The first travel review from CarlousMoochous.com brings you a tale of what originally looked like being an expensive day on the credit card, lapping up Sydney’s new shopping mall, turning out to be a very cheap day of touring, exercise, history and new friendships.
Generally when we travel we work out what tours what we’d like to go on, then drop half of them because they are too expensive. When we get to a tour, we come prepared: Day Bag, Camera, Travel Guide and Maps. Not this time. Shopping bags, check; tired from walking around the shops, check; looking for a hot chocolate, check; Stumbling across a free walking tour of Sydney, Check. What was that? Walking Tour? How did we go from shopping to walking tours… Well it was pretty much luck that we ended up on the tour at all, having not planned or even expected anything like it today.
While shopping we saw a guy in a bright green shirt with “I’m Free” across his back coming out of town hall station and heading through the Queen Victoria Building. I’m cheap, so the word “Free” caught my eye. We thought hey, that looks like a good idea, wonder where it starts and where you book. Then something bigger and shinier caught our attention (the giant Christmas Tree that spans from floor to ceiling of the QVB) and that was the last we thought of the free guy in a green T-Shirt. That was until about an hour or so later, when we were already pretty much over the shopping, after all I had 2 new shirts, and Cam had a new jumper, what more could we want? Hot Chocolate, Coffee and a seat somewhere away from people perhaps? Waiting at the lights to cross into Hyde Park to achieve said desires we found ourselves surrounded by a tourist group, led by no other than the Free Man in a green shirt. Like sheep we just followed them into the park and stopped when man in the green shirt (also known as Ross) began explaining the origin of the fountain, neighbouring cathedrals and the history of Hyde Park… not bad I thought to myself.
This Green Guy knew his stuff! Feeling a little bit like Grace from “Will & Grace” stealing exercise from some else’s personal trainer at the gym, we sheepishly joined the group to see where it went, and what else the green guy (ok I’ll call him Ross from now on) had to offer. Tracking along Macquarie street Ross provided a running history of Sydney, New South Wales and Australia’s settlement by white people. This included everything from the people and places that made it happen back then, and where people rub the little pig outside Sydney Hospital for good luck now (although I hope they washed their hands afterwards). The tour continues through Martin Place (unfortunately being a Sunday we missed out on waving like a mad man to get on Sunrise) and through a few lane ways that used to be water tanks, but today had art in them before landing on top of the glass floor of Customs House with a model of Sydney below us. Ross said this view was pretty much what you’d see from a helicopter, but with a price tag of $0, much more economical.
We finally got that drink (although by now I needed something cool after the walk) during the quick tour intermission before heading back on the street and across to Circular Quay. We struck up a conversation with a young German guy called Jan who was doing the tour solo as Ross continued with the history of the Quay and the toaster apartments in the background. Ross points out that Sydney folk aren’t original in their names for iconic buildings, yet I couldn’t see a toaster out of those apartments. The tour continued through the rocks and the argyle cut where we almost got convinced that convict workforces being beaten to submission worked, until we realised they tried for 15 years with convicts before trying explosives! So not so fast learners either hey?
Stories of publicans getting patrons drunk, then trapping them into slave ships, including the historic vs realistic views on this were shared with us before our impromptu walking tour concluded between two of Sydney’s most iconic landmarks, the Bridge and the Opera House. The 3 hour tour, which we caught only about 20 minutes after it started flew buy and before we knew it the tour was over and it was time for lunch. Ross’s quirky commentry combined the old with the new, history and architecture and a host of facts and tidbits that you just would never find or know without either studying the heritage of the city, or living amongst it your whole life really made the tour different to your commercial tour groups. No loud speakers, no monotone commentary, no smelly bus rides. Instead it felt like just a good walk around the Sydney with a group of friends and a guide who was passionate about sharing the story with you.
The tour, “I’m Free Walking Tour of Sydney”is funded solely on tips from people who take the tour, and after the tour you won’t feel bad in parting with some coin (or better still some note) as it is really worth it. Especially when you compare it to other tours where you don’t get much change out of a $50. After the tour we continued our own walk around the opera house and downtown city with Jan our new German friend from the tour, ending up grabbing some lunch, a few drinks and later on caught up for dinner. So if you want a cheap tour of Sydney, don’t mind burning off a few calories, don’t want the standard commercialised tour, like a bit of a quirky commentary and the chance to maybe even make new friends, give the I’m Free Walking Tour of Sydney a go!
“I’m Free Walking Tour of Sydney”, according to their web page depart every day rail, hail or shine at 10:30am at the anchor outside Town Hall Square. Check out their website for more details at www.imfree.com.au and when you take the tour don’t forget to pick up the neat brochure they give you as it also list the top Free by day and Free by Night things you can do in and around Sydney.
When: 10:30am Daily
Where: Town Hall Square, 483 George St Sydney
Cost: FREE (but don’t be tight – Give them a decent tip, its worth it)
Information: www.imfree.com.au or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Or read other People’s Reviews on TripAdvisor here.