The curtains are drawn and one half-asleep and flustered Kelly enters the scene at 4:00 a.m. on a Friday morning. I wake up to my ever-so-American alarm blaring “Hillbilly Bones” in my ear as I realize it’s 5:00 a.m. and I’ve overslept by 45 minutes. By gee golly, I’ve got a plane to catch in two hours and I haven’t finished packing. I was meant to leave my house at 5:00 a.m. to catch the 5:15 train – oops. It was one of those mornings. I leave the house and just as my stomach begins to growl, so does the thunder. Of course, BOTH of the umbrellas I was meant to bring along I forgot under my nightstand.
Yanking my hood over my head I try desperately to zip my overstuffed bag as the drizzle gets heavier. Twenty minutes and a lot of huffing and puffing and I make it on the 5:30 train. I arrive at Flinders Street Station (the “Central Station” of Melbourne, beautifully adorned with historical clocks and boasting a preserved Victorian architectural style), then Southern Cross station, where I purchase tickets and hop on the shuttle bus to Tullamarine Airport with my Texan counterpart Megan.
Flying out on Tiger Airways was a tripp – as we entered the budget airline terminal which resides aside the main airport, we grab our “receipts” (that’s what they give instead of a boarding pass) and fall into a deep slumber. I wake up to a bumpy landing and rays of sunshine in my eyes as I stretch and feel a pang of excitement and anxiety run through my system. Sydney, Australia. Where I first laid eyes on my dream of coming here, in fact years ago when I was just a sophomore in college in 2007. When I felt like my dreams of breaking away from life were so unattainable, and the road ahead seemed unending and grim. I squeal with joy as we exit the plane and hop onto our shuttle into the city.
About thirty passenger drop-offs after landing, we arrive in Kings Cross, a suburb just outside of the CBD. Much to our dismay our “Globe Hostel” is a hole-in-the-wall joint that smells of old gym socks and cheap perfume, among other things. Who cares??? We throw our things on our rickety beds and head out to Bondi Beach to catch some sun! Whizzing down to Bondi Junction we hop a bus and rock up to Bondi Beach where we make two deliciously refreshing adult beverages, kick back and prepare for some quality girl talk.
Bondi Beach, for those of you who don’t know, is a surfer’s paradise – men, women and children alike try their hand at the challenge as they paddle out and wait for the perfect wave to come along. Glancing around at the fluorescent waters Megan and I talk about how refreshing it is to be near the water and about how grateful we are to be here, creating new memories in a new place to last us a lifetime.
After sticking my toes in the icy shore water, we head home to nap and get ready for the Black & White & Sex party. The party is to celebrate an indie Australian film that is being released in Sydney, and The Chocolate Box has generously agreed to be a sponsor and donate our Chocolate Body Paint – ooh la vie! The party is anything but ordinary, hot wax, ropes, and photo booths with props – enough said! We head into the CBD and hit up a bar where we have a blast watching some of the entertaining moves of the locals and tourists alike.
The second day we geared up early and decided to explore Manly Beach, a picturesque island off of the coast of New South Wales (the state that Sydney is in) accessible only by ferry and boasting stunning views of the surrounding Tasman Sea. Of course, we make some pit stops along the way, enjoying a relaxing walk through Hyde Park and various other landmarks around the CBD (including one Westfield Shopping Centre). When we finally arrive to our ferry it is raining, but nothing can alter our upbeat moods – not even the fact that I purchased boots and was now overweighed with a bag twice my size. As the ferry leaves, I take my first glimpse at the Sydney Opera House – the quintessential Australian landmark facing the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. Numb to the rain and gusty winds, I snap as many photos as I can – though photos could never do it justice. It is a surreal experience, floating on a ferry past Sydney Harbour and onto an island surrounded by miles of rocky and sandy coasts dotted with a culture so rich and inviting.
We pop our head into every little boutique we can find and opt to take a hike around Manly Beach. Approaching the beach we realize that this place is paradise. The lifestyle is unimaginable, families with wet suits and surfboards make their way from their homes down obscure stairways scaling the rocky cliffs and facing the wide open waters. As they walk together they laugh, and alongside the water a couple sits enjoying the day and not minding the misty dew. We leave the main beach area and watch as dozens of crabs scurry along the rocks as we walk along the footpath around the island.
We come to a beautiful natural salt water pool surrounded by NOTHING but ocean, where a small boy plays happily in the icy water. Megan and I stop to have a chat because I do believe at this point we are overwhelmed with our surroundings. Taking everything in with all of our senses, we both confess that this year is the best year of our lives. I realize the opportunity in front of me and can’t ever put into words how lucky I feel to have explored such a place as Australia. Even more overwhelming is the thought that anyone can live here, including me if I fancied, and this is just one place of so many I have yet to discover. Life has a funny way of enlightening you and confusing you at the same time. Though looking out from Manly Beach I am not sure where life will take me from here, that day I felt a certain sense of satisfaction in knowing that this experience will shape my future and teach me things I never knew about myself.
Our St. Paddy’s Day started out great at Manly Beach, and we were off to have an even better night. One of Max’s very dear friends Daryl organized to meet Megan and I at the Sydney Opera House Bar, which is just beneath the Opera House. One beautiful person after another crowd the trendy bar as we meet Daryl for a chat and a beer. Ironically enough, Max and Daryl met while both staying in San Diego years ago and have remained close friends ever since – for this reason I am both super excited and mildly nervous to meet him and make a killer impression (wink). Minutes into our conversation and I can see why my Nashville cowboy is friends with Daryl. It must just be that good people attract like-minded friends, and I wish that the four of us (Max included) could be sitting at this bar having a drink. Nevertheless, we have a great time getting to know each other and going back and forth with suggestions on where to travel and when…
Megan and I are off to Darling Harbour to catch some Sydney nightlife, which is exactly what we do as we hop from bar to lounge to club. The amount of Latin music played in the clubs here is unreal and hilarious. Megan and I are somehow ignited by selections of reggaeton and have an unforgettable night filled with laughs, ridiculous dance moves and sore feet. Sunday comes and we are so not ready to say goodbye. But we must, and what better way to end a great weekend then to rush to the airport gate three minutes before it closes? We head out with a bang and promise each other to make another trip back together soon. So Sydney in a nutshell was nothing short of amazing – I finally met one of Max’s bests, and travelling with such a bubbly and easygoing friend made it all the more enjoyable. Besides, it’s a mere 1 ½ hour flight from Melbourne – I can’t wait to go back!