Living in a rural area is great, but it presents a couple of problems when seeking entertainment. One; you generally have to travel hundreds of kilometres to see a show which means either an extremely long day or an (expensive) overnight stay, and two; you have a bit of a dislike for the hectic and crowded environment of the city (that's why you live in the country).
So, when Big Sis and I headed to Sydney recently to see a concert, we decided to make the most of our time in our state's capital. We were away from home for a grand total of only 36 hours and this is what we achieved during that time.
Stroll and Birdwatching at the Nepean River
After departing home at about 8am we arrived at Penrith around 11:30am. We had an early lunch which we'd packed ourselves and then strolled down to the river where we walked along a very small section of the Great River Walk (which is actually 570km long). While others went fishing, kayaked, picnicked and walked their dogs, we had a quick look around at the local birdlife. We managed to see quite a few Bell Miners as well as Superb Fairy-wrens and a pair of Black-shouldered Kite's circling above. Unfortunately, it was extremely hot and humid. Penrith is a suburb that always has scorching hot summers and it was definitely putting on a show today at 38°C. This wasn't ideal walking temperature, so we decided to get back in the car and continue on to our destination.
By the time we battled through traffic and road closures (well done Big Sis!) we arrived in the CBD at around 2pm. We were able to find a parking space in our hotel's recommended car park, Capitol Square, which we realised was right underneath the Capitol Theatre. Our accommodation was only a short two-minute walk away at the Pensione Hotel in George Street, and thankfully they allowed us to check in early.
Mammoth: Giants of the Ice Age Exhibition at the Australian Museum
We gave ourselves a short rest but were soon back out on the street heading for the Australian Museum. We'd originally planned on doing this the next morning but as it was so hot we wanted an activity that involved air conditioning. It was only a ten-minute walk via Hyde Park.
Once at the museum we bought tickets to the temporary Mammoth Exhibition. This exhibition has been travelling all around the world, and it was fantastic. We both really enjoyed it. Highlights included learning about the all the different mammoths that had once lived (I only knew about the Woolly Mammoth), seeing the actual specimen of Lyuba (a 42,000-year-old baby mammoth) and finding out how humans interacted with these enormous creatures.
It came highly recommended to us, and we highly recommend it on to others. The exhibition finishes on 13th May 2018 so there's still time to check it out if you haven't already. The Mammoth exhibition entry fee was $24 for an adult (or $20 if you pre-book online but considering our plans changed I'm glad we didn't do this). If you just want a general admission ticket to the rest of the museum adult tickets are $15. We spent a bit over an hour in the museum before retreating to our hotel to rest our weary feet and eat our early dinner before the night's entertainment.
David Duchovny Concert at the Metro Theatre
As you may or may not know I am a huge David Duchovny fan. So, when his tour of New Zealand and Australia was announced in June 2017 while Big Sis was in South Africa, I immediately messaged her to inform her and ask if (tell her) we were going. A week later I had the tickets for February 2018 in my hot little hands.
The venue was only a five-minute walk away, so we arrived about an hour before the doors opened and managed to be first in line. We waited and waited, and the line got longer and longer. We had been to a show at the Metro Theatre before so were familiar with its layout. Therefore, when security finally opened the doors we quickly made our way to the door into the theatre, and soon had another line forming behind us. While we stood here waiting patiently the door opened, and through the gap got our first sight of the man himself at the meet and greet photo session for people who had bought VIP tickets. The intermittent glimpses that followed made the long wait in this line much more exciting.
Once we were let into the theatre we power walked straight to the stage and as the VIPs were already there we were able to secure a spot in the second row. More waiting. The support band, Winterbourne, were among the better opening acts I have seen. Then more waiting. Then, the moment we'd all been waiting for, David Duchovny and band arrived on stage! The show went for about two hours and they played about twenty songs, both original and covers. It was a great laidback show and at one point Duchovny even came out into the crowd. Right at the end he went along the front of the barrier separating the crowd from the stage and I got to hold his hand, ending the show on a very big high for me!
Our five-minute walk back to the hotel reminded us how glad we were not to have to drive anywhere or catch a bus or train.
Despite having not gotten to sleep until after midnight, we were up early and checking out of the hotel the following morning. The humidity of the day before had finally broken in the form of "rain" which more comprised of a heavy mist than actual raindrops, but we were just glad the temperature had finally dropped into the twenties. We collected our car and drove to the Domain through empty streets which was quite pleasant and a nice change from yesterday's traffic. On weekends, the Domain Car Park has $10 all day parking so we left the car behind and walked over to the Big Matchsticks, then on to the Art Gallery.
Walk Through the Royal Botanic Gardens
Upon finding that the Art Gallery didn't open for another hour we decided to cross the road and have a look around the Royal Botanic Gardens. It was still "raining”, but the huge trees provided plenty of cover. We went through the Succulent Garden which had an impressive variety of big and small plants. We also came across the most Orb-weaving spiders we've ever since in one place. Their webs all high up, overlapping one another and strung between spikey and tree-like succulents.
It finally clicked why so many international people might find Sydney home to huge, frightening spiders, but these ones are one of the much nicer varieties we have, and practically harmless. We also went through the fern house and made a wish at the Wishing Tree. By this time it was getting close to the Art Gallery opening time, but as we were already this far along we decided to continue our walk towards the harbour.
First visit to Mrs Macquarie's Point
Even though we've been to Sydney plenty of times we'd never been to Mrs Macquarie's Point. It is famous both for its spectacular view which includes both the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, but also for its namesake, Governor Macquarie's wife Elizabeth. She used to sit here on a chair carved from sandstone and enjoy the view.
Although the sky was grey today, the view was still quite impressive, and we can see why it is such a popular spot. The weather had scared a lot of people out of the Gardens, and I'm sure there would usually be many more at the Point, but we still ran into quite a few tourists.
Lady and the Unicorn Exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW
We made it back to the Art Gallery of NSW just after 11am and bought tickets to see the Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries which are visiting from France. The tickets were timed and we couldn't go in until 12:30pm so we spent the time in between looking through the other galleries and grabbing a quick lunch.
When the time came to see the tapestries we entered a small, dimly lit, circular room and marvelled at the size, detail and beauty of these 500-year-old pieces of art. There are six individual tapestries that make up the series, and they all depicted a lady, a unicorn and a lion. Their meaning and origin are quite mysterious with nothing known for certain which makes them even more compelling to look at. We did several laps of them noticing new details every time. We particularly enjoyed the many small and rather cute little animals that appear on all of them.
It was $18 for an adult ticket but well worth it for the rare opportunity to see such beautifully crafted masterpieces from a completely different time and culture to our own. As they have only been outside of France three times in the past 500 years it was a chance we couldn't miss. They will remain in Sydney until 24th June 2018 so there is still plenty of time to go and see them.
It was almost 2pm by the time we'd finished in the Art Gallery so we started the trip home, with only one more stop on our agenda. We crossed the Harbour Bridge and headed towards Windsor as we were taking the less common alternate route home, via the Bells Line of Road.
Visit to Kellyville Pets
In Beaumont Hills we stopped at Sydney's largest pet store; Kellyville Pets. The moment we walked in the door we saw an albino turtle and already knew we'd love this place. Just around the corner we came across the stick insect section, a salamander, and then the reptiles. I'd never been to a pet store where you could buy reptiles, so it was interesting to see all the different types, colours, sizes and prices. There were tiny baby Bearded Dragons, and even smaller baby pythons, Blue-tongued Lizards and more turtles. We even got to see some of the dragons being feed live crickets.
After a quick round of the bird, puppy, kitten, rabbit and guinea pig sections we went over to the fish and came across many beautiful fish as well as a stingray, coral, seahorses and starfish.
I was really impressed by the amount of staff there. They were all either tending to the animals (whose cages and tanks were all immaculately kept) or having what sounded like really knowledgeable and helpful conversations with customers about caring for their pets.
The real rain had well and truly set in by the time we left Kellyville so it was a wet drive home after that, but we considered ourselves pretty lucky that the weather held out as long as it did for us. We arrived home just after 7pm having made the absolute most of our weekend in Sydney.