In a nutshell - about a year ago a company in Australia (who Alistair had connections with) mooted the idea of him coming over to do some work…it was a pipe dream but somehow over the months it came to fruition and tentatively the flights were booked.
And here we are!
Now, at this point I feel the need to say/admit
(totally risking the disdain of all my Australian friends)
that Australia was never on my bucket list. It wasn’t even on the reserve bucket list (the one when you win the lottery and manage to achieve everything on it and still find yourself alive)
I knew the weather was amazing, I knew the beaches were lovely, I knew they did good fireworks at NYE over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and I knew from my good friend Andrew that the restaurants and bars were good and plentiful…but in my head that was pretty much it. In my (oh so achingly embarrassingly naive little head) it was England, but with nice weather and without the history and culture. And it took forever to get there and cost a fortune to take your family.
(Jeeeez, I’m glad I never said any of that out loud beforehand)
To say I’ve fallen in love with Australia (in a short jet lagged week) would be an understatement. I bloody LOVE it here.
For anyone who’s ever been, I graciously accept your ‘how did you not know this?’. For anyone who hasn’t been but gets the opportunity, grab it with both hands. It’s a brilliant place.
So, confessional over, here’s what we’ve seen/done in week one and why I like it so much.
When we left the UK there was a minor heatwave going on. Now, that’s not unheard of down south, but in Manchester it’s nothing short of miracle weather. When we arrived at 9.10am in Sydney it was pouring, and cold. COLD.
I know it’s winter here – but seriously, who flies to the other side of the world for worse weather than Manchester! (a phrase The Teen repeated a number of times that day)
Our good friends Sara and Andrew had emigrated here 3 years ago and by happy coincidence were enjoying said heatwave in Manchester (followed by a trip to NYC) while we were arriving here – and generously lent us their house for our first week.
They live 10 minutes walk from Bronte beach, just south of Bondi and 15 minutes from Sydney city centre. They also gave us a ‘pack’ any tourist Information office would be proud to hand out, and their car. These are ACE friends!
|a kookaburra on a washing line? amazing
Andrew is a high direction kind of guy (!) and gave us strict instructions for our first day to avoid the dreaded jet lag. He had advised getting straight on the ferry into the city, lots of fresh air and sunshine, embrace the beauty of Sydney Harbour.
Unfortunately the heavy rain meant a day walking round the nearest Westfield shopping centre and a big food shop –
of which I now have very little memory!
We did however manage to pop into the nearest café to their house – a wonderful place called Ruby’s Diner. Here we saw a glimpse of how things are here – it was super cool, the staff were absolutely gorgeous (both in terms of how they looked and how they treated you) and the menu was perfect. Alongside the most delicious Cronuts (a croissant-doughnut hybrid) were juices, smoothies and the healthiest options I think I’ve seen in an eating establishment.
And the coffee? How did I not know that Sydney is one of the best places to get good coffee in the world? (and tea for that matter)
(I thought our friends had struck gold living so close to this place…until I realised that there are hundreds of amazing cafes all over this area. Although Ruby’s is still up there as our favourite)
After a REALLY good sleep and a little while working out what time it actually was we woke to Saturday morning beautiful sunshine – which has shone ever since. The weather has been a little warmer than usual for winter here – getting up to a warm 24 degrees at some point – but mostly around 19. Basically what we in Manchester would call a great day!
The sun rises at 6.40 ish and goes down around 5.15 – which messes with your head a bit to begin with. You miss the warm summer evenings sitting outside that you get in say France, or, once a decade, Wales.
The beauty of this time of year though is that everywhere is relatively quiet. I would like to visit in their summer for the general buzz, but I’m not a fan of queuing and actually love a deserted beach! I’ll take this kind of winter.
We took our first walk down to Bondi beach, it seemed like a good place to start – marveling at the beautiful architecture of the houses (everything from Victorian Filigree to Queen Ann nostalgia, alongside state of the art modernism, and everything inbetween) and lapping up the café culture.
(since I’ve been totally honest so far I may as well admit I thought Bondi would be a wee bit tacky and ‘just’ a touristy beach…ha)
The view from the south side was amazing – people swimming in the pool, starting their evening (at lunchtime) in Icebergs, surfing, walking on the beach, admiring the cockatoos on the lampposts and taking it all in.
|we took this photo at Marks Point - to send to my brother Mark who was 40 that day!
We took the popular walk along the coast back to Bronte, taking in Mackenzie Bay and Tamarama beach along the way. It’s stunning.
Every single beach is well looked after, there is usually a (large) bit of parkland next to the beach, with a decent play area, loads of table and chairs for picnics, lots of them in the shade for the scorcheo days, BBQ’s you can use…and here’s where I have a small nark at the UK…plenty of bins, drinking fountains and TOILETS. Clean toilets, with soap and hot water and toilet roll.
It makes a massive difference. I love our home country, and I know we have some STUNNING scenery, don’t get me wrong, but amenity wise we are waaaay behind (I also appreciate it’s expensive to live here – but we pay high tax in the UK too?)
Again I thought our friends had just chosen well but everywhere we’ve been this has been the case – even in the middle of nowhere.
Obviously I am getting to the stage in life where I have to watch my coffee intake if I fear there isn’t going to be a toilet in the next couple of hours (you’ve got to love what childbirth does to your body – curse that pelvic floor, or lack of) but if we had been here with small children it would have been SO easy. I’ve had to stop going on about it, I was boring myself.
Anyway, back to Sydney.
It is expensive here – our grocery shop was MUCH more than normal. But what is surprisingly reasonable is a really decent cup of coffee – from a café or a kiosk, at a beauty spot (with toilets!!). I do fear that Sydney has set the bar for all future trips out in the UK and can hear the words ‘shut up about flamin’ Australia’ from my sister in my head.
I hear far worse from my brother, but my mum reads my blog so I’ll leave it there.
Sunday is particularly cheap to travel (£1.25 for a whole day on any form of transport) so we took a ferry
from Rose Bay in to Circular Quay.
For someone with low expectations I was particularly teary as the ferry swung into the quay – I couldn’t believe we were here and I couldn’t believe how beautiful and arresting it was. Proper goosebumps.
We had a walk around the area called The Rocks – which has a mixture of historical buildings from the settlers first days here, through to views of the business centre skyscrapers. There was a huge food festival going on – which was handy in one respect, but made it impossible to see much. The streets were chocablock with people. We still took in the street performers and local musicians, as well as some street food.
We decided to revisit on a quieter day, and headed to the Botanical gardens on the other side of the Quay, walking through to The Opera House. Both Cleggy and I were surprised to find it cream, not bright white like it looks on the TV!
All in all it’s a brilliant place, busy, buzzing, noisy and happy. When I looked around I saw lots of smiling people
(wrapped up in scarves!!!)
We would’ve stopped at The Opera Bar – a landmark place, surely one of the best locations for a bar in the world, but by now the boys were getting tired and grouchy so we headed back on the ferry.
We seemed to fit a lot in to the first week as we tried to make the most of having a car at our disposal. We took a trip into the Blue Mountains – a HUGE area about an hour outside Sydney.
There are loads of little towns worth a visit but we took the advice of other friends who have emigrated here (thank you Julie)
and went to Leura.
It was a good call – wonderful shops, more cafes and super friendly people. It was VERY different to Sydney – it felt much more Autumnal and as if we were in Canada, or New England.
As in Sydney everyone was well wrapped up in hats, scarves and gloves – we (hardened Northerners) were there in a light cardy/hoody enjoying the sunshine!!!
The Blue Mountains are a world heritage sight, and so called because the trees are largely eucalyptus (or gum trees) which give off a blue vapour in the heat.
They are breathtakingly beautiful – even my half decent camera doesn’t do this place any justice.
|photo from scenic world, mine was bobbins
The enormity is hard to take in.
We went on to Katoomba to visit Scenic world – where you can see the mountains by riding on the worlds steepest railway, walk along the valley on well signposted footpaths, take a sky rail and also a cable car with a glass bottom.
We got really good views of the ‘Three Sisters’ rock formation, and also the ‘Orphan’ rock, sometimes known as the shunned fourth sister (harsh)
The staff there were brilliant – really enthusiastic about the place, and like Disney, but sincere!
The other place we drove to was Palm beach – home of Sydney’s rich and famous, and filming location of Home & Away.
(Which my boys had never heard of – what???)
The drive took us across the Harbour bridge and up past the Northern beaches. We could have stopped at all of them (all beautiful) but plumped for Avalon.
It was supposed to be a quick 20 minute (toilet stop, he he) but we spent much longer there, finding interesting things washed up and watching a lone sand skimmer.
Palm beach did not disappoint – it’s at the top of a peninsula with a lighthouse at the end and beach on both sides of the last strip of land.
It was the warmest day we’ve had so the two youngest boys couldn’t help but get in! Not for long – the sea was Baltic!
After a picnic (and a reasonably priced coffee and toilet stop) we headed back down the Pittwater side. I only wish Cleggy could have taken in the views as well as drive – it was so pretty.
Before returning home we took a drive into the deserted Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. I had read that the view from West Head Point was special – and it really was. Again my camera struggled so I’ve shared someone elses who does it justice.
|By Bob Libby
That’s our first 4 days done – I’ll sign off here as I fear even The Granny will be bored!
And I’ve got too much to say about Manly and Watsons Bay….
(apologies for re hashing lots of IG photos - the internet is incredibly slow - uploading photos may take a whole day!!)