My daughter, Emily, arrived December 21st and is staying with Sanford and me until January 9th, at which time we are both heading back home to Canada. I’m soooooo excited she is here. She is the first of my kids to come and see where I live my “Australian life”. (Craig should be coming in about two years time.)
It’s fun having Emily here because I’m seeing some of the major sights all over again and at the same time taking in some new sights.
Here are some of the highlights of her visit up to New Year’s Eve:
We did a full day of sightseeing in downtown Sydney. Our first destination was to Circular Quay, a ferry terminal and popular destination for tourists and Sydneysiders alike. This area vibrates with activity, is a great place to sit at one of the many sidewalk cafes, and is home to numerous souvenir shops. It is also home to two iconic attractions, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. From Circular Quay we walked over to the Darling Harbour area and its shopping plaza, and then we were off to The Rocks. The Rocks has historical significance as this is where the convict settlements began and there are still some historic sites nodding to this past, as well as artisan markets and pubs catering to the tourists. Our last stop was to Chinatown and their markets. That was definitely enough for one day!
Sydney has great public transportation that includes buses, trains and ferries. One day, we decided to take the ferry to our destination. We started from a stop in the Paramatta River close to Sanford’s, transferred to another ferry at Circular Quay and travelled to one of the furthest destinations – Watsons Bay. Watsons Bay is a harboured, eastern suburb of Sydney and a well known tourist destination to eat fish and chips at Doyle’s Restaurant. Delicious! While there we also did a short coastal walk past beaches, former armaments, and great lookouts. One unexpected find was the track took us high above a nude beach and of course who can resist checking it out. There were a few people there, almost all old men. One man seemed to like swaggering along the edge of the water “strutting his stuff” looking up at all the people looking down. It was kind of funny and weird at the same time.
Christmas Eve is Sanford’s annual dinner for his friends. He goes all out and makes turkey with stuffing, baked ham, potatoes and vegetables, plum pudding with sauce, shortbread, and various other dishes. Sanford likes to cook and has, for many years, prepared this dinner by himself. Emily and I decided to be helpful by clearing out for the day while he did his preparations and headed to Macquarie Shopping Centre. This shopping centre is a combination of two buildings and is confusing to navigate. It took us at least an hour to find our way out, and that’s with asking directions several times and consulting the map of the mall!! We had a good laugh over it! Sanford’s party was fun and it was nice to be able to introduce Emily to his friends.
On Boxing Day, Emily and I had the best sightseeing day to date!! We went to Wild Life Sydney Zoo, a small zoo dedicated to the native Australian animals and located in downtown Sydney. Our highlight of this visit was having our photo done with Aaron, the koala. From here, we went on a Sydney Bus Tour and got an overview of the city and some of its highlights. We finished off with a Starbucks coffee/tea and an hour or so in the Queen Victoria Building to shop some Boxing Day sales.
Because we were in a stretch of hot weather – mid to high 30’s – we decided to spend a day at the beach, and what better beach to go to than Bondi! We had great fun jumping in the waves, walking the white sandy beach, shopping in the boutiques and stopping for lunch. Nothing fancy for lunch; we decided on the old standby – McDonald’s!
We took a day trip to Katoomba, located in the Blue Mountains, 102 km from Sydney, to do the Three Sisters Walk. The Three Sisters is an unusual rock formation and the most spectacular landmark in the Blue Mountains. The formation represents three sisters who according to Aboriginal legend were turned to stone. Each of the Three Sisters stand at 922, 918 & 906 metres tall, respectively. We did the walk that starts at the top of the first “sister” and is a Giant Stairway of over 900 steps to get to the canyon floor, then a 1 1/2 hour walk to the Scenic Railroad, known as the steepest railway in the world, that takes us back up to the town. By the time we went down all the steps are legs were like rubber, but as we walked along the bottom we started to recover and were most thankful we didn’t have to climb back up steps and could take a railcar back.
What better to do on New Year’s Eve than take in the world famous fireworks display over Sydney Habour! We picked a spot along the Paramatta River that allowed us to see the fireworks at Sydney Harbour. They were spectacular! The fireworks were set up in five or six different spots with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the middle. The fireworks on the bridge and in the different spots were all synchronized to go off at the same time. It really was something to see!
Happy New Year!!
That’s it for now. That’s about half way through Emily’s visit. I will post the remainder of her trip just before we head back to Canada.