A holiday in a holiday
23.12.2013 - 02.01.2014 30 °C
If you are new to this Blog then you may be thinking why do they need a holiday, they have just spent the past 6 months travelling around. If you are an avid Blog fan, you will know that we have been travelling at a fairly fast pace, trying to cram as much into our trip as possible, and quite frankly we are shattered, so we warn you now this edition is not the most riveting we have written - mostly because we didn't really do much!
So why choose Sydney for our break. Firstly, we have been before and LOVE it here, secondly because we have been before, we don't need to worry about rushing around to see all of the sights and touristy things as we did them last time, and finally where better is there in the world to celebrate New Year's Eve than in Sydney Harbour!
For the first four nights we had treated ourselves to a very nice apartment in the centre of the CBD so we could fully relax and make it feel as special as we could.
Our first night was 23 December, which as many of you may know is when Nick and I celebrate our Christmas normally as it coincides with with half year anniversary (I know that may sound strange, but it works for us!). We had already booked a table at our favourite restaurant in the city which we fell in love with when we were in Sydney in 2010. Pony lived up to our memories, located in the heart of The Rocks area of the city within spitting distance of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House and we enjoyed a delicious dinner of juicy steak and rhubarb crumble and chocolate mouse cake for dessert - yummy!! It was a lovely evening and our Christmas present to each other.
On Christmas Eve we did a free walking tour of the city which was excellent. It was really informative and took us to loads of places in the city we had not seen before (like the Queen Victoria Building which is now an upmarket shopping arcade) and giving us information we did not know about places we had! We still love doing these tours and were so glad we found it.
Christmas Day was a very lazy one! We enjoyed a champagne breakfast of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon before Skyping my Mum and Dad. We then thought it would be a nice idea to go for a stroll, but not only was it raining, Sydney seemed to be open for business as usual?? Most shops were open, all of the restaurants and cafes were packed and it just didn’t feel like Christmas! We retreated to the comfort of our apartment and spent the rest of the day watching Christmas movies, eating cheese and biscuits and then Skyping Nick’s family and friends later in the day.
Boxing Day was the Australian release of the second in the new Hobbit trilogy and we couldn’t resist the temptation to go and see it! The rest of the day was spent sat in Hyde Park soaking up the gorgeous weather which had come back to Sydney!
On 27th, we had to check out of our apartment and move into a hostel near the train station. First impressions of the YHA Railway Square were not great when the rude staff wanted us to pay to store our luggage with them as our room was not ready (we didn’t and dropped it back off at the apartments concierge!), before, you guessed it sitting in Hyde Park again for the day doing nothing and stopping for a pint in Happy Hour!
That night we had arranged to meet my friend from work, another Charlie and her husband Darryl, who goes to Sydney every year for Christmas and New Year. It was so lovely to see a familiar face and the four us spent the evening chatting away. It was also great going out with someone who knew the city so well as it meant we got to go to some really nice pubs, one which had a roof terrace with amazing views over Circle Quay and the Opera House. We also got to try the Coat of Arms Pizza (which we had heard about on our walking tour) which has Kangaroo on one side and Emu on the other - it was delicious!! Thank you Charlie and Darryl for treating us!!
Nothing interesting happened on the next two days. The weather was still glorious so we spent more time sitting in the park. We did mix it up though, this time opting for the Botanical Gardens down by Sydney Harbour. One evening though we did another free walking tour, this time of The Rocks which is the oldest part of Sydney. Even though it was the same company who we did the tour with a few days before, it was pants! No tip this time!! It did however mean that we could walk back via Darling Harbour and take in their firework show which they put on for free every Saturday night at 21:00 - it was brilliant and a good warm up for New Year's Eve!
Waking up to another beautiful sunny day (oh the hardship!), we jumped on the ferry over to Manly Beach on the northern side of the harbour. The ferry only takes about 30 minutes, but is well worth, although everyone else seemed to have the same idea as the beach was packed (see Dad there are other people here!) Another lazy day of sunbathing - this time on the sand ensued!
New Year’s Eve was set to be one we would always remember - not necessarily for the reason you are thinking though! The firework extravaganza you see on the tv over the harbour is the main reason we were in Sydney as Nick was adamant he wanted to see it in the flesh. We hadn’t realised quite what an ordeal it would be though!
We had already decided that we wanted to watch them from Mrs. Macquarie’s Point which is where you get that iconic view of the Opera House and Bridge. We had also already been warned that their would be about 17,000 other people with the same idea due to this being one of the few free spots open to the public, and that although the gates to the park officially opened at 10:00, the queue would start much earlier (it turned out two days earlier!).
Armed with bags of provisions we joined the enormous snaking queue at 08:30 and were informed there were roughly 5,000 already in front of us! We had never seen anything like it and had completely underestimated this! The next FIVE HOURS were spent in the queue in baking heat with no shade (apart from our tiny umbrella), slowly shuffling forward every couple of minutes.
Around 13:30 we made it through the security point at the park gates were our bags were checked in case we were trying to sneak in alcohol. They even made us open up and show them our pasta and salad and make us throw away our bottle of balsamic dressing as it was already open. This was slightly annoying as the people who were in the queue in front of us had spent the last five hours hiding their alcohol strategically throughout their stuff and got through with barely a glance! Typical!
Then the real fun began, attempting to find a spot left with a half decent view. Obviously all of the best spots with prime views (and no trees in the way) had gone hours ago, but we managed to find with where we could see all of the bridge and a small bit of the Opera House which was better than we thought we would get. We hunkered down guarding our borders against intruders and trying to not to pass out in the heat for the next 8 hours!
At 21.00 they put on a warm up firework display for families with young kids and to get everyone else in the mood, but it is obviously no where near as big or long as the main event.
By 23:30 it was dark and it had gotten a little chilly and the crowds had swelled. People had cottoned onto our decent vantage point and were trying to squeeze into every available gap - even if it was only a tiny patch of bare grass. At this stage though we gave up with towels, fearing we could loose our view completely if we did not stand up. As the clock ticked closer the crowd pushed forward in preparation but we managed to keep our view through it all.
The entire 17,000 strong crowd counted down from 10 before the sky erupted in a blaze of fireworks to celebrate. They were quite simply incredible! Apparently using 700 tonnes of explosives at a cost of AUD$5,000,000 it was absolutely worth our 18 hour ordeal for this 10 minute show!
Needless to say all of our pictures were pants so here are some of the official ones and a YouTube link to the highlights - enjoy!!
New Year’s Day and after not making it back to the hostel until 01:30, it was not an early start to the day. Nick was up about 10:30 and had just returned from the shower when his phone started to ring? Our friends were in the last 5 minutes before their New Year’s Eve countdown in the UK and wanted to Skype so we could all see it together - perfect! We got to do it twice!! It was great to see them, even though a few faces were missing.
The rest of the day was sadly not spent in the park (it was cloudy anyway!), but glued to the laptop figuring out a plan for our next stop; New Zealand. Should we hire a car, get a “bus pass” book onto a full 30 day guided tour (strangely the cheapest option!)? Annoyingly this decision took literally all day - I didn’t even get to go outside! It needed to be done though and we formulated a plan(ish) finally making it to bed about 23:00!
The past 5 weeks had been incredible! We had squeezed in so much, seen some stunning parts of Australia and had some amazing experiences we would never forget! We both wished we could have stayed longer. Our final day in Sydney (and in Australia) was brief. We were checked out by 09:30 and on the train to the airport by 10:00 to catch our plane to Auckland to begin our New Zealand adventures!