There’s nothing like a long miserable English winter to make me want to jump on a plane and this year we chose Sydney for our annual dose of vitamin D. In fact I’ve spent many a holiday, including a short spell living down under, so this time I opted for a more laid-back jaunt and arrived armed with a list of a few essential ‘must-do’s’ and a few days left over to take as they came and meet up with old friends and relatives.
Sydney has to be one of the best places in the world to see in the New Year and this was top of my list. Surprisingly the whole experience was seamless, calm and well-organised. Whilst Sydney isn’t famed for its public transport network, extra busses and trains ran through the night, there were lots of people but we weren’t packed-in like sardines and many simply took a couple of bottles of bubbly down to the harbour and sat down for a civilised picnic and to watch the fireworks.
We celebrated the New Year with a VIP package at the Hard Rock Café on Darling Harbour, welcomed the new year with champagne cocktails – and the delicious canapés and drinks flowed all night. The Hard Rock has a huge wrap-around outdoor terrace from where we saw the breath-taking firework displays. The Sydney sky lights up for at two points in the evening – one at 9pm for the children and again at midnight and each run for a full fifteen minutes.
On New Year’s Day, we headed over by ferry to Manly Wharf (along with the rest of the population of Sydney!), for a hearty post-hangover lunch on the water and some of the freshest fish we have ever tasted.
Our base in Sydney was at the super hip QT hotel on the corners of George and Market Streets, walking distance from the fantastic shopping in the Queen Victoria Buildings and David Jones and still close to Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, the Rocks and the Opera House.
This five-star boutique hotel is housed in the former buildings of the State Theatre and Gowings department store. The hotel has been carefully restored by a huge team of designers with exceptional attention to detail. The vibe is a combination of contemporary and LED art, vintage artefacts, wonderful textures, mood lighting and carefully selected music. Nothing exists in this hotel by accident from the design of the spa menu to the cut of the staff costumes one cannot help but delight in the quirky sensory overload.
Sydney is one of the best places in the world to eat out, surrounded by oceans of a vast array of fish, a huge Asian influence and some enviable steak-houses. We took our lead from foodie friend Lindy Yee and lunched at Café Sopra – Fratelli Fresh on the Rocks at Walsh Bay. The Fratelli Fresh deli provides delicious ingredients to some of Sydney’s finest eateries whilst housing its own casual eatery the Sopra Café.
Just a couple of hours west of Sydney, you will find yourself in the stunning wilderness of the Blue Mountains, teaming with wildlife and breath-taking views this is a perfect escape from the city. Some of the towns like Katoomba are especially tired and run down and in my opinion not worth a visit, but Leura is a pretty historic mountain town with cutesy trinket shops, health food stores and wholesome cafes and restaurants. We loved the fine dining restaurant, Silks Brasserie with its warm inviting décor and adventurous menu.
The Blue Mountains is a great place to get some proper exercise, with numerous well-marked walking tracks you can choose between short easy walks suitable for families to hard-core day long scrambles. The mountains are steep and you are likely to encounter large staircases carved out of the rocks but in return you are rewarded by stunning views and waterfalls.
Not far on my list, behind the fireworks on Sydney Harbour, was a horse-ride in the outback and we took a private ride out into the Megalong Valley with Werriberri trail rides. This is a quality establishment where safety is foremost, the horses are happy, healthy and well-behaved and we instantly felt safe with our two guides to two clients. After an hour’s ride up and up and up as high as we could go, we were again rewarded with the most amazing view. There is something very special, wild and intimidating about the vastness and beauty of the Aussie outback.
Back in Leura, we headed to the iKOU Day Spa to ease our aching limbs. iKOU is an all-natural, sustainable concept using chemical free ingredients in all of its treatments. I opted for the soothing Native Clay Hot Oil treatment. A ring of soft native clay was pressed into the lowest part of my back, the therapist then proceed to pour and rub hot therapeutic oil into the ring before administering a blissful and deep back massage. All my tension from the long flight, hikes and horse riding just drifted away.
Back in Sydney, I slipped back into my heels for a farewell dinner with our loved ones at Gowings Restaurant. This cool hangout with an enviable cocktail list has a classy New York loft vibe, comfortable surroundings, a huge menu and a chilled relaxed service made it perfect for a long evening of reminiscing fun times gone by and planning our future reunions at both ends of the planet.
Sydney, wait for me, I shall be back!
Carolyn Pearson is a super-woman and besides her serious day job, she is also the founder and CEO of Maiden Voyage – Business Women’s Travel Network with female friendly hotels and travel safety tips. Please visit her website and follow her on Twitter. I love this project and hope all our female readers sign up as members of this very interesting and needed project. Mrs. O