Australia isn’t just a place you see it’s a place you FEEL!

We arrived in Sydney December 22nd 2016 (Summer Solstice), stopping briefly in Singapore; which was  bathed in late evening sunshine as thunderstorms rumbled to a close. Stepping outside the air-con of Singapore airport, I had my first experience of tropical air and it was breathtaking, instantly clinging to my skin.

It’s very exciting arriving somewhere new and as our BA 777 pierced the low grey clouds on approach to Sydney, the descent offered brief glimpses of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge and promises to come. The flight tracker gizmo registered a temp of 22C at the airport, perfect to climatise to after leaving a chilly Northern Hemisphere (Winter Solstice)

Newtown & Erskineville

Sydney Architecture

Our first place of stay Erskineville (Erko) is a charming suburb, of narrow terraced houses, corrugated roofs and miners cottages, located a few miles from the centre of Sydney. Driving from the airport, the mundane infrastructure when viewed for the first time takes on another kind of charm and many questions.

Multi coloured topped wheelie bins, street signs on long singular poles. Cables and wiring above ground. But most sensible of all, you can turn left at a junction on a red light if the road is clear. Btw, there is nowhere other than Sydney where I have tasted coffee, breakfast/brunch and juices as delicious, especially the coffee. I didn’t notice any of the usual coffee chains in Sydney, only small independents.

The Italian and Greek immigrants of the early 1950s we can thank for this. Another highlight was a tour of and the smell of the fresh roasting coffee will stay with me for a long time.

Avo on Toast

Of course it is now eating into the cost of a house deposit, but a trip to Sydney isn’t complete without an almost daily dose of avo on toast, and it has to be said that Room 10 in Potts Point served my favourite avo! (There were many close seconds though!)

Bronte Ocean Pool

Sydney has an amazing choice of beaches and ocean pools, Bronte was our favourite, tucked away in an amphitheatre shaped bay and best revealed by taking the scenic coastal walk from Bondi. Small is beautiful. bonditocoogeewalk

Pearl Beach

Pearl Beach

Is as gorgeous as the name implies, with all the streets named after gem stones. Captain James Cook chronicled the inlets as “Broken Bay” in 1770. It’s a 90 minute drive or train ride from Sydney: We caught the train, an old style intercity with a ribbed aluminium exterior, double deckered with bouncy seats which fold to face either direction (like all Sydney trains).

After passing through Croydon (NSW) we snaked above and through the hills, hugging the edges of estuaries and swampy tidal pools, appreciating the air-con chilling us from the fierce Australian sun.

We had the good fortune to stay in the house above, arriving on Christmas Eve to the crackling heat of the afternoon and the continuous sound of  Cicada

The lovely thing about Pearl Beach is it’s naturalness. The houses blend in seamlessly with the vegetation which feels more tropical than bush. This is a place of pure clear intense colour, Cobalt and Azure blues; warm eucalyptus  greens, turquoise shallows glowing bark reds and strong violet shadows.

The Blue Mountains

The Three Sisters   

Blackheath  the highest elevated town in the Blue Mountains at 3,494ft and the coolness of a 14C night temp was a welcome relief from the 40C heat of Sydney. It amuses me that so many parts of London are twinned in (NSW) Interestingly, Blackheath was nearly called Hounslow, and that Charles Darwin stayed here in 1836.

First call – Pulpit Rock – and being misty didn’t take away from the spectacular view here but it was a hair raising experience walking down it’s narrow stairwell chiselled in to the hanging rock. (More hair raising were those taking selfies on the edges of slippery waterfalls). Bridal Veil Falls, Cripps lookout and Govetts Leap Falls are a few of the darkly descriptive nearby lookouts.

The most famous of all The Three Sisters (see picture), didn’t disappoint. And yes the distant mountains really are blue, the Canyons and Valleys took on a magical depth and luminosity with cloud shadows scudding the landscape, the sun picking out the amber and orange edges of the rocks and  the clearings of yellow ochre set against the greeny blue patches of Eucalyptus trees.

Another really memorable (magical) moment here was seeing a mob of about 60 Kangaroos at dusk feeding in a clearing. After getting a bit too close to them they adopted a Meerkat stance and hopped back into the bush like giant rabbits.

Royal National Park (Marley Beach)

The most hazardous unpatrolled beach in the park, scoring a 7/10 for hazards. Sharks, Topographical rips  and bluebottles. But beautiful!

And finally, The Wildlife

After a few alarming encounters and daily fears of finding a snake or a funnel web spider in my trainers, I was pleased to make it through the trip with only a few mossie bites. Oh and seeing a giant huntsman the size of a dinner plate…

This Eastern Water Dragon, spotted basking near Manly Beach.

And before we flew home, Sydney the seagull, last seen at Circular Quay !