Tuesday, 5 August 2014

A Weekend in Sydney...

Sydney, oh Sydney - I am pining your famous qualities as I begin to write this post...

It's been a good 14 or so years since I have visited Sydney; maybe more. (Actually, definitely more but admitting that here makes me feel old so I will settle for fourteen years and make fake peace with that.)

Last time I admired your shining glories, I was visiting you on a business trip as a career woman with no children to speak of. I saw you by dazzling day and I saw lots of your sparkly nightlife with work colleagues and lots of wine.

You were fun!

Sydney has long been admired by the rest of Australia and certainly the world. She's a looker this city and there's no denying that. In a recent *World's Most Liveable City ranking, Sydney popped in at an impressive 7th place. Melbourne actually came first based on infrastructure, healthcare and education facilities, however...

Sydney definitely has the glamour of the duo. (We've always been a duo too, forever destined to nip at each other's heels.)

We were very recently invited to visit Sydney to enjoy a complimentary minibreak by the Cambridge Hotel. Here was an ideal opportunity to take a few of the kids to another city, which is really the most iconic Australian city in both our own country and in the eyes of the world. (Though as a Melbourner, it breaks my heart to admit that.)

A weekend in Sydney - What to do? Where to go? What to see?

My big kids were bubbling with excitement at the prospect and I think this picture I took on our flight there, says it all; I can see the excitement written all over my Daughter's face. (Even though she's a cool 14 year old who is struggling to contain it!)

The Cambridge Hotel, (our base for two nights), is centrally located in the heart of Sydney town - just a stone's throw from trendy Oxford Street which is just throbbing with great shops, nightlife and restaurants. I love a hotel to be centrally positioned no matter where I am in the world for I am an on-foot traveller by choice. I like to walk everywhere as I think it gives you a much greater feel for your 'place.' (Plus there's always a need to work off all that extra food and drink you tend to consume when travelling.)

 A comfortable bed and room with fantastic views of an impressive city
We arrived in Sydney on a Saturday at noon having opted for a late morning flight. I was travelling with a toddler in addition to my two eldest and hoping to work within baby's natural rhythms to make the travel part easy on myself. By the time we settled into our room in the early hours of the afternoon, we were already tired. Airports and travel seem to do that to you. We weren't up to much on day one as a result but that didn't make it the least bit un-fun for these travellers.
On this first afternoon, we set about discovering our surrounding area. We took a stroll along Oxford Street and had a look at the shops, the people and ate pizzas at a café before deciding that we were a bit pooped and ready to head back to base. 
Admittedly the weather was a bit off on the weekend we visited. Everybody seemed to want to make a point of it too:
"Where are you visiting from? Melbourne?"
"...Oh, shame the weather is so uncharacteristic! here!"
"You've brought the Melbourne weather with you!"
It must have been a fairly long stroll on day one. By the time we returned to our room, sunset was happening and it was a truly, lovely view.
Here's an even better one (thanks to the mini-bar!)
A nice chardonnay, a beautiful city...(Only half of my children with me - Heaven!)
Day two was our big day out in Sydney and I had been sketchily planning it on the internet in the week prior to our visit.
Cram in as much as possible was my basic mission for this day. 

Filling Cutie-Patootie with a decent breakfast so that we could hit the ground running for the day.
Armed with a city map provided by our hotel, we set out for Central Station a short 10 minute walk away with Circular Quay as our ultimate destination. Being the lousy map reader that I am and faced with the crazy network of streets that Sydney is laced with, it didn't take us long to get lost. Naturally I took a very wrong turn and headed in the opposite direction. A Sydneysider soon put us on the right path but by the time we found Central Station, we'd lost a good 40 minutes of our day. You can never really lose time travelling however, it's just all part of the fun.

If you are planning to visit Sydney and like to make your own way like me, (even if it is the wrong way), I just have to throw in a mention here of the fantastic 555 bus service. This is a free service bus for tourists, (and any local crazy enough to cram on as well) and it will take you on a never-ending loop around some of Sydney's most desired tourist locations and attractions. Think of it as the equivalent of Melbourne's City Circle tram.

The 555 bus was jam-packed on each journey but we managed to squeeze in with a fully assembled stroller and still score a seat or two here and there. This is definitely worth doing if you are too freaked out to work out the city's public transport ticketing or locations for that matter. No ticket required as it's all entirely free. No stress either; the bus will take you to plenty of Sydney's most popular locations. (No images for the bus sorry - it was just too full to take one!)

Another mention here too, regarding public transport in Sydney in general - it is so user friendly. There is a special Sunday deal for families - the Family Funday Sunday which sees travel on pretty much the entire city's public transport network set at a tiny $2.50 per person! Catch any bus, train or ferry anywhere for any amount of time. What a brilliant system! No need to pay for expensive tours.

This transport scheme is impressive and so forward-thinking. Sydney's public transport network is booming, regular and extensive and I really felt it left Melbourne's in the dark.

(Oops. Playing the comparison game again.)

All the exhaustive groundwork paid off when we arrived at Circular Quay - home to The Opera House, lavish views of Sydney Harbour, that bridge, The Rocks and those enviable ferries.

There's little need for words is there? The pictures, despite the weather, do all the talking. No matter where you are in the world, you know what you are looking at. I did learn that there are 1,056,006 tiles in gloss white and cream hues on the roof of this amazing and quite freakish structure. It is baffling to view with its peaks jutting in every direction.

A general word of advice when visiting Circular Quay: Do not feed the highly urbanised Seagulls. As innocuous as these little Gulls appear, they are very much like the birds depicted in the kids' movie Finding Nemo.

My Daughter fed a single chip to a single bird and from there on we were harassed. Don't be fooled; this picture does not capture the extent of it - it's a pre-feeding shot. (I thought they were a bit cute and all.)

Seagulls stalked us; snatched food from our hands; people were taking pictures...it could have been horrible if it weren't so funny!
After finally fleeing the Gulls, next on the agenda was a ferry ride. No visit to Sydney is complete without one. We chose Manly as a destination since a ferry was conveniently docked and already taking passengers. Taking any ferry ride in Sydney comes highly recommended. Make the most of that gorgeous Harbour even on a dull day. Pick a route that gives you the best views of an icon from the water. (Take your pick of icons too, there's plenty of them.)
I will always cherish this image!
It is on the ferry rides in particular where I think Sydney's beauty really shines through. Sydney's look is like an Australian version of Rio de Janeiro with the cosmopolitan feel of San Francisco. (Rio is one of my favourite places in the world - it's a big compliment I am giving here.)
Approaching Manly, rough waters made the ferry really rocky and it was great fun! If we'd had more time, I would have taken lots of ferry rides around Sydney's suburbs. Easy and cheap sightseeing.
Despite the weather we had an ice cream stop in Manly before a stroll around the shops and a visit to the beach. It was really cold and blowing a gale here so we didn't stay long. The fun of a ferry ride back in the wind was too appealing.
 ...And the sun shone for a brief 10 minutes on our return to Circular Quay.
Next we hit The Rocks where some of Sydney's oldest buildings dating back to the 1840's are located. They are well preserved and truly beautiful. Modern Sydneysiders celebrate their existence by gracing them with a permanent Artisan market. There are hundreds of sellers and they all have the most beautiful of wares - from gourmet nougat to children's fairy dresses, (I wish I had bought one now!) and regular Australian handcrafted keepsakes and souvenirs.
Head to The Rocks for some serious shopping and culture plus loads of tourists.
Dinner on our final night was at a small but elegant modern Thai restaurant just around the corner from our hotel. We chose to eat at Nua Exotic Thai on Crown Street. Crown Street is a convenient two minute stroll from the door of the Cambridge Hotel and is a bustling dining strip in its own right.
We had such a fantastic weekend and adventure in Sydney and send a big thanks to the fabulous Cambridge Hotel for our complimentary stay.
I very highly recommend a stay here for your next visit to Sydney. It is in the perfect location for  accessing greater Sydney and Sydney is great. I am missing her already.
Cambridge Hotel
212 Riley Street
Sydney NSW 2010
Toll Free 1800 251 901
Tel: +612 9212 1111
 Recent posts on Six Little Hearts:
If you had only two days to experience Sydney, what would you do?
If you're a Sydneysider - what did we miss?
*World's Most Liveable City ranking is based on the results of one poll. There are several.
Linking up for IBOT


  1. Looks like you had such a great time. Travelling with a toddler is always "fun"!

    1. Oh we did! I wish I was back there too. The toddler was a challenge on the plane but otherwise, she was a gem.

  2. Glad you had a great time, and sorry the weather wasn't better!

    1. Thank you Lydia. I have seen Sydney sparkling in the sun in the past. It would have been so special to show off her true glamour to the kids. Never mind...next time!

  3. Great read and photos. I love Sydney, it's the prettiest of cities but for some reason I could never imagine myself living there unless I won tattslotto and could buy a beautiful house on the water in Double Bay!!

    1. How lovely would that be?! I must admit, that's all I could think about as we passed all those waterside properties on the ferry. Who are these people and how did they get so rich?!

  4. Oh wow...Australia...to me it seems crazy exotic! It made me laugh that people thought you had brought the weather with you and all of the comparisons between Sydney and Melbourne! My brother went to Sydney and he loved it so much he still dreams of living in Australia!

    1. Holly, our nation's capital Canberra came about because Sydney and Melbourne had a brawl about who should get the honour! Canberra is in between both cities!
      I glad your Brother loved it here much. I wouldn't mind going where you're from - far more exotic in my mind :D

  5. Perfect timing on your post for me - I am thinking about a trip to Sydney with the family to celebrate my 40th and was wondering what there would be to do! Now I know.

    1. Happy Birthday to you! What a great present. I like to travel on the cheap so I am glad my post helped you. Definitely do those tourist buses - it really takes the pain out of the whole navigation thing.

  6. This makes me want to visit sydney! I've been a few times for events, but apart from a school trip 16 years ago (that makes me feel old), I've never really gone for the sights.

    1. Jess, get on over there! It has really grown in that time (the 14 years since I have been), I was quite amazed by just how much. Sydney looks more appealing than ever...I want to go back! Shame they took away the Monorail though :( I loved it.

  7. I love visiting Sydney and wish I could get there more often. Thanks for the memories that you brought back for me !!!
    Have a wonderful week !
    Me xox

    1. I wish I could get anywhere further than my kitchen or laundry more often. A visit to Sydney with half of my family was glorious!

  8. I love going to Sydney. Can't wait till my cherubs are older to take them down there for a visit.

    1. Might run into you there - I can't wait to do the same. I came back with grand ideas of moving there!

  9. I love Sydney! Not just because Hayley was conceived there. We are planning on going back next year for the Easter show.

  10. It looks like you guys had an absolute ball! My partner is from Sydney and he wants to make the trip back there with us so he can show Mr 5 where he grew up.

  11. You guys really made the most of it and had a fabulous time by the looks of it. I feel very lucky to live in Sydney I must say and I NEVER get tired of it. Did you know that I didn't even know about the 555 bus - thanks for the tip xxx

    1. I am a public transport user from way back though I haven't used it at all for years in Melbourne. It's always the way - you never really know your own area as well as a tourist. It's a seriously busy bus - don't expect to see out of a window!

  12. Sounds like you had a great time. We visited Sydney last September for three nights and had a ball. Such a beautiful city with so much to offer.

  13. Looks like you had a great time!! Being a local we tend to take all these things for granted, I'ts lovely to see them through another's eyes :)

  14. Oh shame about the weather... I was in Sydney a couple of years ago with my son for a once-off special day to see the Harry Potter exhibition. Having heard the monorail was not for long (boo!) I made sure we included a circuit. When I looked over my shoulder from the window-gazing I saw that the boy had been stuck to his DS for probably the whole time!! Grrr. #teamIBOT

    1. LOL!
      We were planning to visit that same exhibition being the Potter-crazed fans we are. If my boys' had their DS's with them, the exact same thing would have happened! Glad you enjoyed the monorail. What a shame it's gone now.

  15. What a great trip! I love Sydney and it's been a few years since we were there for a holiday. I agree with you, you get so much more out of a city when you are exploring on foot.

  16. Oh, it looks chilly. Glad you had a lovely time in 'my' city :) Great pics!

  17. What a wonderful time you had! Sydney is my hometown (and my husband's) and I'm feeling a little homesick now looking at all those photos . I only live and hour and a half away now but life gets centred where you live and like you with your holiday, it's generally a special occasion that draws me there.My husband commutes there for work so doesn't see it as a relaxing jaunt so much :( Ironically I visit your Melbourne more than I do Sydney- I love Melbourne

  18. Looks like you guys had an awesome time and you were even in my end of the woods... well close enough - Manly. Yep Sydney, she is a stunner xx


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