I know it’s been a while, but I’ve been up to lots and in Sydney a few weeks, so here it all goes…
- New Years Day
- Sydney – Central Coast roadtrip
- Be a tourist
- Leave the girls
- Head back to London
Our long New Year’s Eve journey home took its toll on our tired little bodies so that we didn’t rise until about midday on New Year’s Day. After a quick re-fuel on scrambled eggs, we did eventually make it out the house and on our way to the CBD to meet Em and pick up a few outfit extras before heading on to Gina’s in Mosman. We had a couple of drinks at Gina’s and finished the dolling up process and set off to our New Year’s Day party: ‘Space Ibiza’ at the Greenwood Hotel.
The venue was heaving by the time we arrived and really, really sweaty! But hot or not, the music was fab and not even a drop of rain was going to stop us dancing the day, evening and night away to celebrate the start of 2017. We had thoroughly worn out our legs by the time we left about 10.30pm, but it was such a fun New Years.
When Kit and I got back to Randwick, we had to pack our things ready for the exciting Clique Roadtrip that was to begin early the following morning. The same roadtrip also had our alarms ringing at 6.50am so we could get out to the airport for 9am to pick up our hire car from ‘Jucy’. Our little Hyundai Styla brought back memories of Bianca Yaris sitting at home in the cold, but the little car was perfect for our two day adventure.
I was first up in the driving rotations and after crossing the bridge and picking up Gina, we set off north to our first destination: The Entrance. The Entrance is just that, to the beaches of the central coast. It’s a bit of a holiday resort for young families and aspiring fisherman and has daily pelican feeding. Pelicans by the way, are horribly scary, cartoon looking birds that you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of! We didn’t stay too long as we had more stops ahead of us and the rain had come in.
Next stop was ‘Shelly Beach’. Kitty took over the driving, the Disney playlist was on and the sun had come out so it was a very pleasant walk along the coast of not so shelly Shelly. We had heard there was a market on but couldn’t find the stalls so instead opted for a snack and stroll about before setting off North again to Lake Macquarie (whoever this Macquarie person is, I’d like to be them- they have Port Macquerie, Lake Macquerie, Mrs Macquerie’s Chair and Macquarie Road, none which are close to each other!).
Lake Macquerie was stunning. It helped that the sun remained out however the “lake” (sea) spanned all the way around a headland and the tide was out, meaning we could walk around the beach and through the vast expanse of rock pools. We later found out that a great white had been spotted there at the same time we were there but no such luck for us actually seeing the shark. I was in my element at Lake Macquerie, exploring all the little nooks and crannies. So much so that Kit and Gina had to call me back in the end as we needed to keep moving!
We stopped off for dinner in Newcastle. We’d heard good things about the town and it was meant to be a busy area however we found it to be completely dead to the world! Not a single person and restaurant appeared to be open. Granted it was a public holiday, but it seemed a little odd. Eventually we found a bar attached to a hotel which sold us a fantastic steak deal, but a bizarre experience on the whole and not a place I’m in a rush to go back to.
As such, we were pretty keen to continue up to Crescent Head where we were staying. With Gina and driving and DJ Blondie resuming DJ duties, we commenced the 180km/3-hr drive along the Pacific Highway, arriving at our accommodation about 10.30pm. We’d expected a run-down motel and were pleasantly surprised with both the management and decor of our little cabin, complete with its own parking space for our little Jucy Lucy. Considering our early morning and long day, it wasn’t long before Gina was konked out on the sofa and we decided to call it a night (and I got a real life bed to myself!).
Luckily for us, the sun was beaming the next morning. We set off to the local bakery for a croissant and coffee and then continued up the hill to the lookout point over Crescent Bay. Our unfitness showed but the out-of-breathness was worth the final views we experienced at the top. We could also take a quicker track back down the hill and along the surf beach which enhanced our experience of the place. When we got back to the apartment, we had a little chat with the managers about how beautiful the area was and they were really pleased we’d gone out for a walk in the morning, despite it making us late for check out (oops!).
Resuming the driving position, we head back south to Port Macquerie (see, Mr Important Macquerie) for the morning. The trouble with Australia being so big is that the weather can be very different after travelling a few hours. Port Macquerie was a 2.5 hour drive, and had rain; I suppose similar to driving from home to Bristol and having very different weather. Because of this, we were restricted to the main shopping/sheltered area in the town and ended up doing a bit of a foodie tour (local market, cafe, sushi and another cafe). I’m sure it’d be a much more beautiful place out on the water.
Our afternoon was then spent at Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest beach. We pulled in at the information centre and the cute English couple who ran the centre were extremely helpful and pointed us in the direction of ‘Dark Point’, a mass of sand dunes with views across the bay. The dunes were spectacular and just went on and on, removing us entirely from the real world. Gina and I sprinted up one of the dunes making our calves and lungs burn!
We moved on from here to the beach and a quick dip and play in the waves, to cool off and top up our vitamin D. The beach was busy but still beautiful and just what we were after. Drying off on the grass by the car, we snacked on some scrumptious marshmallows and changed in to night/restaurant appropriate clothes and said a sad goodbye to Tea Gardens. It was somewhere I could definitely spend a lovely, romantic weekend away.
Our final stop before Sydney CBD was Newport, part of the Northern Beaches an hour outside of central Sydney. We arrived just before sunset, which was perfect for what we had planned. Newport is a little bay and port and we went to ‘The Newport’, which overlooks this. The Newport is a massive restaurant complex type thing which has lots of different food kiosks, live music, film screens and various activities spread across its capacity. Several people recommended this spot to me (including Gina) as it was owned by the same guy as the Coogee Bay Hotel, but it needed a car to reach and we had just that!
We were at The Newport for sunset, sat on the deck overlooking the boats and the pink sky backdrop, eating my healthy roast pumpkin salad. It was a lovely, lovely end to a lovely, lovely two day roadie with my faves. Not sure how I’ll go back to travelling without my childhood friends in tow.
Gina’s house was the first stop back in to Sydney and after we dropped her off, Kit called her friends from uni as they were still in town for one more night. Since we had the car it was easy to meet up for a drink and off we set off in to Paddington, followed by ‘The Sheaf’, although I was nominated driver and had a wild night on the chilled water! No bad thing following our New Years party.
The car had to be back at 9am the next morning so Kit and I were up early again and out to Botany. I’d wanted to go to Sydney Olympic Park since I’d arrived in the city as it’s the first Olympics I ever remember watching, 17 years ago, with Ian Thorpe racing in the outside pool. Kit didn’t fancy it so we parted ways and I set off to West Sydney.
I had expected the park to be a little busier, something like Stratford and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is, but I suppose there’s no giant Westfields next door and it wasn’t as recent as the London games were. Still, there was lots to see and different information boards to give me some idea what the park was like during the 2000 games. There was also several commemorative sights such as the Cathy Freeman park, home to the Olympic Cauldron used in the games surrounded by real gold, silver and bronze plaques naming every single medal winner at the Olympics and Paraolympics that year. I managed to spot Sasha Kindred, Ben Ainslee and Ian Thorpe before the cauldron’s fountain started.
I then head towards the all-important aquatic centre, still a centre of excellence for Australian swimming. It’s funny how much I still consider myself a swimmer despite very much being a hockey player now! I snuck inside the centre to have a peak at their facilities (two 50m pools and a large play pool!) and followed the walk and wall of fame which names all Australian medal and world record holders from previous world champs and Olympics. It was pretty inspirational.
Finally, after a quick coffee and toasted banana bread, I did decide to head back to Kitty’s early afternoon. I had to pack some clothes for the next few days as I was staying with Gina for a bit and had also arranged to head up to the Blue Mountains with Hattie, who was part of the family on the kiwi bus.
That evening, Kit and I fancied trying out the Andrew “Boy” Charlton pool at Woolamooloo (I spent the afternoon fitting this place name to the song ‘Bippity Boppity Boo’ from ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’). We took a scenic stroll through Sydney’s beautiful botanical gardens towards Mrs Macquerie’s chair (see, important), and then to the pool which overlooks the naval base and several giant marine ships moored in Sydney Harbour. The kind man on the door charged us for just one swim as we didn’t have long till close and in we hopped for half an hour. I managed 1500m in this time (which I was quite impressed with) and it was my favourite outside, 50m pool experience yet as I’d both managed a decent swim and experience the sun setting over the harbour at the same time.
Despite me staying at Gina’s that night, Kit was alone that evening so we decided to grab something to eat along the Woolamaloo marina. Or I should say, wonder the marina and stare longily at the beautiful food and people who could afford those restaurants, and then cross the road to the poor people’s pub and order spaghetti marinara! Actually, it was a very pleasant seafood meal with my bestie, our wet hair, and lots of rain. The rest of the night I spent travelling to Gina’s, watching ‘Piranha 3DD’ and crying with laughter at all the memories from school and form that Gina and I were reminiscing about.
January 5th was my day trip to the Blue Mountains, still technically part of Sydney (within the opal card zone) whilst taking 2-3 hrs on the train to get there. Australia is so large! I got the bus to meet Hattie and her friend Charlotte at Central Station and hopped on the train to Kartoomba, a town in the Blue Mountains. We didn’t arrive until gone midday so first on the agenda was lunch. There was a cute little cafe offering Spanish style eggs, i.e. chorizo, feta, potatoes and spring onions mixed with scrambled eggs on toast which was ideal for my stomach cravings and good fuel for the afternoon of hiking ahead.
From here, we walked out to the mountains and the clifftop walk, heading first for Kartoomba Falls and then along the cliffs to the Three Sisters and Echo Falls lookout. It was completely surreal and absolutely incredible just what exists on this planet we call Earth. The track and lookouts were packed with tourists and we fancied a walk a little more remote, so we set off down (and thankfully not up) the ‘Giant Staircase’: 900 steps climbing or descending 0.5kms, almost vertically. I felt so sorry for those climbing the stairs and grabbing any rest bite they could on the way up.
At the bottom, we walked the hour trail to the Scenic Railway which would take us back up the top of the mountains. The railway, although short, is the steepest in the world and feels like you’re on a rollercoaster! The views out however, are stunningly beautiful and it’s quite fun feeling like you’re tipping out the train. Back on civilised land, we head in to town where I parted ways with Hattie and off to the train station to central Sydney. It was a brief reunion, but such an amazing day hiking one of the most incredible places I have ever seen, regardless of the tourists.
My evening, once back at Gina’s, was relaxed because my legs felt like they might fall off. I watched a lot of ‘New Girl’ with her housemate Renee and then crawled in to bed.
Gina had a few people viewing her house the next morning so we had a slow breakfast whilst people came and went. By midday, they’d all finished and we walked down to Balmoral Beach which is just 10 minutes from Gina’s house and beautiful. It’s more of a locals’ beach and therefore much quieter than the likes of Bondi or Coogee. Gina and I found a spot whilst waiting for Kitty and went for a swim before she had to shoot off for work.
When Kit arrived, she suggested we head to the ‘Boatshed’ on Balmoral Wharf as it had fantastic afternoon tea. She was right! I opted for iced coffee and toasted banana bread and the food which arrived was seriously instagrammable (and therefore, scrumptious!):
Suitably full and feeling fat, we needed to rest our bellies and opted to lay our towels on the jetty around the bay. Loads of kids were jumping off the jetty and it wasn’t long before we also joined in the fun like the big kids that we are. I also bumped in to Jakob, a friend of Rhys’, who was on a walk of the beach! We had a lovely catch up chat before Kit and I did our finally few dives, jumps and bombs and went off to the bus stop to begin the journey back to Randwick.
Back home, Josh cooked us a beautiful dinner of roast beef, mash and greens and we chilled out watching ‘Amy’ for the evening. Initially we’d planned to exercise but decided to save it for the morning and head on a run to Bronte beach for our day’s activities.
Alas, we woke at 9am, quickly fuelled up and set off on the 2 mile, EXTREMELY hilly route to Bronte beach. It proved to be a little too much for Kit, but my God were there a few too many, too steep hills. 1 mile took us almost 10 minutes because of the gradient! We were tired little sausages arriving at the beach but luckily found both a water fountain and sprinkler to rehydrate in before we completed a few rounds of beach circuits.
Bronte was looking absolutely stunning, even with its crazy, unexpected waves. We stripped down to our sports bras and bikini bottoms and ended our work out with a dip in the sea and a stretch on the rocks. I was so happy we experienced Bronte beach because it truly is stunning.
It took us an hour to walk back to Randwick by which time we were very hungry. Kitty purchased some extra supplies and we had an avocado and egg brunch followed by cold showers and a few episodes of ‘Friends’ to top off what had been a very healthy morning.
Kit had to leave for work at 3pm so I left with her and head in to the city. I decided it was about time I went for a venture around Darling Harbour as it’s a big tourist hotspot in Sydney. I walked down through some city gardens and arrived just as a dance show was beginning. This dance show, consisting of two tap dancers and 3 B-boys was incredible. They were so unbelievably good at dancing that I watched in awe for half an hour instead of wondering through the masses of people in the harbour! It was an excellent choice as I felt I’d seen enough of Darling Harbour viewing it from a few locations, considering I wasn’t actually going to pay for any of the attractions down there.
I followed my visit to Darling by walking back through to the CBD and wondering around Westfields briefly before catching a bus back home. Once back and I had made dinner, I got myself ready for a night at Soda Factory in Surry Hills, to meet Bea and have a night out with her friends whilst the girls worked. After a few glasses of wine at home with Josh and Poppy, I set off and struggled to find the “hot-dog stand” hidden bar.
Eventually inside, I found the music to be ideal for a night of dancing. That being said, Mrs Sweaty Betty herself (me) was out in full force so the dancing was not as energetic as I would have liked. Nevertheless, my energy levels soon rose when I bumped in to Rory and Tom who I had met in New Zealand. Although brief, it was awesome to have a cuddle and a catch up with the boys and almost complete my reunions from the bus (still sad I couldn’t go to see Monique though). I stayed out with Bea until 1.30ish when Kit came through from work and I had sufficiently enjoyed my night. It’s been amazing having several friends in the city to keep catching up with.
That Sunday, the 8th, we had tickets to FOMO festival in Paramatta Park. Feeling a little sluggish, Kit and I head over to Gina’s for pre-festival prep, consisting of make-up, hair and wine. We did eventually make it over to Paramatta, sweating before we even arrived or danced, in the 34 degree temperatures. It was to be then, alcohol in one hand, water in the other!
The first few acts upon our arrival were not so well known to us so we chilled out on the hill and bopped along a bit until ‘Peking Duck’ were up. Once inside the main crowd and dancing along, we were both loving and sweating life! I hacked about 45 minutes of the temperatures before bailing on the main crowds, and resuming my hill position from which I could freely access the air (a problem when you’re short and in a large crowd), control the sweat, and dance to my hearts content.
We chose to stay up the hill for both ‘Empire of the Sun’ and ‘Flosstradamus’, proving to be an excellent choice for room to dance, a place to chill between acts and enough space to go absolutely crazy to Australia’s well-loved trap music. It was a super fun day but a hot one with a long journey home to Randwick. A really great birthday present from the girls though ❤️.
For my last full day in Sydney (which came around so quickly and made me super sad), we chose to spend the day on Bondi Beach. Considering it’s almost a right of tourist passage when you visit Sydney and I was yet to actually venture on to the actual Bondi sands, it was a no-brainer. That and Len wanted me to get a selfie with the Bondi Resue team from TV (sadly Len, I did not accomplish this).
We met up with Tove and Amilia down there and it was so great to see them again after Fraser and hear about everything they’d been up to. We stayed with them all afternoon having a real girls time and making the most of the unnaturally calm waters on the beach (and therefore, sadly no Bondi rescues that we saw either). I’d hoped to try recover my lost tan from the multiple bad weather and clothes-on days I’d had. The sun, by and large, was in my favour that day.
Around 6pm, and having taken the tourist photos (see below), we returned home via Bondi Junction and the supermarket as I was cooking for everyone that evening as a ‘thank you’ and farewell gift. I chose to do sweet potato and chorizo hash with salad, followed by caramelised apples and ice cream. I’m kind of going to miss being a Mum and Housewife about my travelling households, although I know my own Mum will just use this as an excuse to get me to do more at home for the two weeks I’m back! We followed dinner with a film and plans for a final swim and lunch before I left the following day to complete my non-tourist time in Australia.
Kit returned from an interview in time for breakfast and so we ended my Australian breakfasts as we had most Sydney breakfasts, with poached eggs and avo! I also packed up all my belongings and surprisingly managed to squeeze it all in my bag before we went to catch the bus and train over to Milsons Point.
We met Gina at the entrance to the North Sydney Olympic Pool, a.k.a. the swimming pool with the most iconic, unbelievable views in the world, across Sydney Harbour, the Bridge, Opera House and so on! The pool itself is 50m, like all the open air ones here and was also slightly salty, but we didn’t let that stop us getting our swim on in the sun. After an approximate half hour of serious swimming, we moved over to the recreation area and soaked up some last rays before I headed back to the sub-zero temperatures back home.
Once showered and changed, we hopped on a ferry across the harbour to the iconic Opera Bar for lunch. That said, Gina couldn’t stay long as she had work and so a very sad goodbye had to be said. Who knows when I’m next going to see Gins?! But I love that she showed me Sydney living so well and love her. That’s when leaving Australia and my beautiful girls really hit.
Kitty and I enjoyed a prawn, calamari and sweet potato fries lunch and then wondered down Circular Quay to our bus stop. Along the way we bumped in to Tom and Rory, again, who had missed their early bus up to Byron the night after I saw them in Soda Factory (clearly some drunk things never change!). It was so nice to end Oz seeing two people I’d also ended New Zealand with.
Back in Randwick, we had a quick turn around before the airport bus so I packed my last few bits and said goodbye (and a ‘look after Kitty’) to Josh and we set off. Kit was accompanying me to the airport because she’s awesome. One hour later and we were there, checked in and standing by security. And that’s when the tears started – even from me, we expect it from Kit! She had been so amazing to house me whilst in Sydney, spend her days doing touristy things with me and provide the best company and girl time.
Entering the gate, my mood was sombre, although lifted when Bea came to join me at the airport as she was also flying out that evening. Boarding the plane, my mood was even lower knowing I had 36 hours of travelling still ahead of me! But there we go, Australia complete. And oh my gosh, how awesome was it!?
So, 72 days now in to ‘life from a bag’ and I have ticked off two major Australasian countries, spent the holidays with my best friends having the best time, laughed my way through the funniest birthday of my life with Em and even get to look forward to a quick two-week break back home before I continue the adventures in South America. And you know what I’ve learnt? I’m genuinely the luckiest person in the world to have all these amazing people, opportunities and experiences in my life.
Peace out Oz.