Flying into Sydney felt like coming home. Fourteen years have passed by since my time in Sydney but everything is still so familiar. I was in Sydney for two nights for work reasons yet lucky enough to score some extra time in the city for shopping and catching up with a dear friend. Sydney Harbour is a fabulous spot for people watching, the many cafes and bars provide the perfect reason to stop awhile and enjoy the view.
Pitt Street mall is shopping heaven, new shoes and perfectly fitting black pants are easy to come by as is delicious Thai food at Assamm under the Queen Victoria Building. Many shops have Christmas decorations on display, the most wonderful of them all vein the Swarovski Christmas tree decorated with beautiful, sparkling crystals.
Leaving Sydney makes me a little sad, it has been so much fun shopping and sightseeing with my dear friend J and I love being in the city. An electrical storm hit Sydney airport on the way home, delaying the flight somewhat and giving me time to share these snapshots with you.
Bondi Beach is one of Australia’s most popular and well known beaches, located in eastern Sydney, Bondi is accessible by bus and train and during the summer the beach is jam-packed with locals, tourists and back packers all eager to develop their tans and do a spot of people watching. When I lived in Sydney I rarely went to Bondi, our local beach was at Cronulla and ratio of sand to people was alot higher so there was always plenty of room to move.
Bondi is currently a landing point for people wanting to experience Sculpture by the Sea, but once you’ve finished checking out the amazing 3D art forms there is still plenty of art to see along Bondi’s esplanade. Not wanting to swim or fuss around with membership requirements, My Dad and I bypassed Bondi Icebergs Swimming Club and headed to the strip of cafes and shops opposite the beach, we enjoyed a tasty lunch served with a smile at the Lamrock Cafe, around the corner from one amazing piece of street art done by Mr G. Mr G is known for his paintings and illustrations of dogs and I had been following his ‘dogathon‘ of paintings for quite sometime prompting me to ask the waitress about the location of a particular mural he painted titled Happy Staffys.
When asked why he painted dogs, Mr G replied:
Because dogs are bloody awesome, that’s why.
I couldn’t agree more so I left Dad sitting in the shade of a tree while I went in search of the Happy Staffys and discovered some other amazing street art.
I never thought that the opportunity to see Sculptures by the Sea would arise this year, there was just too much going on that required my attention (and my budget). As it turns out, a trip to Sydney popped up and U was able to take my Dad on a tour of Tamarama and Bondi to view some in incredible art. Lacking my DSLR meant relying on my iPhone and lack of a laptop has me two finger typing this post on the iPhone WordPress app, so please excuse any typos 🙂
The day was spectacular, school kids and tourists were out in full force and everyone had some sort of camera, my photos will not be unique but I don’t care, I had a great time.
Today on news.com.au I read an article listing Australia’s top 10 landmarks named by TripAdvisor based on the millions of reviews posted by travellers over the past year. There were a couple of places that surprised me and a couple that I have never visited so I’m not in a position to judge whether they’re worthy of being in a top 10 list. The article attracted some scathing commentary from readers with some labelling Sydney as boring, claiming that the Opera House looks better from a distance, and that Australia is too ‘young’ as a country to offer any thing interesting to see. The most negative comment stated that there was really nothing to see in Australia apart from a couple of the landmarks listed, our beaches and the barrier reef so it wasn’t worth spending 3 weeks in Australia especially with inland travel being so expensive, customer service so poor and our restaurant scene lacking.
In response to this article I’ve come up with two top 10 lists, one is my top 10 based on the Australia I’ve experienced and the other is the Australia I wish to experience.
My top 10 Australian experiences
I don’t have any particular suburb or landmark in mind, the long weekend I spent in this Victorian city was purely about food and shopping and I loved every minute. Melbourne is a very cosmopolitan city, I love the variety of restaurants and cafes, we explored China town and had Yum Cha for lunch, our hotel was not far from Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar and one evening was spent dining on Moussaka. Street art lines alleyways and boutiques filled with retro clothing, designer handbags, handmade chocolates and beautiful paper products called to us and the only thing stopping me spending a small fortune was the fact that I didn’t have a small fortune to spend.
National War Memorial, Canberra
It has been many years since I last visited the National War Memorial however it is a place I have been to several times and would go again if given the chance. The National War Memorial is both inspiring and sombre, you walk away feeling proud of the Australians who fought for us yet sad, so many lives lost on all sides.
O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat
Hiding in the Lamington National Park is O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, accommodation and spa for those who want to spend some time connecting with nature. You can go for the day, take a picnic lunch and feed the birds, there are several tracks through the bush and if you’re lucky you will see more than bush turkeys and goannas. If you stay overnight there is the option of getting up at sunrise, wishing the wallabies a good morning and taking a free guided walk through the rainforest to see and hear about the native birds, they are quite active at that time of day. See a sunset from the bluff is also a spectacular moment, especially when combined with a glass or two of bubbles.
Moonlight Crag Lookout
Circular Quay, Sydney
When ever I’m in Sydney a walk around Circular Quay is always in order, going between the Rocks and the Botanic Gardens. Exploring the Rocks is always a joy for me especially if the markets are on, I have memories of choc coated coffee beans and fudge, not to mention a glass of wine or two at pubs such as the Orient Hotel or The Mercantile. Circular Quay is home to the Museum of Contemporary Art as well as multiple buskers, you can sit at the edge of the park and the passers by or admire the numerous ferries and boats that move in and out of the wharf. The Opera House is a spectacular piece of architecture, as a child I performed there with hundreds of other school children, playing a number of pieces on the recorder and listening to talented singers and school bands. Seeing the Opera House of a night time is a must, walk around the building to see the city from a different perspective and if you get the chance, buy a ticket to a play or musical performance because it is an amazing experience. Nearby is the Botanic Gardens, providing a peaceful and beautiful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, here you can have a nap or spend the time admiring the specimens on display in the gardens.
Swell Sculpture Festival
I’ve written about the Swell Sculpture Festival before, held at Currumbin Beach in September it is worth putting on your ‘must see’ list if ever you are in Queensland at that time of year.
Cruise Sydney Harbour on a Tall Ship
This is something I did almost twenty years ago and I have discovered that the experience is still available albeit it on different ships. My boyfriend and I did a twilight cruise of Sydney Harbour on a tall ship and it was magical, we watched the sun set from the deck of a replica of The Endeavour, it was very relaxing and romantic.
The Hunter Valley
The Hunter Valley in New South Wales is a well known region for wine, only a couple of hours from Sydney it is easy to do in a day trip (don’t forget a designated driver) or you can stay in one of the many B&Bs in the region. Tyrells, McGuigans and the Piggs Peake Winery are just some of the wineries you can visit, Piggs Peake Winery is a small, boutique vineyard whereas the other two produce large quantities of wine for the mass market.
The Great Barrier Reef
Definitely a must see for anyone who loves marine life, scuba diving, snorkelling and island hopping. You can take a day trip out on to the reef or charter a boat and cruise between islands: Hamilton, Lindeman, Brampton and Lizard just to name a few. The seafood is fresh and at the right time of year the days are calm and perfect for soaking up sun, sitting on the deck of a boat drinking a refreshing cocktail or having a picnic on Whitehaven beach. Although I didn’t go snorkelling I did enjoy swimming over coral, seeing turtles in their natural environment and watching dolphins swim and play around the bow of the boat.
Vivid Festival, Sydney
The Vivid Festival in Sydney is held in June, it is a festival of light, art and music and an amazing way to see Sydney at its best. I’ve always loved the city at night especially around the harbour, the lights reflect on the water and the city really does sparkle. At the night markets in the Rocks you can choose from a variety of international cuisines and beverages, stalls selling pastries, paella, Thai food, German sausages and gelati will make your mouth water and you can wash it down with a beer or wine from the numerous pubs and bars. Photographers, amateur and professional line the quay with their tripods and snap photos of the light show happening at the Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Art and surrounds. For a city that is too often in a hurry and the people too often cool and indifferent, the festival is a a fantastic opportunity to slow down and revel in all that is happening.
This one is not about any place in particular, I grew up in rural Australia and I still find joy in returning to my hometown, a small town in New South Wales where the nights are so dark that you can see all the stars. Staying in the cities is great if all you want to do is shop, go to galleries and museums or dine in a la carte restaurants before heading to the theatre, but there is more to Australia than cities and the Barrier Reef. The experience of riding a horse through the bush, watching the sunrise from a mountain top or floating down a river on the inner tube of a truck tyre is something different for most visitors and from a country girl, I think its an experience not to be missed. As kids we camped by the river, toasted marshmallows under the stars and went bushwalking during the day, as an adult I love sitting on my parents deck and watching the sunset, in the morning I take the dog for a walk down to the river stopping to say hello to the cows and horses standing in their paddocks.
My top 10 Australian Experience wishlist
Drive the Great Ocean Road and see the twelve apostles.
Visit Western Australia when the desert flowers are blooming.
Visit the Barossa Valley and its vineyards.
Drive around Tasmania, include time on King Island, staying in B&Bs and taste testing all the gourmet produce.
Explore Kakadu National Park during the wet season.
Spend a week in dog friendly accommodation by the beach on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
Visit the Margaret River region in Western Australia, see Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and dine on the fresh produce accompanied by regional wines.
Stay in the Blue Mountains, visit Norman Lindsay’s former home and ride the steep, scenic railway.
Cruise the Murray River on a paddlewheeler.
Travel between Adelaide and Darwin on the Ghan.
You might be thinking that I haven’t really seen much of Australia and you would be correct, I’ve seen more of Europe than I have Australia. It will probably take me ten years to do everything on my wish list, possibly longer. It is easy to forget how large Australia is and how much time is needed to move between destinations, for example, a flight from Brisbane to Perth takes about five and a half hours and to drive from Sydney to Melbourne takes about 14 hours. Air travel has gotten cheaper however it is probably still more expensive traveling in Australia than it is in the US or Europe, then again our population is much smaller than many other places so providing better, faster, cheaper infrastructure isn’t always possible.
If you could visit Australia, what would be the three ‘must see or must do’ activities on your list?
I’ve been a little ‘out of touch’ this week as a result of choosing to minimise the number of gadgets in my carry on and only take my DSLR and iPhone to Sydney. Sure I could access the internet on my phone but I preferred to indulge in other activities on my week off.
One day was devoted to food and window shopping, although an Olga Berg handbag on sale did convince me to open my purse and hand over the plastic. Jamie Oliver has opened a restaurant aptly named Jamie’s Italian in Pitt Street, the reviews from friends and family were good, nobody was in the least put off by the fact that they had to queue because the restaurant doesn’t take bookings – the bar is a fine place to wait. My friend and I were there for lunch and we just beat the ‘business lunch’ rush so there was no waiting and we were directed to a tiny little table off to the side, the wall next to us was stacked with bottles of wine and kept in place with wire mesh. Bubbles being the drink of choice, we perused the overwhelming menu (overwhelming because we wanted to try a bit of everything and knew we couldn’t) and watched as tasty morsels of food were delivered to the tables around us. The food we ordered was heaven, a taste sensation that I hadn’t experienced for a while and with any luck I’ll be heading to Sydney again with a meal at Jamie’s Italian high on the list of things to do…again.
A walk around Circular Quay to admire the Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Art and to watch the buskers at work is always a pleasant way to work off the kilojoules consumed at lunch, especially if the weather is being particularly nice. At the moment all the gardens are in full bloom and the Jacaranda trees are covered with purple flowers, it is a spectacular sight and even though there are many similar photos in my archives I can’t help but take a couple more.
You wouldn’t think we would need afternoon tea following such a delicious lunch, but Laduree has also recently opened in Sydney and I was not leaving the city without purchasing some of their famous Macarons. We stopped off at David Jones prior to Laduree in order to see their Christmas window display, although not as good as Melbourne’s Myer Christmas windows it was still fun to see and listening to Christmas Carols always puts a smile on my face. Laduree is on the third floor of the Westfield shopping centre in Pitt Street mall, we were expecting a more of a Paris salon or high tea ambiance but the Laduree counter is adjacent to the escalators and the seating is in the open. Still, it was a nice way to enjoy a pot of tea with my friend and the raspberry and pistachio macarons were scrumptious even if they were imported frozen from Switzerland. The additional coffee, vanilla, chocolate and pistachio macarons I purchased were presented in a pretty paper bag and gently placed in my handbag, slightly squashed, they were later enjoyed with family.
And now for the real reason I went to Sydney…
…my brother’s first child and my parents first grandchild was born in August, I had not yet had the privilege of meeting Aleyah and already she is 3 months old. This gorgeous little girl stole my heart with her easy going nature and smiley face, spending time with her was the highlight of my stay in Sydney.
There were many reasons to head down to the ‘big smoke’, as my husband jokingly calls Sydney, but the most important one was to attend the baby shower of my brother’s girlfriend. My brother and his girlfriend are expecting their first baby, this baby is also the first (human) grand child for my parents so on Friday, armed with gifts for the soon-to-be parents, I boarded the plane to Sydney.
Vivid 2012 is a light festival of sorts, you may have already seen photos on This Sydney Life, imagine my delight when my brother’s girlfriend arranged for me to meet her and another friend at Circular Quay to check out it out on Friday night. Of course the area was jam-packed with people wanting to see the installations, the weather was perfect for such an event and this was the last weekend of Vivid. Moving at the pace of a baby learning to crawl we walked from the train station around to the Rocks, stopping regularly to take photos and just admire the show. Light and music combined to create an awesome display on Custom House and the Museum of Contemporary Art whilst the Opera House had slow moving images projected onto the surface of the sails, serious photographers lined the water’s edge with their tripods with the aim of capturing the perfect night time shot. Dinner was from a stall at the night markets, the choice of food was huge and varied from corn on the cob, sweet potato chips, pad thai, paella and organic hamburgers to dutch pancakes, gelato and cannoli. The seafood paella was scrumptious, we squeezed fresh lemon over the dish and looked for a place where we could sit, relax and enjoy the meal.
The baby shower was on Saturday, a fun time was had by all and of course there was plenty of yummy food to snack on, not to mention cakes and apple crumble pie for dessert. Games are always on the agenda at a baby shower, over the years I have played a few different ones but never have I performed so poorly at a task than on Saturday when as part of ‘pass the parcel’ I was required to sing a nursery rhyme. Even with assistance I could barely get out more than a couple of lines and I’m pretty sure that I even stuffed that up, someone suggested a buy a book of nursery rhymes however I’ll probably just end up googling them instead.
While in Sydney it seemed a shame not to go shopping with one of my dearest friends Jo, when I lived in Sydney it was a popular past time of ours and we often combined shopping with a visit to David Jones Food Hall, the Rocks Markets and a gallery or two. The plan was to meet up with Jo on the Sunday, the weather was looking bleak, it was a good idea to stay indoors and thankfully many of the shops in the Pitt Street Mall and Queen Victoria Building are linked and rarely require you to venture outside. Much money was saved shopping in the sales, my objective was to find new shoes, shirts and a handbag for work and I did just that, saving $100-$150 in the process which is pretty good by anyone’s standards. Lunch was in an asian kitchen/laksa house, we assumed that the number of asian people eating there was a good sign and certainly we found both the seafood and chicken laksa to be more than satisfactory. A hot chocolate mid-afternoon sustained us until we had to head home, shopping bags aplenty and a box of cupcakes in hand we joined the throng of people underground, said our goodbyes and caught the train home. With the rain pouring down and the temperature plummeting as night fell, walking into my brother’s home and smelling the heavenly scent of roast lamb and potato bake cooking in the oven was the perfect end to a wonderful weekend.
I spent a few years living in Sydney and would have happily stayed for longer, but life happens and you move on. I loved working by the Harbour and walking around the Botanical Gardens in my lunch break, on weekends there were trips to the galleries and shopping at the Rocks Markets and in the evening we would dine on delicious food in little Italy (Leichardt). When possible I spend a weekend visiting my friends and family and doing all the things I miss such as going to Taronga Zoo and having a hot chocolate at the Lindt Cafe. This is my Sydney.
In a couple of weeks I’ll be heading off to Melbourne for a long weekend of shopping, eating and visiting art galleries with one of my dearest friends Jo. One of the first stops will be a chocolate shop/cafe called Chokolait which I’m told serves the most divine hot chocolate, Greek and Italian dining is apparently excellent as well and I’m really looking forward to eating Greek food again, Greek restaurants a few and far between where I live. Shopping in Melbourne is supposed to be the best, better than any other Australian city anyway and Jo has suggested hitting the factory outlets as well as checking out Chapel Street and other areas of interest.
We’ll be staying somewhere in Bourke Street, central to most of the activities that we have in mind. Federation Square, home the National Gallery of Victory and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is not too far away, also reasonably close is the Arts Centre at Southbank on the Yarra River, another destination on the list of things to do and see. Of course I will be taking my camera, I rarely go anywhere without it and having never been to Melbourne it will be hard for me to resist snapping pictures of everything we see and eat.
It has been several years since we caught up with each other and that was in Sydney and during that visit Jo and I hopped on a ferry and crossed the harbour to visit Taronga zoo, in the afternoon we drank at a pub in Woolloomooloo and wandered around the Gallery of NSW. They are places I’ve been before, having lived in Sydney for a few years but I still took lots of photos, none of the food though which is highly unusual. Jo lives near a National Park, when you dine on her balcony it is often in the company of Rainbow Lorikeets, Cockatoos and other native birds.
I’m really excited about this upcoming trip, Jo is my arty, farty foodie friend and shopping is always on the menu, this trip we’ll both be able to do some Christmas shopping as well as buy some pretty things for ourselves 🙂