Aaron’s Blog

I’m Free Tours Sydney

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In a hot tourist destination like Sydney, the tour business is jam packed with operators offering all sorts of tours, whether they be walking tours, cycling tours, or left-handed unicycle tours of haunted city outhouses.  One thing they almost all have in common is that they are expensive, with a basic walking tour usually costing at least AUD$30 and going up from there.  Thus we were both surprised and delighted to find out about the I’m Free tours of Sydney, which is a 3 hour walking tour of the central downtown area, offered for the great price of, you guessed it, free!

Building with clock tower_1280_for_WebOf course, free is actually a bit of a misnomer.  It would be more accurate to call it I’m Whatever Price You See Fit To Pay For This Service Tour, but I guess this was too large to print on a T-shirt.  Riding the recent fad of offering content in a name-your-price manner (such as Radiohead’s release of In Rainbows and the Humble Bundle), this tour is offered purely on a for tips basis.  This means that you could do the whole tour and not pay a cent.  Of course, this would make you a bit of an ass, but it is possible.  Either way, it opens up the possibility of a tour on any budget.  The tour is also given every day at both a morning session and and afternoon session, so there is no reason why you couldn’t (or shouldn’t) take advantage of the opportunity to explore the city with guides to were born and raised there.

Free tours tour guide_1280_for_WebOur tour guide was one of the two people who run the I’m Free tours, and met us right near the centrally located Town Hall station.  With his bright green shirt on, he was hard to miss. The first thing we received was a map of the city which listed a number of museums, attractions, restaurants, and cafes that are either free, or offer great specials for the budget traveler.  This map, in and of itself, had a great amount of value, and is a great addition to the tour as it means we had some great information that we didn’t have to worry about writing down while walking.

We had about 15 – 20 people in our group, which was a good amount, but small enough that we could always get close enough to hear what was being discussed.  We walked through the Queen Victoria Building, saw the beautfiul fountain and cathedral in Hyde Park, and passed by the Rum Hospital before heading to The Rocks district for a quick break. Read more

Santa on the Run in Sydney

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Santa Sprint_1280_for_Web

On the morning of the 27th, Santa was running all over Darling Harbor.  In fact, thousands of Santa’s were running as part of the charity Santa Fun Run, which was held right by the water in the harbor area.  We decided to head down to the waterfront to see various St. Nicks prepare for their Christmas rounds by limbering up their hamstrings.  Of course, we were a little bit late to the proceedings, so the Santa run was predominantly a Santa walk by the time we arrived, but it was still facinating to see so many red suits and white beards walking around.  Granted, i was quite happy to be in something more breathable myself, but many kudos to the participants for slugging it out….more or less.

Summer Santa at the fun run_1280_for_WebGekko Santa_1280_for_Web

Found in Sydney: Slurpee!

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To my American readers, this will not seem particularly amazing, but for someone has spent 7 years looking at the barren wasteland of Slurpee-less 7-11s that exist all over Japan, being able to finally enjoy the frozen joy of this treat, was amazing.  Plus, flavors never before imagined beconning every week!

IMG_1886Slurpee flavor fest_1280_for_Web

I’m particularly a fan of the fact that the pink of the Slurpee seems to be almost richer than that of the printed cup.

Sydney: (Not Quite) First Impressions

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Darling Harbor at night 3 HDR_1280_for_Web

So while I will be trying to give my first impressions for all of the places we visit, having been to Sydney about 15 years ago, I can’t quite claim this to be a first impression.  Instead, just think of it as something slightly tempered by youthful, past experience.  Be that as it may, it felt good to be back in the Habour City (notice that’s “Harbour” with the extra British, emperial “u” added in).   It makes sense that this is Sydney’s nickname as the city is defined, to a great degree, by its famous harbor.  When in and around downtown, you’re never far from water, and this is part of the key experience of the city.  From the newly renovated and chic Darling Harbor area, to the Ferry’s launching off of Circular Quay, to the old attractions next to the sea at Luna Park, Sydney is intimately connected to water.

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A Trip to New Zealand’s Far North

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The northern part of New Zealand’s North Island is known reverently as the Far North.  To those of us from the States, it is not, geographically speaking, that far (about 400 kilometers or so to the northern tip at Cape Reinga), but in a psychological sense, it feels very far.  In a country of only about 4 million people, with a third living in the South Island and another 1.2 million stuck in Auckland, the north is a place where few live and it feels far removed from the every day experience of most kiwis.  Additionally, given that going north in the southern hemisphere is equivalent to going south in the north, the far north boasts some beautfiul, warm vacation areas that are highly desirable as holiday destinations.

Coopers Beach_1280_for_WebHaving already spent a week in the City of Sails, we decided to rent a car and go up north to experience some of the North Island’s further reaches.  We headed out from the airport and headed up State Highway 1, headed for the Bay of Islands, an area full of, strangely enough, a large number of small islands (I never said the kiwis were creative with their naming).  Getting there late, we used the tried and true technique of sleeping in a car park in the back of our rented van.  Waking up in the morning, we sat by the ocean to enjoy the beautiful, sunny start to the day.

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