The last stop for this trip was a few days in Sydney before heading home to California for a quick pit stop and three weeks of sleeping in our own beds and reveling in unmetered internet. Ironically, because of our internet diet in Coolangatta, we watched the Food Network out of Sydney some evenings and enjoyed many commercials for Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival. It finally dawned on us that we would be in Sydney for the festival and arrive just in time for the parade. The kids were excited and I finally understood why I had had such a hard time finding lodging since this festival is a huge deal. We started our Sydney visit off with an evening walk to watch the parade.
Our apartment, in a high rise building, was just a few blocks from the parade route. The parade started at seven and so we headed out around 6:45. What a mistake. The festival, celebrating its 38th year, is well attended. We’re talking 300,000 people packing the streets to get a glimpse of 175 floats and 12,500 participants covered in over 1,000 pounds of glitter! Our hope of actually seeing the parade would have meant starting the parade process when Ashley was ready to go, hours earlier, or…
…carrying a stool to stand on like many people were doing.
Even though we only caught glimpses of the actual parade, there was still so much to see.
There were all kinds of creative costumes…
…and so many people. The noise was deafening and often it was impossible to move because of human gridlock. The kids loved it, Ashley wanted to be right in the middle of it all, but I could only take an hour or so of thinking I was going to lose them in the sea of humanity.
Some more pictures:
If you want to watch the parade:
The Mardi Gras Festival had a lot of significance this year. There was one float carrying the “78ers,” a group that marched in the first parade, 38 years ago and were beaten, arrested and humiliated. Only this year, New South Wales police formally apologized to this group for their treatment in 1978 and Australian federal police, defense force, state emergency services, NSW police and unions actually walked in the parade. This year was also the first time a sitting Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, attended the parade. The Festival was one of those unexpected bonuses and a great thing to experience and the kids were totally into it. Grant took all of the photographs and Ashley just wanted see everything, in fact she spent a lot of the time frustrated that we were trying to keep her close. Ashley did make one comment that made me sad. As we walked towards the throngs of people she said, “I hope nothing bad happens.” I knew she was thinking of the attacks in Paris and our subsequent Madrid Soccer game experience.
Sydney is a stunning city with iconic sights, friendly people and beautiful weather. There is a lot going on in the city day and night. Ashley and I observed this funny sight on a walk through one of the many parks. The happy couple and the crustacean were entirely unaware of each other.
Our first view of the Harbor Bridge but more importantly, a climbing tree!
Followed by our first view of the Sydney Opera House. Ashley kept saying that she couldn’t believe how big the Opera House was or that she was seeing it with her own eyes.
By the time we got to Sydney we were all just a little bit tired of each other and interested in different activities. Being in the city had flipped my “super tourist” switch and Ashley was game, so we took a ferry (in the background on the left) to Manly, a beach community where the Australian Open of Surfing is held each February. This is the swimming area in the calm waters of the bay enjoyed by the family fish, Ashley.
The ferry over to Manly is an adventure in itself with great views of the Harbor Bridge and Opera House.
Ashley swam for a couple of hours while I people watched. I thought this garbage truck was especially humorous. I’m not sure if those little stuffed creatures are supposed to be catching a ride or victims of the ride.
This is the surfing side of Manly where the competition is held each year.
We spent one morning on a Harbor Bridge Climb tour. The views from the bridge were great and it was fun to walk over the top of the bridge, but it takes a while just because there are so many precautions.
After we conquered the bridge, we headed to Balmoral, a suburb of Sydney. Always a “sign” of good times and our next adventure.
This adventure was instigated by Scott and his love of windsurfing and sailing. In his effort to get out of the city (any city) he discovered Balmoral Sailing Club, north of Sydney, in a small community. Suffice it to say, the day was a huge success as soon as I removed myself from the vessel. Our first spin around the harbor was reminiscent of our honeymoon sail in New Zealand. It left me soaked and the kids laughing hysterically and begging for more. They dropped me off on shore and went out for a couple of hours of fun.
Any reason to be in the water.
Scott let the kids try sailing and they loved it.
We took a long walk back and found some pretty flowers on the way to the ferry.
The ferry ride back to Sydney was perfect timing for a sunset.
Grant captured the sun as it set behind the bridge.
Someone told us that the best and least expensive way to see Sydney Harbor is to take the ferry. It’s true…great views on the way to or back from something fun like the zoo or a different neighborhood.
Pulling into Sydney Harbor on the ferry.
This is Circular Quay (pronounced “Key” to my ears) where it is easy to catch a ferry to many different places. Grant thought that the ferry on the far left looked liked a mother duck and the other, smaller ferry boats, her ducklings.
Circular Quay was a brisk twenty minute walk from our apartment and so our journey continued though a park still busy with people as the day cooled off.
On our last day in Sydney we visited the Chinese Friendship Garden, high on TripAdvisor’s list of recommended activities in the city. It is truly a calm oasis with birds and lizards and many quiet sitting areas.
Our last night in Sydney and again, Ashley as the impetus for this great outing. The boys chose a night in while we went the Sydney Opera House to watch a play, Romeo and Juliet.
Although our sights were set on home, Sydney was still a fun adventure with interesting experiences and great memories.