After an amazing week in Byron Bay, we continued our road trip down Australia’s east coast. We were still a good 10 hours away from Sydney and decided to make a pit stop near Crescent Beach. We rented an old house on AirBnB and made ourselves cozy for the next few days. Our first excursion took us to Smoky Cape - a beautiful hill on the edge of the ocean with an old lighthouse and stunning scenery. We absolutely loved looking at gorgeous beaches that were completely empty. It feels as though we arrived in an undiscovered paradise, a future Byron Bay perhaps. After a short walk around the lighthouse, we drove to Horseshoe Bay in Southwest Rocks. It is a beautiful golden sand beach with stunning turquoise water and a sweet playground at the entrance. Of course Leo and Mila had to release some energy there. We relaxed on the beach for a couple of hours soaking in another slice of Australian paradise. We sunbathed, splashed in the ocean and built sandcastles. It was a perfect place for our family to catch a small break and some quality beach time.
The following morning we walked to a nearby playground so Rick and I could do a workout while the kids played. . .sometimes you have to get creative to get your workouts in with your kids around you all the time! While Mila played at the swing, Leo ran 1 mile around the track!!!! I guess he felt inspired watching Mommy & Daddy sweating their butts off. In the afternoon, Mila and I stayed home and took naps while Rick and Leo drove to Crescent Beach and went snorkeling. It was a mellow day and much needed for everyone.
The next day we were heading to Sydney. Rick decided to get up super early and complete a hike at Hat Head National Park. He left at 4am, driving through some dense fog to get to the coast. Upon arrival, he was greeting with a beautiful sunrise over the Pacific, kangaroos galore, and pure nature. He was home by 8 and we were on the last leg of our east coast road trip.
The trip from Cairns to Sydney is a little over 2,600km or essentially, a drive from Maine to Miami, or Warsaw to Barcelona. We were super excited to finally reach Sydney and spend the rest of 2017 there. In Sydney, we had two different AirBnB rentals, both on opposite sites of the city. We absolutely fell in love with our first flat - just outside Manly Beach. It was a spacious, open apartment, with great views of the bay and a cool vibe. We ordered pizza, a bottle of red wine and enjoyed our first night in Manly.
Our first impression of Sydney - amazing! We absolutely loved the local vibe! This morning we took a 20 minute ferry ride from Manly to Sydney Harbor. The weather was much cooler than the day before - in low 70’s and cloudy - perfect conditions for a stroll around town. As soon as we approached Circular Quay, we were greeted by the Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House - not a bad entrance : ) Both landmarks are beautiful and define the city skyline. We walked around the Opera and headed towards the Botanical Gardens, which led us straight to Business District of Sydney.
Christmas is right around the corner and everything is decorated for the holidays. We walked by the main christmas tree, grabbed a coffee and enjoyed some street music! We later walked to the Queen Victoria Station that was simply stunning - a four floor historic building, full of character and Christmas spirit. We passed many stores, bars, coffee shops and restaurants full of happy people. Right in the middle of the Queen Victoria Station was a gorgeous christmas tree made of 82,000 Swarovski crystals, something out of this world. We took the escalator all the way to the top floor and noticed an interesting gazebo covered with flowers. When we peaked inside was saw…Santa! It was a special set up for holiday pictures with the best man in the world :) Since the line was quite short plus Leo could not miss talking to Santa, we decided to wait and also snap some photos. Apparently we needed a special reservation since sessions with Santa were booked all the way through Christmas, but a lovely lady Elf, who was in charge of the reservations was able to squeeze us in - must be the magic of the holidays, or the fact we opened up our wallet : ) Leo was so happy and excited to see Santa, he could not wait his turn, while Mila could not wait to get out of there, hahaha! As soon as she saw Santa, she started to cry like there was no tomorrow. She was holding on to me so tight, like a koala bear holding onto a eucalyptus tree, hahaha. Poor girl had the worst time of her life, picture below says it alI! I know, I know, we are mean parents, but it will be fun to show these photos to her in few years : ) Her nerves were calmed down by a piece of chocolate, candy always works!
We continued our city exploration and walked through Hyde Park, and finally took a short break in front of St Mary’s Cathedral (which reminds us so much of Norte Dame in Paris, just a different stone). We spent the whole day in the city and felt a real connection. Everyone seemed so happy and laid back, even though it was a work day. I must admit that the neighborhood where we are staying is a key piece to it. Right on the water, with gorgeous views and very attractive people. It really does feel like a different world. We were hanging out on the beach yesterday and I could not get over the number of young families with kids there. It is their summer break so everyone is out enjoying the weather. Next to us were two young moms with little children. While the kids splashed in the water the moms were sipping champagne and having a fabulous time. We spotted a group of dads chatting away and drinking beer while attending to the little once. I am not saying that alcohol is the main reason why we like it here so much but come on, who would not want to come to the beach after full day in the office, socialize in the bathing suit and have a cocktail - sign me up!
With Christmas only a week away, Leo & Mila are getting into the Holiday spirit. They keep track of the days with their Paw Patrol Advent Calendars, they sent letters to Santa and baked cookies with mommy. Since its mid-summer here, Australians celebrate Christmas much more relaxed, we found most homes lacked any type of christmas decor…however, central Sydney has a Holiday vibe. We found out that each night at St Mary’s Cathedral at 7:30 pm there is a choir singing christmas carols followed by a beautiful light display. We could not miss it, so on Sunday afternoon we took the ferry back to the city. To make it more fun for Leo and Mila, instead of walking to the cathedral, we took the train. Their excitement was out of this world : ) We grabbed comfy seats and impatiently waited for the show. The choir was nice and for one hour kept singing all of the christmas classics. But it was the light show that stole the night. It was beautiful crafted performance - the main and most important message was to enjoy this time, be merry, peaceful and happy, share the love with your friends and family, and simply enjoy the most magical time of the year. Leo and Mila constantly ran around during the choir performance but once the light show started, they were completely captivated by it. It was a lovely evening that without a doubt put us in christmas spirits!
The next day we made a day trip to amazing Bondi Beach! Bondi is on the complete opposite side of Sydney; it took us over an hour and half to get there but it was totally worth it. Another piece of aussie paradise! The beach itself is pretty long and wide, packed with sunbathers, surfers and very, very young, fit and gorgeous people. It was a hot, sunny day, the water had an unbelievable turquoise color, out of this world. First, we walked parts of the famous Bondi to Coggee walk (total walk is about 6 km, we did 3 km). The views were spectacular, stunning water, beautiful cliffs, bays and rock pools. The second part of the day we spent relaxing on the beach, people watching and splashing in the water with Leo and Mila. The local crowd was different than the one at Manly; much younger, singles, and backpackers from all around the world, tons of bars, restaurants, pubs, and boutique shops.
We left our first AIRBnB rental in Manly and moved on to our next place. It was located in the western suburbs of Sydney, about 10 kms from the city center. We had an entire home, as our hosts decided to rent their place out to us as they travel to Tasmania with family. On our way, we stopped at Dural Tree farm to find our perfect Christmas tree. Unlike the Griswald’s, we chose a 6ft tree versus some of the mammoth 15-18 footers they had on the farm. It fit perfectly on the roof of our Toyota Camry and nestled right into the living room of our rental. It was the first time we went to a tree farm to select a tree and we absolutely loved the experience! Once we got home, the kids loved helping out to decorate, we made our own ornaments out of flour, cinnamon, salt and water. It is so much fun to get into the Christmas spirit and watch how your kids embrace the belief.
The next day brought more heat, almost 95 degrees. We had our car for one more day before returning so we decided to head inland and visit Blue Mountains National park. It was a 2 hour road trip from our place. We started with a visit to the 3 Sisters observation point. It wasn’t really a hike, you park your car and walk 10 minutes to the view point. It was packed. Tour buses, cars, and tons of people. The 3 sisters were cool to see but honestly the amount of tourist made it feel like a tourist trap for us. We prefer to hike and get to amazing views instead of fighting the crowds, particularly since it was so hot out. From there, we jumped back into our car and headed to Wentworth falls. We found a spot to throw our blanket down and relax. Its been a bit dry around here so the falls were not that impressive.
Christmas has arrived!!! It was our first Christmas away from family. Normally we either fly to Poland to see my family, or to Pennsylvania to share the most wonderful time of the year with Rick’s side of the family. Leo and Mila were super pumped for Santa and overall, they have had more nice moments than naughty :) It was a bit bittersweet to be away from all of our family but how cool is it we got to spend Xmas in Sydney? We captured every moment and posted a short video of our Christmas story in Sydney and if you have not seen it, here is the link:
A few observation about Sydney: It has been interesting two and a half weeks here…it’s a beautiful city with lots to do, however, when it comes to Christmas, its very different from the northern hemisphere. Since it’s mid-summer and the kids are off from school until early February, many families use this time as vacation and go camping, road tripping, or traveling. We didn’t see very many homes decorated (granted our sample size is 2 communities), and most folks go the route of an artificial tree versus real (based on people we spoke with). Nevertheless, we had an amazing Christmas celebration here and one we will remember for the rest of our lives.