Hotel Review – The Rocks

Location, location, location. Is it really the only thing that matters? If you’re not in a good location you notice, but if you are in a great location you often take it for granted. When we got back to Sydney we wanted to be closer to the Opera House and nearby attractions. So finding a hotel at the Rocks was perfect. Yes, it’s a touristy area, but hey we are acting like tourists this week anyway. My mom wanted to be as close to the Opera House as possible, but found that this was hard to find. Even the super high end hotels weren’t “that close.” So we searched and Google mapped to no avail that satisfied my mom. She finally settled on “a short walking distance,” but with a view of the Opera House/Bridge.

My mom somehow stumbled upon the Rydges Sydney Harbour. Hmm the pool rooftop views looked too good to be true and distance-wise it was as close as you can get. So why was it so affordable and how was it not sold out? Doing a little research we found that this property was very recently just bought by the Rydges and was previously a Holiday Inn. The new ownership and changing of hands must have something to do with this. Well we thought it would be silly not to take advantage of it being that in a few months when it’s fully functioning as a Rydges property the rate would be a lot higher. 

First, I’ll go over the good. The best part of this stay was by far the staff. They were highly trained, super nice, and professional. Everyone we encountered from check in to check out was pleasant, even in not so pleasant conditions. They made it work, or at least were trying to. The small touches were great – they had a luggage scale, durable umbrellas to use in inclement weather, a map showing where guests are from, ice tea and water in the lobby, etc. When the hotel is fully operational these small touches are really what will set them apart, but for the time being they were the highlights. The rooftop pool, although smaller than pictured, is also really great especially for the area. You can some sunshine with a great view of the harbour. 

Now the bad, the interior is so outdated. It reminded me of the depression style buildings from back in the day that were just put up as quickly as possible without any style. It was pretty dark and quiet throughout the day. It didn’t seem like a lot of people were staying there the first two nights and there was a lack of life and bustle that you usually find in the lobby areas of hotels. Lack of people and a lack of sound (not even background music) created a very odd vibe. 

The rooms were shabby to say the least. When Rydges took over I think they tried to do a very cosmetic/superficial fix straight away with painting the rooms. However, a fresh coat of paint doesn’t help the underlying problems. My biggest issue was the furniture – it was all out of sorts and the desk chair didn’t fit under the desk; this made a small room feel even smaller and cluttered. Two it was just plain old dirty. I went to move the nightstand to plug in my phone and touched gum underneath. My mom smelt a musky/urine small from the bed. When inspecting the mattress they were brand new (and I should mention super comfortable so that’s actually a major plus) and realized the smell was coming from the carpet. Whether the trace was human or from an animal one will never know (animals are not permitted under current ownership). We asked for the carpet and nightstand to be cleaned, but they weren’t. The housekeeping manager wasn’t satisfied and moved us to a new room. No smell in the new room, but it was still pretty dingy and the chair again didn’t fit under the desk, which for some reason really bothered me. The room had TV problems – the remote didn’t connect; the resolution we were given was to hit the remote and stand close to use.

The property’s biggest issue was that it was actually falling apart. When we checked in we were told that there had been some leaking from the rain in some of the upper levels. Okay not a huge issue. By the end of our stay it seemed like there was a lot of leaking everywhere including the lobby with rugs needing to be pulled back and buckets on the ground. I know the building and area in general is old/historic, that is part of the beauty, but is it really fit for people to be staying in at any price point? I’m not sure.

Major renovations need to be done, but then it will be top notch. As it stands now it’s not worth even a budget price point and personally I would have gathered stayed at the Sydney Harbour YHA. I even have to check myself to see if I’m being too harsh and I don’t think I am. The staff here really made a rundown place run smoothly and nicely doing the best that they could with what they were given. I therefore wouldn’t say it was a bad experience, despite all the negatives, because most things were out of the staff’s control. Post-reno I’m going to bet that I would recommend this hotel. At the moment? Only if you get a good deal and want to be in this location and when there’s good weather in Sydney. 

Mother-Daughter Bonding Down Under – Week 2

I can’t believe the second week with my mom has already drawn to a close. I am so thankful she extended the trip to three weeks because the original plan was just for two. We still had to cut out some major things to fit into a doable itinerary, but we are having a blast.

Our first week, we spent mostly exploring Sydney and the surrounding area. For week 2, we left New South Wales and technically stepped foot in three other states (Northern Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia). I say “technically” because SA was only for a layover and I don’t think that counts, but in the same regard I can now say I’ve “technically” been in all of the Australia’s states. Don’t worry SA/Adelaide, I promise to visit soon. This week was a lot of firsts for both my mom and me and I’m so glad I was able to experience it with her! 

Monday/Day 8 – Early morning flight from Sydney to Ayers Rock airport. We are going to the OUTBACK, BABY!! Major bucket list item for both of us, but for different reasons. Full on blog posts coming soon, but I’ll just highlight for now. We had avocado toast at the airport before taking off. We arrived around noon and were able to check in to the resort straightaway and had a small lunch at the resort. After cool and rainy Sydney, we were shocked by the heat, sun, and flies which met us in the Outback. Our first priority was to buy fly nets and a hat for myself. We have big dinner plans tonight at the Sounds of Silence dinner. We start off the evening with sunset canapés and bubbly with a breathtaking view of Uluru. Then we had a gorgeous dinner and ended the evening with a viewing of the Field of Light exhibit.  

Day 9 – Had a chilled morning and rode around the property, saw an educational talk on aboriginal culture, and had a dip in the pool. Later in the day we actually enter the Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park and do a guided tour. Concluding the night with sunset, small nibbles, and bubbles. 

Day 10 – Our last full day at the resort. I make use of the pool again and we go to a “Bush Talk” at the resort and learn about Australian and local native bush foods with a tasting of seasonal seeds, fruits, and spices. The evening brings what I was most looking forward to in the Outback – the camel ride. We leisurely ride for about an hour and watch the sun set. 

Moose the baby camel

Day 11 – We again have a chilled morning before departing via bus to Alice Springs. My mom acted very motherly here and did some laundry before we left. In the meantime I made a stop to the “Funny Farm” and spent some time with the baby camels and misfit animals. It’s a long scenic ride, but the commentary from the drivers was great. Along the way we saw wild horses, camels, dingos, and others four legged animals. I also may have gotten some shuteye. It’s already getting dark when we pull in so we explore the hotel and have dinner onsite that night. 

Day 12Valentine’s Day – I snuck in a cheeky swim in the AM before heading into the town for brunch. Then this was a full on travel day as we were heading to Perth connecting via Adelaide. We arrived in Perth in the evening and opted for dinner at our hotel. The air is so refreshing here and we take an evening walk. 

Day 13 – Vegan brunch and then my mom’s dreams came true when she held a koala. She can now leave Australia content. Her dream became a reality at a visit to Cohunu Koala Park, which we took Uber to and from. For dinner we went to the hot spot, Petition Kitchen, and had a really great meal. 

Day 14 – Tried to get an early start and headed to Fremantle in the morning. We spent some time exploring the area, had lunch, and walked around the markets. Then we took the train to Cottesloe Beach. We strolled on the beach for a bit before heading into Cottesloe Town for an early dinner. Taking the train back into Perth my mom somehow convinced me to get a pedicure, but with the store’s credit card machine not working I ended up paying for it myself…. treat yo’ self, right? We have an early morning ahead of us with more excitement ahead for my mom’s last week down under. 

Catch up on what we were up to our first week. 

Last week I had my mom rate the restaurants we had eaten at. This week I asked her to rate the accommodation we had stayed at to date. Obviously, all of the properties were very different and across the entire country (you can’t really compare a basic NYC hotel to an Arizona resort to a Chicago high-rise hotel – if you get my drift), each with their quirks, but this is her opinion from best to least favorite of the properties we have stayed at during her two week stay in Australia: 

  1. Hunter Valley Crowne Plaza 
  2. Sails in the Dessert – Uluru 
  3. Doubletree Alice Springs
  4. Fraser Suites Perth 
  5. Sydney Novotel Darling Harbour
  6. Sydney Rydges Sydney Harbour 

Brava I went to an Opera

The Sydney Opera House is iconic. I’ve seen a comedy show and a couple of ballets to date, but I was missing seeing an actual opera at the venue. With my mom coming into town it was the perfect time to finally see an opera. Don Giovanni was on the weekend we were in Sydney. We booked our tickets and were ready for a night out at the Opera House.

First and foremost, everyone on stage was incredible. Their voices were captivating and powerful. I couldn’t believe how they could project throughout the room without the use of microphones. They sang in Italian and there were English subtitles above the stage, however you didn’t need to know exactly what was said to appreciate the performance. Composed by Mozart in 1787 it was really cool seeing how the music and story have held for hundreds of years.

That being said I didn’t care for the storyline at all. I’ve also never been so annoyed with a fictional character as I was with Donna Elvira in the second act. She went from being to a total powerhouse to the exact opposite. Not to be preachy or throwing feminism around, but you could tell that this story was written by a man.

I’m glad I went and now I can say I’ve experienced an opera, however, I won’t be running back to see another one right away. I love live performances – concerts, plays, musicals, ballets, etc.; but I learned that operas aren’t my preferred art form.

My First Visitor in Australia – Week 1

My mom is easily the most important person in my life. I’m an only child and have always been close to my momma. She is my biggest supporter and I’m so grateful for her every day. That being said being so far away from her while in Australia and traveling around has been tough and that’s mostly to do with the time difference. I say mostly because there’s so much I miss about not seeing her, but the time difference makes even the conversations we do have tricky. It made sense that my first visitor to Australia would be my mom. I was so excited for her arrival. I really wanted to show her the country I fell in love with and maybe she would see the reason for my obsession firsthand. That at least would be the best-case scenario at the end of her trip.

Planning for her three-week trip was challenging. I wanted to show her everything and go everywhere whilst not overdoing it and still relaxing. My mom kept saying she would be happy just by the beach, but there’s so much more to see in Australia. It was stressful and took a lot of planning, but we narrowed our itinerary down to get a little bit of everything without running around like crazy. The first week would be focused on Sydney and surrounding areas. 

Day 1 – Mom arrives on the 3rd, but she flew out of the US on the 1st (a long time traveling) so we were having a chill day. We dropped her bags off at the hotel and went to grab some brunch. Avo toast #1 check. We walk around the surrounding area of Darling Harbour not venturing too much, but we do stop for a passionfruit sorbet at Messina. That night we go to the hotel’s happy hour and later order in Thai via DoorDash. 

Day 2 – have a bit of a sleep in thanks to the black out curtains in the room and then have breakfast (avo quinoa bowl) at a restaurant in Darling Harbour. Today we are taking on the Costal Walk from Coogee to Bondi. We take it at a very leisurely pace and really take in everything along the way. When we finally made it to Bondi we treated ourselves to a meal at Bucket List and then shopped around. Mom was a fan of Bondi and the costal walk in general. Win! 

Day 3 – It’s Manly time. I was so excited to get over to Manly because well it’s an amazing, underrated part of Sydney. I think the other beaches overtake Manly in popularity, but that’s okay with me. The ferry ride over had an aweing effect on my mom and it was the first official view of the Sydney Opera House she got. Once in Manly we had brunch at Girdlers and then headed to the beach. A perk of traveling with your mom was being a little fancy and we actually rented beach chairs and umbrella. Something I wouldn’t have thought to do on my own, but now that I know how nice it was I don’t think I could go without. We grabbed Acai bowls to cool down from Acai Bros and then walked over to Shelly Beach. After more browsing in the stores we had dinner at Moo Burgers with a great view and my mom tried a kangaroo burger (she wasn’t a fan). Then we hopped back on the ferry and headed back across the harbour. 

Day 4 – Super early wake up call, but it was worth it because we were going to Hunter Valley

Day 5 – Spent the day/early afternoon in Hunter and got back to Sydney around 7pm. We checked in to our new hotel in a prime area – on the Rocks. We had a late, but delicious dinner at Pony and then walked around the Rocks a bit. 

Day 6 – Scheduled for today was a trip out to Watson’s Bay, but the weather was not having it. The rain was coming down hard all day. We had brunch on the Rocks (mom had another avo toast…I think she might be becoming a millennial). I checked another dining bucket list item off with dinner when we went to Sake. We thought we had allocated enough time starting dinner at 5:15pm to make it to the Opera before 7pm, but we had to dash over there. We were seeing Don Giovani. This was my first opera. The production was very well done and their voices were incredible, but now I can say with certainty that operas aren’t really my thing. It was still really great to experience especially at THE Sydney Opera House.

Day 7 – This day was originally going to be a day trip out to Jervis Bay, but with the forecasted rain we decided to stay in the city and maybe go to some markets and walk the Harbour Bridge. Oh boy were we wrong. The rain was at a constant downpour with heavy winds closing pretty much everything down. We had tea and scones at the Tea Cosy (another foodie bucket list item check), broke my umbrella walking back to the hotel which was one building over. The day was looking like a chill day, but it was also our last day in Sydney so it felt like a bit of a waste. We went to the QVB for a little bit, but weren’t in a mood to shop. For dinner that night we ventured to Newtown to try Golden Lotus, a fully vegan Vietnamese restaurant (another check). Wow the food was yummy and it’s BYO so we enjoyed the bottle of wine we brought back from Hunter over our shared plates. We ended the night with a night cap (can a beer technically be a night cap?) at the Lord Nelson Brewery. 

It was a super fun week and although the schedule didn’t fully go as planned it didn’t matter. Just spending time together was what really matters. Almost exactly a week from my mom’s arrival we were heading to the airport once again to fly to our next destination…

Here are my mom’s officially unofficial rankings of Sydney’s food scene:

Breakfast

  1. Girdlers (Manly)
  2. Dare Cafe (The Rocks)
  3. Two Sis & Co. (Darling Harbour/Pyrmont)
  4. Tea Cosy (The Rocks)
  5. Waterfront Grill (Darling Harbour)

Dinner

  1. Redsalt Restaurant (Hunter Valley)
  2. Sake (The Rocks)
  3. Pony (The Rocks)
  4. At Home Thai Cuisine (Doordash)
  5. Golden Lotus (Newtown)
  6. Bucket List (Bondi)
  7. Moo Burgers (Manly)

Hotel Review – Hunter Valley

In true Sylwia fashion I waited to the last minute to book our Hunter Valley trip. In my defense I was waiting for the weather and thought that since we were going on a weekday there wouldn’t be any issues. I was in contact with one hotel, but never actually made the reservation. When we finally decided to book, our first choice actually ended up being sold out so we had to go for a plan b. That took form as the Crown Plaza Hunter Valley. Not really sure what to expect we were blown away when driving up to the property. It was huge! Even including a golf course, two onsite restaurants, a fitness center, two pools, and more. The property itself was gorgeous. 

We were booked into a standard room, but were upgraded to a villa. However, this was a bit too much space for two people for one night (and it was also away from the main building and its amenities) so we opted for a normal room instead. The room was spacious and clean. The bed was super comfortable and they also provided a deep sleep pillow spray – what a cute little touch! 

Both on-site restaurants were yummy and our dinner at Redsalt was fantastic! Lovedale is a slightly more casual and has a sports bar feel, this is where we had lunch the next day and again it was delicious. They even had the option of making a pizza with vegan cheese and/or a cauliflower base. Two thumbs up for the food. 

I utilized the gym, but with the weather I wasn’t able to make the most of the onsite pools. There was also a spa and on weekends they have a brewery tour. If we stayed longer we would have made use of everything available. 

The amenities were nice, food was great, room was above average – what else could you ask for? Well the staff and all the workers were so professional and we were impressed by how friendly and efficient the reception staff was. They really were the icing on the cake for the entire experience. 

I would highly recommend the Crown Plaza in Hunter Valley if you were to stay in the area overnight. 

Hunter Valley

Besides being known for its beautiful beaches and wildlife, Australia is also known for its wine. The hot, dry climate is similar to other more well-known wine regions. Australia’s history is filled with European expats, and much like the coffee culture, it makes sense that the European wine culture also made its way to Oz. Growing and producing wonderful wine was never an issue, but the far distance of exportation and travel time, mostly by boat in the earlier days, made it difficult for the wine to become well known around the world. 

The five main wine regions spread across Australia are the Barossa Valley and Coonawarra in South Australia, Yarra Valley in Victoria, Margaret River in Western Australia, and Hunter Valley in New South Wales. 

Hunter Valley is a day trip away from Sydney. Hunter Valley produces many kinds of wines, but they are most well known for Semillons, Verdelhos, and Shirazes. My first trip to Hunter Valley was actually back in October on a day trip and really loved it. Hunter Valley is just under a two-hour drive from Sydney’s city center and there are about 150 different wineries/cellar doors to visit. You pretty much have to drive here or take a coach. Public transportation doesn’t really get you into this area and you would still need a way around once here. Given that there’s a lot of drinking involved my first trip to Hunter I opted for a bus day-tour

With my mom visiting, I wanted to go back so she could also experience Hunter Valley. I had such a great trip back in October I decided to book the same exact tour, but we would stay a night and be picked up the next afternoon instead of squeezing everything into one day. Booking was a bit of a pain and if it was my only experience with the company it wouldn’t have been positive, but in the end it all it worked out. 

The tour was exactly the same as the one I did in October, but it was equally as enjoyable. We started the day with the De Iuliis winery. We tried three whites, three reds (including one rose), and a sweet wine. The next stop was at Hermitage at Hunter Valley Resort and we had four wine and cheese pairings and at the same location we had our lunch. After lunch we stopped by Leogate Estate’s cellar door, which is a gorgeous property and events venue, for five or six more tastings. Finally, we were done with wine and went to the Hunter Valley Distillery for some vodka and spirits tastings. The trip rounded off with a stop for something sweet at the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company. 

Normally, the tour would go straight back to Sydney, but we were dropped off at a hotel for the night. Not only were we spared the normal bus ride back after a day of drinking, the next day we also learned that the bus we would have been on broke down an hour and a half out of Sydney and everyone had to get Ubers back into the city whist it started raining. My mom and I had an awesome evening safe and sound/oblivious to what everyone else was facing in our hotel and spent the following afternoon relaxing around the hotel until our ride came.

Hunter Valley was a success! I really enjoyed the tour again, but probably wouldn’t do it a third time, however, if I lived in Sydney I would make it a weekend getaway every once in a while or for special occasions. If you’re in the Sydney area I definitely think this is a must do to get out of the city for a day. 

Hotel Review – Darling Harbour (Sydney)

Darling Harbour is the “other harbour” in Sydney the main one being where the sort of famous bridge and drying plates or sails building (aka the Sydney Opera House) is. Darling Harbour is typically less crowded with tourists and has more of the business/convention crowds, given the close proximity to the Sydney Convention Center. On Fridays, they have fireworks, although all fireworks have been put on hold since last year because of the bush fires. This Friday’s fireworks (the 8th) have not been cancelled yet. Darling Harbour is in a prime location because it’s an easy walk into the CBD, but not directly in it. The new Light Rail/tram makes it easier than ever to travel west from Central Station. 

My mom is visiting me in Australia as of Monday and there was no way she would do the hostel life so I went on a search for hotels. Our first hotel on her trip is Novotel Sydney Darling Harbour. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I haven’t stayed at a Novotel before, but I was blown away with the lobby once inside. It was spacious with high ceilings and beautifully decorated. The check in and check out process was smooth with the front desk staff being super friendly and accommodating. 

The room itself wasn’t show-stopping and smelled a little musty/muggy until you turned on the AC to circulate air throughout. It was a decent sized, clean, and we had two beds. The TV was enormous, but there were two main highlights of the room: first being blackout curtains that wow really worked wonders and the second being was the bed. The bed/pillows were so comfortable. I would stay here just for the amazing night’s sleep. 

There was also a little gym, tennis court, and outdoor pool on property. Happy Hour ran around the lobby level bar from 4-6pm each day with $6 beer, wine, and spirits. They also had pretty amazing chips “fries” for a little nibble. 

My mom wants me to make sure I note the great service we received. She had dropped something down the drain and the engineer/maintenance worker came so quickly to retrieve it. She was shocked by how quick and efficient they were and not expecting a tip, but just doing their job. 

I had three sort of negatives with the hotel, but they wouldn’t deter me from staying here again or recommending this property. The first and main one was I tried ordering room service Sunday night. When calling I asked if a specific dish was vegan and was assured it was. When it was delivered it had a side of mayo (okay I don’t have to use that), but then it was covered in cheese. I called back and she said they would remake it vegan. When it came to be delivered the second time I was greeted to no mayo or cheese, but the attendee told me the chef had said it wasn’t prepared vegan. That was an eye roll moment especially as they didn’t have any other vegan options on the menu except fries. At that point on a Sunday night it was too late to have anything else delivered either. The second negative, was that our room wasn’t turned over after the first night. We had placed the sign to make up the room, but it must have been misread as do not disturb. Not a big deal, but then when they did make up the room after the second day they left an extra sheet around the room. The attention to detail just wasn’t there. Finally, the third con isn’t directly related to the hotel, the light rail stop was directly below the hotel, but it was so hard to get to and signage was so poor. I’ve found that this is kind of the light rails thing, not being able to find it or make it easy for riders, but as a hotel guest it should be easier to know how to get to the light rail and harbour side. Not spending a chunk of time roaming a garage.

This is definitely a hotel you would want to stay at on a business trip to the city, but I also think it’s a good option if you want to get out of the center of the CBD. The value was great and the night’s sleep was awesome.

Hotel Review – Hotel Bondi

Hotel Bondi is located right on Campbell Parade right across the street from the iconic Bondi Beach. It’s one of the popular places to go out for happy hour or at night in the area. When I was staying in Bondi I wanted to stay here for a couple of nights before traveling onwards. Their website isn’t the greatest and the only way to book into the hotel is through a third party site like Booking.com.

I booked my stay pretty last minute so I was limited on the room options. I was booked into a “deluxe room,” but really it was just a queen-sized bed with a small couch. The room itself felt very stale and outdated, but I didn’t mind because the location of the hotel was my main motivation for booking here. You are right in the center of everything here. The staff was very attentive and professional throughout my entire stay. They also provided a shuttle to the airport for only $20! My room led out a shared balcony. It was lovely sitting out there looking out at the water in the morning with a coffee. Another small perk were cookies that were provided in addition to coffee or tea in the room – a nice little touch.

I think this hotel is a win with its location. The staff does the best it can with the property in the current state – renos are needed. If you could get a deal for your stay then it would have a better value. Even if you don’t stay here definitely check out the bar one afternoon/night.

My Week in the Northern Beaches of Sydney

A ferry ride out of Circular Quay brings you to the Northern Beaches. The most well known of these is Manly. The ferry ride each way is $7.65 AUD. The cost and the fact that it takes 45ish minutes deters many people from making the trek. Most people leave Manly trips for Sundays when all travel is capped at $2.80 total for the day. This included myself until recently when I wanted to experience the Northern Beaches for myself. In my week staying in Manly I now understand the appeal and if I stay in Sydney long-term I would really look into living in this area.

Beaches

Curl Curl Beach smokiness

The biggest plus side of Manly was the significant drop of the amount of international tourists. Many Aussie families were vacationing here and it wasn’t as crowded as some of the other beaches like Bondi. Unfortunately, during my week the smoke from the bush fires was really impacting the air quality.

The main attraction of the area is of course all of the beaches. Some of the ones I visited included: Manly, Curl Curl, Freshwater, Dee Why, and Shelly Beach. Some of them are walkable from one to the other (Manly to Shelly or Manly to Freshwater), but they are all easy to access with the buses.

Manly Corso

The town center of Manly was designed after Italian city centers. This is the area right by the wharf that extends to the beach. The streets are full of shops, food vendors, and music. On the weekends markets pop up. The markets were lovely because they had vendors unique to the Northern Beaches. Sundays included lots of fresh produce and food vendors. There were so many great restaurants, coffee shops, and micro breweries around Manly. I definitely didn’t get to check enough of them out. Here were some of my favorite spots around the Corso:

  • Manly Bakery – really reasonable prices and yummy treats. I was obsessed with the almond croissants that were only $3 AUD
  • Acai Brothers and Bare Naked Bowls (multiple locations around Sydney) – both great spots for a refreshing bowl
  • With Love from Manly – awesome store with many Australian goods
  • Hotel Steyne Henry’s Rooftop – great rooftop bar with views of the Corso and beach

Getting Active

There are a couple of walk options available for anyone wanting to get active. The big walk is from Manly to Spit Bridge. It’s about 10km one way and takes about 3.5 hours. There’s also a walk to North Head from Shelly Beach (North Head Sanctuary loop) which offers panoramic views of Sydney including the Harbor Bridge on a clear day. This walk includes stopping through the Barracks Precinct.

Sculpt Barre Fitness – this pilates studio offered 3 classes for $30 and was right by my accommodation. The classes were excellent and ranged from classic pilates, barre, a HIIT inspired class, and more.

Airbnb Review

I stayed in the Manly Beach House for my stay. The location was right on Pittwater and a short walk to the beach, wharf, or Corso. I booked it through Airbnb and it was classified as as “hostel.” I wouldn’t really call this a hostel though as the rooms were all private and many families even with kids stayed here. On their website it describes the location as a “guest house.” I would say this is more appropriate description. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was a very convenient location and a good value for the price. If you are looking for cheapish accommodations and want your own room this is a good choice.

Christmastime in Sydney

Christmas is by far my favorite holiday and unlike Thanksgiving I have never spent a Christmas without my family. Thanksgiving this year on the other side of the world was difficult mostly because it’s not celebrated at all in Australia. I had a very anti-Thanksgiving; including a HIIT class in the AM, some beach time, sushi for dinner, and cake at Kurtosh with a friend to round off the night. The only thing that made it remotely feel like Thanksgiving was that it was significantly colder that night than the others that week – just a tiny piece of the fall weather. It wasn’t traditional whatsoever and that day was my first real dose of homesickness. The bright side is that for what Australia lacked on turkey day they are making up for it with Christmas tenfold. Decorations like in the Westfield mall in Bondi Junction were up before Halloween! Seemingly over night both large and small touches went up all over the city and suburbs and everyday more and more is added. Sydney is beginning to look a lot like Christmas even if it’s been consistently in the 70s.

Things to do in Sydney to get into the Christmas spirit: 

  1. Listen to carolers – there’s pretty much someone caroling any day of the week, it may be the rotating groups at Martins Place or in your neighborhood.
  2. See the Nutcracker – a classic ballet at the opera house currently running until December 18.
  3. Visit the Christmas Market at the Rocks – they are running Thursday, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (I would recommend going on Saturday or Sunday to get all the vendors).
  4. Grab a holiday cocktail at the Push Bar.  
  5. Send Christmas cards home – during November and December stamps for cards are at a discounted price of $2.20 from the usual $3.20 AUD. The catch is that it must be an enveloped letter.
  6. Volunteer or donate to local charities. The Red Cross is always looking for gently worn donations. If there’s one in your area drop off any unwanted items (spring cleaning, right?). Volunteer opportunities are abundant as well you just need to have a direction in mind (animals, soup kitchens, nature, etc.) and then do some research or reach out in local Facebook groups for some direction. I recently saw an experience on AirBnb that was cooking class “transforming rescued surplus food into restaurant quality meals that are then delivered directly to local disadvantaged communities. It’s a social impact experience where 100% of the fee goes to the organzation.
  7. Watch Christmas Movies – Being in Australia doesn’t reduce the amount of Christmas movies there are available on Netflix so binge away. I haven’t seen it yet, but Last Christmas in the theaters is supposedly really good (if you go to Event Cinemas there’s a Groupon for discounted tickets).

It’s going to be a weird Christmas for me, but at least now I know I won’t make this a habit. I’ll try to be home with my family this time next year to celebrate properly. Just know if you are feeling lonely or like I keep hearing that, “it just doesn’t feel like Christmas,” you’re not alone. Reach out to other travelers and attend an event or go see a movie together.