Tag Archive: New South Wales

Sydney is NOT the capital of Australia. Canberra is. Rather, Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales. And it is a most charming state capital. Earlier, I didn’t think much of Sydney. While I love the harbour bridge, opera house and adore Darling Harbour, it ended there. This recent trip of mine changed all that.




The Iconic Sydney Opera House


View of Sydney Olympic Park while having breakfast in “Lilies On The Park”.



This old hag from the Tropics arrived in the dead of a mild winter. Mild, for them. And I came NOT as a tourist but for very personal reasons. All of 6 weeks without stepping foot outside of the state of New South Wales. I wasn’t keen to “tour” around, having visited twice before, and really, not having much by way of expectations. But the family decided for me. After all, we needed the “break”, and we wanted to feel “family”.




Kid-friendly. Seniors-friendly. Lake Belvedere in Sydney Olympic Park.





The last 2 trips, I have not visited Bondi Beach. Many friends asked why I missed it, and I grew tired saying there wasn’t time nor a chance. Next time I was asked, I decided to simply lie. And so my family thought it’s about time I come “clean” and finally dig my toes into Bondi sands. Winter or not! Luckily, we had a sunny break and Bondi Beach was teeming with wakeboarders and swimmers in scuba outfits. So, this is Bondi! Frankly, I prefer the more relaxed vibes in Manly Beach, Watsons Bay and Coogee Beach. But that’s just my opinion.




The 9 km walk along the coast. Manly Beach.


Coogee Beach. Lovely. Even with planes hovering above…



Once, I was given some “me” time when I met up with my niece in Hyde Park. I decided to go a couple of hours early. Enough time to round up the park and the gardens before visiting St. Mary’s Cathedral where a Filipino priest said Mass. It was tempting to just stay inside the Church given that cold afternoon. Determined not to “waste” the opportunity, I walked till I grew tired and cold. This stab at solitude was most comforting, if you ask me. Plus it allowed me to see and appreciate Sydney in a different perspective. This country puts a lot of importance on quality living considering its many parks, gardens and safe beaches. Whenever I find filtered water stations, clean toilets and train stations, safe beaches and jetties, I gain a newfound respect for Australia. What clinched it for me was really the fact that I felt safe and undisturbed while enjoying my “me” time. Something I failed to do in other cosmopolitan cities elsewhere in the world. (Read: no touts selling their wares, no beggars or bums asking for a cigarette stick, no pushing crowds).




St. Mary’s Cathedral


Hyde Park.



The only things that broke my “temporary break from society” were those magpies swooping down as if to hit them dumb ones like moΓ­. I took cover in the shaded areas of the park and royal gardens and then sought comfort in one park corner watching chess played out in a giant board. Β I found this gem right beside the Saint James Station.Β 




Doesn’t look like winter, right?


The Domain. Be warned. It can be a long walk!



When the magpies took leave, I started walking again towards the church. Right outside were a bride and groom likely doing their pre-nuptial shots. Garbed in their wedding outfits, it looked kind of odd to watch them reviewing their shots. Leaving the odd couple, I walked towards the square fronting the church (or is that the back?) and headed back towards Hyde Park. There I waited till my niece arrived. Thankfully, in time before i started freezing. πŸ˜‰




Shall i call this the Church Plaza? Or Church Square?


I didn’t mean for this photo to come out this way. Seriously. πŸ˜‰

Today’s one afternoon that’s all ours. No worries. No rush. No serious discussion. We’ve had one too many in the preceding 4 weeks. The gardens and ponds are waiting for us. Today. The empty benches beckon. The ground is carpeted with blooms, signalling the onset of spring. We peeled ourselves off the thicker jackets and got ready for a “walk in the park”.





We have passed this Park many times on our way to my nephew’s house. All of 416 hectares between Camden and Campbelltown. Because it is too near, there was no interest to drop in in this botanical garden claimed to be the largest in Australia! But today is a special day. My bags are packed, nearly all clothes laundered clean and stuffed into a suitcase, ready for my imminent departure. I’m down to my last pair of pants and jacket, along with my pair of boots that will all stay here and wait for my next visit. We all wanted to take a leisurely stroll with the kids, even spend some time in the playground, hike up a small hill, sit by the bench near the pond. Act like a family πŸ˜‰





It would be nice to have a LONG walk here next time. Or maybe, given its size, biking is the better option. I haven’t biked in decades but I’m confident I can still do this. I should plan my next visit here real well. Maybe bring a picnic lunch. There are picnic tables and benches by the pond. Yes, that should make for a lovely afternoon.





What a relaxing afternoon for us all. A prelude to last-minute repacking and a long flight home. Say hello to Spring. Bye, Winter.



Bustling with ferry-riding crowds, daytrippers and street buskers, Circular Quay was typically busy the day we visited Manly Beach. Off the train and into the quay, we quickly purchased our ferry tickets while snapping photos of the iconic harbour bridge. A fine example of civil engineering, it only happens to be the world’s 6th longest spanning arch bridge.



Circular Quay. 10am.
They were there back in 1999. Then 2004. Now 2013.

I remember the ferry rides I took the last 2 trips I made to Sydney. Ferry rides are adventures by themselves. The breeze and the scenic views highlight my moments with my trusty, resurrected Canon cam. Letting the winds slap on my face and mess up my hair, I marvelled at how the Sydney Opera House can still hold one’s attention after all these years, and many cam shots. Zooming into the top of the bridge, I felt jealous I wasn’t with this small group hiking towards the top. Must be quite an exhilirating moment as one nears the top, enjoying a 360 degree view of the harbour.


Quite an architectural wonder. Iconic.
Brave souls scaling the Sydney Harbour Bridge on this windy morning.

The 7 mile journey has been navigated since 1855, but there are now driving options to reach Manly Beach. But I still think it’s best to take one of many regular ferry rides getting here. The Manly Wharf alone has metamorphosed into a lovely food and wine pitstop just before negotiating the 9mile walk along the water edge. Either that or you can cross over from the wharf towards the Corso where you’d find a variety of shops and dining places.



Pretty wharf with many dining choices on a broad price range.
Lovely walkway by the beach, complete with benches, picnic tables and distilled water stations!

Here’s a tip. Once you get here, decide on your lunch place right away to beat the lunch crowds. The kids can be “deposited” in the Manly Aquarium while the adults can while away the time in the airconditioned Museum just right aross the marine sanctuary. Those seeking adventures may choose to do the 9 mile walk, OR if you want to combine exercise with retail therapy, head for the Corso and check out the shops along the way. In my case, I went for the walk. Alone. Needed some ME time. Plus the exercise. πŸ˜‰



The Aquarium is a good option if you have kids with you.
Don’t you just love this view?

Truly, Sydney’s parks, boardwalks, biking and jogging pathways leave you impressed. Β They even have distilled water stations! I felt safe walking alone, and took liberty with the many benches lining the water edge. The few joggers passed by but not without saying hello. My solitude was only broken whenever I hear the ferry approaching or leaving the wharf. C’est la vie! I can live here πŸ˜‰



Just a 30 minute ride, packed with scenic views!
The Sydney Opera House. Dusk.

Thank you, Reia, for bringing us here!



Those boys look happy!
Thank you, Reia!

Circular Quay. 7pm.

Missed by the railway route, nearly abandoned, and now wonderfully preserved as a heritage town. The Old Post Office, turn of century old houses like the Harper’s Mansion, the court house, the jail — or should I say “gaol”? — the quaint and still operating bakery cottage. While I’ve kind of read up on this historic town before coming over, Berrima still surprised me. For one, I tasted the best scones ever in this 1850’s bakery cottage, but that’s getting ahead of my story. πŸ˜‰




Don’t you dare miss Devonshire Tea in this 1850’s Tea Room cum Museum.


Freshly-baked scones, homemade jams, and heirloom tea spoons!

Top of mind to visit in this corner of the Southern Highlands of New South Wales would be Harper’s Mansion, the Court and Jail House, a couple of churches, a few more Georgian houses and public buildings. But if you’ve come here just for Devonshire Tea or to check out some of the family-run cafes, that’s fine. Berrima makes for an excellent day and food trip for couples, families and friends.



Lots of choices. We opted for Two Skinny Cooks. Thank you, Lin, for lunch!


You gotta love Australia’s sense of history and heritage!

Kids would love the gardens and the maze in Harper’s Mansion. Though the trees reflect winter, the blooms in the gardens signal the onset of spring. A lovely background for the 18th century Georgian mansion which has since been turned into a Museum. The guide “threatened” us with some ghost stories before we toured the mansion, but “no luck”. We must have scared them off.




Harper’s Mansion. No ghosts here.


Gardens behind the Georgian Mansion.

And then, there’s the Court House. And the “gaol”. Complete with cells and jury scenes. Not for kids though. The court scene involved zombie-like characters in a dark room. Walking from the court house, one passes the jailhouse, some brick cottages used by government officials then, the Post Office and surely, you can’t miss the row of cafes just across the street. We didn’t have time to check out the Masonic Temple and the Churches as we lingered over our lunch at Two Skinny Cooks, tried the Maze behind Harper’s Mansion and toured the Court House. Just as well. After all, we can’t miss the afternoon tea at The Old Bakery Cottage before heading home. Priorities! πŸ™‚




The Old Court House.


Here was where the first woman-convict was sentenced to be hanged. Case? Axe Murder of Husband. OUCH!

Stalagmites. Stalactites. Having gone through so many caves in recent past, you would have thought I’m done with them. But this is the WORLD’s OLDEST DISCOVERED OPEN CAVES and we simply cannot miss this. Besides, Nature plays out differently in every setting, perhaps depending on its “moods”. Counting 370 million years, these creations even pre-date the dinosaurs! For sure, they were certainly in no rush….. no, they took their own sweet time to make certain Nature did not “repeat” itself in design.







It was a long 175 kilometer drive from Sydney on a lone, winding road deep within the Blue Mountains. All of 3 hours. No public transportation is available but one can join coach tours from the city or Katoomba. Driving dead straight, we reached our destination….. curious what Nature has in store for us. There was a sizable crowd when we reached the place, more by the time we were ready to leave. We’re only too glad we came early.







It was a no-brainer deciding which of the oldest show caves we’d “explore”. That with the least difficulty but still packed with adventure — nothing extreme — was what we were prepared to do on this gloomy day. Other adventure seekers may choose the more challenging self-guided tours. Or the night and ghost tours. Methinks I’d be feeling more secure with a guide leading us in, and then leading us OUT of the cave complex.







Yet the Imperial Cave didn’t disappoint. The guide kept reminding us NOT to get too excited, citing how the place looks pretty much the same judging from photographs taken 80 years ago. πŸ™‚ This cave has the least number of stairs and steps, so we thought the next hour and a half should be easy to navigate.







“Jenolan” is rooted from the local tribe Gundungurra’s word, “Genowlan”, which means a “high place shaped like a foot”. Story goes that men from the tribe used to carry people into the cave complex to be bathed in the pools which are believed to have healing powers. We can only imagine how the local tribes must have found the place sacred, in much the same way we found the natural formations magical.







For sure, Nature got busy here. The many caverns and tunnels attest to that. I wouldn’t be surprised if the present “cavekeepers” discover more caves in this limestone rock complex. Nor that many fossil discoveries of extinct animals are found here.







Claustrophobics we are not, but the idea of breathing the same area with a dozen others so many meters underground can be a bit unsettling. It should be interesting to also visit other caves which can take in more visitors in one group. And that “underground concert cave” with natural acoustics! The latter must have claimed quite a sizable space underground looking more like an atrium.







Thank you, Rahns and Shelly, for bringing Mamu here πŸ™‚ Hope you enjoyed the adventure as much as I did. And that’s coming from someone who didn’t really dig caves before. I do now. Got to give a lot of respect for Mother Nature. After all, where the HELL did they say they found those Tasmanian Devils here again? πŸ˜‰





The first time I went to view the Three Sisters, it was so foggy there was nothing to see. The second time around, 2 of the 3 sisters showed up. The third hid behind the fog. Epic fail. I comforted myself with photos and paintings of the breathtaking view the fogs on those 2 occasions conspired to deprive us.



The rocky pinnacles of the Three Sisters.

But nothing beats actually seeing this most majestic view of the mountains and the gorge. How Mother Nature carved out this landscape and came up with this creation credited to the winds and waters that touched the land — this scene beats any painting or postcard. A popular attraction and favorite day trip out of Sydney, we headed early to beat the “tourist bus crowd”. Parked the car near Echo Point and walked towards the cliff barred by fences that failed to make our 2 little boys cautious and wary of the chasm just inches away.





Adrenaline pumping high …. These boys must be more excited than I am. πŸ™‚

Finally. I earlier visited years back in springtime and fall but no luck. Here I am now, back in the dead of winter and finally viewed all 3 sisters! Beautiful, notwithstanding that my eyes were partly glued to the little boys darting here and there. I had to struggle against my own paranoia that those wire and glass fences are not strong enough to hold off these boys on super hyperactive mode. πŸ™‚





Mommy Reia and her boys.

Mercifully, the adrenaline wore off. The interest over the cliffside views, the gorge, the canyons faded and it was time to go. At some point I wondered if these boys would have enjoyed more if we went bushwalking. On second thought, the walk would have tired them out and stressed me and their mom to the max. πŸ™‚ Then hunger pangs set in. First to a Chocolate House, then off to Katoomba’s quaint little town. Still no chain restos like McDonald’s or Hungry Jack here, thank God. Just like how I remembered it. We went for a proper lunch in this new Korean restaurant where one of the boys practiced his skills with the chopsticks. Found some interesting shops too before we decided to drive around the town just to check out the once familiar corners.





Homemade chocolate?


Slurp that coffee fast!

From here, we drove through lovely Leura and dropped in at Solitary Cafe. This was where we had our last glimpse of the rocky pinnacles of the Blue Mountains while sipping our black liquids and nibbling on some sweets. The only problem eating outdoors here is that your coffee soon turns cold. 😦 They should consider serving it in a thermo flask. Seriously.





Last glimpse of the Blue Mountains.


Tired and out. Finally…..



But kid- friendly this place is. The younger boy may have “disturbed” the garden’s setup as he ran around spilling some pebbles here and there, kicking off some dust which i suspect found their way into my coffee. As it happened, he soon tired out too. Too tired to even gobble up some of the chocolate fudge his mom ordered for him. Meanwhile, his grandma delighted in the view while uncomplainingly sipping cold coffee. All’s well, indeed. πŸ˜‰

In the Illawara Region of New South Wales lies Kangaroo Valley, just 2 hours drive southwest of Sydney. Hemmed in by towering mountains, we weaved downhill along Moss Vale Road through winding roads to reach this historic township. Welcoming us was this suspension bridge across Kangaroo River named after a former Governor of New South Wales (1895-1899).





The medieval tower style of the bridge complete with turrets is quite an attraction. Throw in the many quaint inns, pubs, cafes, art galleries and boutique shops and it is well worth the 2 hour drive. No wonder it looks like a favorite destination of bikers and day trippers. Parked along the main road, fronting pubs and inns, or behind the cafes are big bikes of varying sizes and makes.






We couldn’t resist checking out the 1890’s-era landmark pub and hotel called The Friendly Inn. Reportedly bought back by its former owner and operated 7 days a week, the simple meals aren’t exactly something you’d blog about. But we enjoyed its backyard which looked more like a picnic ground complete with a play area which our 2 little elves (i love calling my grandchildren that) enjoyed. It certainly helped that we brought our own wine (love the B.Y.O. Drink here in OZ) to enjoy while gazing out into the grassy backyard where a lone helicopter is parked. (Some VIPs must have arrived and we were simply clueless who they were)






If you happen to be in the area, be sure to dine al fresco behind the Inn rather than inside where it is cramped and the furniture looking kind of tired and worn out. Outside is more refreshing as you watch the comings and goings while nursing your drink. Servings are huge, so remember that you can share. And next time, do check who jumped out of that helicopter so you’re in the know! πŸ˜‰







Just 11 kilometers northeast of Sydney’s Central Business District is this slice of paradise. There were ferry rides from Circular Quay but my nephew chose to drive. With 2 kids in tow, that’s a smart move. A car “locks” them in place πŸ˜‰ So you can just imagine all that pent-up energy unlocking and bursting as soon as they stepped out of the car. Thank goodness for all that grassy space!




The City From Across The Bay


Doyles’ Seafood Indulgence!



We unloaded the wine, nuts and chips from the trunk and chose a lovely spot to lay out the picnic mat while my nieces headed towards Doyles before the next ferry unloads a fresh batch of visitors. From where I was seated, I got a picturesque view of the Sydney Harbour. The Bridge is visible on this clear day. Aaahhh….. This is life! I meant to keep an eye on the kids while they ran around, tried climbing a tree, chased the seagulls (one of them birds SNATCHED a chicken nugget off the little boy’s fingers!) and threw off their boots to play by the shore. Well…… call me irresponsible.




A seagull snatched a chicken nugget off his tiny fingers!


What’s the problem, dahling?



Soon, we were feasting on calamari, oysters, chicken nuggets, fish and chips while my nephew took over minding the kids. Indulgence. The line for Doyles takeouts has now spilled out to the street. Aren’t we glad we beat the lines! A quick look at the wine bottle reminded me to nurse my drink. Sun is out. What a lovely day. We need another bottle……




Off they go!




As soon as the kids grew tired playing by the beach, we walked towards the “gap” for an even more spectacular view of the Ocean. Waves pounding against the cliff, a rocky coast, and a great lookout point. I’m told there’s a walkway towards Bondi Beach but I’d leave that to the hikers. This is enough adventure for me. The kids are well-behaved. They’re tired but still cheerful. Now, off to the Gelateria!




Rocky coast in The Gap. Just a short walk from Camp Cove Beach.


Grandma with Xion and Anika . Happiness πŸ™‚

Wollongong. Meaning “Sound of the Seas”. I had to check how that’s spelled! Just 80 kilometers from Sydney is this city by the sea that is the gateway to the South Coast. Its harbour houses two lighthouses. I would have been happy with one but this coastal city has two!






Sun’s out. Our little boy is restless. And the picnic basket is full of chips, drinks, fruits, biscuits and other snack items. It wasn’t a long drive, but this growing boy with us immediately got busy munching the time away. By the time we got here, there was just enough bread for the birds. There were so many of them but this pack is quite disciplined, used to waiting to be fed rather than snatching food from our fingers. They settled for what we threw their way or what were blown off our picnic table.






While the sun shines brightly, there was no letup as winds messed up our hair and blew away some chips off the table. The birds swooped down and low for a taste of those chips. Not one chip left scattered on the ground. Our boy took charge of feeding the birds till the bread ran out. Funny how his shrieks sounded almost like the birds’.






The long coast of Australia must be dotted with these picture-perfect all-white towers. Same Same but different. Of the 2 lighthouses here in Wollongong, the newer one is located in what is called Flagstaff Point guarded by cannons. The older but more charming one is located in the breakwater seemingly guarding the lovely harbour. Built in 1871 but lovingly restored in 2002. As it was badly deteriorated before restoration work started in 2000, The newer Wollongong Head Lighthouse on Flagstaff Point took over as the major lightΒ in 1937.






I only wish the lighthouses didn’t have to be all white all the time. Is there an international law on how lighthouses should be painted? I was thinking mint green or baby pink. πŸ™‚ Kidding aside, it’s lovely out here. I was quite content just taking a stroll and watching some surfers enjoying the swells. There was no time to visit the Nan Tien Temple which I hear is the largest Buddhist Temple in the Southern Hemisphere. Perhaps I’d check it out next time i visit riding on my new Harley Davidson, ready to cruise the Grand Pacific Drive. Ahem. Pipe dreams. πŸ˜‰





If you’re seeking some quiet time in prayer, this Benedictine Abbey in Jamberoo may be the perfect place for you. We reached the place after visiting nearby Kiama but not without losing confidence we were driving in the right direction. A couple of calls to the Abbey and we found ourselves finally back on track after initially turning back. And so on to 695 Jamberoo Mountain Road.




Australia has mild winters and a walk along this tree-lined road can be quite an experience.


Last photo of my pair of shoes that has seen better days. I’m happy the pair’s last photo was this shot taken at the Abbey.



The way to the Abbey is almost magical as we drove through a lonely road lined with trees that has seen winter. Well, it IS winter in Australia in July. The scenery reminded us of the vow of silence and prayerful meditation following the rule of Saint Benedict. Quite a chore, given that we arrived with 2 little boys. The small chapel with stained glass windows kept them quiet only for a while. Curiosity got the better of the youngest boy especially once we reached the Guestry where guests are welcomed with the Benedictine hospitality.




The walkway to the Chapel where the Benedictine nuns pray and meditate.


The Altar overlooks a lovely garden.



We were the only ones in the Chapel but photo files allowed us to imagine how the Benedictine Nuns pray and meditate within this lovely chapel overlooking a garden. There were not too many chairs and pews, indicating the nun population is quite limited. The Guestry has 3 tables and the boys easily claimed 2 where they enjoyed their juice and cookies. We were served coffee and tea plus a most inspiring talk with one of the nuns. Her voice was just a couple of notches above a whisper, and we found her demeanor and quiet glee most reassuring. She listed down our names with a promise that they will include us all in prayer.




Photo sourced from the website of Benedictine Abbey in Jamberoo. At the time we visited, we were the only ones inside the Chapel.


So eerily quiet here. But not in a disturbing way. The gentle silence is conducive to prayerful meditation.



As we chatted, the boys loitered around the nearby hall and corridor. I’m sure the youngest boy was tempted to wet himself in the small pond and to blow some of the lighted candles. Thank God he didn’t as we eagerly listened to Sister telling us how retreatants are welcome to rent and stay in some of the few cottages within the complex. A family cottage is available too, and guided retreats can be arranged. Lunch will be served in the Refectory but breakfasts are prepared by retreatants inside the cottages using supplies provided by the nuns.




Photo of the Guestry sourced from the web.


Photo of the Refectory sourced from the Web.



The first word of the Rule of St. Benedict is “LISTEN”.. Sounds simple, but having just done a retreat in a Benedictine Monastery back home, I know it isn’t that simple. “Incline the ear of your heart” requires some serious finetuning of the senses if one were to feel God’s presence. The atmosphere in this Abbey and the solitude should help achieve this prayerful silence during the retreat. To quiet one’s heart can be quite a chore and may not come as naturally to most people. But one’s got to try.


(Thanks Reia, for driving us to this Abbey, plus lotsa more!)


Photo of the Abbey sourced from the Web.


Photo of the Retreat Cottages sourced from the Web.


Abbey Crafts available for sale in the Abbey Crafts Store.