Sydney day 1: Art Gallery of NSW, Royal Botanic Gardens, and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair

Upon arriving at the Kingsford Airport, I bought a simcard (a Yes! Optus sim for AUD 15 with 10gb data and $5 credit for 28 days) and immediately booked an Uber. It took a long time for us to find where we’ll be picked up because we were unfamiliar with the layout of the airport. Our driver, however, was super nice and didn’t charge us for the long wait.

Cozy home for a week

We checked in to our Airbnb in Bondi Junction, which was so conveniently located – just less than 10 minutes from the Bondi Junction Station. We were situated in a quiet neighborhood, which we liked, although as Manilenas who know to never walk the streets alone at night, we were a bit nervous whenever we walked home late in the evening. It was just so quiet! But also, apparently, safe. The only downside to our location was that buses didn’t stop near our street.

We walked to Bondi Junction and chose a Japanese restaurant, both for the familiar cuisine and the price. Plus, a lot of locals flocked to it so we rationalized that it must be good. (Just, you know, once you’ve converted your money to AUD, quit thinking about conversion rates.) It was actually tasty and very filling. Food proportions are bigger than what we were used to in Manila, and we both didn’t finish our food

Afterward, we entered the Bondi Junction station, bought an Optus card (we loaded an initial $40), and rode the train to go to our first stop.

Art Gallery of NSW

National Gallery of NSW
National Gallery of New South Wales

Entrance is free to the Art Gallery but there are exhibitions to which you need to buy a ticket. I really wanted to enter the Rembrandt exhibit because I haven’t seen much of his paintings while in Europe, but it was beyond my budget. We were excited to catch the Philippine art exhibit called Passion and Procession (which ran from June 2014, 2017 to January 7, 2018). We only found out about this when we were browsing the museum’s website prior to our trip.

The Art Gallery has a mixture of both local and international artists (I even saw a Picasso and Van Gogh). I was surprised by – and envious of – the number of visitors. How I wish we have more tourists to our own National Gallery in the Philippines!

As much as possible, we have grouped our itinerary by their nearness to each other, so our next stop was the Royal Botanic Gardens. It was just almost across the Art Gallery, and we welcomed the cooler atmosphere as we walked among the ancient trees.

Royal Botanic Gardens

I didn’t read every bit of information among the trees, but it was one of my favorite places because it was so relaxing, and I love walking in parks. The Royal Botanic Gardens is huge and has a lot of “street” posts to direct you to other places, such as to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair or the Sydney Opera House. It gets so hot in Sydney, and the Gardens was an excellent and cooler path to walk through toward these destinations.

You can choose to walk or ride the tram (for a fee).
Peckish from all that walking? A cafe is just right outside the Calyx.

We went to the Sydney Opera House for a photo but we had to rush to the other side, toward Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, where our friends were waiting for us. We thought they were going to the Philippines this Christmas, and we were so happy to find out they were staying in Sydney instead. We haven’t seen them in two years! They offered to make a picnic for us to welcome us to Sydney, and since we wanted to watch the sunset from Mrs Macquarie’s, that’s where we had our dinner.

Our first picture with the world-famous Sydney Opera House.

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair

View from Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair.

Apparently, picnics are the norm in Sydney (or Australia?), and it was quite exciting to see so many families walking or jogging in the area.

During the picnic, we discussed our itinerary for the week, and they decided to accompany us to some of our activities. We were so happy to hit two birds with one stone, touring Sydney and getting to spend time with our friends.

We had the usual Sydney picnic spread, which consisted of cold cuts, cheese, and biscuits. Since glasses are not allowed in the park, Lianne brought plastic wine glasses to which you can attach the base. Ate Koku was so happy because she’s always wanted to experience a picnic in the park!

Sydneysider picnic by Lianne

Of course we took a lot of photos with the Sydney Harbour Bridge! Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair was a perfect vantage point (and it gets filled up so quickly during New Year’s Eve) to take pictures of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. The view just kept growing more beautiful the darker it got.

Cheers to this beautiful city

It was in this spot that I finally fell in love again for the first time in 10 years. The city is so developed, the people are friendly, the food is affordable, and I just felt so safe. The whole laid-back vibe in such a vibrant economy made me fall in love with Sydney so quickly, and for the first time I seriously wondered if I would want to move to another country. But for now, that’s just wishful thinking.

Day’s cost (some expenses were shared between us):
Sim card: $15 / 2 = $7.5
Uber to Airbnb: $26.39 / 2 = $13.195
Lunch: $17.90
Opal card: $40
Grocery: $18 / 2 = $9

Total: $87.595

Breakfast was served on our flight, dinner was free care of our friends, and there were no entrance fees to the places we went to. Our transportation costs (amounting to only $2.42) were covered by the Opal card, and our friends also treated us to an Uber ride to Bondi Junction station.

Read the other posts in my Sydney series!

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