Tag Archive: Sydney



I’d say it’s about a 10 minute walk from the Waverton Station which we passed on our drive towards the Balls Head Reserve. This hidden treasure offers an intimate view of the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the city skyline. All these WITHOUT THE CROWDS!




Thanks for this photo, Lin & Greg!


Think about it. You’d be lucky to have a photo of the Opera House without tourists with cameras on outstretched arms. And if you’re thinking of snapping a photo while on a ferry ride, do remember you need to compete with many ferry riders with the same idea.  Balls Head Reserve is a good spot to take photos of those iconic landmarks.  



Less than one kilometre from Waverton Station, Balls Head Reserve offers a sanctuary for those meaning to spend a quiet morning or afternoon. The Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the city skyline across turquoise waters are a bonus. Such an unexplored gem. A hidden treasure, if you like. And if you still have the energy for a good stroll, move over to the Mosman Bay area where you’d find lovely villas lining a wharf area. The boats parked here will tell you it’s a busy jetty. 



Now, to get even “more intimate”, reserve a night and head to The Rocks area right under the bridge from where you view the Opera and Luna Park across the waters. Away from the restaurant and pub rows. There’s a tiny park right under the bridge with an illuminated view of Luna Park across the waters.   Just lovely. And quiet. Not sure if we just chanced it, but there was hardly a crowd here when we visited.  Nighttime is best to appreciate these Sydney icons all illuminated….. Speaking of which, check out Vivid Sydney from May 23 to June 9. The Opera and the Harbour Bridge, along with the city skyline should look more impressive here.  Maybe lovelier, but can’t bet on the “quiet” as the event will draw in more tourists for sure.


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Out A Third Of The Year 2013

In 2013, I spent nearly 2 months in Sydney and even slightly longer in Madrid. A good third of 2013. And that excludes those weeklong trips to Mongolia, Phuket and 2 trips to South Korea. I blogged like crazy ….. Just like when I stayed nearly 3 months homebased in Madrid back in 2012. Whenever I get back to Manila, I always long to do a trip to some exotic place. Preferably those sites below the tourist radar. There is a long list. So much to cover and discover in our own backyard. And as always, the local trips draw more hits!


Trek to Mount Pinatubo.






I struck off Batanes, Sagada, El Nido, MassKara Festival, Transfiguration Monastery in Bukidnon, Divine Mercy Shrine in Misamis Oriental and a trek to Mount Pinatubo off my bucket list which continues to grow longer. That list has its own life! I made a few “insignificant”, impromptu daytrips just outside Manila to entertain friends. And I’m surprised such trips drew much more attention and appreciation. Perhaps because many, like me, thought they were “insignificant” and were later pleasantly surprised. Maybe because they’re very doable and demands less planning and time. Or it could also be because these out-of-town trips were really good finds — a discovery that many (like me) have initially dismissed as “ordinary”.




Half-Buried In Lahar. Bacolor, Pampanga.


MassKara Festival. Bacolod. 2013.



The travels abroad have acquired a certain “routine”. Sydney and Madrid meant “family time” and homebase for many day and out-of-town trips. Twice doing it in Madrid, yet the 2 experiences can’t be branded or dismissed as “the same”. Because the 2nd time was timed with the Christmas Season, I enjoyed immersing myself in Spanish traditions and culture. In both Sydney and Madrid, my day trips were to such sites below the tourist radar. No crowds. Great sites. Reasonable prices.



Winter in Australia.


Autumn in Korea



My Seasons also got me confused, swinging from summer in the beaches of El Nido and Phuket to Philippine winter version in Batanes, to “end of winter-early spring” in Mongolia to “mild winter” in Sydney back to sweltering summer heat in Bacolod’s MassKara Festival to autumn in Korea down to honest-to-goodness winter in Madrid. You can say I’m done with winter last 2013.



Sydney. Not exactly on travel mode.

Sydney. Not exactly on travel mode.

Christmas In Madrid

Christmas In Madrid



From Traveller to Storyteller. That’s moí. In groups, out with friends, home with family or ALONE. I do enjoy my travels. I realize some of my friends do wonder why I continue to wander. I wanted to say I have not lost my capacity for joy and discoveries. I wanted to share that I continue to believe and trust and enjoy life’s simple joys, appreciating the kindness of strangers, and discovering how “little” I know of the world around me. Good health, joy in solitude paired with the unceasing thrill of meeting “angels” in my solo travels, these are God’s gifts. I appreciate them, and my gratitude expresses itself in the joy I feel. I remember meeting a Brazilian couple in the lovely town of Chinchon. They said nothing happens by accident. We got on the same bus because we were meant to spend the afternoon enjoying the medieval town and the village folks. I couldn’t agree more.



Three Kings Parade. Madrid. 2014.

Three Kings Parade. Madrid. 2014.

Football Game at Estadio Bernabeu.

Football Game at Estadio Bernabeu.



The year 2013 was marked by many firsts. Too many to list here without running the risk of boring you. It is also the same year I turned 60 so maybe, that calls for a separate blog. Like 60 “firsts” as I turned 60. How about it?

This 2013, my year ends 7 hours later. Madrid has been home since November but in a few weeks, I should be flying back to Manila. When I tried to recall how the year went, I automatically searched through my blog archives to check what has kept me busy. So…… my life has been a blog series of sorts. Nice 😉 And complete with photos too! These are my memory aids, and they work.




We “baked” under the sun here in Nacpan/Calitang near El Nido, Palawan.



Our family commenced the year 2013 with a trip to El Nido and Puerto Princesa, Palawan. All of 5 days basking in the sun with sands in between our toes. A pleasant detour was the day spent in the twin beaches of Nacpan and Calitang. In this photo, we felt we were the only tourists but for this couple of Caucasians by the beach.



Paete Church, one of many around Laguna de Bay.

Paete Church, one of many around Laguna de Bay.



Then friends based abroad came a-visiting and we decided to do a roadtrip around Laguna de Bay. From SLEX through Calamba through the coastal towns of Pila, Paete and Pakil, then heading home via the Manila-East Road. We never thought we could do all that in a day.



We conquered Mount Pinatubo!

We conquered Mount Pinatubo!



I’ve always wanted to trek to Mount Pinatubo while my knees and legs would allow me. My nieces and a couple of friends joined me. We didn’t trek the whole way, and you may call us cheats, but still, I can’t say it was easy.



The northernmost island province is a must-destination.  Trust me on this!

The northernmost island province is a must-destination. Trust me on this!



Aaaahhhh….. Batanes. The place is magical. I intend to go back. I’d love for my family to see this enchanting place and meet up with the very kind, welcoming locals. I’ve had some pretty amazing domestic travels early in the year, like striking off from a bucket list! Batanes ranks high up in that list and for good reasons.



Speedboating and island-hopping in Phuket and Ko Phi Phi

Speedboating and island-hopping in Phuket and Ko Phi Phi



And then Phuket happens. We didn’t plan on it, but the idea of speedboating and island-hopping in Thailand was simply too tempting. Images of James Bond sailing away on a speedboat and Leonardo di Carpio’s “The Beach” crossed our minds. We also enjoyed the luxury of a villa with a plunge pool while we were there. And this was just less than 2 weeks from our long- planned trip to Ulaan Bataar. A couple more off the bucket list!



RAW, unspoilt Mongolia

RAW, unspoilt Mongolia



By midyear, I felt I’m done traveling until my scheduled holiday by yearend in Madrid. But it’s June, and I joined some of my friends flying to Cagayan de Oro to celebrate a dear friend’s 60th. Sidetrips to Maria Cristina Falls, the Divine Mercy Shrine and the Monastery of Transfiguration in Bukidnon were soon arranged, and voila!



Monastery of Transfiguration in Malaybalay, Bukidnon

Monastery of Transfiguration in Malaybalay, Bukidnon



July-August till the first week of September found me in Sydney, Australia. Absolutely unplanned, but I needed to be there for my eldest sister and only surviving member of my immediate family to deal with her health travails. Thankfully, my sister beat the odds so it was a good celebration after 5 weeks of ordeal. God is truly good and merciful.



Sydney. Not exactly on travel mode.

Sydney. Not exactly on travel mode.



Before long, I’m back home. This time, eager to experience a local festival. The MassKara Festival in Bacolod was timely as kin based abroad arrived to join me in celebrating a milestone in my life. Six–oh! Soon after the MassKara frenzy, we were partying on a safari theme, and moved on to Seoul, Korea for an extended celebration. Phew!



MassKara Festival in Bacolod City

MassKara Festival in Bacolod City

In seoul, we feasted on Korean food like there was no tomorrow.

In seoul, we feasted on Korean food like there was no tomorrow.



And since November, I’ve called Madrid home. Certainly a break from tradition (and the rest of the family) to spend Christmas and New Year’s here in the midst of winter. It’s a great experience for me to hear Misa de Gallo — complete with singing of Christmas carols (in Spanish of course) in a country that christianized us and passed on many of its traditions. I have grown accustomed to lunch at 2pm and dinner at 9pm. No siestas for me. Yet. But Misa de Gallo at exactly midnight, Noche Buena at past 1 am till 3 am is a tad difficult. Many Madrileños celebrated till 5am. No wonder Christmas mornings in Spain are very quiet and peaceful. Everyone is still on bed!



Christmas In Madrid

Christmas In Madrid



A couple more things. Christmas here is more about BELENES. There are Nativity Scenes in churches, museums, palaces. The center of attention is the Child Jesus. Not Santa Claus or a Christmas Tree. And gift-giving? NOT on Christmas Day. Rather, it’s on the Feast of 3 Kings who introduced the idea of gift-giving. The kids have to wait. Feliz Navidad!



El Belen de Salzillo

El Belen de Salzillo



It’s rare that I travel without any plan. But that’s what I just did. As soon as I heard my eldest sister needed surgery, I flew to Sydney as fast as I could. The first 2 weeks involved pre-surgery medical procedures. The 3rd week meant life in St. George Private Hospital in Kogarah where my sister had her surgery and subsequent recovery. Thereafter, we waited nearly 2 weeks for the pathology results. It was quite an ordeal but by the 5th week, we were celebrating! All throughout, the family stayed tight and kept faith. We celebrated “being family” as we made excursions to heritage towns and beach spots, visited Abbeys and churches, watched movies, packed picnic baskets, walked through some parks, dined out and in my last week before going home to Manila, partied like crazy. In the midst of adversity, we managed many family outings. This is our story.






Kiama and The Blowhole

The Benedictine Abbey in Jamberoo


A Sunny Break In Watsons Bay






Kangaroo Valley

Blue Mountains and Echo Point

Jenolan Caves

A Rizal Park In A Sydney Suburb?







A Ferry Ride To Manly Beach

Goulburn’s BEST Bakery

Off To CANBERRA’s Cockington Gardens






Darling Harbour

Hyde Park, St. Mary’s Cathedral, The Domain, Bondi & Coogee Beaches, Circular Quay, Etc

Mt. Annan Botanic Garden






No travel plans, really. I came for personal reasons and for my OZ family. Specifically for my older sister who fell ill. Last time I visited was back in 2004. Yes, a long time. I grew complacent as it was always THEM visiting me, rather than me visiting them.




Gratitude is the memory of the heart.
(An afternoon in Mt. Annan Botanical Garden)



One overseas call and I dropped everything to secure that OZ visa and get on a flight to Sydney. Took a while and it felt like decades just waiting. Just when the visa was issued, the weekend flights were all fully booked…. except for one. I got the last seat on Qantas for a direct flight. Just in time to be around for the pre-operation medical procedures, the surgery and hospital stay, and another “decade” waiting for the pathology results. All of 4 weeks in Sydney and we finally heaved a collective sigh of relief.




Lissa and Levy are 2 years apart. I was the “baby” in the family.



Three Sisters. Two Survivors. We terribly miss our middle sister — the talented one in the kitchen who baked breads, muffins, blueberry cheese cakes, strawberry tortes and the finest-tasting sans rival cakes and other pastries. She was only 37. Levy and I took turns at the hospital watching over her. It’s been 30 years since. All 3 of us must have inherited the dreaded C disease from Mama who passed on at age 55. Papa joined Mama in 1991, some 22 years back. Levy and I — 9 years apart — survived. But we were continents apart, and Ate (older sister) Levy has yet to fully embrace this internet technology. [Once she called me and forgot to turn off her mobile. Her bill could have covered nearly half of my airfare!) 🙂




Mama with Ate Levy and Me in Baguio City back in the 60’s.




Family and friends prayed and prayed real hard. We lived from day to day until Week 4 when we received the good news that Ate Levy beat the odds. To amuse ourselves and keep us off the worries, we made family trips here and there. Ate Levy’s children took turns taking leaves from work to drive us around. I only managed ONE DAY with college friends who came by and took me off on a day out to Berrima — a wonderful break from family duties. (Thank you Lin and MA) My other friends based here and around do understand I simply wanted to be around my sister and family. Others I decidedly didn’t get in contact with as I realized it’s not a good time for “first meet-ups” (my apologies, my TravelBlogger friends). It’s just ME —- eager to make up for lost time with my OZ family. Besides, I was just too busy keeping the worries at bay. 😦




The “kids” posing in front of the ancestral house, with their grandfather’s namesign behind. Once I heard my grandnephew Xion say … “We’re cousins. We should love each other.” Makes me proud these babies are being raised as good kids as these nephews and nieces are.



But winter’s over. And that’s true literally and figuratively. At the beginning of spring and on my fifth week in Sydney, we made so many unplanned day trips. Our hearts overflowed with joy and gratitude. The first trip — from the surgeon’s clinic to the first church we passed — was most significant. Like we remembered every single step towards the church smiling ear to ear, not even missing each melodious note from street buskers nor the aroma of food delicacies from a neighborhood Filipino store. God in His mercy blessed us with a good sense of humour to survive adversities, a grateful heart for Him and the many prayer warriors, a keen sense of family and unity, and above all, a strong faith that our “winter” will soon be over.




Rookie took many of these shots in Mt. Annan Botanical Garden. Flowers abloom to welcome spring. In our hearts, it was all time-spring.



In our trying times, my sister and I nearly forgot the children have grown. THEY took over. And I’m mighty proud of them all. I have no doubt our grandchildren will all grow up as responsible adults. Like their moms and dads. Knowing that, I don’t mind growing old to welcome more “springs”…….





Here’s an amateur’s video of “Levy Beating The Odds”



MARAMING SALAMAT SA INYONG LAHAT. Thank you so much for all the prayers.

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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 moí. 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.  I found this gem right beside the Saint James Station. 




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. 😉




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


I didn’t mean for this photo to come out this way. Seriously. 😉

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 😉





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. 😉



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.  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 😉



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. 😉




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! 🙂




The Old Court House.


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