Seoul and Sydney (part 3: the new world)

Thursday

Our flight from Seoul landed after 1am, a little later than scheduled. All we wanted was some sleep before our 8am flight to Sydney, so we checked into the transit hotel. We signed up for the minimum time (4 hours) and basically collapsed for a nap. Even though it was short, having an actual bed and private bathroom was completely worth it.

Today was the day we live in Thai Airways sky luxury. It started early at the lounge, as we walked all the way through the main lounge into the first class lounge for (first) breakfast and coffee. We even got to spend a little longer than we thought, as they don’t start boarding with first class.

KX9MJjGnS9W+kFZeCAUcagKsFMlMykQNerCs3FMHamrQAnd then we got on the plane. After settling in, we were offered (and definitely accepted) our first glass of champagne of the day. (And not just any champagne, but Dom Perignon 2006!) Once we got in the air, we were served our second breakfast of the day, followed by more champagne. We both relaxed with our various devices and movie options throughout the day. Dinner for both of us started with their classic caviar service, and then we had lamb (her) and pork neck (me) with a glass or two of Bordeaux. The crew was wonderful and it couldn’t have been nicer.

We landed in Sydney around 9pm. After a quick pass through passport control, we grabbed a taxi to our hotel. We didn’t really want anything but to unpack and get ready for tomorrow.

 

Friday

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The view as we walked.

We woke up thinking, “we’ll find some really good coffee and breakfast.” And then we remembered it was Good Friday. AND THEN we found out Australians take this particular weekend especially seriously. It lasts four days (Friday-Monday), and many places are closed over the holiday. So after our first attempt to find a coffee place failed, we reached for Yelp and tried to find someplace open. Ultimately, we landed at Bel & Brio, an Italian spot in Barangaroo, where Virginia had Sicilian baked eggs, I had a bacon/egg/tomato sandwich, and we had some excellent coffee. So… goal achieved, even if it wasn’t Plan A.

Having no real plans, we decided to just start walking. We went around Barangaroo Reserve past the docks to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. From there we walked over the Circular Quay through part of the Royal Botanic Garden to the Opera House and back to the quay. That only got us to a little past noon, so we decided to get public transport passes, which work on trains and ferries, and take the ferry to Manly Beach (because why not?). We tried to avoid the crowds, but ended up at one of the few open restaurants for lunch. It took longer than we expected to get a salad, a sandwich, and drinks, but it was tasty and the service was good (if overworked). We wandered around the beach and watched a few surfers before taking the ferry back across the harbor.

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Newtown at night.

By that point, we were a little tired and decided to refresh at the hotel. After a glass of sparkling wine in the hotel bar, we took the train to Newtown for the evening. Virginia wanted to check out a bookstore called Better Read Than Dead, but it was closed so we kept walking up to Elizabeth’s Bookstore for a quick walkthrough before dinner.

Speaking of which, we decided on The Bach Eatery, a New Zealand restaurant. It was exactly right for us — high-quality food in a comfortable environ. It reminded us of one of our favorites at home (Home Bistro). So what exactly is New Zealand food? In our case, it was cuttlefish with squid ink mayo, zucchini flowers with salt cod, kingfish sashimi with cucumber and radish, mussel/fish arancini, blue eye with asparagus and celeriac, and a hokey pokey pavlova for dessert. We also had a bottle of 2013 Nevis Bluff Oak Aged Pinot Gris, which went great with all the food, and a 2014 Eradus Late Harvest wine with dessert. (I love when the menu is available online). Excellent service rounded out the evening.

Saturday

We woke up relatively early and got in a workout at the hotel gym (which was surprisingly large and nice). We picked up coffee in the hotel lobby to take with us on our mission of the day: buy a book for Virginia’s father. Virginia had found a copy at the Cross Arts + Books store in Kings Cross. So we took a long walk through the Botanic Garden to the neighborhood. But first: breakfast at Culina et Vinum. We enjoyed eggs, toast, and coffee outside, a true luxury for us Chicagoans in winter. The bookstore was maybe three minutes away, and the proprietor located the book among the stacks in virtually no time!

2EZw%9mPTHyRQpMmazFL2gWe wandered back to our hotel, taking a different route past Hyde Park and the museums on Macquarie Street. We got there with enough time to drop off the book and a few other things from the morning and have a snack of pâté, blue cheese, and wine. And then it was play time; specifically, Antony & Cleopatra at the Opera House. The acting was great, but sadly couldn’t cover a production that minimized the play’s epic sweep or a play that frankly isn’t one of Shakespeare’s best.

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Taking the ferry to Pyrmont Bay.

After the play, we had a touristy drink on the quay — kinda watery, but great weather and people-watching. But it hit the spot before our next trek. We took the ferry around through Darling Harbor to Pyrmont Bay, then walked through a busy Chinatown to dinner at Automata. The menu includes cured snapper with desert lime cream, cuttlefish with pickled celery, barley with fermented daikon and smoked bamboo, pork neck, manchego cheese, and blackcurrant ice cream. We went with the wine pairings, sat back, and enjoyed it. We used the last of my cash for a taxi back to the hotel and bed.

Sunday

Time to go home. We packed up, had breakfast in the room, and took an early train to the airport. Our flight home wasn’t the luxurious ride we arrived in, but it was at least uneventful. We had a quick stop in LA before coming home to Chicago.

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