• Mags Rafael-Salvador

Winter in Sydney

Updated: Apr 29

Our family is fond of travelling, we just can’t get enough of moments, and the journey we experience getting to our destination. This year our major travel plan is Sydney, Australia it took us almost a year in planning and eventually making it happen. The kids have been excited since and we have asked them to keep it down and not tell anyone until our date of departure. My boys has truly been amazing, and I think they got from us their passion for travel to the point that sometimes we are asked, where to next Mom?

So yes, after considering their schedules and end of schoolyear for 2017, we only had 10 days free to spend overseas before my youngest son goes to school as a sixth grader. We had to consider a lot of things, travel dates, destination, the weather and lastly, the cost of travel. We have probably been unconsciously saving for a year or so for this trip alone, and the kids were willing to share some from their savings as well. My heart is full of mixed emotions, happiness, being excited, worried in case something goes wrong and of course thankful that we have been blessed.

Leaving Manila at night was a good choice, because there’s less chance of your flight getting any more delayed (our flight etd is at 1205AM). The view was fantastic, with lights all over the metro and the traffic lights well into nowhere. Another good reason is that, since it’s nighttime your body is accustomed to retiring for sleep so most of travel time you’re asleep. The eight hour flight was spent mostly sleeping and a 15 - minute midnight snack. We took Cebu Pacific and surprisingly the flight went well and fully booked, not a single seat without a passenger. We got our flight ticket eight months in advance in one of the airline’s seat sale promo.

Upon arrival, we were met by our family who lives in Sydney for more than three decades now. It was at 1200nn when we were able to finish getting our luggage and passed immigration officers. My aunt and her family were all eager as we were welcomed with warm hugs. The minute we went out of Sydney airport we were embraced with 12 degrees Celsius winter weather. We loved it so much, a heaven-sent change from a year-long tropical weather in Manila. Off we go to Kingswood (about 45 minutes’ drive from the airport) for a much needed rest and late lunch.

In the afternoon, instead of sleeping we went to a nearby river, Nepean River which is about 15 minutes’ drive from Kingswood. We savor the cold air and beauty of simple greens and trees overlooking a calm lake. It was only 4 in the afternoon yet, it looks like the sun is setting soon. We got a lot of pictures and a breeze of winter wind, our hands were not exactly freezing but it definitely felt cold. We then prepared to head back to change into something more appropriate like an infinity shawl, heavier jacket with a hoodie just in case temperature level gets colder when we’re meeting other family members for a dinner out.

Let me share with you our DIY (do it yourself) itinerary and making our travel goals happen :-)

Day 2 – Vivid Sydney Day

We went to the city by train, it was an hour train ride from Kingswood. We went off at Town Hall station, where the Queen Victoria Building is. Medieval structure, great underground and above ground shopping mall and eat out venue. Branded stores and coffee shops are aplenty, this mall serves mostly high end shoppers and maybe executives and senior corporate managers as it gets a bit pricey for a coffee or tea. After some time, we decided to go out and proceed to our Sydney walking tour.

Crossing the street from Queen Victoria Mall onwards to Hyde Park we can see the Sydney Skytower. We didn’t get the chance to go inside the tower but I heard it’s an amazing view from the top to see Sydney Skyline. The view from the ground is equally impressive though especially taken from Hyde Park. This park is Australia’s oldest park where you can have coffee, hear park singers sing their heart out and tourists getting enough selfies to last a lifetime. Hyde Park is right beside St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney’s home of the Catholic community, inside the cathedral, you can see intricate designs and gothic architecture and truly a special place for worship and solitude. No mass the time we went there, but eventually heard mass the following Sunday 4th of June, my birthday. From the cathedral, we continued walking for about 15 to 20 minutes passing by State Library of New South Wales, Hyde Park Barracks Museum, the Mint Museum and finally arriving at the entrance of The Royal Botanic Gardens.

This time we were quite tired, so leisurely walk or even stopping by benches was the way to go, please note that we were 10 people 4 of which are Senior Citizens. We stopped and smell the flowers, literally and took photos of the greens and statues which were at the garden. Surprisingly, after about forty minutes of fresh air, grass and trees were a welcoming sight, a concrete pavement and a walkway leading to the Sydney Opera House is breathtakingly beautiful. Just in time for sunset, we didn’t mind the long walk and the cold gentle wind, as the Sydney Opera House stood there in all its glory. We can see people getting busy looking for a perfect spot, preparing the lights and colors and simply just getting by. As soon as we saw the sun setting, we immediately traverse to Circular Quay to take a ferry ride to Manly. We rode the ferry taking pictures as the sun sets and slowly the lights began sparkling atop Sydney Opera House and buildings surrounding the Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay. It was a good exhibition of lights & colors, would be better though if there’s a synchronized music as well to go with the show. We went back home way past 10pm to rest and look forward to another day of touristy tasks the next day.

Day 3 and 4 – Shopping, Outlet Stores and more of Sydney

We went to two outlet stores, the Birkenhead Point Outlet Store and Direct Factory Outlet (DFO). Almost the same offering for these two, though plus points for Birkenhead Point as its location being on the water, there are views from various café al fresco and the Maritime Museum is also near and if you're staying in the city, Birkenhead is easier to get to. DFO is a bit far, but you can easily pass by Sydney Olympic station. Parking was a bit of a challenge on weekends at DFO but surely it will not hamper your mood when you see the sale going on inside the mall. Our timing was just right, with the financial year ending in Sydney, most brands were on their MidYear sale to as much as 70% off, happy shopping indeed! And when you feel you need for more bargains and cheap finds but equally interesting and good buys you may opt to visit Chinatown, Manly Street and the Rockies beside the Circular Quay to answer your hunger for more shopping.

Day 5 - Outskirts and long drive to Canberra, the capital of Australia and where the Parliament House is seated

We started early leaving Kingswood in the morning, about 3 hours road trip to Canberra there was fog all over. It is so cold that a heater in the car is a must have. First stop is Lake Burley Griffin where we took our brunch, feed the birds, stop by Questacon – the National Science and Technology Center of Australia and saw the flagpoles line up to the Commonwealth Place. The Philippine flag all proud and tall beside all other flags and we couldn’t resist taking photo right below it. As winter is just starting there are a lot of autumn leaves and trees, a picturesque beauty of the town makes it all the more scenic and stunning. After a lot picture taking and experiencing fun science, there’s an advance Robotics feature that is introduced in the lobby where a talking robot named RoBoQ is there to welcome visitors and make your tour as interesting as it can get.

Later in the afternoon passing by the National Library of Australia and within 5 minute drive we were on our way parking at the Parliament House. This is where you can learn about the finest culture and government history of Australia, it’s their seat of democracy and where you can watch the senate and their congress freely in case there’s a scheduled meeting on the day of your visit. There is also a guided tour with expert guides that would take around 30 to 40 minutes, though if you want to it on your own you can do so. There are plenty of information and labels to their exhibit that you’d be fine doing it on your own.

Further down Canberra within 8 to 10 minutes’ drive is the Australian War Memorial. We can now see the coming sunset at middle past 3 in the afternoon and the temperature dropped to 4 degrees. Very chilly but still without snow, we needed to wear our mittens and use additional jacket just so we can walk comfortably. The War Memorial is huge, I suggest going giving yourself at least three hours to fully appreciate and learn more. As it was getting late and the museum has a ceremony following before 5pm we had to hurry up. In the ceremony, the Memorial farewells visitors with its moving Last Post Ceremony, held in Memorial’s Commemorative courtyard. The ceremony basically tells the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honor which lists more than a hundred thousand Australians who have given their lives in war. The Late Post Ceremony as it’s called begins with the singing of the Australian National Anthem, a touching melody played by a piper, then the visitors are invited to lay wreaths and floral tributes beside the Pool of Reflection. The ceremony ends at 10 minutes before 6pm, after which everyone is expected to leave the museum.

It was well past 6 when we left the War memorial souvenir shop started drive going back to Sydney, a pit stop and dinner followed through in one of the fast-food chain by the highway. Little did we know that by this time it was at around negative 4 degrees outside. Goodness, for days it just keeps getting colder ha-ha! We ate at KFC, sadly there is no rice here so we had a lot of chips / fries instead, it has been 5 days so good luck getting all the fats while in Sydney. Another 3 hour travel then we’re all back in our heated bedrooms to put our legs up and finally retire for the night.

More stories on the next part of this blog. #iloveTravel

#WinterinSydney #Canberra #travel #leisure #DIY #travelplans #wanderer #journey #NepeanRiver #HydePark #SydneyOperaHouse #SydneyTower

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