Festive Ham and Dairy Free Scallop Potatoes

IMG_4425Years ago we were away over Christmas for the first time ever, well not including university years or when we went somewhere else to visit. This was the first time we were not somewhere spending Christmas with other family or friends. We were in Australia, part of our 3 month stint back in 2007, and the beginning of a love affair with the Aussies (cause as you know we’ve been back since to Australia and there’s talk of going again).

This was the first time that we as a family were in a place where they was no family or friends to visit or stay with. We had no traditions that we had to uphold (not that there is anything wrong with traditions, everyone calls me a very traditional gal. I love them and uphold many, but there are times to break from or form new traditions) and no particular place that we needed to be. We were in Tasmania, the only island state in Australia, staying in Launceston at a lovely place called the Penny Royal Apartments (which are refurbished historical buildings turned into apartment accommodations). It was a lovely place.

Bris Tas and Melbourne (244)

Penny Royal Apartments

For Christmas, we kept it low key, enjoying a nice dinner on Christmas Eve and preparations for Santa Claus, with our paper tree and actual socks hung up for stockings. Christmas morning was even simpler with a present from Santa, some goodies in our stockings and a nice breakfast of french toast. Matthew was 4, and was super happy with his little Tonka trucks from Santa Claus and his few small gifts from us.

Bris Tas and Melbourne (246)We went to the beach for the day, we came back and went to a Christmas buffet at another local hotel. No one had to cook the big meal, no fuss, no muss, relaxing, easy. Simple. It was so nice because we got to spend time with each other, it was not about the toys and gifts, or the big Christmas dinner. There was no stress to have things perfect or a timeline to abide by. It was cool, it was authentic and was one of the best Christmases I have ever enjoyed.

Bris Tas and Melbourne (247)When we returned from Australia we decided to shift our focus, and make Christmas about the things we really want, which we had identified as being together, enjoying each other’s company, it didn’t matter what we were going to do. So we simplified things, we ordered pizza on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day we had turkey crepes (a fabulous dish made with leftover turkey, that is not only delicious but simple and can be made ahead of time, reducing time in the kitchen on Christmas Day). We still had a nice meal and used the nice dishes, we still exchanged gifts, but now no one was stuck in the kitchen all day making dinner. Which for was usually just us anyway and was all over in about 20 minutes. Now I make the big meal 2-3 weeks earlier, chop and freeze the turkey and toss the crepes together on Christmas day, takes maybe 30 minutes.

That being said I do love the spread at Christmas and I still love all the traditional items on the menu, like turkey and stuffing, ham and potatoes, with all the dressings. So I usually do a bigger meal a little bit before Christmas, when I have more time, less things competing for my time and can afford a day in the kitchen.

The beach Christmas Day 2007

The beach Christmas Day 2007

In fact just this past weekend I decided to make a ham and scallop potatoes, often a favorite on many Christmas dinner tables. I was so excited because this was the first time that I was making the scallop potatoes dairy free. I love scallop potatoes but for some reason since going dairy free I thought I couldn’t make them, that adjusting the recipe would be too complicated. I have no idea why I thought this, but for some reason the other day this ‘block’ lifted and I decided I could do it and what I would do. I knew exactly what I was going to do and what substitutes I was going to try.

Oh my goodness! The potatoes turned out so well. They were absolutely fabulous and I couldn’t believe that I had waited so long to adjust this recipe, or that I thought I couldn’t! It was really quite simple and easy (and in case you haven’t noticed I like simple and easy).

The ham was fabulous as well, I use my own mix to glaze and flavour the ham, though I have discovered that it is near impossible to find a ham that is not cured with sugar of some kind (at the moment anyway, I believe that will come). I ended up buying one from the local butcher, no hormones, no steriods, grain fed, but still cured in a brine that did contain a little bit of sugar, though the butcher assured me that it was much less than what you would find in the local grocery store. Rounded out with a nice green salad it was a fabulous meal and one that we all enjoyed. It was the first time the twins had scallop potatoes and though Luke rejected them because they looked different, once he tasted them, he gobbled them up.

So if you’re doing the Christmas spread this year and want to try a dairy free scallop potato recipe (you may have a lactose intolerant aunt who you can finally make a dish for) or have decided to keep it more simple (you could make the slow cooker version of these potatoes), enjoy yourselves, remember what is most important to you and make that your focus, when you do Christmas day will be perfect no matter what.

Glazed Ham

dry mustardIMG_4424

coconut sugar

water

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients together to make a smooth paste. Be careful not to add too much water as you do not want it runny. Amounts of mustard and coconut sugar depend on preference for sweetness and tart, as well as size of ham. Spread mixture over ham. Place in covered roaster and roast for 2 hours at 350F for a 3.5 kg ham (increase or decrease cooking time according to size).

Scallop Potatoes

4 tbsp. Earth Balance vegan spread

4 tbsp. flour

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

2 c. coconut milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk Beverage, slightly thinner than regular coconut milk)

6 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly slicedIMG_4430

1 large onion, thinly sliced in rings

*optional 1/2 c. Daiya dairy free cheddar

In a medium saucepan melt Earth Balance. Whisk in flour, salt and pepper. Add coconut milk and stir. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. If adding cheese stir into sauce.

Layer half of prepared potatoes and onions in large (2.5 quart) casserole dish, alternating a layer of potatoes, a layer of onion. Pour half the sauce over potatoes and onion. Layer the rest of the potatoes and onions the same way, then pour the rest of the sauce over top.

Bake covered at 350 F for 50 minutes. Remove cover and bake 15 minutes more to brown slightly. Potatoes should be tender, sauce warm and bubbling.

Serves 6

Under the Sea

What do a giant shark, a spinning tunnel and an expedition to Antarctica have in common?

IMG_0827They are all found at Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium in Auckland, New Zealand, a fabulous underwater world created by New Zealand’s most celebrated under-sea explorer.

During our 3 week travels to Australia, we incorporated a week in New Zealand to get a little taste of the green pastures full of sheep, vineyards and many other sights of the country. We only spent one day in Auckland so had to pick and choose what we saw (as there is so much to do just in Auckland), but Kelly Tarlton’s was not a sight to be missed!

This harbourside marine park is a great place for the kids and the entire family. With experiences such as Shark Dives, Penguin Discoveries and Behind the Scenes tours, to Interactive Zones and the Seahorse Kingdom there is something for everyone.

Scott's Hut

Scott’s Hut

Located just outside of Auckland’s downtown on Tamaki Drive (and easily accessible by city transit or a free shuttle from downtown), you’re adventure begins as soon as you purchase your ticket. Entering Scott’s Base, you’re taken back to the first expedition to Antarctica and the conditions they had surviving there. Learning about life on the coldest place on earth!

Authentic memorabilia such as reindeer sleeping bags, food they took and items for entertainment, takes you back 100 years ago when Captain Robert Falcon Scott lived in his Antarctic Hut exploring the area.

Soon after is the Antarctic Ice Adventure, where you have the opportunity to see New Zealand‘s only colony of Antarctic penguins. After navigating the ‘ice tunnel’, (a spinning tunnel that makes you feel like you can’t walk in a straight line, and is hilarious for the kids. The floor is not moving but because the tunnel is spinning around you it feels like it is. My daughter found herself crawling along the floor to make it to the end). You enter a walkthrough area where you can view the King and Gentoo penguins swooping and swirling through the icy waters.

IMG_0830These guys are a delight to watch and all 3 of my kids loved watching them swimming and diving. I got some great video of them watching them, until Chloe hit Matthew or something like that, and then we caught a nice little tiff on video, aw the memories. Ha ha, what a great family vacation!

We had the priveldge that day of seeing the new King Penguin chick, tall, fluffy and stoic, standing on top of the ice. He was pretty cool to see.

We moved on to the other areas of the aquarium, enjoying Stingray Bay, where we timed it just right and listened to the Stingray talk, while sitting and enjoying a much needed coffee while listening. Did I mention that there is a nice cafe across from the Stingrays for just such emergencies?

IMG_0853It was pretty cool as we got to see the Stingrays up close and learned a lot about them, like how they spend most of their time inactive buried in sand, and prefer shallow waters, with the largest growing to 6.5 long. They really are fascinating gentle creatures, and it took me back to my swimming with the Manta Rays when I was in Hawaii.

The highlight for sure was the shark tunnel, where you are literally surrounded by sharks in an underwater tunnel. Stepping onto a moving pedway, it takes you around the ‘loop’ to view the sharks and other fish in the aquarium; able to step off on the side if you wish to pause and look a little longer.

IMG_0837It was such a unique experience to be surrounded by these sharks and marine life. We even got to see some other people on the shark cage experience – where you get to go into a cage and swim with the sharks in the tunnel. Pretty cool experience I think.

This place is very well thought out and laid out, with lots of opportunities to view and explore. Brimming with information, hands on opportunities and fun interactive experiences (have I mentioned the giant shark mouth that you can be ‘swallowed up’ in?) it will easily engage everyone.

The aquarium also gives back to the community as they provide school programs, scholarships, and established the Sea Life Conservation Fund, a non profit organization committed to protecting unique aquatic animals and their habitats.

IMG_3599Sadly, Kelly Tarlton himself has already passed away, dying shortly before his one millionth visitor saw the aquarium, but left a legacy and fulfilled a dream. He was dedicated to preserving and protecting marine life in our oceans and educating others. His Sea Life Aquarium continues to do this for all it’s visitors, young and old alike.

One of the final highlights of our visit was the souvenir photo we purchased at the end of our visit. When we first went in they snap your picture and of course offering it to you for purchase at the end. The thing was ours was really good. We got poses of us in the Antarctic with the penguins and another being eaten by a shark! Plus it came in a neat little package with information about the aquatic animals as well as opportunities to download photos online and even create your own slideshow. It was pretty neat!

Definitely worth the visit, and a place I would go back to and visit again, Kelly Tarlton’s is a must see when visiting Auckland!

What Can you do with a Giant Sand Dune?

IMG_1546Approximately 100 km north of Perth, Australia, nestled in between Indian Ocean Drive and the Indian Ocean is the small quaint fishing and tourist town of Lancelin. This literally  ‘don’t blink or you’ll miss it’ kind of place, is home to gigantic beautiful white sands dunes. A place where you can play and enjoy in a way you may have never thought of before. Whether it be 4 wheel driving or sandboarding, exciting adventures await in this neat little town. Lancelin is one of those hidden gems on the west coast of Australia that you don’t want to miss.

IMG_3974We had decided to rent a car for the day and go north of Perth. Our main goal was to go see the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park but had a couple of other stops in mind that day. We had already toured Yanchep National Park where we saw koalas up close in their natural environment as well as wild kangaroos; a must see for kids and any adult that wants that ‘classic taste’ of Australia. I had heard about the white sand dunes and the possibility of going sandboarding and this intrigued me. How cool would it be to sail down the gorgeous white sand in the warm spring sunshine. Shorts and bare feet a must?

One of the things I really feel is important when traveling is to vary the kinds of experiences you have. Not only is it great to see the tourist spots, the museums and well known sites, but it is very cool to experience it in an adventuresome way. An active way that will provide you with an experience that you will never forget. Besides especially with kids, you need to interject these kinds of activities into your touring. Plus honestly the adults need it to.

IMG_3978We were on our way back from the Pinnacles, about 45 minutes north of Lancelin. We had planned to stop in on our way back and check out the sand dunes. I was getting very excited about the prospect of these sand dunes and going sandboarding! My sister had been there before and said it was quite cool. And I knew Matthew and D’Wayne would really enjoy it.

We had timed it just right, as it was about 4 in the afternoon, so we still had a couple of hours of sunlight left. We stopped at the local gas station and inquired about the dunes and renting sandboards. Turned out it was super cheap! Only $20 a board for 2 hours, with a $100 deposit, which of course we got back when we returned the boards.

We rented 2 boards and were off. Just a short drive through town (about 2 minutes) and a turn to the left we came upon these magnificient sand dunes. Massive is exactly what they were and going on for miles and miles. Some of them looked pretty steep as well! Even steeper then some of the ski hills I have been down.

The boards themselves are actually just snowboards with no bindings attached to them (You can rent the ones with the bindings on them if you want). You waxed them with a light coating of wax (provided by the rental place), and then up the big hill you went to slide down.

IMG_3989The sand dune itself was fairly steep and a good climb. Matthew took off like a shot and was up the hill in no time, zooming down. His eyes alight and sparkling. I treked off with Chloe to go down. It was a steady walk up but we made it to the top no problem. It was when I looked down that I had to catch my breath. Yes there was stunning view of the sun shining over the ocean, but it was not that that had me with a lack of breath. It was a lot steeper than I thought it was and I was actually a little apprehensive about going down.

IMG_3991I knew I couldn’t disappoint Chloe who was very excited to go down. I took a breath and sat on the board, putting Chloe in front of me. I pushed the board and tried to get us going down the dune, but was having a heck of a time. Because of the weight of both of us, and not having done this before, we were a little stuck in the sand at the top. I called for back up 🙂

D’Wayne came up the hill with Luke and gave it a go. Of course he got them going no problem, so I quickly nominated him to go with the kids going down with each one at a time. I watched and took pictures and video for a while, enjoying the fabulous view of the sun setting over the ocean and watching all the kids go flying down the hill. Screams delight carrying over the hill.

IMG_3966Up and down, up and down, over and over they went, loving every minute of it. Eventually the kids ditched the boards altogether and started sliding down on their bums or stomachs, Matthew even rolling down the hill (that my friend is a brave young man). I eventually took my turn as well, first going down on the board by myself, then taking turns going with Luke and Chloe.

One thing we made sure Luke and Chloe did when they went down was to cross their legs in front of them. This was for safety as you could get going pretty fast and it’s easy for a leg to get caught and bent behind you (or in some other position you would prefer not to have it in).

We crashed a few times, I crashed by myself. Yet it was all a lot of fun. And it was the most perfect timing, zooming down the dunes as the sun was setting over the ocean.

After about an hour we were done. Not only had we gone about 100 times, we were tired and our legs were burning out from climbing the dune over and over. We gathered our things, put on our shoes and headed back to the rental shop to return the boards, everyone charged with excitement. It was an absolutely fabulous experience! It was definitely one of the best parts of our trip to Australia. And the only reason I had even inquired about it was because I had read in one of the tours to the Pinnacles that they stopped somewhere to go sandboarding.IMG_3973

We finished our evening ordering fish and chips for dinner to eat on our ride home. Happy and satisfied we drove back to Perth, ready to share our adventures and pictures, with those who would listen to us babble on about our fabulous day and the adventure and experience that sandboarding provided. An experience not to miss!

The Playground at Darling Harbour

IMG_3416

Darling Quarter Playground

One of the things that I discovered while traveling with 3 kids is that the pace of things is much different than with one child, or for that matter just adults. You do not get to see as much as you would like in one day as there are smaller legs to walk on, more pee breaks and more frequent stops for food or snacks. You also have to remember that even though you may want to see 5 different museums in a day, though you can successfully engage the kids in one, further engaging them in another could be quite the challenge.

It is important to slow things down a little and do some ‘kid stuff’ not only for the sake of the children but for your sanity as well. Let them play and run off some steam and be kids. This does not mean that you have to give up seeing the one part of the city you really wanted to see. It just means you may experience it differently.

Chinese Garden of Friendship

Chinese Garden of Friendship

One area in Sydney we did this (and is definitely worth touring) was Darling Harbour. Home to the Powerhouse Museum, the Chinese Garden of Friendship, the Imax, National Maritime Museum and Sydney Sea Life Aquarium to name a few. Yet this time around, we decided to go for the kids and experience it ‘their way’.

Hence, my friend Dana recommended we go and check out the playground there, as she said it was a fabulous place for kids. She described the different water games, slides, and swings that were down there and explained how massive it was. Though I thought, well ok it’s a playground, I was intrigued, so decided that we should go and check it out.

I have to say I was super impressed. A definite ‘must do’ for all families, this spectacular playground features an array of activities that promotes learning and imagination for all ages. The Darling Quarter Kids Playground as it is called, is absolutely amazing and definitely not one to be missed. The range and variety of activities, engages kids of all ages, and will keep them entertained for hours! From the huge Octanet, giant slide and flying fox, to the swings, supernova and waterworks, there is something for every age and ability.

As soon as we arrived the kids were off like a shot. The challenge was the 3 of them were off running in different directions. Matthew I knew could hold his own and would check in periodically, but it was the twins exploring new skills that had me running around trying to make sure they were safe and in sight.

IMG_3415

Giant Slide 8 metres long!

They were definitely expanding their comfort zone that afternoon, as both Luke and Chloe really enjoyed the giant slide and were going up and down over and over. To go up, they had to climb up the ‘climbing wall’ at the back of the slide, with a rope to aid them; then they slide down. It wasn’t the slide that concerned me, but the 3 metre high ‘climbing wall’ to get there. I felt it was a little high for my four year olds and was a nervous about them climbing up. You know with their attitude of being untouchable and all. I was proud and freaked out at the same time as they very agilely went up to the top.

To be honest I was not worried about them climbing up but more about them falling down. I guess this is one of the lessons a parent must learn in letting go and trusting in their children.

The slide itself, was super fast and 8 metres long. Well super fast for an adult, probably about the right speed for a little person (yes I did go down it once, then decided that it was much too fast for me and I would just supervise the climbing).

IMG_3413Matthew really enjoyed exploring the different water works such as the water scoop and water screw and also successfully climbed up to the very top of the Octanet – at 10 metres high, giving me a heart attack, as I calmly congratulated him when he called “Mum, look at me!” and then asked him, very calmly to come down.

There are also sand diggers and smaller slides, plus swings of all sizes. All 3 of them enjoyed the giant ring, which is like a huge tire swing but with room for a lot more kids and swings a lot wider. The flying fox was the one that really impressed me, similar to a small zip line, but one that kids can easily navigate themselves and is not too far off the ground. Even I wanted to go on that one!

The playground is well set up and laid out, with an area for shade on hotter days and bathrooms right there. The promenade adjacent to the playground is lined with a variety of cafes and restuarants for those adults who require coffee or refreshment as you monitor the children at play.

The best part of all is it’s free! And a wonderful opportunity to enjoy this area of the Sydney Harbour while the kids are fully entertained! Whether you stay for an hour or the entire afternoon, adults and children alike will be engaged the entire time.

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Unfortunately, we only stayed for about an hour ourselves that day as we had spent the morning down at Bondi Beach and needed to head back for supper after a full day of activities. But it was definitely worth the trip down to have the experience. Both Luke and Chloe still talk about the giant slide and is one of the many things that they ask to go back to and do again and again.

What fantastic or unique kids playgrounds have you found in your travels? whether local or abroad?

The Taronga Zoo

IMG_0119One of the many things I love about Australia is the range of unique animals that exist in this country. Because of their isolation from the rest of the world for so long, this allowed these unique species to develop and exist. From the koala to the platypus, more than 80% of these animals, plants, reptiles and frogs are found only in Australia.

With that, no trip to Australia would be complete without a trip to at least one of the zoos or wildlife parks, to catch a glimpse and sometimes a cuddle, with some of these amazing animals. Of course, I would much prefer to see some of these animals in the wild (I say some because honestly I am perfectly fine seeing the crocodiles and the snakes behind glass, thank you). But it is a extremely cool experience to see a koala, kangaroo or echidna in their natural environment.

Platypus

Platypus

Unfortunately, these experiences can be rare, depending on where you are traveling and how long you are spending in Australia. Therefore I always recommend at least one zoo experience of some kind so you can have an opportunity to see these unique critters.

While in Sydney, we chose to experience the Taronga Zoo, which is a natural bush area on the harbour’s north shore. It is easy to get to from Circular Quay, with a short (and beautiful) ferry ride to the zoo’s entrance. You can purchase a combo ferry and zoo entrance ticket at the terminal which does provides great savings, as opposed to purchasing them separately. Also with the pre-purchased pass you can take the cable car up to the top from the ferry terminal, which gives you a birds eye view as you zoom overtop of the zoo to the main entrance.

Fort Denison

Fort Denison

The kids were all very excited to get to the zoo, as we had been promising them we would ‘go and see the animals’ since about 10 that morning, but it had taken us until almost 2 pm to get ourselves organized, fed and down to the ferry terminal. We bought our ferry zoo combo pass and boarded the ferry for the north shore. It was a beautiful day, so we sat up top where we could catch the views of the harbour as we sailed.

This was an unique experience for me, as the last time I was in Sydney, we did not go on the water, so I got to see a different view of Sydney. Chloe and Luke asked many questions as we sailed along, wondering what this was and that was. We sailed past Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, which we had been to earlier that morning; and Fort Denison, another of Sydney’s historic landmarks.

IMG_0121Once at the Taronga Zoo ferry terminal we made our way to the cable car. There were also options to take a bus to the top main entrance or a short walk. The cable car was super cool, much like a gondola for us, the car would slow down as we got on and had a seat inside, before we were whisked away over the tree tops. It was great way to see the layout of the zoo and where things were. We could see how the zoo had taken great care to create spacious enclosures for all the animals simulating their natural habitats. Luke screamed in delight as he spotted the elephants, asking to go see them when we got on the ground. We also caught the giraffes and orangatans to from this view.

IMG_0134The zoo itself has an extensive collection of Australian animals. As we passed through the entrance we received a free map to help us plan our route. Unfortunately we only had 2 hours to tour this extensive zoo (I would recommend a full day so you can see the entire zoo at leisure and take advantage of the shows and keeper talks as well), so we had to choose our route carefully. Our first priority were the koalas and we were not disappointed. Cuddled up in the trees, we got fantastic views and photos. Commonly called koala bears, koalas are actually not bears and are part of the marsupial family (animals that have young in their pouches). They are not related to bears at all!

Satisfied we moved on to the rest of the zoo. We saw crocodiles, snakes, lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, kangaroos, emus, wombats and even a goanna outside on his own. We looked diligently for the platypus in his enclosure, but to no avail (these animals are nocturnal so are hard to catch a glimpse of during the day).

Goanna

Goanna

We managed to cover about 2/3 of the zoo in the time that we had but had to leave because the zoo was closing! We didn’t even get a chance to go into the gift shop 🙁

The other advantage of going to the Taronga Zoo is the stunning views of the Sydney Harbour from atop the hill. Even though we would have liked to have stayed a little longer and finished the zoo, we enjoyed our time there.

The highlights were definitely the koalas, the views, and the ferry ride to get there. There are other wildlife parks in the greater Sydney area, such as the Featherdale Wildlife Park and the Koala Park Sanctuary, which offer opportunities to hand feed some of their animals or experience encounters where you can be face to face! These parks though are located about 30 minutes outside the city.IMG_3383

We cuddled up on the ferry, tired yet satisfied with our afternoon at the zoo, each of us pondering what we liked best, and what our next Australian adventure might be…

 

Off to the Land Down Under – Sydney Harbour Highlights

IMG_3713I love Australia! Ever since I was a little girl I have been fascinated with the Land Down Under. Koalas, the Opera House, and the Harbour Bridge, all icons of this beautiful country. I really wanted to go there and explore, see if all the magic and mystery of this country I had built up, was real. Was it all that it was cracked up to be?

I wanted to go so badly that even though I was deathly afraid of snakes, of which the top 20 most poisonous exist in Australia, and greatly concerned about crocodiles; these things did not deter me – I was going. And now I have had the great privilege of going twice to this fabulous country. Truly unique in all it’s flora and fauna, animal species and human species too 🙂

The first time we went was back in 2007, when my oldest son was 4. We traveled for 3 months and explored a good part of the country. I actually never thought that I would go back. Then when my sister announced that she was going with her family to live there for a year, I knew that I could not pass up this second opportunity. Now with 2 more children, I made my plans to go. Would we travel to places we had been before? or would we see some of the places I had missed and wanted to go to? So I promptly turned to my Fodor’s Australia book, taking the newest version out of the library. (This is something I highly recommend wherever you travel, get a book on the area before you go and do some research on what there is to see and do. Always find the newest version as it will have the most up to date information on prices, etc. and it will save you a lot of time when you’re there; as well as give you a good framework or route for your travels.)

IMG_0134Though we were only going for 3 and a half weeks this time, we decided to do a bit of both. Enjoying the places I had been before, remembering and doing new things in those areas.  Places felt familiar and comfortable, which got me excited and nostalgic at the same time.

This is how I felt when we first arrived in Sydney, our first stop on our Aussie adventure. It was neat to recognize areas and see how they may have changed, to feel oriented in a place I hadn’t been for 7 years, and to then expand upon what I knew, as well as explore new places and with new people.

Sydney and Red Centre 078One of the unique things about our stay in Sydney this time around was that we stayed with an old friend of mine that I had met in the UK back when I was fresh out of university. Not only did we get to catch up, but staying with a local is always a rich experience as they are able to give you insight into Sydney life that you might not find otherwise. Dana was not only able to make recommendations on what to see and do, especially with the kids, but also able to orient us as to where we were and how to get to various places, whether it be the Sydney Harbour or the local Coles (grocery store) down the road.

Sydney and Red Centre 075There is so much to do in Sydney, from a plethora of museums (lots of great museums for kids, such as the Powerhouse Museum and Australian National Maritime Museum) and beaches, to walks, parks (love the Chinese Garden of Friendship) and significant monuments.

Our first day there, was a beautiful winter day. The sun was shining, bright blue sky and about 20 degrees. Yes cold for Australians, but pleasant shorts weather for us. I was already loving Australia in winter. 🙂 We had decided that day we were going to take the kids to the Taronga Zoo, after a short walk down exploring the Sydney Harbour and waterfront where we had to catch the ferry at Circular Quay. According to Dana it was only about a 20 minute walk away.

It was a beautiful walk. Straight down from her place led us past Harry’s Cafe, famous for their meat pies (and a place I wanted to go to since my last visit), to the waterfront paths, which wound along the water past Mrs. Macquarie’s chair and the Botanical Gardens, before reaching the Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay.

IMG_0101Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair is one of my favorite places along the waterfront and was one of our first stops on our walk. Having been here before I knew that this was a place I wanted to stop and enjoy again. Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, otherwise known as Lady Macquarie’s Chair, provides one of the best viewpoints in Sydney. The historic chair was carved out of a rock ledge for Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s wife, Elizabeth, as she was known to visit the area and sit enjoying the panoramic views of the harbour. It is neat for kids as they get to sit in this gigantic ‘chair’ or climb it, as the little ones tended more to do. As adults, we took all the photos we could and enjoyed the views in between ensuring the kids did not climb too high or fall down. Somehow we all got an experience and created our memories. For me, I was reflecting on my time there before and creating new ones (in amongst ‘be carefuls’ and ‘climb over there’)

For Luke and Chloe, they were just excited to be there and Matthew well he was doing his best to ponder the meaning of life, while trying to remember being there before.

IMG_0107As we continued on our way and rounded Mrs. Macquarie’s Point, (directly east of the Opera House on the eastern edge of the Botanical Gardens), we were rewarded with the best and most famous view in Sydney, the Opera House and Harbour Bridge behind.

Also one of my favorites, and something I would not miss, no matter how short my time in Sydney. The Opera House with its ‘billowing sails’ and the Harbour Bridge behind is a beautiful majestic sight that amazes me and gives me goose bumps each time I see it. Personally I could have stopped there, or at least meandered down to the cafes by the Opera House and spent the rest of the afternoon there on the harbour. Enjoying a latte or a glass of wine, just soaking up the atmosphere. But we had promised the kids some animals, koalas and kangaroos to be specific (and honestly they would not sit leisurely while we enjoyed wine and lattes), so after a yummy lunch of fish and chips (which at this point during the trip was a novel idea – more on that later), we grabbed the ferry to the Taronga Zoo. Which that was an adventure in itself!Aussie Highlights 056

Tune in next week for our discoveries and advenures at the Taronga Zoo