Ahhh Sunday evening. The slow, coffee-sipping start to Saturday seems like just a moment ago, and yet meal prep for the week ahead looms large, and that early morning gym class tomorrow feels like a ridiculous decision. Why not put off reality for a little while longer, and read about my Sydney exploits instead? Go on, you know you want to. I’ll pour you a wine.
We finally booked a holiday to Sydney, after talking about it for many, many years; not long after we got back from Thailand last October. James’ sister moved to Sydney years ago, and while he’s visited a few times, this was my first trip to Australia. I was so completely blown away by the place that I thought a little round-up of the trip was absolutely necessary. If you read to the end, there’s even some book-related content – obviously 🙂
Embrace the outdoors
One of the things we noticed very early on in Sydney was how important the outdoors, and being active, is (generally speaking). Obviously, the climate will be a significant factor – it’s much more enticing to spend time outside when the sun is shining, as opposed to the grey dreariness we become accustomed to in the UK – but head to any beach and you’ll find people surfing, running, cycling, doing yoga, using an outdoor gym or swimming in one of the outdoor pools dotted around everywhere. We fell into a routine (initially thanks to jetlag) of being up and out of the flat early, heading into the city and having a coffee by the harbour, heading to a yoga class, or for a run; and it felt like we got so much more out of the day.
Another observation was how much more set up Sydney was for people being outside in general – regular outdoor water fountains to reduce the need to buy disposable bottles, superb public toilets, and changing facilities at every beach. I can’t speak for coastline amenities in the rest of the UK, but in my own experience, they put our setup to shame.
We’re trying to maintain our momentum now we’re back in the UK; going to bed a little earlier, getting up earlier for some pre-work exercise, and getting out in the fresh air as much as possible.
The Coastal Walk is King
With Sydney being on the coast, there is no shortage of beaches to visit and explore. Obviously, we had to do Bondi! We headed there a couple of days after we landed, taking the bus to Bondi Junction and walking from there. It’s a tourist hotspot – even on a Monday, it was crazy busy – but it’s famous for a reason; and we had a beautiful walk through the surf before finding the start of the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. The track snakes south around the coast to Coogee, taking in numerous smaller bays along the way, like Tamarama, Bronte and Clovelly. It is an absolutely stunning route, and I cannot recommend it enough – even in 30+ degree heat!
The following week, we took the bus to Spit Bridge to walk the Spit to Manly route along the Manly Scenic Walkway. This one was a little more rough and ready – nothing extreme, but it didn’t take long to feel like you were actually in the outback. This walk afforded beautiful views of Sydney harbour, and some up close and personal moments with the local wildlife! Manly beach is a lovely spot, with a handy ferry terminal, should you not feel like walking the 10km back to Spit…
Wine Tasting Fun
Both James and I like our wine (me more than James, if we’re going to be honest!) so a wine tasting tour in the Hunter Valley was way up on our list of things to do. We booked this for a day that was forecast rain – and rain it did! – and so found ourselves one wet Wednesday morning, waiting outside a hotel in downtown Sydney for our minibus pickup. We booked with Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tours who I would highly recommend – decent group size, and we visited some lovely vineyards! We started off at McGuigan Wines, went on to Blueberry Hill, stopped off at Matilda Bay Brewhouse for lunch, then finished at Capercaillie Wines, where we may or may not have bought a crate of wine for our Blue Mountains trip later in the holiday. We also visited Cocoa Nib, a gorgeous, boutique chocolate shop in the middle of the Hunter Valley. I cannot emphasise how difficult it was to walk away from that place empty-handed! The products were so intricate I think it might have killed me a little to actually eat them. Next time…
Sydney CBD and Circular Quay
Though we stayed most of the trip with James’ sister and her family, we did book three nights in downtown Sydney, just the two of us, to get the full Sydney experience. We stayed in Hotel Palisade, which is in a fantastic position in The Rocks, just off Barangaroo Reserve and in walking distance to Circular Quay, where you can find the iconic Sydney Opera House. The Palisade has a beautiful rooftop bar with views of Harbour Bridge, but I must admit it would certainly benefit from aircon – being an old building, the only air circulation comes from a standing fan and an open window, which is not always very effective!
The Rocks is a very cool area with lots of bars, restaurants and little cafes to explore. We ate in Sake Restaurant and the Lord Nelson for evening meals, and found a lovely little french cafe with views of the harbour for breakfast (and afternoon macaroon stops). From Circular Quay you can get pretty much anywhere – one day, we jumped on a ferry to Taronga Zoo, which is immense! There’s also a lovely walk around the harbour to the Royal Botanical Gardens, and Mrs McQuarie’s Chair.
Well, we couldn’t go all the way to Sydney and not have some bookshop fun, could we?! I did a little bit of research before we went, and settled on a trip to Kinokuniya Sydney, which was perfectly situated for us on our city stay. The place is HUGE. It stretches out across the top floor of the Galleries shopping centre, and offers every kind of book you could possibly want. I was keen to pick up a book by an Australian author (I’d have loved more than one in honesty, but suitcase space was a problem!) so I spent a good chunk of time wandering around the Australian Literature section. I opted for a book called Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven, though I was tempted by plenty more – a few of which accidentally fell into my Amazon basket this weekend…. whoops!
My sister-in-law also donated a copy of The Art of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns – I can’t wait to get stuck in to my Aussie reads with a nice glass of Hunter Valley Riesling! Look out for reviews coming soon 🙂