Tim Tam Chillers: A Brit in Sydney
January 1, 1970
by Beth Saward
In March and April of this year, I went on an epic trip to Australia and New Zealand. This was my first solo trip and so I decided to go as far away as possible. The first stop on my Oceania tour was Sydney, Australia for 5 days. The trip got off to a great start with me crying about 8 hours into the flight to Kuala Lumpur, asking myself why I’d thought going to Australia by myself was a good idea. Obviously at this point we were roughly over India so it was a bit late for me to turn back! Arriving in Sydney and getting my first “G’day” from the guy who waved me through customs totally made the whole flight worth it. I stayed the first few nights with a friend and her parents in Artamon, which is a suburb on the lower North Shore of Sydney. It was a perfect place to explore the city from as it only took 15 minutes to head into the centre of Sydney on the train. Coincidentally it also turned out to be where my grandmother had lived when she was in Sydney in the 1970s! As a Brit, one of the things that was surreal about being in Sydney were the double decker trains. We just don’t have them in the UK. I’ll freely admit, they were one of the reasons I got public transport as much as possible in the 5 days I was there (on this note, I managed without an Opal card for most of my trip but probably would have saved myself money if I’d got one).
One of my first stops was Newtown to check out the famous Kings Street. Unfortunately it was absolutely tipping it down in a downpour almost worthy of being back home in England. Nevertheless, Kings Street was still a pretty awesome place to visit. It’s kind of hipster central in Sydney, full of quirky shops and artistic types (think of the stereotypes of Camden Market or Shoreditch in London). I’d headed down there partly to check out the numerous bookshops and partly because I was looking for a piercing place. I’d been wanting to get my septum pierced for a while but due to my job (teaching isn’t known as a profession that’s accepting of facial piercings) I had to wait for a stretch of time off work. It’s recommended that you fiddle as little as possible with a new piercing and the three weeks I’d be away presented the perfect opportunity for a septum piercing to heal up before I had to hide it for work. I went to Industrial Strength at Kings St Tattoo and they were great. Walked me through the process, made sure I’d be able to flip it up for work, blamed me for bringing the bad weather over with me.
After that I grabbed some brunch at Twelve (I had corn and shallot fritters with bacon and avocado, which were delicious) – they offer gf toast as part of their all day breakfast for those of you keeping an eye out for that. I rounded off my trip to Newtown with a raid on some of their bookshops: I visited Better Read Than Dead and Elizabeth’s. The latter does A Blind Date with a Book where you buy a mystery book wrapped in brown paper with a few words describing it. I then headed back to Artamon and spent the afternoon at Balmoral Beach, a favourite of the friend I was staying with.
I spent the next day exploring The Rocks (which you reach from the Circular Quay train station) and being as unashamedly touristy as possible. I took selfies in front of the Opera House, had a cream tea on the roof of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and walked over the Harbour Bridge. Not over the arches which cost (as far as I could tell) your first born child and your right kidney. I walked over the pedestrian path that runs along the bridge itself next to the road. Gave me just as awesome a view and for free! I’d thoroughly recommend taking a day to hang out in The Rocks. There’s a really interesting small museum called The Rocks Discovery Museum all taking you through the story of Sydney from before European settlement up until the present day. I followed this up with a delicious kebab from a nearby stall, completing my tourist look by getting a teensy bit sunburnt in the process. The Museum of Contemporary Art took up most of the afternoon and it’s seriously worth checking this out. You’ll come across a wide variety of artists, including some you wouldn’t expect – there was a Grayson Perry exhibition on while I was there!
The next day was once again grey, wet and gloomy. I’d only been in Sydney for a few days but this was when homesickness really hit me. I think it was realising just how big the time difference was and how far away from most of my friends and family I really was! So I decided that the best cure for it was to take advantage of the distinctly British weather and head over to Manly for a long walk. Grabbing myself some banana bread (which is huge, cheap and so so delicious in Sydney), I took the ferry from Circular Quay which even in the rain was a gorgeous half hour trip through the Harbour. I walked from Manly Wharf up to Fairfax Lookout in Sydney Harbour National Park. There’s a war memorial up there, as well as stunning views over the Harbour. I caught the bus back down but that was mainly due to feeling lazy after the blustery hour I’d spent sat up at the Lookout. You could walk from the wharf and back if you want to save some money and are willing to put in a few hours. Even in the miserable weather, I had a great day and would definitely recommend heading out to the National Park!
Coogee to Bondi
I moved on from where I’d been staying in Artamon and headed over to stay at Sydney Central YHA, a hostel run by Youth Hostels Australia that is less than 5 minutes walk from Central Station. It was pretty cheap given the location but the hostel was colossal. Absolutely slightly terrifyingly huge. It meant that it felt more like a hotel than a hostel. The room I was in was fine, clean, quiet, nice bathroom. The whole place just felt a little daunting for someone travelling alone. They did offer some cool activities though, one of which was a walk along the coast from Coogee to Bondi. Obviously I decided to do this on what turned out to be the hottest day of my trip to Sydney and it was absolutely fantastic. The scenery is amazing and the weather was great. I honestly think I got most of my tan from my entire time in Sydney that afternoon. The walk is relatively easy going. It’s 6km (just under 4 miles) and took us around 3 hours to do. As it was my final day in Sydney I headed back to my friend’s in Artamon for a traditional Aussie barbie afterwards. She also took me for a Tim Tam Chiller at Gloria Jeans. For those of you who are in the UK and don’t know what this means, I want you to close your eyes. Imagine a Penguin biscuit. Now imagine it with nicer chocolate and biscuit. And ice cream. In a blender. It was incredible. If you’re ever in Sydney, try one. Seriously. Treat yourself.
I wish I’d spent longer in Sydney. As a place to travel alone it was great. I didn’t feel any of the awkwardness that you get in some places (you know what I mean, the weird looks for eating alone, things like that) and I always felt safe. I’d love to go back to Australia at some point in the future. But on this particular trip, I had other places to be – namely New Zealand!