In case you didn’t know, I grew up in Sydney. My Australian accent is still in tact. And I could still drive on the left side of the road if I needed to.

The city has changed and grown so much since I lived there. Now when I go back to see friends or for weddings, it’s been about soaking up all that amazing and effortless “Sydney-ness”.

So what does a week in Sydney look like for me?

adriano zumbo macaron

I stayed in the Inner-West suburb of Balmain for a few days with friends. Balmain is one of the oldest areas of Sydney, dating back to 1880. The area is full of charming cottages and terrace houses, with lots of pubs scattered throughout.

The main retail area is Darling Street, where famed Australian patissier Adriano Zumbo has a small shop (above) selling desserts, macarons and bread.

If you grew up in Australia, you’ll know these flavors: “hot cross bun”, “redskin” (named after an insensitively-named candy), “fingerbun” and “fairy bread”.

the boathouse balmoral beach

the boathouse balmoral beach

I really loved having breakfast at The Boathouse in Balmoral Beach. So laid back. Such amazing views and great coffee.

This was the “avocado toast” I ordered. Sweet baby Jesus. It was a foot-long. Amazingly fresh. The ciabatta so soft. The look on my face when they set it down was probably as if someone had just handed me my first newborn post-delivery.

One thing to know about Sydney: you’ll never question how fresh the food is. It’s something people really take for granted there.

Just like the amazing air. I couldn’t stop talking about it.

dove and olive sydney

For casual dinners, you can’t beat going to a pub. The standard of food can be so good for the price you pay. Steaks, burgers, savory pies and huge, fresh salads are typically found on the menu.

Above is the Dove & Olive in Surry Hills. It was so packed on a Friday night we could barely find standing room to have a glass of wine. We also had a great meal at the Woolrich Pier Hotel in Hunters Hill.

sokyo sydney

Despite what you might see in the tourism campaigns, Sydney is incredibly diverse in terms of food, people and cultures. This trip, I had dinner at The Sultan’s Table, my favorite Turkish restaurant in Newtown. Also a family-style meal at a Cantonese restaurant in North Sydney.

You’ll hear accents and see people of all types on the streets, and nowhere is the diversity more apparent than at the casino. Yes, the casino! Weren’t expecting that segue, were you? I love the casino, I’ll just put that out there.

The casino in Sydney is called The Star, and it’s a huge complex with a hotel, fancy restaurants, food court and theater. David Chang opened a Momofuku branch there called Seiobo, there’s a big club there (never been, too old etc.), and there’s a Din Tai Fung in the food court.

We were there to celebrate my friend’s birthday with dinner at Sokyo, a fancy Japanese restaurant inside The Star. Before they arrived I had a crazy expensive cocktail at the bar (above). The pear was juiced to order. So Sydney.

I’ll also mention that on the Sokyo menu, they were serving freshwater eel from Taiwan.

bondi to bronte coastal walk

bondi to bronte coastal walk

One reason I wanted to stay by the coast was to do the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk. It was one of those quintessential Sydney things I’d just never done before.

The photos barely capture how amazing the view is and how vivid the colors are. Or how freaking harsh that sun is.

bronte beach sydney

By the time you reach Bronte Beach, you’re hit with this view. The beach itself is a lot smaller compared to Bondi, but there’s a huge grassy park just behind where everyone and their dog is playing, laying around or barbecue-ing.

bronte beach cafe

We stopped by into one of the handful of cafes by the beach for a cold juice. Though mine was more like a meal.

shuk north bondi

Bondi Beach is where everyone ends up going. But I’m not a fan of the beach as an everyday activity (it’s fine on vacation though) so I was dubious when another friend wanted to meet up in North Bondi for lunch.

Turns out the Israeli cafe she suggested, called Shuk, was so crazy good. And located in a quiet neighborhood area not at all close to the beach! Above is my “Green Shakshuka” of baked eggs with fennel, zucchini, olives and caramelized onion.

Not pictured: sweet potato fries that made me want to cry.

bondi beach sydney

Lunch was so good I agreed to walk down to Bondi Beach afterwards for cocktails at a cafe. It was a few hours later that I realized I had gotten way too much sun — my face was probably thinking WTF — which was my cue to head back to rainy Taipei.

Til next time, Sydney.