Tag Archives: harbour

10 things to do in Sydney

Here are my favourite places to go in Sydney- a top ten list, if you will. Some of them may seem cliché, but there is a reason that certain places are deemed tourism worthy.

My number one place in Sydney is Taronga Zoo. I love animals and will go to any zoo at any given opportunity. Taronga Zoo is special because you can take a ferry to get there and it has the best views of the city from its grounds. You can even take a gondola from the ferry terminal to the zoo entrance and back again. I also like Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour for an animal fix. It has great shark tank viewing tunnels and they have beluga whales too!

The Botanic Gardens is the place to go for its iconic views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I am lucky because I used to work close enough to the gardens to go for lunch time walks there. I always enjoyed seeing the tourists stopping to take pictures along the way as it reminds me what a lovely city I live in. In summer they have open air theatre shows for kids and they always seem to be setting up for a festival or opera on the harbour side.

The Opera House is the best place to catch a show- pretty much just because you are in the Opera House. My favourite bar, Opera Bar, is also here. It’s often crowded and hard to get a drink, but you can’t beat being under the Opera House looking at the Harbour Bridge while you sip your pre- show cocktail. For a more old skool pub, I also like The London in Balmain. Rustic and sturdy, they have a large selection of beer on tap and decent food. Plus, how can you not love a pub that welcomes dogs?!

One of my favourite restaurants is at The Deck at Luna Park. It has great Spanish style seafood share platters and is not too expensive. It’s also located in my favourite suburb- Kirribilli. I was fortunate enough to live here for a while and there is no place quite like it in Sydney. Lavender Bay is beautiful, the Harbour Bridge is above you and the city is just across the water. You also can’t beat walking to work over the Harbour Bridge.

The European clothing brands have finally landed in Australia! So my new favourite place to shop is the brand new H & M‘s that keep popping up all over Sydney. I must admit that I am a little addicted.

But the best way to see Sydney is to be on the harbour in a boat– preferable at the start of the Sydney to Hobart Race. The harbour is what makes Sydney special, and it is beautiful, so if you ever come here make sure you get out on the water.

Related posts: Sydney vs Melbourne, Cocktail Hour is Sydneytown, Kid at Heart, Degustation Delights

Hawaiian Road Trip, 2014

My bestie’s sister Janeen was tour organiser extraordinaire and had many activities planned for us all while were in Hawaii for my bestie’s wedding. A girl after my own heart, she wanted to see as much of the big island as she could, so I was happy to tag along with the family and other assorted American and Australian wedding guests.

On my first day we headed straight to Kona Brewing Company for a morning beer tasting. In Kona town we checked out Mokuaikaua Church, Hulihe’e Palace and the harbour. We also found pearls in oysters at a local jewellery shop and some cocktails in a bar with a sea view. For lunch, we went to for a real soft shell taco Mexican lunch- very tasty.

The next day, a van of 11 of us went on a road trip to Umauma Falls to go zip lining. I was excited for the road trip and the opportunity to see more of the island, but not so much the zip lining. While everyone was busy doing flips as they zipped along I was apparently gripping onto my line “like a koala bear.”

The green countryside, the river and the waterfalls were beautiful though, and worth my discomfort. I also enjoyed the less adrenalin pumping activity of walking across a suspension bridge to a viewpoint of the falls.

On the way back we stopped at Akaka Falls State Park for a pleasant stroll through the forest to one of the highest waterfalls in the world- Akaka Falls- that drops into a crater.

Back in the van, we drove on the Saddle Road from Hilo through the middle of the island in volcanic fog- a gentle reminder that we were living on an island with an active volcano. I had seen some amazing pictures of lava flowing into the sea at an art gallery in town and wish that I had more time to travel over to the other side of the island to see that.

We stopped an the infamous Fish & Hog café for dinner which had great American diner style food, including the biggest slice of lemon meringue pie I have ever seen in my life.

The day before the wedding Janeen and I donned our custom made bridesmaid t-shirts and took the bride for a manicure and pedicure in her matching bride t-shirt. In an impromptu hen’s night, we decided to go to the luau at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel for a dinner and show with my bestie’s cousin Lyle as the honorary male bodyguard.

We got seashell necklaces, tried to dance the hula and twirl balls on string. Dinner was a traditional pig dug out if the underground oven and as much punch as you could drink. The show started with the shell trumpeter of the royal procession and there were dances from all the islands of the South Pacific including fire dancers. On the way back to the car we met a man with a macaw.

Related posts: Solo trip to Hawaii, 2014, USA, 1990, It’s a South Pacific Thing

West Coast to Wellington, 2012

After Fox Glacier, my parents and I went for a walk around Lake Matheson which is meant to show a reflection of Mt Cook in the right conditions, which we did not have. Even so, we enjoyed the rainforest walk to the lake while my husband stayed in the café with our sleeping daughter.

Next stop was a viewpoint of Franz Josef Glacier which offered fantastic views of the blue ice and ended up being more scenic than the walk up close to Fox Glacier. I was glad that we had taken the time to at least stop and see a second glacier.

I actually felt like we were becoming desensitised to the amazing scenery as I found myself being blasé about the next stop at Okarito lookout which had a view out to the Tasman Sea.

But then I was reamazed with the drive up the incredibly scenic West Coast. I found the coastline similar to the west coast of Vancouver Island and could see what my Canadian friend Celina was talking about when she had spoken about her trip to New Zealand. Both New Zealand and Canada are countries where natural beauty takes pride of place in their mountains, lakes and forests and I could see the similarities between the two.

We stopped at the windy Pancake Rocks with its strange rock formations. Unbeknownst to me, my husband sneakily bought me a Christmas present of a beautiful wooden jewellery box and a brightly painted plate by local artisans here.

Our lunch stop was for fish and chips at Hokitika. That night we stayed in the windiest holiday park in the west- Westport Holiday Park- and watched How I Met Your Mother on the van DVD player while our daughter slept and the wind howled outside.

The next day’s drive through the mountains was a hard one, but also one of the most beautiful. High windy roads meant a new scenic mountain was around each corner dropping down to the rivers below.

We stopped briefly in Nelson at low tide and came out the other side at the beautiful sparkling Marlborough Sounds complete with bobbing white sailboats. I could just imagine myself on one of those boats enjoying the sun.

We stayed in Picton overnight and caught the ferry to the North Island the next day from Picton Harbour. The ferry trip has good views in good weather, which we did not have. However, we did have a private room with a cot, which was luxury.

We soon arrived at my aunt and uncle’s place in Wellington that overlooked a valley of ferns from their backyard. Christmas Day was the usual lazy affair with the ever-welcoming Sri Lankan extended family that I discovered extended as far as New Zealand.

After a Boxing Day filled with cricket watching, we caught the Wellington Cable Car past the cricket ground to the justifiably iconic lookout point. My cousins took us on a tour of downtown Wellington from the majestic old parliament buildings and the new ones, like the beehive, too.

Related posts: Queenstown to Fox Glacier, 2012, New Zealand, 2004, New Year’s Eve on the Island, Canada, 1997 

Weymouth, 2011

When I arrived in Weymouth, the Canadian side of the family had already been there for a few days. We all ate at a local pub for dinner and it was good to see my aunt, uncle and cousins Kate and  Glen, even though the circumstances weren’t the best.

Our grandmother’s funeral was scheduled for later that week and in the meantime we were to sort through what remained of her belongings. She had given away most of her valuables while she was alive, but there was still a lot of household items to go through.

We all took something that held special memories for us, be it furniture to be relocated to Kate’s new house, the swallows over the top of the fireplace for my dad or grandma’s fountain pen for me. It was the one she used to write all our letters and birthday cards to send across the seas and I hoped to continue the tradition with it.

Going through her writing desk, we discovered that she had kept every photo, card or letter that we had given her- even a record of my travellers cheques, long since cashed- that I had handwritten for her before my trip to Europe. It was nice to keep a few photos of us as kids home and a I also claimed a tiny book of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

When we needed a break from our sorting and trips to Vinnies in Dorchester, we went on country rambles together to Hardy’s monument, the wishing well and Upwey manor. Past the thatched rooved cottages, the church where our grandfather was buried, through green fields filled with thistles; picking blackberries along the way. We found a random bakery in the middle of the countryside which had the best pasties.

It was nice to spend this time together and gather memories in the area for the last time. Grandma’s house was to be sold, so it was sad to think that someone else would be living in the stone bungalow in which we’d all had so many good times and that we wouldn’t have the same pull to return to Weymouth.

We went into town for a walk along the seafront to the harbour. The blue and white striped deck chairs were already set out for summer, though the weather was cold, and the sand sculpture competition was in full swing. The town was the same as I remembered it, but seemed smaller and not as busy.

In the evenings we reminisced and cooked all our favourite foods that grandma used to make, like treacle tarts, fish and chips and rice pudding.

The day of the funeral was a strange feeling. We were all picked up in two black cars and driven to the funeral parlour where we greeted many family members and old friends.

The wake was held back at grandma’s house where I had the job of cooking all the pastries in the oven. It was a good distraction. The Swindon and Cirencester branches of the family were a positive influence and it was lovely to see Alan and Viv again.

As the week drew to a close, it was time to take our last snap shots in our heads and on our iPhones, then bid each other farewell in the hopes of keeping grandma’s memory alive by seeing each other again soon to reminisce some more.

Related posts: London, 2011, Small town vs Big city, It’s an English Thing, England, 2006, England, 2002, England, 1997

Sydney vs Melbourne

It’s not as simple as the Harbour vs the River, because you can’t beat Sydney Harbour with its Opera House and Harbour Bridge. It’s not as easy as AFL vs Rugby League, because there’s a reason it’s called the Australian Football League.

Melbourne has the original Luna Park and a prettier central train station. Sydney has the better airport and a more predictable climate.

Both have world class fine dining and scrumptious popular Italian restaurants.

Sydney has the giraffes at Tarongo Zoo and Melbourne has the penguins at the Aquarium. Melbourne has the beachfront of St Kilda and Sydney has Balmoral.

Melbourne had the better casino until Star City renovated in Sydney, perhaps the same will also be said of the convention centres once Sydney finally completes theirs.

Sydney has the iconic Botanic Gardens and Melbourne has the historic Fitzroy Gardens. Melbourne has better shops, but Sydney has better markets.

In Melbourne, the people are nicer, the coffee shops are varied and the laneway bars are intriguing.

In Sydney, the water is more sparkly, yum cha is offered at all times of the day or night and the underground speak easies are atmospheric.

I had the pleasure of living in St Kilda for a week and near the convention centre many times for work and found Melbourne to be a very livable city. It has been known to have the lower property prices and I have often thought about moving there for a better deal in a city that has just as much to offer as Sydney.

However, with the way costs are rising at the moment, we may all be better off moving to Brisbane.

Related posts: Kid at Heart, Degustation Delights, Cocktail Hour in Sydneytown, Home is where you make it

It’s an English Thing

Whenever somebody asks me where I am from, I always pause to answer.

I was born in Weymouth, England to an English father and a Sri Lankan mother. We lived in and out of England for the first few years of my life, I went to pre-school there, and then we moved to Australia where I grew up in Berry, NSW and was brought up as an Australian.

However, my father never really lost his accent (I still pronounce garage differently to everyone I know), I received a UK passport at birth and have spent a few trips, including a gap year, back in England.

My grandmother never left Weymouth and I always loved going back to visit her. The green rolling hillsides, the little wishing well behind her house and the thatched rooved cottages. The typical English seafront, the rocky beach and the harbour filled with fishing boats. The gorgeous Dorset countryside of quirky towns, white cliffs plunging into the blue Channel and walks through fields picking blackberries along the way.

I also love the city of London. Red telephone boxes, double decker buses, Big Ben, the tube and my favourite Tower of London. I love the parks, the palaces, the plays and the feeling of being at the centre of the world when you walk down Oxford St. I like mixing with the hip crowd at Covent Garden, standing on the edge of Greenwich Mean Time and imagining what it would be like to live inside the houses of Notting Hill. I enjoy seeing the gold encrusted Buckingham Palace gates, Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square and the bustling Piccadilly Circus. It’s also fun meeting all your Australian mates in a London pub as they are living there temporarily too.

So of course, I am Australia, but I also identify with all things English.

I was brought up on Sooty and Sweep, Noddy and Blue Peter on the TV, Punch and Judy shows at the sands and reading Beatrix Potter and Rupert at bedtime. I enjoyed eating treats from grandma like Hula Hoops, Hob Nobs and Quality Streets.

It’s always fun to go shopping at Boots, Marks and Spencers, H&M and window shopping at Harrods. I love drinking at one of the many great traditional English pubs with the same names in different places like The Golden Lion, The Red Lion, The Swan, the White Hart, The George Inn, The King’s Arms; and running to get into a nightclub before lock out. I have seen people being out on the pull for a snog, have worn a thong on my bottom instead of my feet and flitted off to Europe for a long weekend to escape the long dark winters.

The English culture is not so different to ours which makes it easy to relate to and it’s those little details that help strike up a conversation with a visiting Brit come to Australia to escape the bad weather for a time.

So, I guess I’m not English, as you are from where you grow up. But it is nice to know that I have the experience and knowledge to morph into an English person if needs be.

Related posts: It’s a Spanish Thing,  Toys, People vs Place, England, 2006England, 1997

San Francisco, 2007, Part 1: Falling in love again

Being a fan of Party of Five and Charmed, I was in love with the city of San Francisco even before I revisited. I love the rows of terrace houses, the harbour that reminds me so much of Sydney and the hilly roads. Although, I’m sure if I lived here I would get sick of those hills after a while.

My husband-to-be (HTB) and I stayed in a small room in the Tenderloin district with an ethnic supermarket next door. I was a bit apprehensive about the area having just read a book about a prostitute that lived in the Tenderloin back in the days when it was a dangerous place to live. But that was years ago and it was a nice room, so I cast these fears aside.

We started our day with a walk up the Filbert steps on Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower. The walk up the long spiral staircase punctuated by murals made the climb interesting. From the top of the tower we could see all of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Oakland Bay Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Transamerica Building and Lombard Street. It was awesome.

Back down the hill, we went to Jackson Square with all its lovely old rounded buildings and colourful jazz murals. Murals was becoming a bit of a theme for the city! We found the foot of the Transamerica building, which turned out to be an office building.

Chinatown was pretty much like every other Chinatown all over the world- colourful with lion gates and the smell of incense in the air. I did get ripped off on the purchase of some postage stamps, which was new. Which just goes to show that no matter how much you travel, you can still become victim to a travel scam. I don’t think I ever sent postcards again after that.

The Macey’s in Union square was lit up and decorated with impressive Christmas decorations. Being the main square of San Francisco it was very busy with people rushing around running errands and shopping for Christmas presents. We found Lotta’s fountain nearby which was tinier than I expected and ran into a gay couple who gave us an Irish pub recommendation nearby.

The pub was packed, had good food, great beer and we met a guy who worked at Google. Gays and Google- you can’t get more San Fran than that!

Related posts: USA Road trip, 2007: Part 2, Grand Canyon, 2007, Las Vegas, 2007, USA Road trip, 2007, Disneyland, 2007, Los Angeles, 2007, USA, 1990

England, 2006

My first overseas trip with my husband-to-be (HTB) was to Weymouth to introduce him to my grandmother. My dad was also visiting at the time, so we caught up with friends old and newer. Alan and Viv cooked us the best roast I’ve ever had. One of Sarah’s brother’s friends had his 30th birthday at a local pub so we went along to share a few beverages with my old drinking crew.

I showed my HTB, Perry’s where I had worked the summer on Weymouth harbour and the sea front where I had spent my time off on the beach. We saw a very cool live band in a local pub as he loves live music.

We took my HTB on the usual tour of Tyneham Village, Corfe Castle, the Man of War at Lulworth Cove and Stonehenge. We also went to a few pubs including the Red Lion in Weymouth, The Cove House Inn at Portland and the Square and Compass in Worth Matravers for the warmest cider on the planet.

For a healthier alternative, we climbed up to Hardy’s Monument and visited the town of Cerne Abbas with its ancient monastery and large Abbey Farm House. We went to Cirencester to visit family, Bourton-on-the-Water and Bibury to see Arlington Row.

It was nice to show my HTB where I had come from and the places that were so much a part of my childhood and trips away.

My HTB had been to London before, but at a time when he had done more drinking than sight-seeing. So I dragged him around on a whirlwind tour of my favourite iconic sights- Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, St James Park, the River Thames, Oxford St and Covent Garden.

This time I got to go on the London Eye and we had a rare clear day affording great views of the city, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the new to me Millennium Bridge. I also got to see the awesome media centre at Lords Cricket Ground and sit in the captain’s chair on the HMS Belfast – two things I never would have done in London before meeting my HTB.

Between us, we had lots of family and friends living and working in London- both local and Australian. So, rather than spending days driving all around the city visiting people, we organised a night to meet everyone at once at The Horniman at Hays which had a view of the Tower Bridge and most importantly- lots of beer for more drinking.

Related posts: Europe, 2003England, 2002, England, 1997,England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988 

Home is where you make it

I grew up in a small town called Berry on the south east coast of NSW. It is not as small now, but at the time the population was 550. Berry, town of trees, two hours drive from Sydney, was so small that no one had ever heard of it. Two blocks, two pubs, a Chinese takeaway and the donut van. Now everyone knows where it is, it is full of coffee shops, gift shops and a couple of fancy restaurants. The Chinese takeaway disappeared with MSG.

It was mostly Anglo Australians, so being from a multicultural background was enough that I  never really fitted in at primary school and through most of high school.

I do appreciate that I did have the kind of childhood that you can only have in a small town- climbing trees, riding bikes, knocking around town by myself and later not having access to drugs, but having drunken bonfire parties instead. We travelled a lot to Sydney to visit relatives and friends of my parents whose kids were deep into the rave scene and sleeping around at the time.

By the time I was at the end of my high school years all I wanted to do was to get out. After my grand tour of Europe, I attempted to live at home in Berry for all of two months before I moved to Sydney to live with my cousins and I have never looked back.

I have lived in eight different suburbs with cousins, friends, boyfriends and my husband. I have been moved 12 times by cousins, my dad and moving companies. I have now been in this city for 16 years and still enjoy it. The harbour, ballet at the Opera House, the Botanical Gardens and fancy degustration menus. I love traveling to other cities, but there’s still nothing quite like flying over Sydney Harbour on the return flight and knowing that you are coming home to one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

I always find it hard to relate to those that have never moved away from a small town and ask me how I can live in such a big city. Big compared to what? London or New York? I don’t think so. In fact I would actually love to make another city my home for a time and having that handy European passport perhaps it will one day happen.

Related posts: I first started travelling