The opera house, the harbor bridge, the Olympic stadium… you always hear about these places in books or on TV, but the reality of their existance doesn’t really hit until you’re standing outside of them. Two weeks ago, I did my first major trip outside of Brisbane and visited the capital city of Sydney, which is about a 2-hour flight into New South Wales. 


I went with a couple of other Americans and stayed with friends from Duke. The trip was incredibly exhausting with all of the sight-seeing and our determination to save money by walking everywhere! What most amazed me about Sydney was its metropolitan feel. Brisbane, with about 2 million residents, is certainly by definition a city, but compared to Sydney’s international flair and neon spectacles, Brisbane looks small and quaint. Dare I compare their differences to New York City versus Durham? This might be a slight exaggeration, but there was an unexpected marked difference between the two cities.


As soon as I arrived in Sydney, I felt a hustle and bustle absent in Brisbane. People rushed past you unaffectedly. Everywhere you turned, there were more bright signs, shopping, food, historical spots and tourist traps. I could constantly hear different accents from across the globe, but ironically enough, rarely (never?) heard the laid-back Queenslander accent I’ve come to be so familiar with and associate with Australians. To be sure, the sights in Sydney are amazing. The Royal Botanical Gardens overlooking city central and the harbor were beautiful, the Opera House was even more amazing up close than from TV and the Blue mountains we visited about an hour outside of the city could give Yosemite or Yellowstone a run for their money. Darling Harbor was a lot of fun: right next to the heart of downtown, complete with delicious restaurants, gelato, an aquarium, the largest IMAX in Australia and Saturday night fireworks. The atmosphere was electric and intriguing. On the flip side, the small town of Leura in the Blue mountains was merely a two-block downtown spread of small shops, cafes and a specialty candy store. For the Durhamites and Dukies reading, think Brightleaf Square or Ninth Street in the middle of the mountains and minus ‘gourmet’ places such as Mt. Fuji’s or Piazza Italia.



I think the reality that I’ve been to Sydney – you know, the famous Australian city that hosted the 2000 summer Olympics – only really hit me once I got back home to Brisbane. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip, and I can safely say it’s impossible to do Sydney justice in only four days. But isn’t that the case with any city really? Most visitors to Australia completely overlook Brisbane, but it’s a wonderful city and I am so glad it’s my home these four months.


Favorite Sydney memories? I can narrow it down to three:

  1. Playing in the circular spiral fountain at Darling Harbor
  2. Riding a jet boat around Sydney Harbor, seeing the sites, and making sudden stops and spin outs at random moments
  3. Taking a tour of the Opera House… it was amazing inside, but nothing like I expected. Most great theaters I’ve been in are ornate and classic looking, but this was simplistic and modern (it was only completed in 1973)


Next stop: tropical Cairns!