A Local Takes on Touristy Sydney, Australia

For me, one of the best things about coming home after a long period away was feeling like a tourist. Suddenly, I wanted to do the touristy stuff listed in guidebooks. I managed to coax various family members into strolling the sights with me. Ultimately, some of my favourite moments were spent on, or in, the city’s landmarks including: the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the botanical gardens, the Pacific Ocean, and hotel lobbies. I absolutely love the Westin Sydney’s lobby — it’s a microcosm of everything that is good about the city: spacious and sunny thanks to the glorious high-ceiling atrium, with great food, wonderful service, beautiful traditional architecture married with modern touches (it’s part of the redeveloped former General Post Office in Martin Place) and a high tea fit for two mad hatters –or chatterers — like us Chetner girls.  Enjoy the views.

SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE

If Bridgeclimb is too pricey, climb its sandstone pylon. Thirteen dollars, plus 200 steps, later and you’re treated to  270-degree views that span the North Shore, Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay and The Rocks — a historic precinct.

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Pool of the Park Hyatt in the foreground. This was taken on the pedestrian walkway leading up to the pylon.

Pool of the Park Hyatt in the foreground. This was taken on the pedestrian walkway leading up to the pylon.

THE ROCKS

My dad, sister, and I were led by the experts of The Rocks Walking Tours on a rainy Monday morning. That didn’t dampen our spirits, however. Over 90 minutes, we learned so many quirks about this 1788-established settlement — also the site of Sydney’s first Chinatown — that to this day, my dad continues to rave about it.

Fact: Had it not been for a green ban instigated by residents in the 70s, this precinct would’ve been demolished.

The Rocks in the foreground. This photo was taken from the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney.

The Rocks in the foreground. This photo was taken from the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney.

ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS

By the harbour, smack-bang in the middle of Sydney’s CBD, and a quick stroll from the Opera House rests Australia’s oldest botanical garden (it will be celebrating it’s 100th birthday in 2016). This bounty of natural beauty is a sensational spot to get some fresh air, traverse flourishing gardens, relax on the lawn, and just take in the city views. After getting some sun, I recommend hitting the city for a spot of high tea at the Westin in Martin Place…

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After so many years of popping in for after-work champagne and cocktail peanuts at the Westin, my sister and I opted for the Alice in Wonderland-inspired Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea. White-gloved service, Ruinart champagne, a bustling lobby bar, and much to catch up on… it was a wonderfully drawn-out day tinged with lots of nostalgia.

SAMSUNG CSCEASTERN BEACHES COASTAL WALK

Though I went school and university oh-so-close to this area, my return heralded my first-ever walk from famous Bondi Beach to Coogee. No wonder it’s the site of the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibit. The oceanfront stroll is stunning! A good couple of hours were spent musing, photographing, and scribbling notes. It’s a must do, and I wonder why it took me so long to get there.

Start the walk with a swim and a beverage (champagne?) at Bondi Icebergs Club

Start the walk with a swim and a beverage (champagne, perhaps?) at Bondi Icebergs Club

A little way past Bronte Beach...

A little way past Bronte Beach…

The clifftop Waverly Cemetery has waterfront views.

The clifftop Waverly Cemetery has waterfront views.

SAMSUNG CSCTwenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did… so throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~Mark Twain

Coming Home. The Gold Coast, Australia

Visiting the Gold Coast after a 15-year hiatus felt weird. Arriving after a fifteen hour flight from Los Angeles, I strolled the promenade just as the sun was starting its descent. Inhaling the thick sea air, I took in the familiar beach scene and its roar of crashing waves. The red-and-yellow lifeguard flags, symbols of where to plonk the beach towel and go for a safe swim, failed to lure me in — I had no desire to get in the water. Instead, I craved the company of my parents, sisters, and brothers, as well as my godmother, to draw upon memories of this oft-visited part of Queensland associated with our wonder years. Walking alone didn’t feel right.

That’s not to say I didn’t have a good laugh drawing from my own bank of memories: how my sister, Alana, and I had feared for our lives in a pedicab driven by a guy named ‘Spiro’ whose unnecessary hair-pin turns left my own hair standing on end; when I’d been dumped by a wave so hard, it embedded within me a lifelong fear of the deep; and the time a group of us had sneaked into the very same hotel where I was booked for the night —  the former Gold Coast International Hotel, now QT Gold Coast — to visit our new Melburnian “boy friends” (yes, we did get caught). Later, looking down at the pool from the hotel balcony, I noticed the former hotel logo still splashed across its bottom. Directly in front of the QT, the Focus apartment building stands stoic in its cylindrical glory. It’s where we’d holidayed for a number of years, blessed with lots of space, prime ocean views, and across-the-road beach access. Rear Window was a source of inspiration on the balconies of the higher-up apartments, and judging from the number of cranes and condos against the skyline today, such activity looks poised to continue indefinitely.

Apart from the corridor of high-end brand stores like Prada and Louis Vuitton, a tram, a smattering of new hotels, and a couple of outdoor shopping malls, the Gold Coast felt the same to me: slightly dusty and touristy with a penchant for neon lights and thrill-seeking rides that come alive at night.

Looking out from the15th floor of the hotel the next morning, across the beautiful stretch of turquoise and deep blue water along the horizon, I was relieved of the previous day’s racing thoughts and anticipations. I was more at peace. I was in Australia — “home” — and it felt really good to be back.

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Best of Outdoor Los Angeles, California

I love a good surprise. It’s not over the fact that I wrote this piece; it’s just nice to stumble upon the post. Makes me relive all of those lovely spots in my giant backyard. Where might this list take me over the weekend?

10 of the Best Outdoor Spaces in Los Angeles

Enjoy, and come visit L.A.

Champagne at the Tropicana Bar at The Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.

Champagne at the Tropicana Bar at The Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.

Happy International Peace Day

Love. You’ll find references to it everywhere you look: on walls, with family, inside a fortune cookie, and in latte art.

Love is the antidote to fear. I’m sending a generous dose of feel-good your way to amp up the peace quotient across the world. I hope you’ll pass it on…

Street art, El Paso, Texas, October 2012

Street art, El Paso, Texas, October 2012

Shadows: me and my little sis, San Francisco, February 2013

Shadows: me and my little sis, San Francisco, February 2013

Street art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 2012

Street art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 2012

Close up of the above street art

Close up of the above street art

Strawberry Fields in Central Park, Manhattan, NY, July 2012

Strawberry Fields in Central Park, Manhattan, NY, July 2012

Coffee at Brooklyn Roasting Company, DUMBO, Brooklyn, October 2012

Coffee at Brooklyn Roasting Company, DUMBO, Brooklyn, October 2012

Pasted poster, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2012

Pasted poster, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2012

Downtown Los Angeles, July 2014

Downtown Los Angeles, July 2014

Staten Island September 11 Memorial with view of Lower Manhattan, Staten Island, NY, August 2012

Staten Island September 11 Memorial with view of Lower Manhattan, Staten Island, NY, August 2012

Chocolate = love, Red Hook, Brooklyn, May 2012

Chocolate = love, Red Hook, Brooklyn, May 2012

Love locks on Brooklyn Bridge, January 2012

Love locks on Brooklyn Bridge, January 2012

Near the Red Square, Moscow, July 2014

Near the Red Square, Moscow, July 2014

Fortune cookies at Jade Island, Staten Island, NY, August 2012

Fortune cookies at Jade Island, Staten Island, NY, August 2012

Street art, Bushwick, Brooklyn, July 2012

Street art, Bushwick, Brooklyn, July 2012

A kiss from my husband, Sedona, Arizona, November 2012

A kiss from my husband, Sedona, Arizona, November 2012

Afar ~ Love from Los Angeles, USA to Sydney, Australia

Although my dad lives in Sydney and won’t be toasting American Father’s Day tomorrow, June 16, it is still a day of celebration as it happens to be his birthday.

Across the miles in Los Angeles, we treated ourselves with a couple of sweets in dad’s honour from Georgetown Cupcakes on Robertson Blvd* – a chi chi street that rivals Melrose but is less dangerous on the wallet than Rodeo. Think: Lululemon versus Louis Vuitton. It’s also the location of Aussie boutique, Zimmermann and the paparazzi magnet, The Ivy.

Anyway, I am getting sidetracked…

Happy Birthday to the most generous father, and one of the greatest men I know. You are missed daily, and thankfully only a phone call away.

*Technically, we celebrated in the afternoon of June 15 US time, which made it the morning of June 16 Australia time.

Coconut and Orange Blossom cupcakes, accompanied by an Americano coffee

Coconut and Orange Blossom cupcakes, accompanied by an Americano coffee

The sweetest cupcakes... ever

The sweetest cupcakes… ever

Jacarandas remind me of Sydney. Right now, they are in full bloom across LA.

Jacarandas remind me of Sydney. Right now, they are in full bloom across LA.

Cupcakes gone... bellies full of sweetness. Happy Birthday!

Cupcakes gone… bellies full of sweetness. Happy Birthday!