AUSTRALIA DAY 14 – SYDNEY – END

Today is our last full day in Sydney! ☹ However, it was also one of my most memorable one! We started off the morning with breakfast at Bread & Fill which is in the food court of Gateway Sydney. We ordered the Smoked Salmon Roll, the Smoked Salmon & Egg Box and my uncle ordered a customized poached chicken sandwich. Food was served promptly and ingredients were fresh. Also, proportions were just right and prices were reasonable.

After breakfast, we met up with my cousin and his wife at The Rocks Market to do some shopping. The Rocks Market is a weekend artisan market which stretches about two blocks in The Rocks area close to Circular Quay.

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We spent about 1.5 hours here and I purchased some hand made postcards and bracelets. Compared to most artisan markets I have been to previously, I feel that prices here are quite reasonable.

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From The Rocks Market, we crossed the Sydney Harbour bridge to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Sydney CBD from a different perspective.

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The bridge is barricaded by tall, metal wires which makes it hard to get good photos of the Sydney Opera House but I believe this may be a safety precaution.

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The volume on the bridge is quite high in terms of cars and people and we could see visitors who were doing the walk at the top of the bridge as well. I believe it took us about 20 minutes to cross the whole bridge but we did stop at times to take photos.

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We boarded a train at a station close to the bridge which took us to a main terminal station. I was not paying too much attention to the station names as I was engaged in conversation with my cousin as we walked. I do remember, however, that the train was spacious, clean and had strong air conditioning!

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From the train, we transferred onto a tram which took us right to the Sydney Fish Market. The tram was much more crowded compared to the train so we had to stand for the duration but it was only a few stops.

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My cousin lent us their Opal Cards which is the transit pass used in Sydney. They have a device at the stops where you need to tap on and off with your card to deduct the correct amount of travel fare. Their transit system seems to be user friendly and easy to navigate.

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It was a Saturday and it was lunch time so the Sydney Fish Market was jam packed when we arrived.

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There were long line ups at each of the stalls and it was difficult to find a table. We decided to split up to be more efficient; two of us went to grab tables, two to order the raw seafood and one to order the cooked ones. After an hour, we finally got everything and sat down to eat!

We got a bit of everything to try since this was our first time here.

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We got salmon sashimi, raw oysters, spot prawns, abalone, oyster Rockefellers, baked lobster with cheese, grilled prawns, grilled barramundi, baked scallops and grilled octopus. In total, we spent about $375 which is a really good deal for all that seafood!

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In Canada, you will definitely not be able to get it at that price! The washrooms are cleaner than I expected and it was nice that they have janitors there who came around to collect the garbage very promptly.

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I have two tips for this fish market, firstly, do yourself a favour and come here during non-peak hours! It will save you so much time lining up and looking for a table. When we left around 3 pm, there were half the people we started out with. Second, there are seating outside so don’t waste your time waiting for a table inside. However, the caveat of sitting outside, is that there are birds everywhere! They WILL swoop down to steal food from you! I’ve seen it happen to a girl next to us! Keep your food covered at all times and throw your garbage in the garbage can as soon as you are done!

We took a stroll in Chinatown after our delicious lunch.

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In one of the stores, I saw the Uggs that I wanted to buy in Gold Coast and they were actually on sale! They had it in my size so I bought it right now! I had already given up since they were so pricy but now I was finally able to own a pair!

There are several Chinatowns in Sydney but this was one of the most popular one. My cousin said many international students live here as rent is cheap and it is close to many restaurants.

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Their Chinatown is relatively cleaner and safer than the one we have in Vancouver.

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We also took a very quick stroll inside Paddy’s Market which is a large retail market that sells grocery and souvenirs. We did not have too much time so we only stopped at a few shops. We bought some cute Australian towels as souvenirs.

Our final stop with my cousin was at Max Brenner, an international franchise which sells chocolate drinks and desserts. They are headquartered in New York but most of the stores are in Australia. My friend who lived in Australia told me that I must try this place!

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The closest one nearby was in Westfield Sydney which is a large shopping center located under the Sydney Tower. It was very difficult to find parking as it is right downtown and the parking lot was very narrow. The café was busy when we visited so we did have to wait in line to place our orders.

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We were still pretty full from lunch so we ordered a chocolate soufflé to share.

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We each got our own drink – hot white chocolate, banana milk chocolate, mocha frappe, classic milkshake and New York iced coffee. The drinks are quite pricy here but they are amazing!

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I had the hot white chocolate and it was so smooth and creamy. It was also just the right amount of sweetness. The café has nice décor and it’s a great place to relax with a drink on a hot day. They also sell some of their merchandise so I bought a dark chocolate bar to try.

We said our farewells after my cousin dropped us off at the Fleet Steps for the La Boheme Opera. We arrived a little early to pick up our tickets and also to grab some refreshments for the show.  This was one of my most anticipated activities on this trip – to see an Opera at Sydney Harbour! Although it’s not inside the Opera House, but it is a performance hosted by Opera Australia and I think it’s even better to have the Opera House as a beautiful backdrop as we watch the performance! Many people were trying to get photos in front of the Opera House before sunset, including us. The weather was perfect that day, with blue skies and no clouds.

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There were a few eating options available and we went to our nearest one to grab a tuna sandwich to share and to grab some water. Usually you have to pay a premium for food and beverage at special events like these, but I thought the price we paid was not too bad. It is definitely cheaper than eating at a restaurant with the same view on the other side of the harbour!

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At 7:30 pm, the show finally began! Everyone was seated and quietly enjoyed the performance. The performance was in Italian but fortunately there were subtitles on screen. It was interesting that they had Chinese subtitles along with the English!

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Right before intermission, the scene ended with a huge snow storm and they used snow machines to make it snow in Sydney harbour on a 24-degree evening! It was really fascinating! The performance continued until 10 p.m. and concluded with beautiful fireworks right along the harbour! It was the perfect way to end our Australia trip – it ended with a bang! :p The performance was amazing and we had a great time. We arrived early and left early so we did not have any issue with traffic or the crowd.

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We wanted to meet my friend Andrew one more time before we leave so he picked us up from Fleet Steeps and we had a late-night snack before heading back to the hotel. He took us to this restaurant in Chinatown called Golden Century Seafood Restaurant.

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It was already 10:45 p.m. but the restaurant was still quite busy. They have many large tanks filled with seafood; the crabs and abalone were huge! We already had enough seafood for the day so we ordered a barbeque combo, some vegetables and beef stir fry to share. It was our first time having Chinese food in 15 days so it was quite refreshing!

The food tasted pretty authentic! After our meal, we said goodbye to my friend and we went back to the hotel to start packing our stuff for our flight tomorrow.

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Can’t believe it’s finally time to go home! ☹ The last 14 days have been a blast! I was a little worried at first whether we will enjoy our visit to Australia as we don’t enjoy being outdoors too much. However, because we decided to challenge ourselves to do activities that we normally wouldn’t do, we experienced joy and excitement that we have not encountered before! Despite the fact that we were completely drenched at times or dripping with perspiration under the hot sun, we did not mind it at all because we were so focused on having a good time!

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When I tell my friends that I visited Australia, they all said Australia was not on their bucket list as they think it is very similar to Canada. To that, I say that the two countries are very different! The experiences that we had in Australia – feeding wild dolphins, sand tobogganing in a First Nation desert reserve, and seeing 1,000 penguins wash ashore on Philips Island at sunset – these are all one in a lifetime experiences that I would have never got to try back in Canada! If someone like me who normally doesn’t enjoy being outdoors that much can have this much fun in Australia, how much more fun would a person who is an outdoor fanatic will have!

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Hope you enjoyed reading about my 14 day trip in Australia! Please leave a comment to let me know what you enjoyed reading about the most or what you enjoyed the most about Australia. Cheers Mate! 😊

AUSTRALIA DAY 13 – SYDNEY

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We had signed up for a Blue Mountain tour with AAT Kings for the day. Blue Mountain got its name from the blue haze that is created when the sun shines on the eucalyptus forests. The Three Sisters, the most famous landmark in Blue Mountains, is an unusual rock formation formed by land erosion. The Three Sisters are called Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo. There was an aboriginal legend tied to these three formations which was later proven to be a fabricated story to promote the landmark.  Blue Mountains are bordered by the Jamison Valley and the town of Katoomba.

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Pick up time for our tour was at 7:55 a.m. so it was another early morning for us. Our tour group was quite large with approximately 50 people so it took a long time for us to check in. The bus was much larger than the one we rode on in Melbourne with more comfortable seating. There was a washroom onboard and there were also pull-down shades available.

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Our first stop was a washroom break after a two-hour ride. There is a café, gift shop and observation point at this stop so our tour guide gave us 30 minutes to browse around. Although it was a week day, there were many tourist buses heading up to Blue Mountain and all the buses stop at the same stops so it was very crowded everywhere we went.

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We were dropped off at the Skyway East Station to take the scenic skyway to Blue Mountains National Park. The line up was so long! We waited almost 30 minutes to get on the skyway and the skyway was jam packed with tourists. After a few minutes, we were dropped off at the bottom of the hill of Blue Mountain National Park where you can select between two trails to either take the cableway or the railway up.

Along the trail, there are many signs with information about the vegetation grown here. There are also plaques that talk about the history of mining and the building of the coal railway in Blue Mountain.

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We decided to take the scenic railway up. It is interesting to see photos of visitors who took this same railway back in 1945. The railway cart was however much simpler and dangerous back then! There was fortunately a short line up so we did not have to wait too long. You can adjust the seat to pick the level of steepness you want as you go up. I was feeling adventurous so I picked the cliffhanger which is the steepest option.

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We were heading up the hill facing backwards and it was going quite fast! It was a tad scary but a great deal of fun! It was recently redeveloped in 2013 with glass-roofed carriages and is currently the steepest passenger railway in the world!

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I bet it would be even more exciting going down! We wanted to try it going down but the line up was way too long. It was also unfortunate that the souvenir photos were only offered for the riders going down the railway. We really wanted a souvenir photo but they only had it at that one station which is so stupid!

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We also tried the scenic cableway as well but it was not as exciting as the railway. No wonder the line ups are much shorter.

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The allocated time here was not sufficient for more than once on each ride. Therefore, I highly recommend doing all the rides first and start off with the railway first as it is the most popular. With the remaining free time, we browsed around the gift shop and bought a few souvenirs. To be honest, I would recommend driving up on your own or maybe consider joining the afternoon tour so you can take your time to look around when it is less crowded. Also, I think it makes no sense why the tours would allow the option of not purchasing the pass for the Scenic World rides. You would just be sitting at the gift shop for three hours with nothing to do! Also, the Three Sisters looks almost identical regardless of which angle you take it at; the backdrop in each one of your pictures is pretty much the same. Even if you skip Blue Mountain altogether, I don’t really think you’re missing out on too much!

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After we boarded the bus, we were taken to a small town called Leura to have lunch. All the tour buses are stopped here for lunch so it was very difficult to get a table at the limited number of restaurants. There are also many boutique shops you can check out but since we had to wait for a table at lunch, we only managed to check out a few of them.

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This is also one of the area which I thought the tour was poorly organized. They offered the option of having paid lunch where you will be guaranteed a spot at a designated restaurant and the food was ready to serve when you arrive.  If they knew that the town was going to be so busy during lunchtime, why didn’t they give the tour group a heads up so people will be more incline to opt for the paid lunch option? I know I definitely would have picked that instead!

After we placed our order at the Wayzgoose Café, we checked out a few of the shops. My favourite one was Josophan’s Fine Chocolates which sells a variety of fair trade, Belgian handcrafted chocolates. I got a bar of their dark chocolate and a jar of their glitter sprinkled chocolate frogs and both were very delicious! After doing some shopping, we went back to eat our lunch. We ordered the creamy chicken and mustard pie with mash, fish and chips and the Southern-fried chicken burger. Food and prices were decent.

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We started our journey back to the city after lunch and made our final stop at the Featherdale Wildlife Park. It is a medium sized zoo which was neatly organized and carried all the major Australian wildlife species.

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My favourite part about this Park was their option to take photos with koalas! Unlike the state of Queensland, you are not allowed to hold a koala in New South Wales, so we got one standing next to them while they are perched on a tree. We got to rub them on the waist only. The price was reasonable for the photos and the quality was much better than the one we took in Melbourne.

I also liked how we could see animals like the Small Penguins and the crocodiles up close! After checking out the gift shop and using the bathroom, we got back on the bus for our ride home.

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The ride was about 1.5 hours and some of the tour members were being dropped off at the ferry for an evening cruise. We were headed next to Darling Harbour for dinner so we asked our tour guide if he could drop us off at a nearby hotel which he did.

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The tour ended around 5:30 p.m. which was a little earlier than we expected.

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We made dinner plans with my cousins and friend at The Star Casino at 7:00 p.m. so we had some time to spare to walk around Darling Harbour.

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The area is quite nice with many restaurants, a shopping mall, a convention center, museum and casino all along the harbour.

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You can also catch the water taxi here as well. We had a nice stroll as the weather was not too hot in the late afternoon and we stopped to watch a street performance.

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We met up with my cousins at the entrance of the Harvest Buffet in The Star Casino.

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This was the first time I have met these cousins as they have been living for a long time in Australia and their family line is from a different grandmother. Nonetheless, we had a great time bonding with each other on this trip. I am glad to finally meet them! We lined up briefly and got seated at a large table as we had quite a big group. We were all pretty hungry so we went to get food right away.

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The buffet had a good selection of food items to choose from, especially their seafood. They also had different types of cuisine such as Italian, Chinese, and Japanese.

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They also had a large dessert area!

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We spent about 2 hours here and everyone had a great meal.

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The food was fresh and served hot! They did run out of a few items but was refilled relatively quickly. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced seafood buffet in Sydney, I definitely recommend this one!

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We took some group photos and parted ways. It had been a pretty long day so we decided to head home and skip the casino. The Blue Mountain was our final tour on this trip. It was nice that we don’t have to get up early anymore for the tours but it was also sad because we know it is almost time to head home!

AUSTRALIA DAY 12 – SYDNEY

We started off the day with a delicious breakfast at Pancakes On the Rocks which was only a few minutes’ walk from our hotel. They have such a large selection on their menus so it was difficult to decide what to order! In the end, we ordered the Aussie Sunrise and the Big Breakfast to share. The restaurant was not very busy that day but it appeared understaffed so we had to wait a while for our food. Taste of the food was not bad and proportions were large. Australian breakfast is similar to North America but they also add grilled fruits and veggies!

After breakfast, we walked over to the Sydney Opera House for our 10 a.m. tour.

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The tour is 1 hour long and costs $37 per person. Tickets can be purchased online a few months in advance and you can pick the time slot that you want. The tour runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Each person is provided with an audio device so you can listen to the tour guide as he takes you to various sections of the opera house. Photography is allowed except in areas where the tour guide specifies.

The tour was a good pace and covered a great deal about the Opera House’s history and present. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and kept the presentation interesting.

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You can purchase a souvenir photo booklet at the end of the tour. The booklet is printed with high quality resolution and there are many different photo backgrounds and sizes included. The price is reasonable and it makes a great souvenir item.

We spent some time checking out the souvenir store and headed over for an early lunch at the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar.

We made reservations online but the restaurant was not too busy around noon. We were lucky to get a table right by the water where we had a very clear view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Service was great and the prices were reasonable for a harbour side restaurant. We were still pretty full from breakfast so we ordered a few lighter items to share. We had the cured kingfish, split grilled king prawns, storm clam and a selection of oysters.

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We are not huge fans of raw oysters but figured we should try it at least once in Australia so we picked 9 based on the recommendation of our server. T

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he seafood was very fresh and delicious! We really enjoyed each dish that we ordered but my favourite was the king prawns as they tasted very buttery.

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We had a bad experience with large clams in Taiwan so we were a little afraid of ordering it again. However, this time, the clams were not chewy at all. They were very flavourful and easy to eat.

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Next on our agenda was the Sydney Botanic Garden. Despite the fact that it was already fall in Australia, the flowers in the garden were still in full bloom. The garden was well maintained and looked beautiful. There were many people visiting the garden, many were white collars on their lunch break. The botanic garden is very big so if you wanted to see everything, you would easily need three hours. We were here for two and we were able to cover 2/3 of it on a brisk pace. While we were there, they had a free floral display at The Calyx. The greenery inside this greenhouse was very luscious and beautifully arranged. It was also a good place to catch some shade on a hot day.

Along the seawall, there are also many good spots for taking photos of the Opera House.

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I highly recommend visiting the Sydney Botanic Garden because it is very pretty and it’s also free! It is a good way to spend an afternoon near the water after a good seafood lunch!

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We hopped on a taxi and headed to Pasticceria Papa, a dessert place that my friend highly recommended, in Bondi Beach. The café had a display case full of dessert which almost stretched a block long! Everything looked so delicious even though we just had lunch not too long ago!

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We ended up ordering an éclair, a chocolate dipped cookie, a coconut pastry, a ricotta cheesecake tart and a slice of their famous Nutella ricotta cheesecake. Despite all the food we had today, we still managed to finish all the desserts! Everything we ordered tasted delicious but the winner was indeed the Nutella cheesecake! The cake was creamy and fluffy but not too rich or overly sweet. You must try this dessert when you come to Bondi Beach!

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After all that eating, it was definitely time to do some exercise to burn off those calories we consumed!

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We headed over to the beach and started the popular Bondi to Coogee Walk.

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The whole walk takes about 3 hours and passes through varying landscapes, even through a graveyard!

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For the most part, the walk is on paved road which is not too bad but at times, it can be a little scary, especially when you are walking on large rocks right beside the water where there are no barricades.

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There are also several steep flights of stairs, both up and down.

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Washrooms, convenience stores and shelter are limited on the trail so make sure you come prepared with the right gear for the weather.

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Personally, the walk was not too bad for myself because the beautiful scenery was a good distraction and plus we had our eyes on the finish line to keep us focused.

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It was such a great sense of accomplishment when we reached Coogee although it was a little disappointing that there was no sign to congratulate you for finishing the trail!

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At Coogee, we waited for my friend to pick us up for dinner. I have worked closely with this colleague for 2.5 years, communicating everyday on e-mail or Skype, and now I finally get to meet him in person! He recognized me right away from across the street and we were quickly on our way to dinner at Nishiki Wagyu Yakiniku Restaurant. It is an all you-can-eat Japanese restaurant which is right off the Pacific Highway in Cows Nest.

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The cost is $74.90 per person and there is a two hour limit. I have never been to a Japanese all-you-can-eat where they have such a large selection of grilled items, especially so many different cuts of beef!

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The food was very fresh and delicious! Unlike the buffet restaurants in Richmond, they didn’t skimp us out towards the end, they gave us the exact quantity of what we ordered each time. My favourite dish that night was no doubt the wagyu beef!

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It was so juicy and tender! For $75, it is definitely worth it. In Canada, you would not be able to get such good quality wagyu beef at that price!

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Service was also very good. It is a little out of the way but I highly recommend you to try this restaurant!

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After dinner, my friend took us to a nearby grocery store and we grabbed some essentials before heading home. It was indeed a day of non-stop eating but all the food we had were so delicious! Good thing we also did lots of exercise that day to help balance it out!

AUSTRALIA DAY 11 – SYDNEY

We took a taxi and headed to the Melbourne airport for our 8 a.m. flight to Sydney. We finished checking in early so we went to McDonalds to grab breakfast. Their breakfast menu is the same as Canada’s but a tad pricier. I had the hotcakes (called pancakes in Canada) and a chocolate macaroon. The macaroon tasted bland but I was not expecting much anyways since it is from McDonalds after all…

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We flew with Virgin Australia and the flight arrived on time in Sydney after an hour and 30 minutes flight. We are now on the final stretch of our trip! Time flies by when you are on vacation, EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. We took an Uber from the airport to our hotel in The Rocks which took about 30 minutes. Our room was not ready yet so we stowed our luggage with front desk and went out to grab lunch at a nearby café called Creperie Suzette.

The café looks very much like the cafes in Europe so I will definitely give them a 10 for that. Although the crepes and galettes were not prepared by authentic French people like Roule Galette in Melbourne, they were still pretty delicious. The crepes and galettes we had in Melbourne had a creamier taste but the toppings at Creperie Suzette were more unique. We ordered the La Tasmanienne (smoked Tasmanian salmon, capers, cream Fraiche and fresh dill), La Pekinoise (Peking duck, spring onion, mature cheddar cheese and hoisin sauce) and La Pomme Cannelle (poached apple and cinnamon). We enjoyed all three crepes/galettes but our favourite was the La Pekinoise! Who would have thought that Pekin duck, a Chinese dish, would go so well with crepes!

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After a very satisfying lunch, we headed off to our first attraction, Taronga Zoo on Uber. We bought our tickets online for $42.30 AUD which is 10% cheaper than purchasing it at the gate. My rule of thumb is to always buy your tickets online because you save money and you avoid the line ups! The zoo is pretty big so we spent about 4.5 hours here and was able to see everything. I wish the zoo map was a little more user friendly! There were a few attractions that we had difficulty finding and had to circle back a few times to locate it. They have an interactive map on their app but it was not much help either!

We saw the seal show which seemed to be the most popular there judging by how long the line up was! We also saw the zookeeper presentation for the elephants and the gorillas which was very entertaining. Even though I’ve been to a decent number of zoos already, this is the first time I’ve seen gorillas up close! Their behaviours are really human-like! Other interesting highlights for me at this zoo was their tiger exhibit, free running emus and the comodo dragon! There is also a great spot to snap a photo of the Sydney Harbour Bridge near the entrance. Targona zoo was decent but I still think The Australia Zoo in Beerwah was still my favourite on this trip! We stayed until the zoo closed and in the last hour or so, there are very few people left in the zoo so you really feel like you have the whole place to yourself! We ran out of time for the souvenir shop though.

It took us a long time to our next destination as it was rush hour so we had difficulty getting a Uber, especially when the zoo is quite far from the city and other attractions. In hindsight, we should have taken the ferry from the Zoo to the Circular Wharf Quay since they are both by the waters. However, since we left so late, we probably would not have made it for the ferry anyways!

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Despite the delay, we still managed to arrive on time for our dinner cruise! We checked in at the information booth for Captain Cook Cruise and waited by the terminal for our boat. When the boat docked at the terminal, we were surprised at how big it was!

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After we were taken to our seats, we were given the menu to pick our dishes. Unfortunately, we did not get a window seat ☹

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The interior of the boat was just as fancy as its exterior. There was a live band playing and the seats were very comfortable. We went outside to snap a few photos of the harbour before the sunset after we placed our orders. The weather and lighting was perfect at that time.

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For appetizers, we ordered the Australia smoked salmon and warm lamb salad.

Then it was followed by the duck confit and beef tenderloin fillet for our main courses.

Lastly, we ended the evening off with the coconut mousse, chocolate hazelnut cloud and the slow baked lemon and lime tart.

The food was delicious that evening and proportions were good. A glass of champagne was complimentary but other beverages were not included. The cruise lasted for 3.5 hours and we had a great time! My phone does not have the best camera so the pictures I took after sunset did not turn out that great. Nonetheless, the experience was very memorable!

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After we disembarked, we walked around the gift shops by Circular Quay before heading back to our hotel. This time we stayed at the Rendezvous Hotel Sydney in the Rocks. It is a very close walk to Circular Quay and Sydney Opera House. I love the area and highly recommend staying here when you are visiting Sydney. It is a simplistic and older hotel but it was sufficient for our stay. It also has a small kitchen which is a bonus. Given that we were staying here during peak season, the price was not too bad at $285 CAD a night!

AUSTRALIA

Just came back from my 16-day trip to Australia, the land of koalas and kangaroos! It was a jam-packed trip, as usual, but everything went relatively smooth and we all had a great time! I know Australia is not really on everyone’s priority list because they think Australia is very similar to Canada. Hopefully after reading my blog, I will convince you to take that dreadful long flight and check it out for yourself!

TRANSPORTATION

Air

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We flew with Air Canada as they are the only airline which flies direct to Australia (Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney). I had been eyeing the prices on Expedia for a while and they remained pretty consistent (+/-$100) but there was a $500 price drop at the end of September. Not sure if this was just a glitch in the system or it was due to the end of summer…I missed out on the great deal so I ended up paying almost $1,500 after tax. Both flights left on time but our return flight was delayed by 45 minute and turbulence was horrible!

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For the domestic flights to Melbourne and Sydney, we took Virgin and Quantas which was about $150-$175 per person. They include one piece of 23 kg of luggage. Quantas charged us $70 for an additional check in luggage (no online option) while Virgin only charged $30 when I paid the fee online. There are limited carriers for domestic flights unfortunately. I heard that you should avoid Tiger Air as their flights are always delayed or cancelled.

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The three airports we visited were easy to navigate and we had no issues with our luggage. Customs were not as strict as we had heard it was and it was quick to clear customs with their automated system.

Uber

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We had a jam packed schedule so most of the time we just took Uber. We used Uber in all three cities and service overall was alright. We had a few drivers cancel out on us last minute which was frustrating and the meet up points were sometimes very confusing (ie. One venue had multiple). However, the drivers that we did travel with were friendly and we learned a great deal about the city from our conversations.

Public Transit

Australia’s transit system is definitely way better than Vancouver’s! The public transportation and stations were very clean and well maintained. There are many options to choose from – train, tram, water taxi, buses, ferry and light rail! Public transit does seem like an attractive option when you have to pay for expensive parking – $60/hr!

In Brisbane, we took the water taxi which is a great way to see the Story Bridge and travel from one area to another. You can purchase the Go Card and use it to take any public transportation. They also have a free water taxi as well but it does not come as frequently.

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In Melbourne, we took the CBD tram which allows everyone to travel for free within the CBD grid. You can purchase the Myki card for all other paid transportation.

Lastly, in Sydney, we took the train and light rail as we toured Chinatown and the Fish Market. Just remember to tap on and off with your Opal card!

Car Rental

We rented a car for the Brisbane/Gold Coast leg of the trip as that was the quickest and least expensive option. I booked the vehicle with Budget through Expedia. Pick up and drop off process was simple and smooth. Price for rental was very reasonable as well. However, there are many tolled roads and bridges in Australia so these can add up quite quickly! Remember that Australia drives on the opposite side of the road. You will need to get an international driver license to drive there. I downloaded the application form from the BCAA website, got my photos taken and then went to a BCAA office to have it processed. The license is valid for 1 year from issue date and costs only $25. Don’t forget to bring the booklet (international driver license) and your own driver license on the trip!

Taxi

Taxis to/from the airport when pre-arranged are actually not too bad. We  took it to and from the Melbourne airport and it was only about $50 for half an hour ride!

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COMMUNICATION

At the airport, we purchased a sim card from one of the local providers, Vodafone. They had a promotion going on which was $30 for 24GB and unlimited calling/texting for 30 days. The sim card was free. We were able to use their service across Australia but sometimes there would be poor or no reception when we were out on excursions. There is also free wi-fi in many places around the city. This is a nice option if you do not need data all the time.

 

MISCELLANEOUS

If you’re a hardcore travel planner like me…you would probably want to know about the following as well!

-Tipping is not required in Australia! Whoot whoot! Think of all the money you save!

-You can drink tap water!

-Washrooms are almost everywhere and relatively clean!

-For cheap grocery, go to Woolworth, Coles or Aldi! You can also visit the local markets but check their operating hours as they are not open 7 days a week.

-Even though we’re both speaking English, sometimes it can be difficult to understand with the accent and the different terminology (C: garbage, A: rubbish; C: fries, A: chips; C: ketchup, A: tomato sauce!

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-Credit card is accepted in most places except for the local markets

-Always bring an umbrella and a windbreaker as it can get pretty windy and rainy sometimes! I was so thankful that my backpack and windbreaker were water resistant as we were completely soaked from time to time!

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-Food is expensive…! Be prepared to pay at least $20 per person for breakfast, $35 for lunch and $60 for dinner!

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