My own gridskipping moment, Sydney-style

When I'm not traveling, then I'm usually thinking about traveling - looking forward to a trip, reminiscing about a recent one or, most often, wishing I were in a position to jet off. In case the latter ever happens, I tend to browse the web site Gridskipper quite regularly. Lately, they've had a reader challenge to design a day spent in a particular city on $100 or less. Recently, they had an entry on Sydney, a city I love immensely, despite the fact that I've never actually been. You know how you just know you'll love a place? And it's become even more attractive to us since we now have dear friends there, our lovely fellow Fellows Kimberly Porteous and Gerard Ryle.

So after I read the Gridskipper suggestions for Sydney, I sent a link to Kimba for her perusal, just for a laugh. I always have a reaction to tourism articles about the city I live in. I wanted to see what she thought of the suggestions. Kimba countered, as is her way, with a very thorough and very thoughtful list for an alternate day in Sydney. I think it sounds much better. She'll probably throttle me when she finds out I posted her not-meant-for-publication suggestions on my site but a) they're too good not to share and b) I only have four readers anyway, so what's the problem?

And although I'm not immediately planning a trip to Sydney, maybe you are. In which case, maybe this'll help, even though it appears Kim was mad at capital letters when she wrote it.

Kimba's Day in Sydney

Starting in bronte is the way to go, although i would enforce that it has to be on a weekday so you don't have to share the beach (or the cafes) with a crowd. sejuiced was always my favourite spot (they did the best juices, like a strawberry and orange "hangover quencher: and they had a real, cold-press juicer) and their breakfasts were amazing: lightly toasted blueberry bagels, crunchy with brown sugar crystals, served with fat dollops of mascarpone, and their cooked breakfasts came with yummy hashbrowns and generous sides of perfectly green avocado. anyway, there are about 10 places in a row for a good post-swim refuelling. one serves some terrific organic coffee from east timor, or there's the bogey hole cafe (named for the aboriginal rock pool at the cafe end of bronte beach) which still has its original victorian shopfront with coloured glass and pressed metal ceilings.okay, next.

i would not recommend taking the bus to the uni library. why spend a nice day inside a 70s-era building? bring along some good reading material or source some from a good bookstore, which we'll be stopping at shortly. jump on the bondi beach explorer bus which will "take you along a picturesque path through Sydney's affluent Eastern suburbs, out to Watson's Bay and on to cosmopolitan Bondi Beach". don't get off at bondi - it's full of cheap backpacker eats and tourists - but catch a glance at the long, boomerang shaped beach from your window.

continue on to watson's bay, a little fishing village at the sydney heads, and get out to look over the side of the sandstone cliffs (a very high drop, and a favourite suicide location) and across the sea towards new zealand. then turn around and you can see the whole harbour stretched out before you, full of yachts and commuter ferries, ending with the opera house and the harbour bridge. don't dally at the parks or the waterfront seafood restaurants here though; get back on the bus back towards the city.

the bus will drive along some of the hilly harbour suburbs so you'll see plenty of sparkling blue water and posh mansions.once back in the city, stroll down macquarie street to admire the nicest colonial buildings (its downhill, don't worry) and drop into the museum of sydney - one of our smallest historical museums (perfect as time is tight) - but also a beautifully displayed one with a real designer's'll see some of the best australian photography here, plenty of aboriginal history and there are darkened galleries with talking holograms (actors reading from narrative histories, diaries, etc).walk a few blocks (still downhill, you are heading to the harbour) to the historic rocks district. you could spend hours strolling through the old buildings and convict-built tunnels, cobble-stoned lanes, craft and art galleries, candlemakers etc. very old pubs here, some squeezed into triangles of land no wider than an armchair at the tip. here you'll also find the excellent bookshop, ariel, a well-edited selection of books you have to read.

at the rocks you can also see susannah place museum, an old row of terrace houses with preserved interiors. you could also climb up a set of convict-carved stairs to reach a park on observatory hill with an awesome view of the harbour, or walk along the harbour bridge until the first pylons. walk up the stairs to the lookout on the roof for only $5 - perfectly safe and about $150 cheaper than climbing the arch of the bridge. also much faster.after looking at the harbour you probably want to get onto it, so go back down to circular quay and hop onto a ferry, any one will do, for a nice boatride.

you can take one to the zoo to visit some cute native animals, or to the coastal resort suburb of manly (where there is a lovely bushwalk along the harbour) ,or to a lovely restaurant on a beach in an old domed bathers pavilion for late lunch but if time is short just stay aboard and make the round trip. or better yet, do this trip and have lunch at the bathers pavilion before you start tramping around the rocks district and climb the harbour bridge (ok, i'm new to this, don't sue me) before sunset falls, walk around (semi-) circular quay to the sydney opera house. take a backstage tour if you like, or else head inside where the bar should be open for its early evening performances.

buy a refreshing drink, admire the concrete ribs of the cathedral-like ceilings, then take it outdoors to watch the commuter ferries churn past and the cars and buses stream over the harbour bridge. the fairy lights should be coming on at luna park and along the rooftops of the old brick dock buildings at the rocks, now all art galleries and restaurants. ideally you've got tickets to a show tonight - music, ballet, drama, or whatever, there are lots of performance spaces inside - so head inside when the bells ring signalling the start of the performance.if not, grab dinner somewhere - maybe at one of our ethnic neighbourhoods. a 16-course lebanese banquet for $25 perhaps? we have the best thai restaurants in the world (yes, better than bangkok) and the seafood's pretty terrific. or maybe you want something quiet with candlelight by the beach, so head back to our place and we'll take you to barzura at coogee beach, just south of bronte. probably a bit over $100, but take out the lunch and dinner and you'll romp it in!

Don't know about the rest of you, but I'm even more eager to go to Syndney now, thanks to Kim's gorgeous descriptions and expert knowledge. Time to start saving those pennies...