We found ourselves down to just two full days left in Sydney. A slight sense of panic began to set in; we did not have enough time here.
A little over 9,280 miles away from Sydney, Australia, lies a tiny little town in South Georgia known around the world for its incredible sweet onions. And on this Sunday (July 21), on the shores of Manly Beach, it was known for being the hometown to not one but two visitors. In an epic example of just how small the world is, we set out to meet up with a classmate of mine from Vidalia High School who currently lives in Manly Beach with his family.
We braved the weird automated ferry ticket machine again and hopped on an early boat out to Manly Wharf. We weren’t scheduled to meet up with Carlton until lunchtime, so we had a little time to wander around by ourselves.
The ferry across Sydney Harbour was amazing and gave us some cool views back towards the city (again).
We walked from the ferry across a clean, vibrant (for relatively early on a Sunday morning) shopping area straight over to the beach.
Even though it was pretty warm out, the winter ocean was still ice cold. That didn’t stop Tucker and Theo from venturing out, however. Luckily, Russ had predicted something like this and had brought along their swimsuits so they didn’t have to wear wet clothes all day.
Jack wisely opted to steer clear of the water.
My main form of communication with Carlton had been via Facebook messenger…which, of course, was not the most reliable way to make contact. Russ was still the designated roamer (meaning his phone was the only one we had on us that was connected to wi-fi), and I’d failed to get Carlton’s number. Clearly, a dumb move on my part.
We were to meet Carlton at a restaurant called The Boathouse on Shelly Beach. After our two polar bear plunge participants had changed back into dry clothes, we walked down the beach a bit to the restaurant. It’s an adorable little place with first-come seating. The plan was to meet at noon.
Noontime came and went. The boys were starving, so Russ ordered a side of chips, and in the process we discovered that the menu was going to be a struggle for our crew. We waited a little longer. My crew–most of whom were not fired up about meeting an old friend of mine in the first place–grew restless. I realized I had no way of contacting Carlton to find his whereabouts.
We reluctantly decided to bail, and I felt absolutely terrible about it. We began walking back towards Manly, and I stopped and turned towards the beach to see if he might have been waiting there for us. He wasn’t, but when I headed back to join up with my family, Russ whistled and pointed back toward The Boathouse. Carlton had arrived.
Seeing him halfway around the planet was surreal. Carlton is a very well-loved Vidalian, known for his wit and kindness. He did very well in school (obviously), and now has a fabulous career in Australia. (We had a great time laughing about his wife and daughter’s first trip home with him to Vidalia.)
We quickly agreed that Facebook messenger is not an acceptable form of contact; he had no way of telling us he was running late. We also ditched The Boathouse and headed back to Manly Wharf for a late lunch at La Cantina (again). While Carlton and I could have probably spent the rest of the afternoon howling with laughter while we caught up, I knew I’d maxed out the boys’ patience (though, for the record, they all thought Carlton was pretty awesome).
And despite our earlier frustration with Facebook, we managed to blow both of our feeds up with the above photo which was captioned as, “Just two kids who grew up together in Vidalia–9,359 miles away–hanging out in Australia.” (And, yes, I’d specifically hauled that t-shirt out to Manly with this very photo being taken in mind.)
Manly is a lovely little area. The ferry ride back to Sydney was smooth, sunny, and speedy (Carlton had told us he had the best commute on the entire planet, and we have to agree). We walked around the Opera House a bit before heading back to our apartment. Russ took Tucker and Theo out to the park, and we cobbled together a random dinner at home.
Monday arrived, and we couldn’t believe it was our last full day in Sydney. We spent the morning at the Australian Museum, which was outstanding.
This place is phenomenal. It’s the oldest museum in Australia (established in 1827), and it’s gorgeous.
There is a huge hall off to the right that’s filled with cabinet after cabinet of peculiarities. The museum also runs an incredible light show called Treasures Illuminated right over the floor two times a day; it’s a must-see.
The rest of the museum was equally as fascinating.
We finally pulled ourselves out of the museum and walked across Hyde Park to the Barangaroo area based on a recommendation from Carlton.
Hyde Park–like everything in Sydney–is clean, well maintained, bright, and happy.
Barangaroo is a newly redeveloped commercial area that also includes ample green space, though–to be fair–the area was still partially under construction when we visited. There’s a giant food hall called The Canteen that looked amazing, but had too many choices and too many long lines. The boys and I wound up walking a little farther down the road to Bel & Brio where we found fresh pizzas and salad in the market.
There were tons of unique, adorable shops tucked into every corner you could find. We wanted to walk out across the park towards the water, but there were construction barriers. All in all, Barangaroo is a funky, artsy area that would probably be an awesome spot for a date night.
We took a cab back to our apartment and began the sad process of packing up. Tucker and Theo had begged for the entire week to ride one of the Lime bikes we’d seen everywhere (the savvy reader will recall that Theo’s obsession with wanting to ride one of these things actually started back in March in Santiago…). Russ took the two of them back to the park for one last time and–yes!–to finally rent one of those bikes.
For our last dinner in Australia, we headed back to our neighborhood favorite: Vini e Cocina.
The light while we walked home after dinner had such a peculiar look to it–bright and luminous, even though it was after 9pm (and somewhat cloudy). Being in the Southern hemisphere really makes the sky stand out to me, but the sky here was even more spectacular than the night skies in Chile. It’s certainly a view we will never forget.
It’s not an exaggeration at all to say we were very, very sad to leave Sydney. Russ, in particular, absolutely loved it there. We all agreed that if we were to ever move to another country, Australia would be at the top of the list (don’t worry; we aren’t going anywhere).
We flew out of Sydney around 11:30am on July 23, heading to our third stop on The Big Trip: Auckland, New Zealand.