Sydney, Australia


Sydney has been a pleasant surprise.  For some reason, I have always had a fear of traveling to destinations with poisonous snakes.  I always said I would never go to Australia, but here I am, and I am in love with the city.  The beauty, the friendliness, the combination of casual and elegant, and the variety of activities makes it a very fun city to visit.  The architecture has probably been the biggest surprise.  Old European architecture is a huge delight to me.  There is a lot of that here, but mixed in are very modern skyscrapers and high rises.  The combination is quite unexpected, very pleasant, and a great place to travel with kids.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

After a quick morning in Queenstown, our family caught a 12:30 flight to Sydney.  Even though the lines were short, we ended up cutting it a little closer than we would have liked and ended up with meat pies (again) as our main source of lunch.  They were on the small side, but still loaded with calories.  I am hoping that all the walking we are doing is balancing out the high calorie, low veggie meals.

We arrived in Sydney at 1:30, after a 2 hour time change.  During customs inspections, we had to check the box that said we had touched farm animals, but all they ended up asking us was whether our shoes or clothing had any farm mud on them.  Between the washing machine we had in Te Anau and all the rain puddles we walked through, we were happy to be able to say that we thought we were clean.  Shortly after clearing customs, we arrived at our apartment on the 7th floor of Metro Apartments.  We dumped our stuff, and went out to see the city.

The Rocks Markets were our first destination.  There were a wide variety of stalls that had interesting wares, but when we came to the stand advertising barbecued kangaroo and crocodile skewers, we knew we needed to stop for a quick snack.  Unfortunately the crocodile was gone for the day, but the kangaroo was delicious!  Like beef, very tender, well seasoned.  It was fabulous!


After the markets, we decided to head down to the Opera House for sunset.  The colors the setting sun cast on the water and buildings were amazing.  The Opera House was quite impressive, although James decided that it looked like pistachio shells and that he wants to make a model of it when he gets home.  A bit later he made a slightly more grand comparison, saying, “It is like an oyster, opening its shell, revealing a beautiful pearl.”  I definitely favor the last one.  We looked to see if there was anything playing that both interested and made sense for our family, but didn’t find anything.

After the Opera House, everyone was famished from the time change, and a slightly too small lunch.  We saw a bunch of tourist trap restaurants and decided that we should just get our McDonald’s stop out of the way.  We try to visit at least once in every country to see what the local differences are like.  Looking at the menu, there didn’t appear to be anything super special.  I was mildly interested in the bacon jam burger, but really felt like a salad after too many meat pies.  After we ordered, we saw some people carrying so gigantic happy meal boxes.  It turns out that the Australia special thing is the “Family Box.”  We definitely should have gotten that instead.

We decided to try out a local church.  Hillsong is famous for the Christian music that they produce, so we thought the boys might enjoy going there.  As it turns out, their church service is very similar to a very loud Christian rock concert.  John loved it!  It was fun to go to once, but I can’t imagine doing that every week.  John disagreed and said that it would be the best thing ever if we went there every week.  I’m glad it made a good impression on him.

We got back to the apartment with two exhausted boys.  It took them less than a minute to fall asleep.

Monday, April 23, 2018


This was supposed to be our only day without high probability of rain, so when thinking about where to go, our family decided to head to Bondi Beach.  The boys didn’t mind and had tons of fun.  The sand was really nice, the perfect dampness and texture for building sculptures.  It was super soft and not too rocky in most places.


The boys spent most of their time playing in the waves, with brief interludes of becoming sand monsters.  Jeremy had a lot of fun watching them, and I got to sunbathe in peace.  I love listening to the sound of crashing waves, feeling the sun pop in and out of the clouds, and digging my toes into the sand.  So relaxing.


At lunch time, we headed up to town.  The boys were enamored with a falafel stand, but neither of them wanted it for the falafel.  John liked the sausages, and James the hamburgers.  On the other hand, Jeremy was very happy with a doner kebab.  Just next door, there were some nice Vietnamese spring rolls that looked delicious, so I was pleased to get those.  The boys were still a little hungry and asked for some ice cream.  Most of the ice cream stands seemed really expensive, so we were happy when we learned that McDonald’s had $1 cones that included a chocolate stick.  But then the boys saw the frozen coca-colas and decided that those looked much better.  That’s my kind of McDonald’s trip.

Next on our family trip itinerary was the costal walk.  It is a 6km (4 mile) walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach.  Definitely worth the effort!  The cliff top views are amazing.  The rock structures with hollowed out limestone were fascinating.  The beaches frequent.  Bondi Beach was definitely the best, but Coogee Beach appeared to be a close second.  Tamarama Beach was small and had a lot of surfer, but our guide book said that there are a lot of rip tides, so we didn’t go down to the beach.  Shark Point looked like it had a sheltered place for snorkelers.  It is also supposed to be a really interesting spot for experienced divers.  The kids were disappointed that we didn’t see any dolphins at Dolphin Point.


By the time we got to Coogee Beach, everyone was hot and tired.  The beach could have been fun, but we were beached out.  The frozen coca-colas the kids had at Bondi Beach sounded really good, but we ended up getting McSpiders instead.  So delicious!  Frozen sprite topped with ice cream.  Yum!

We headed back to our apartment, got cleaned up a bit, rested, then went out for another sunset walk by the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

We are feeling very happy that our apartment has a laundry machine.  It has been nice to get everything clean and ready for a few weeks without in-unit laundry.  We also spent some time repacking the bags, putting the wool sweaters away and bringing shorts and cooler clothes to the front.

We were a little sad that our oven was having some difficulty.  We picked up a pan of lasagne at the grocery store, but the oven was gas and we were having trouble getting it to ignite.  We decided to cook the lasagne in the microwave instead of risking blowing up the apartment building.  It was fairly nice, although a bit odd in that it did not have cheese, but had a béchamel sauce instead.  We decided to make our standard travel salad that requires 1 cucumber, 1 bell pepper, 2 tomatoes, and a little olive oil.  Dice the veggies, drizzle with olive oil, and if you have some, sprinkle with pepper.  The salad will keep a few days in the fridge, so sometimes I make enough for a couple of nights.  The left over olive oil can be used to cook eggs in the morning.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

This morning we decided to walk to Hyde Park.  We were planning on seeing the monument, but there was a film crew doing a special for Anzac Day, the Australian and New Zealand holiday that commemorates WWI, so we just walked around the outside and headed out.


We arrived at St. Mary’s Cathedral and toured the very beautiful interior.  The architecture was both simple and elegant.  The stained glass was beautiful.  The paintings depicting Jesus crucifixion very well done.  I enjoyed the cathedral as much as many that I have seen in Europe.


We continued on to the Art Gallery of New South Wales.  The European and Australian sections were quite nice.  I could have easily spent a couple of hours there, but the rest of my family has much less patience for dawdling.  I never like modern art, so there was no surprise that I wasn’t a fan of that section.  There was less aboriginal art than I was expecting, but it was interesting to get a glimpse of it.  The Asian art was run of the mill.  We are likely to see much better exhibits of this later in our trip, so we didn’t spend long on that floor.

Everyone except Jeremy was quite tired by this point.  We wandered by the Parliament buildings, then went towards the business district to find food.  There was a nice food court in a mall we wandered by, so John picked a hamburger place while the rest of us got Korean food.  My Kimchi Beef Rice Bowl was quite good.  The boys wanted another McSpider for dessert, so we made another stop, happy to sit a bit longer.


Next up was Chinatown.  I was a bit sad that we didn’t hold out for lunch there, as a lot of the restaurants looked very tasty.  We did stop by a bakery and I got one of the flaky pastries with a nut filling that I really like.  Jeremy wasn’t a fan.


We wandered by the Darling Harbour Children’s Playground, which John loved!  A definite stop for anyone with kids who like to climb.  We saw the Maritime Museum, but everyone was too exhausted to even want to go into the free sections of the museum, so we skipped it.  The original plan was to head to The Rocks Discovery Museum, but everyone was exhausted, so we crossed a bridge and went back to the apartment to rest instead.


Two hours later, everyone was feeling much better, and we went down to King Street Wharf to enjoy the sunset, then we went back to the Harbour Bridge to catch the last dregs of the sunset.  Beautiful!  I could easily go there every night to view the beauty.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

I was a bit tired when I woke up in the morning, so it took a little longer to pack up than it should have.  We finished off our eggs, muffins, and cantaloupe for breakfast, then checked out, storing our bags at the front desk.

Today is Anzac Day, the day Australia commemorates WWI.  There was a big parade just a few blocks from our apartment, so we spent some time watching the procession.  John enjoyed seeing the different military branches.  I really liked the various bands, my favorite being the ones that featured the Scottish bagpipes.  Since the main street was quite crowded, we followed the parade staging street to the Botanic Gardens and the boys enjoyed watching the various groups getting ready to march.

The Botanic Gardens were quite nice.  We first visited the Rose Garden, which was much more than roses.  I really enjoyed seeing the variety of flowers that grow well in Australia.  The birds have also been very interesting.  We have seen a ton of White Ibis birds.  After finishing the Rose Garden, we went to the Herb Garden.  The section on medicinal plants was quite interesting and James and I read almost every placard to learn more.


We continued towards the Opera House viewpoint and came across a pond.  We saw a couple of duckling eating eels and learned that even though the city drains the pond every once in a while and removes them, within a few weeks they come back.  The boys were quite fascinated by one that came by to say hi to them.  I think it was hoping for food and I was a bit concerned about the boys losing a finger, but it stayed in the water.


The gardens were setting up for a concert and we didn’t feel like taking the detour to the Opera House viewpoint, so we started back towards the city.


With only a couple of hours left before needing to catch our flight, we decided to get a quick lunch and try out the McFavorites Box, but were somewhat disappointed that it didn’t come in the gigantic box that we saw other people with on Monday.  I upgraded to the Bacon Jam burger and was quite pleased with it.  So much better than the burgers at home.  Our deal is that when we get to Asia, our McDonald’s consumption will go down drastically, but while there is nothing I am particularly excited about trying, the boys can have more say in what we eat.

We continued on to the Rocks and decided to go to the Discovery Museum.  If you like reading the history, the museum was quite interesting, but the displays themselves are a little boring.  The result was that I enjoyed the museum quite a bit, while every one else was happy to continue our walk.

Since we had a little time left over, we popped into the Museum of Contemporary Art.  I was hoping to be surprised and enjoy it, but as expected, it was full of modern art and I was relieved to be done with it.  If you like modern art, it is probably worth going to, but if you don’t, it is definitely skippable.

We continued our walk and saw some nice military vehicles set up for Anzac Day, then went to the apartment to pick up our bags.  We called an Uber car and headed out to the airport where we enjoyed some coffee.


On to Bali, Indonesia!

Keep reading our travel blog for more posts from our Gap Year!

Here are some more posts from this trip to Australia and New Zealand:

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