Out of Office: Kelly’s Quick Trip to Sydney

May 14, 2014 by

Australia & the Pacific

Viator’s team of travel insiders is obsessed with finding the best things to do everywhere we travel. From traditional tours to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, everywhere from Australia to Zimbabwe, we spend our time scouring the globe for the best tours and activities around the world.

Whether traveling for work or pleasure (or both!) our staff members are always on the go and we want to share their experiences with you! In this new series, Out of Office, we’ll bring you their stories, highlighting the best things to do and see in destinations around the world, as experienced by a real Viator Insider.

1529_001The Traveler: Kelly Gillease, Vice President, Marketing

What’s your role at Viator? My job is to make sure everyone around the world who travels discovers Viator and tries one of our tours or activities on their next trip! We’re getting there.

The trip: 5 days in Sydney, Australia in March, 2014

Why did you choose this destination? What appealed to you about the place?

Viator’s largest office is in Sydney. I headed there for meetings with our Engineering team to develop new and fancy pants messages for our customers and also to meet up with Australian travel writers.

Viator's Sydney office

Viator’s Sydney office

What did you do on the trip?

My chief pursuit outside work hours was somehow scheduling to eat at all my favorite spots in Sydney in the five days I was there. I narrowly accomplished this mission by dragging my Viator colleagues to lunches or dinners out with me each day. I was able to squeeze in visits to Spice I Am, Longrain, Shortgrain (twice!), Billy Kwong and Bill’s.

I really love taking long walks in Sydney, the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is amazing, or even a shorter ramble around the hip Surry Hills neighborhood will do to help stave off the jet lag. I especially like a morning walk to breakfast, Sydney has magical tropical birdsong wafting through the air in the morning around parks and the often hot and humid weather is not yet in full force.

Backstage at the Opera House

Backstage at the Opera House

I also went on a Backstage Tour of the Sydney Opera House with some local travel bloggers. I did this tour once before five years ago, and loved it so much I suggested doing it again!

Did you take any Viator tours?

Conducting the orchestra at the Opera House

Conducting the orchestra at the Opera House

The Backstage Tour of the Sydney Opera House is super cool. The tour is early (it starts at 7am) but totally worth getting up for as you get total behind the scenes access to the Opera House. Even that early, crews are already putting up sets and moving around equipment for the day’s performances, and the hustle and bustle is fascinating. I get a thrill out of walking in the fly towers, orchestra pits and on the stages of the Opera House theaters. Everyone loves getting to conduct the symphony! The tour ends with breakfast in the green room, which is yummy, and a great venue for conversation about the Opera House’s history. I’ve done this tour twice and both times I had passionate and amazingly knowledgeable guides, they were the icing on the cake.

What surprised you the most about the destination?

I have a really strong emotional connection to Sydney that I felt really acutely this trip, and I was really surprised that instead of being homesick at all, I was sadder to leave for home at the end of my trip. This trip was super short, so I was left longing for more time in Sydney, despite the rainy weather every day I was there and the fact that I have been to Sydney something like eight times before.

I hadn’t been in about a year, and it reminded me that I really love it as a city, it’s the only place besides San Francisco I’d consider living in. I wanted to write it a farewell love letter when I got on the plane, but instead I consoled myself that I will be back in May.

What sight, activity, or experience would you tell people they should not skip?

Backstage at the Opera House

Backstage at the Opera House

Everyone should experience the Opera House – take a tour, see a performance, or at the very least, walk around it and shoot a photo or two. A lot of people don’t realize the number and variety of events going on at the Opera House theaters on a given day, there really is something for everyone, you don’t have to like opera to enjoy a performance there. The day I was there had cabaret, a comedy farce, a Korean pop star, an Italian opera and a play by Shakespeare all on for that night, and it changes every day. They also do opera outside in summer, so the whole harbor is your theater. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

What was the best thing you ate or drank?

After a hard day of work I thought I deserved some gelato at Messina, Sydney’s newest trendy gelato spot, on Crown St in Surry Hills. I had passionfruit and I can see why everyone is raving about the place; it was so delicious I regretted not getting a double scoop. There can be quite a long queue here so I recommend going on the early side, but the line did move pretty quickly, and the payoff is excellent.

What are your top three recommendations to any visitor?

The iconic Opera House

The iconic Opera House

  • Visit the Opera House
  • Eat some Thai food (so, so good in Sydney) – I like Longrain, Shortgrain, Spice I Am or Thanon KhaoSan
  • At least stroll part of the Bondi coastal walk
  • Go out for breakfast – Sydney takes breakfast seriously, especially the coffee.

What’s the best Insider Tip you can offer future visitors to this destination?

When I land early in the morning and my hotel room isn’t ready yet, I drop off my bag and take a leisurely walk to Bill’s for breakfast where I sit outside. The ricotta hotcakes or corn fritters are like a warm bear hug from Sydney welcoming me back and the walk and sunshine always reinvigorate me after a 13 hour flight. I highly recommend it as a first stop; you can find Bill’s on Crown St in Surry Hills and they open early every day.

Where are you off to next?

Off to Chicago for a quick weekend trip, where I hope to finally make it to the Skydeck on Willis (Sears) Tower. I am a sucker for a tall building with a great view!

– Kelly Gillease 

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