This was our first major vacation. The first of many we had planned for our adventures on this side of the world. Looking back, I do wish we would not have chosen a location that was so far away for our first big vacation, but as you’ll soon find out we go big or we go home.
Planning started 10 months before the trip, pretty much right after the assignment was official. Our original plan was to spend as long as we could in Sydney over the Christmas/New Years break at school, which was almost 3 weeks. We ended up choosing to leave right after Christmas so we could celebrate as a family in Mumbai…and make sure that Santa didn’t miss our temporary relocation. This left us with 10 days, including travel.
After looking at places in Sydney we quickly noticed that this time of year was what they called the ‘ Silly Season’. The pricing on hotels were elevated accordingly. Having tried an Airbnb earlier in the year we decided to see if that would be an option. The main benefit of an Airbnb, at least for us, was that we could get an entire apartment with separate rooms and not be packed into a single hotel room for over a week. Looking to stay away from casualties here…. We ended up finding a spot just on the north side of the harbor in Manly New South Wales.
The location worked well with recommendations we received about getting away from the hustle and bustle of the busy Mumbai environment. From here we spent the next several months looking at flights, getting things booked, and planning out our week. After flights were booked we took a break but then picked back up with planning each day. As expected, although we planned out each day we didn’t really execute it the way we planned. We hit all the spots but made sure that the order worked with our sleep and hunger levels of the group. Highlights from our daily adventures are described below.
Day 1 – Thursday December 28th: Rest and Relaxation
We knew that the first day of our trip would be very hard to accomplish anything of note. So we planned a day of sleeping in and wandering around Manly. We slept until at least 10:30am, and didn’t leave the house until around noon. First stop was lunch and I had a few places mapped out that we wanted to hit. We stopped by this breakfast location called ‘The Girdler Cafe’. Your mother and I loved this place. It had fresh local coffee, farm fresh … well everything, and items on the menu made from real food. BUT…the banana and almond milk pancakes were not a hit among you three.
The next stop on our agenda was to check out ‘The Corso’, a short stretch of walking path that stretched between Styne and Espanade street. You kids quickly found the play place and proceeded to make full use of the attraction.
After checking out the local shops we made our way back to the apartment and got ready for the beach. This was the first time that all of you kids experienced the ocean. The salt water was not very welcome, and the first person to get a mouth full of salt water was Johnathon. It happened during an attempt at boogie boarding, which I should note that was pretty much driven by me….so sorry buddy. Johnathon spent that next hour playing in the sand and spitting. It was great.
The day ended at a local pizza place ‘Beaches Pizza Bar’. The place was awesome. The service was great, and we were there early enough that the place was empty. We knew the day was successful when Christopher fell asleep at the table.
Day 2 – Friday December 29th: Sydney Sea Life Aquarium and Sydney Wildlife Zoo
For Day 2 we planned a memorable outing. We had been talking about the Ferry for months with you kids and today was the day that we dove in. The process was obviously foreign to your mother and I, but we figured it out. Johnathon was such a help on this trip, and I was very proud. He spent the most time looking at maps and really trying to help the family get through our adventures. I was a proud dad.
The Sydney Aquarium and Wildlife Sanctuary was an amazing adventure. I mean we got our picture with hungry Koalas. Both were located in the Barangaroo Wharf. We decided to take the ferry to Sydney and then walk our way from one side of the business district to the other. In hindsight it was much farther than we anticipated, but it gave you all a chance to run off some energy.
Day 3 – Saturday December 30th: Sydney Opera House & Botanical Gardens
On Saturday we decided to head back to the other side of the bay and walk around the Sydney Opera House and check out the Botanical Gardens. The process of getting down to Manly Wharf and hopping on the ferries was honestly old hat by now. Johnathon loved helping us find our way and reading signs. We embraced it.
The opera house was closed when we got there, but we honestly didn’t expect to go in. Especially with you three. The day was beautiful, but ridiculously hot. We walked around the opera house, getting several pictures of the amazing building. We did get inside to the souvenir shop, but they had all views of the inside roped off.
The botanical gardens are right next to the opera house, so we continued our adventure. Luckily for us they had drinking fountains all over the park, which helped with the heat. I must say that drinking out of a fountain still felt weird after living in India for 6 months.
The gardens were beautiful and there were a lot of workers preparing for the New Years festivities. We heard a range of numbers, but up to 30,000 people every year make their way down the Sydney Business Districts (SBD) to watch the fireworks. People start arriving before noon to get a good seat. We had tickets to watch the fireworks from Dudley Page Reserve which was located east of the SBD.
As you can tell, the day involved a lot of walking, and for the distance you all did great. We grabbed a quick lunch at the Botanic Garden Cafe, and headed back to the wharf. Dinner was back at Beaches Pizza Bar. What can we say, it was a great place.
Day 4 – Sunday December 31st: Beach and Manly Fireworks
Our plans for New Years Eve included laying low in Manly before heading to Dudley Page Reserve for the fireworks. We figured that we’d need to take a ferry, two trains, and a bus to get there. Originally that sounded acceptable, but we quickly decided that we didn’t want to have to take all three of you through all that at 1am on New Years Day. So…we extended our plan to lay low and attended the fireworks show in Manly. We could technically see the Sydney fireworks, but not very well. One great thing about this fireworks show is that they had a 9:30pm Family Fireworks shows and then a midnight show. We found Australia to be very kid and family friendly.
Day 5 – Monday January 1st: Bondi Beach
The decision to stay in Manly for the fireworks was debatably the best decision of the trip. But, since we had planned day 5 to be sleeping in and doing nothing we decided to make our way to Bondi Beach. I mean we already planned out the transportation routes to get there.
The travel was hectic, and confirmed our concerns about doing it at 1am. I must say that Sydney has public transportation down. It was clean, efficient, and available everywhere. The five of us used nothing but public transportation to get all over Sydney and it worked great.
The area around Bondi beach was very much for the hip crowd…so we didn’t really fit in. We walked around the area looking at shops, the beach, and restaurants. We grabbed a bite at a local restaurant that was just off the beach. It was a lot like Panera Bread, so naturally you three loved it.
On our way back from Bondi the late night caught up with us. Johnathon and Christopher fell asleep on the bus … and train that we took back to Darling Harbor. Once we got back we grabbed dinner at the Wharf, at a really nice Italian restaurant. Honestly that might be the only place I felt we were out of our element.
Day 6 – Tuesday January 2nd: Manly Sea Life Sanctuary
One great thing about Manly was that it has it’s own attractions. There were a dozen things we could have done, which might be a reason we go back. Although some weren’t for a family with small kids, the Manly Sea Life Aquarium was perfect for us.
We walked from our apartment to the Aquarium, after grabbing breakfast at our favorite spot, The Jellyfish Cafe. It didn’t look like much, but it was amazing. There were three floors and dozens of attractions. We probably spent 2 hours there looking at fish, penguins, sting rays, and sharks. We even got photos of you guys with silly backgrounds. It was a blast.
After the aquarium we walked back to the apartment to get Madelyn a nap, so the boys and I hit the beach. I tried so hard to get you two to body board. You both tried it…until you got a face full of sea water. You proceed to spit for an hours.
Day 7 – Wednesday January 3rd: Taronga Zoo
Our last full day we decided to hit a local zoo that had very good reviews. We took the ferry to Darling Harbor and then another to Taronga Wharf. After waiting in line we jumped on a lift that floated over the entire zoo, and placed us at the entrance.
The weather was not the best, it rained on and off the entire day, but it was managable. Lots of walking, hundreds of different animals, and a photo of Christopher petting a snake. It was awesome.
Day 8 – Thursday January 4th: Rest and Relaxation
Our last day in Australia we prepared for our long trip home, and did some shopping for things we’d been scoping out all week. We actually took some time to sit and Starbucks and take in the view, and although you three made it challenging, it was just what we needed.
Transportation to the airport was prearranged and went off without any hitches. The highlight of our departure was when the ticket counter attendant asked us for our ticket out of India. We proceeded to tell her that we live there, but she didn’t understand. Honestly there are times when we thought the same thing. We ended up getting delayed 15-20 minutes waiting for her supervisor to talk with us. Your mother was probably minutes from saying ‘oh well, let’s go back to the beach’.
The flights home were awful, no denying it. We all got very little sleep and you three were all over the place. Enough said…
Overall this trip was an overwhelming success. The advice to get out of India at around 6 months was perfect. After recovering from the flights we all felt recharged and ready to take on our adventure once more.
Mom & Dad