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.
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.
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.
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.
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