Our trip to Sydney, Australia was our furthest trip from home to date. It was also our last chance to take trips outside of school vacation. In the Netherlands, once children reach the age of 5, it is compulsory that they go to school, and it is illegal to take them off school outside school vacations, unless you get a special permission.
So we took the 24-hour flight plunge and headed down south. Leaving Amsterdam in the middle of winter, we arrived in Sydney into a warm sunny morning.
Where we stayed:
We stayed the first two nights in downtown Sydney, staying at the Sydney Intercontinental Hotel, just a minute walk from Circular Quay, where all the ferries coming from and going to all areas of Sydney. The quay itself is a hub of activities. Aside from commuters, it’s always full of joggers, buskers, street performers, snack carts, tourists walking around trying to get the best view of the Sydney Opera House, and people generally enjoying themselves. It’s surrounded by restaurants, and within walking distance to Sydney’s busiest center. It was the best base to see Sydney, but after 2 nights, we moved out of the city center, into the suburban town of Mosman, where we rented an apartment by its local beach: Balmoral Beach.
Life in Balmoral beach is much more laid back. The beach was 2 minutes walk down the hill, and the town center 15 minutes away by bus up very steep hill (the reason we took the bus instead of walking).
The apartment was not air-conditioned, and it was high summer, but fortunately not the heatwavey kind of summer. We let the windows wide open, which invited its own problem, as we discovered cockroaches flying into the house and my daughter finding a spider the size of an adult’s palm sitting on her bedroom’s curtain. Yup, we’re definitely in Australia.
What we ate:
The highlight: crocodile pizza at the Australian Hotel in Sydney.
While we’re in Mosman, we mostly spent our time at the beach, and survived on the beach’s fish and chips shop. But when we did go out to eat, Sydney and vicinity have a lot of excellent Asian restaurants, especially Korean and Japanese, which we (including the Kid) loved.
I never had banana bread before I went to Sydney, and it became my favourite breakfast while I was there (and still is now, but I would have to make it myself).
What we did:
After we moved out of downtown Sydney, we were practically living the beach life. Balmoral beach was a pretty local beach with a lot of activities buzzing about, but never too crowded. There are shark nets surrounding the swimming areas, so you know the kids (and yourself) are safe. One thing you need to be careful of are the oyster growing on the rocks. They are sharp and one needs to take care not to step on them when they are submerged in shallow water (a lesson we learned after the Kid came running out of the water crying with small cuts on her feet).
For the first time, the Kid found that she had a use for her English. She is fluent in Dutch and English, but by then had never had the chance to use her English with other children. In Australia, she was delighted to find there are other kids who spoke the language, with whom she could play with.
When we could peel ourselves away from the beach, we took the time to go to the Taronga Zoo, because only in Australia you get to see all the collection of the weird and wonderful antipodean creatures. The zoo itself was quite vast, set on a slope, with entrances on both ends, so it’s a good idea to start at the top and walk all the way down. There are also cable cars that can take you all the way up or down.
We mostly go around with public transport, but we were also fortunate to have several friends who generously drove us around in Sydney sometimes, and they have kids who played with our daughter too. It one of those special trips where after a while we actually started to feel like one of the locals; we had a regular place to hang out around, friends to socialise with, the actual locals are very friendly and approachable, and we felt no rush to do anything specifically touristy. In fact, I love it in the sense that I could picture myself living there.
I would love to see other parts of Australia some days. My dream would be to spend several months doing a road trip around Australia. Tricky part is how to get the Kid out of school that long without facing the legal consequences when we’re back.