Today was our first true day in Sydney. Waking up at 2.30 in the morning gave me a chance to chat with my family and to catch up on some mindless Netflix (hello, Ted Bundy documentary). Its so strange having our days flipped, and to be in the future compared to everyone back home. I’m just thankful for technology like Facetime and Skype that allow me to stay in touch and see their faces. Even iMessage makes things easier than when I was abroad just a few years ago.
I waited for Tyler to wake up, completely envious of his ability to sleep peacefully after the last few days. I ate a Tim Tam for breakfast (the hype is real) and checked online to see if there had been any new developments regarding our baggage, but our account only showed a claim being processed. I begrudgingly put my long pants back on, while Tyler opted to wear his more flashy swim trunks in an attempt to keep cool. We weren’t about to let missing bags put a damper on our first day in Sydney.
I was happy to have woken up with a message from a high school friend who studied abroad here sharing a list of suggestions of where to go and what to see. I’ve been researching Sydney for months now, but it’s gotten to the point where there’s so many options it’s actually a bit overwhelming. We picked a café from her list and headed that way…or so we thought.
Tyler and I started walking, using screenshots from Google maps as we still were without international sim cards or data. I had a suspicion we were headed the wrong way, and out of curiosity checked my phone to see if it could be of any help. I’m not the most technologically savvy, so I assumed it would be of no help. Much to my surprise, a little blue dot appeared, marking our location – six blocks headed in the wrong direction.
We spun around and started making our way, the correct way, towards Alexandria. The sun was beating down, we were both drenched in sweat, and with each step I could feel a blister blooming below the pad of my big toe of each foot. In addition to not packing cooler clothes, I also had failed to pack a pair of more sensible shoes than my unworn-since-August Birkenstocks.
After a few more blocks we eventually found ourselves at The Grounds of Alexandria. Walking in felt like stumbling upon a whimsical café in Disneyworld, not one in the middle of a major city. Towering hedges flanked the property and flowering trees lines the sidewalks leading to the front door. The dining room and takeaway area were equally packed, and as we were shown to our seat I snuck a peek at an insanely beautiful display of cakes near the checkout. In the back of the room a coffee bar was set up, with towering siphons and a multitude of espresso machines running full blast.
I had seen some impressive photos online, but I knew we were in for a treat as soon as our drinks came. My tropical juice, a mix of pineapple/watermelon/OJ/passion fruit, looked more like a beverage you’d receive at a tropical resort rather than your typical brunch. Tyler ordered his first true Australian long black (drip coffee isn’t really a thing here, so your “normal” coffee drink is essentially an Americano by another name.)
And though I had seen pictures of towering pancake stacks and perfectly poached eggs, the spread at The Grounds was more impressive than most any meal I’ve had in the states. Each plate was like a work of art, covered in greenery as lush as the surrounding gardens. The food and presentation were perfectly executed, and Tyler and just kept staring at one another and muttering under our breaths how angry we actually were that something so good could exist and we had been missing out our entire lives. Tyler went for the steak and eggs with a cabbage slaw and hash brown base, while I opted for a Sydney brunch classic of avocado toast with heirloom tomatoes, labneh. Both were spectacular. We were fearful of the cost of food in Sydney after being told time and time again how pricey everything is here - but were pleasantly surprised that our bill came out to be about the same as a decent breakfast back home.
After finishing up we explored the rest of the property and made a mental note to come back to try their two other dining spaces. Our hangriness subsided, I decided I could manage to walk home, especially knowing there was well rated coffee shop on our way. We popped into Mecca Coffee and rested in the air conditioning with a few drinks; Tyler, a nitro cold brew so strong it made his eye twitch, and my first flat white. I once again marveled at how beautiful the inside of an average café was compared to back in the states.
Our moods were lifted even more so when we got back to our Airbnb and opened my email – our bags had been found! They’d be dropping them off for us that afternoon, they just needed my Australian phone number to confirm. After a bit of back and forth, my sim working then not working then working again, I was finally reachable on this continent and had confirmation that (hopefully all) our luggage would be delivered that afternoon. We skyped my friend Claire, watched a movie, and waited until my new cell rang. There was a moment of fear as the courier pulled a large pink suitcase out of the truck, as we have many colored suitcases but none pink. But further back I could see each and every one of our bags.
Our weather app claimed it was “dangerously windy” out, and I could see the trees and other foliage whipping violently back and forth on the streets below. But we didn’t let that stop us from finally putting on some fresh clothes and making our way down to the local pub for celebratory chips and beers.