not my photo), a huge park that runs along the water downtown and spans from the iconic opera house all the way to charming Wooloomooloo (yes that name is for real!) where I stayed. I napped under an enormous carob tree and the trees buzzed with the cacophony of a richly diverse subtropical ecosystem. Between watching sacred ibis birds divebomb tourists and scantily clad Sydney-ites parade around the harbor, it was an entertaining day.
The city is amazingly oriented around the water, with the bay expanding its fingers in every direction. The water is buzzing with boats, and the culture of the harbor permeates everything – food, fashion, activities… (Jen you would absolutely love it here! The nautical vibe abounds!). Imagine the natural beauty of the SF Bay (almost) combined with a sort of San Diego beach vibe and a bit of LA sprawl. A pleasant enough combo.
I had a lovely evening with my hostel mate, Patrique, a French financial analyst who lives in Luxembourg and is in Oz backpacking for five months. We cruised the streets, discussed politics, drank a cold beer and ate sushi. Quiet and kind, he slowly revealed that aside from being a consultant to a large private bank in Luxembourg, he has a deep love for ... food and cooking. He hopes to open a restaurant and reconnect people to healthy, affordable food. ?!? So NOT what I would have expected when the chic banker politely introduced himself to me. I love being surprised by people.
Tomorrow I head to the outskirts of the city to stay with Libby, a woman who heads up the urban permaculture guild of north Sydney, to check out a few urban permaculture sites.