The New South Wales Department of Education and Training invited exchange teachers to Sydney Friday, February 17th for a one-day workshop, so we booked a hotel room and decided to stay the weekend and explore the city! Everyone was pumped!
Our day started off with a bang, as the alarm clock did not go off as planned! I awoke with a start at 5:55PM – our train to Sydney was leaving at 6:30AM! That meant a mad rush to get everyone dressed, teeth brushed and out the door by 6:20AM to drive to the train station in Blackheath. Luckily the bags and breakfast had been packed the night before!
The quick start was rewarded with a slow, leisurely train trip into the downtown. We enjoyed our breakfast and the view from the upper level of the train. Train travel in Australia is so civilized! Trains depart regularly, even from the top of the Blue Mountains! And for less than $8.00 we can travel to downtown Sydney in roughly 2 hours.
Once downtown, we found the location of the workshop and left Matt with his fellow exchange participants, and the kids and I hooked up with Wilma and Robyn (former Australian exchange participants) for a guided walking tour of the city. We started at the Customs House and walked “on top” of Sydney! They have a full-scale model of the city under glass on the floor, so you can literally walk on top of the city!
Our tour continued into the famous Rocks area near the harbour, and after a quick stop at a souvenir shop, we were at the base of the steps to climb up and walk along the Harbour Bridge. The day was perfect for walking, and we were amazed at the awesome views from the bridge. Cohen loved the water taxis and boats below! We walked the full length of the bridge and back again with only minor whinging and lots of snacks. We meandered back through the Rocks and then had lunch at Circular Quay.
Following lunch, we walked over to the Opera House in the harbour and then enjoyed a leisurely afternoon in the Botanical Gardens in downtown Sydney, where we saw flying foxes (massive bats), eels in the ponds, a photo art exhibit on Lake Eyre, a succulent garden, climbed a few trees, and had an ice cream before heading back to meet Matt at 3:30.
Matt enjoyed meeting fellow exchange participants and the opportunity to talk about the rewards and challenges of teaching in another country. It’s always refreshing to know that you are not alone and that your experiences can be similar to others.
We stayed the weekend at a great little hotel in Surry Hills, a block away from Oxford Street where there is some great shopping and eateries, and great scenery! The hotel had 1 bedroom and a pool – always a pre-requisite with kids!
On Saturday the kids were awake at 5:30! Go figure! They’re never up this early at home, but alas, it made for an early departure from the hotel room and meant we could pack more into the very hot and sunny day!
First stop – Circular Quay to catch the ferry to the world-famous Taronga Zoo! We could have spent the whole day on the ferry and the boys would have been happy – what a highlight that was! We got to the wharf at the base of the zoo and the next highlight was the cable car that takes you to the top of the zoo! The zoo is on the side of a hill in Sydney opposite the Opera House which means the animals have the best views in all of Sydney. And the zoo is designed such that you take the “Sky Safari” to the top and then make your way down the hill to the base of the zoo and the wharf.
What a fantastic zoo! This was my second visit and it was much more spectacular going with kids! The highlights were the snakes, baby elephants, the tigers, the ½ hour seal show, and the Tasmanian devils! We spent 4 ½ hours meandering through the zoo and the displays and had a picnic lunch right in the middle of the zoo and by the time we got to the bottom, everyone was exhausted!
But not too exhausted to take the ferry back and the bus down to Bondi Beach! The kids were amazed at the waves and spent close to 2 hours running in and out of the waves! Both Leina and Cohen got mouths full of salty water and Elijah spent most of the time running away from the water creeping up onto the beach. And Matt and I just enjoyed the eye candy!
We had a Thai dinner down on Campbell Parade before heading back on the bus to our hotel. And after a quick dip in the hotel pool to rinse off the last of the salt and sand, we all crashed as soon as our heads hit the pillow!
Sunday morning we checked out of the hotel and walked down to Darling Harbour for some play time in Tumbalong Park (a very large outdoor playground), and a walk through China Town, and Paddy’s Markets. We were meeting at Merril’s place for lunch in the Glebe, so we caught the bus up to that area of town just before noon.
Merril is the woman who I was a nanny for 15 years ago. She has moved from her sprawling home in Woollarha and now lives in another beautiful area of Sydney. We were welcomed into her stunning home for a scrumptious lunch of homemade salads, and bread and cheese and fruit platters. Merril’s oldest daughter Miranda came with her daughter Asha, and Miranda’s friend Liz. Merril had also invited her convivial neighbors Matt and Nicky and their two children. The wine and conversation flowed all afternoon and if it wasn’t for our 5:18 train back to Blackheath, we would have stayed all evening!
Sunday is ‘Family Funday’ in Sydney and surrounds, which means that for $2.50 per person an entire family can enjoy a fun day out with unlimited travel on Sydney’s buses, trains and ferries! It was a “Family Fun Weekend” for us, and the kids are already asking “when can we go back?!”