An Opera House and a Bridge. Sydney.

Tuesday 02 May 2018, Sydney, Australia.

Flying into Sydney from the east, from over the Tasman Sea on a sunny day is one of very few pleasures there is in travelling to Australia. The city is stunning from the air; the long sandy beaches, that glorious harbour surrounded on most sides by dark green bush, and by a not unattractive city on the other. Sydney is one of my favourite cities and I spent a bit of time there on various work and social trips in the past. I was looking forward to this very quick visit; less than 24 hours on the ground.

My original thinking was to spend two days here, see a few people and then hire a car and spend a further two days driving north to Brisbane. However, the cost of a rental car between cities was insane, so the plan was changed to a single night and a catch up with an old bestie.

I chose a mid-day flight from Auckland, missing the rush-hour Auckland madness, and the rushing, busy business folk heading to meetings ‘across the ditch’.

This dropped me into Sydney early on a sunny afternoon. There is now a train from (and to) Sydney Airport, something that did not exist when I used to visit in 90s, and it is a double decker!

Airport trains are the best things in the world for a traveller, and this one takes 20 mins to get to downtown Sydney. Brilliant, and my hotel is a five minute walk from the station. Someone thought the train was ‘Wack’, but not me.

This a glorious looking city, though the view from my hotel room is not the best, a bit like the view from my Auckland hotel.

I was meeting Nicole for a drink and dinner after her day at work. I had an hour to spare after I arrived so decided to go for a walk around the mid-town area. I used to know this part of town really well, but with so much building over the last 20 years, I hardly recognised the place, and immediately went the wrong way.

The old Grace department store was reopened as the Grace Hotel sometime in the 90s and I used to stay there as it was close to the office. It is still one of my favourite hotels, though it has been a long time since I stayed there. it was the first ‘posh’ hotel I stayed in.

George St Dymocks. I always love a good book store, and this was a perfect place to meet someone.

The Queen Victoria building, inside it is a premium brand mall. Not a lot of shopping from me, but the building is lovely and I have not been here for a very long time so it was worth a quick visit.

After a brief walk around I met Nicole for a drink and a meal in a very nice south Indian restaurant. The downtown area of Sydney has a lot more places to go out for a drink and a meal then I remember. The attitude to drinking, in this part of town anyway, seems to have changed from 20 years ago. There was a good vibe in the air for a Tuesday night, and I am really liking the feel of Sydney. Dinner was great, it was great to catch up with Nic. I haven’t seen her in a few years, so there was a lot to catch up on!

I was up early on Wednesday morning, deciding to get out for a walk before breakfast and my flight to Brisbane at lunch time. I took a wrong turn out of the hotel again (perhaps my north/south compass has finally aligned itself with the northern hemisphere?), either way it was a good option as I got to see a bit of downtown I would not have seen if I had headed straight to the Opera House, which was my final destination.

Heading through the back of ‘The Rocks’ area I discovered a small remaining section of ‘old Sydney’, old terraces and a sandstone church that have so far survived the rampant and hungry bulldozers of developers. It was really nice. For a busy, tower-ridden downtown, Sydney does not feel too crowded, though there are a lot of tall buildings, there is some sky and some air. These streets just behind downtown, quite empty early in the morning, seemed like I was a million miles away from the centre of a big city. Like a small rural backwater town.

Back down to the water front and I was confronted with another set of hoardings and more construction, the path around the ferry terminal was closed off to pedestrians as another waterfront something was being built. Construction is endemic, London, Auckland, Sydney. Someone should make a t-shirt. No unspoilt view of the bridge from here.

The sun was in exactly the wrong place for a ‘good’ photo of the Opera House, but meh; I like flare, so I was happy.

The public spaces along the harbour front are brilliant. That bridge. Those Ferries. That Opera House. All wonderful, all photogenic. The light was harsh, but who cares. Who would not be happy here, it was 8:00 am, the air was clear, it was warm with a nice sea breeze. Coffee shops everywhere, and people seemed to not be miserable. It was an enjoyable walk, especially for pre-breakfast.

Sadly I had a flight to catch so after walking round the Opera House I headed back up towards the hotel. Stopping for a really nice breakfast and coffee at an outdoor cafe, surrounded by construction and all the noises they bring. These polenta cakes were amazing!

Love Sydney.

Yay – off to New Zealand !

Sunday 02 February 2014 – Hong Kong / Sydney and Auckland, New Zealand.

Last week had finally seen some wintery weather arrive, a cold wind and rain made walking the streets of London on the first week after I finished work less fun than I would have liked. Though, I did make it out for a quick look at some street art and the purchase of a new record.

The great news for the week was meeting El at Camden tube station after she finished work on Thursday and heading off to Heathrow Airport to start a two week trip to New Zealand –  22 hours of flying to Sydney, with a lay-over in Hong Kong.

The first leg took eleven hours and was not too bad, the plane was only half full so we were not rammed in like sardines as usual. Service was good and the food and drink not too bad, though of course I did not sleep as much as I would have liked. We arrived in Hong Kong on time and were whipped off the plane and with a group of others taken aside and asked if we would like to be put on an earlier flight to Sydney – we did ! This meant only an hour of transit time – yay.

I had been to Hong Kong once before, in 2007, and did not have the best of experiences. No fault of Hong Kong’s, but I spent eight days of my five day trip in a private hospital with a serious bacterial infection of my liver. I am quite keen to go back there and see the city, it looks amazing, but there was no time on this trip to stop. I did snap a couple of photos out the window of the airport terminal. Good to see the smog has not left the city!

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The flight to Sydney was another nine hours, not as long as the first leg, but those hours really dragged and made the flight seem a lot longer. The plane was also very full which always make the flight less pleasant. It was a nice plane though.

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We arrived in Sydney two and half hours earlier than originally expected at 7:00 am, it was a bit of a haul though customs but we were soon out of the airport and on to the (very expensive) train to Circular Quay. We had a hotel in “The Rocks” area of downtown Sydney and were very fortunate to be able to get in to our room so much before normal check in. After twenty four hours of travelling a shower was definitely top priority.

We had heard that the view from the roof was pretty cool so we headed up there before we left for a walk. El ha has not been to Sydney before, but as we only have twenty four hours we wanted to focus on the harbour area.

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Apparently sunrise over the opera house was well worth the early rise, but there was a very large cruise liner between us and it, hopefully it leaves before then.

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We went for a walk around the opera house and over to the botanical gardens when we got a call from El’s Sydney friends and we arranged to meet them in Manly where they were having lunch, which worked for us as we were heading over there later in the day to visit my friend Nicole.

I love the ferry ride to Manly, one of the best harbour crossings, it has great views of both the Opera House and the harbour bridge and on a great day it just a magic trip. It was a great day.

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We had a very nice lunch with El’s old London friends, Mel and Ian and then shared a bottle of bubbles with Nicole before heading back over to the city side in the late afternoon. We were both knackered after the flight and feeling the effects of jet lag and no sleep. It was great to be able to catch up with Mel and Ian and Nicole in one of Sydney’s best locations, plus get to see the harbour all in one go. Stupidly I did not take any photos in Manly, though I did get a few when I was there last year.

We had a walk around the harbour side for half an hour and then meandered back to the hotel to try and get some sleep in, before getting up at 5:45 for the sunrise at 6:15. The cruise liner had left while we were out.

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We had a reasonable amount of sleep, but I was definitely a bit thick in the head when we got up on time for the sunrise. It wasn’t particularly spectacular, but it was pretty and I am glad we got up for it.

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After a monster breakfast in the hotel (well, I had a monster breakfast) we took a cab to the airport, it was only slightly more expensive than the train – and so much easier! We had a late-morning flight to Auckland that was frustratingly delayed, though not by much. With the time difference we did not arrive almost 6:00pm. The airport was busy and it took ages to get out, which was annoying. Auckland airport always seems to be a slightly different configuration each time I fly in, and this one didn’t work at all well – massive bottle neck at customs….

My sister picked us up and we drove up to my mum’s where the whole family were waiting to join us for tea. I was very happily surprised to see my daughter was there, she arrived back in New Zealand for Christmas with her BF and I was not expecting to see them until next week. It was great to see all three “children” together in one place for the first time in over five years. They are lovely !

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It was wonderful to see my family again, and introducing El to them was a wee bit nerve wracking, for everyone I suspect, but it all went well and it was a nice evening. Two weeks will seem like a very short time I think.

Street Art – Sydney

Some of the street art I spotted on a quick trip to Sydney, Australia.

Most of the art was found in and around the main street of Newtown, though the first three are from Manly.

I am not entirely sure of the order that WordPress uploads photos, the bulk were inserted into the post in one go, and the order seems entirely random to me, I guess there is some science to it !

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This mural is the most well known and has been here since 1991. I really like the next image as well, which was painted on the next wall, they go so nicely together and I really like the message.

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I really liked how this door had been hung upside down 🙂


There were a whole series of large monochrome photos on some walls as part of an old exhibition, though most had been badly torn – I kinda liked the effect though.

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Yes I was here, I was never her though!


A few days in Sydney

Sunday  – Tuesday 12 – 14 May 2013 – Sydney

I was not up too early on Sunday, I took half a pill as I was desperate for a sleep and it was really noisy sleeping so close to the street, the half a pill made no difference sadly and I was still feeling tired – my state for most of the Sydney weekend.

The weather was as fabulous as yesterday which was fine by me as today we were taking a trip into Newtown, one of Sydney’s inner suburbs and a bit of walking around was planned.

I walked up Manly beach again to Nicole’s place and snapped a shot up both ends of the beach. You can see why people live here !



And this is not a bad way to get to work in the mornings either!


Newtown has a bit of street art and some cool shops and is one of very few Sydney suburbs I could happily live in. It is also the scene of some very drunken evenings with Australian work colleagues back a couple of decades. Especially here…




The street art was pretty cool and there was plenty of it around, I will put some more up on another post, but I particularly liked this.


This mural is one of the better known and oldest ones, painted in 1991.


Next to this, and a more recent addition is this mural, which makes the first more poignant.


We walked around for a couple of hours before meeting one of Nicole’s Sydney friends, Azra. She showed us a bit more street art before we stopped for lunch and a wine in the sun. Soon it was time to head back to Manly for the evening – much as you don’t want to, you have just got to love that harbour bridge…


On Sunday evening we met up with Nicole’s friend Aaron in one of the Manly pubs, Manly has all been tidied up since I last visited in the mid-nineties and the old pubs are quite nice now. Sydney even has a decent range of micro-brewery beer as well, a huge step up on my last visit, though I stuck to wine and seemed to drink a wee bit more than my share. Loved this cider product from lunch.

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Nicole had taken Monday off work and wanted to take a car for a drive up to the beaches north of Manly. She had not driven since arriving in Manly at the end of last year and wanted to have a wing man for the first attempt. Go Get is a car rental company with a difference, I have never heard of this before, but apparently there is a similar model in London, so I guess I am just behind the times. To use Go Get you sign up on-line and get sent a swipe card that unlocks the cars. Cars are left scattered all over the city so to use one you just book a car, find where it is parked and swipe yourself in. When you are finished you park it and let them know where it is. I have no idea how it is charged though! A great idea as the car was just round the corner!


The morning broke cloudy and was a little cool as I walked up the beach towards Nicole’s place.


We had breakfast before finding the car and heading out of Manly up the coast. We drove up to Palm Beach where we spent a couple of hours walking around and in my case, drinking a damn good coffee. Palm Beach is better known to fans of the (truly awful) soap ‘Home and Away’ as Summer Bay.




We had a great morning out, Nicole’s driving was not too scary:) and we made it back to Manly in one piece! I found this as we parked the car, an oldie but a goodie.



I had a major lie in on Tuesday morning and left my hotel at the last possible minute at 10:30. Nicole was at work for the day but I had made plans to catch up with a couple of other friends in Sydney, starting with an old recruiting/mountain biking buddy Michelle – who also happened to live in Manly.

I was then on the ferry over to Sydney city where I dumped my pack at Nicole’s office and then walked up town to meet with Winnie, an old colleague for lunch in the park.


One the way I walked through St Marten’s Place.


And past the under-renovation town hall. I love how the building has giant pictures over the bits being worked on. I have never seen this before and think it is a absolutely fabulous idea and I would love to see it elsewhere. Downtown Sydney is pretty cool – well warm, but cool all the same.


After lunch I walked around the Museum of Contemporary Arts.


Visiting artist Guan Wei was painting this mural “The journey to Australia” in the foyer, I really liked it – along with his other smaller works in the museum.


There was a really good exhibition of photos from Canadian Jeff Wall in the museum and the space was just massive, a wonderful venue.


It is impossible to visit Sydney on a sunny day without being lured across Circular Quay to the iconic Sydney Opera House. The building is just so cool it is irresistible !



And that was pretty much it.

I had a final catch up with Nicole for dinner at the uber popular Jamie’s Italian restaurant, the food was fabulous and I would have liked to have lingered and enjoyed the food slowly over a wine or two but the airport and my flight/s to London were calling.

I had a fabulous time in Sydney, Manly and Newtown were cool spots to visit and it was great to spend some time with Nicole again. till next time !!

Needing some sun – off to Sydney

Saturday 11 May 2013 – Sydney

I was up very early for my flight to Sydney, I stayed at mums for my last night in NZ and she gave me a ride out to the airport which was much appreciated. I have my normal backpack and a massive suitcase that is just heaving with stuff I ‘need’ in London – though I did manage to sneak a small bit of vinyl in there. I guess it means I will have to buy a turntable in London 🙂

Through good planning I met my bro-in-law Allan, whose house I had been staying in, at the airport as he returned from a work trip to Perth. It was a nice change to share coffee with someone and it was nice to be able to thank him and wish him farewell.


Though Air New Zealand seems to have gone ‘low cost’ on the route to Sydney the flight to Sydney was a good one, we arrived early and by some miracle both my bags were together on the baggage carousel and I was on the train into town before the scheduled arrival time! With further immaculate timing I jumped straight on a ferry at Circular Quay and off to my final destination – Manly, in record time.

It was a glorious day in Sydney, much as I love Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour, Sydney Harbour on a great day has to be the best in the world. I had a great view of the bridge and sat outside on the deck for the entire thirty minute ride.


One of my closest and most treasured friends, Nicole, now lives in Manly and there was no way I was going to make a trip to New Zealand without spending a few days here. I have booked myself into the Manly Beachfront Apartments and have the budget room – I think there is only one of those. It is right on the street and is approximately one foot larger than the bed. However, it was cheap for Manly and that was all that mattered, though I had to pay extra for wifi which always annoys me! It’s location over the road from Manly beach is just perfect and sort of makes up for the cost.

Once I had dumped all my stuff in my room we took a walk around town, had some lunch and walked up to Shelly beach for a coffee.

I really liked all these cast figures on the rock wall alongside the path.

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Manly is a stunning town, I can see why Nicole (and everyone else) lives here, twenty minutes on the ferry from the centre of Sydney, yet it is a small slice of paradise here. We had a walk around then I went back to my hotel for an afternoon nap. Once refreshed I walked up the beach side to Nicoles place, stopping to watch these guys play volley ball as the sun set.

We had dinner and a couple of wines at one of the local cafes, before saying an early good night and I went and crashed back at the hotel. The two hour jet lag between NZ and Sydney always mucks me around.

It was a good day, good to be on the way back to London, good to relax and enjoy some sun and good to see Nicole again.