Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The day we went to Sydney

We recently made a tourist trip to Sydney, the intention was to secure some winter sunshine and to see the sights.  From Canberra, getting to Sydney presents four choices: Drive, Fly, Bus or train. On the basis that flying the four of us would be prohibitively expensive (nearly $1000AUD in total), our car is a shed and on a colleague's advice that the bus journey was over barren terrain, we chose the train.

Canberra railway station is interesting in that it doesn't sit in the centre of the city, instead it is located in the suburb of Kingston.  Despite being nearly 330km away from Sydney effectively Canberra sits at the end of a branch line.  Unless you want to visit Sydney or one of the stations in between, you will find yourself being transferred to a coach somewhere in your journey.  The station itself, is clean, quite and functional.  Unlike railway stations in the UK, we were able to park our car in the car park for free.

The train service between Canberra and Sydney is provided by CountryLink and the journey takes a little over four hours.  The price for two adults (the kids were free) travelling in first class, was a very affordable $222AUD for return tickets.  As we were going for a long weekend we opted for an early morning train, that arrived into Sydney Central Station at 11am.  An unexpected plus of leaving early was the number of kangaroos we passed by close to our windows, even before the train had left the station a startled mob bounced away in clear view.  They were a repeated sight until we reach the Glen Alpine and the outskirts of Sydney.

On arrival at Sydney Central station, we took the decision to walk to our hotel - the Circular Quay Marriott - which was at the far end of Pitt Street from the station.  After about ten minutes, my son decided he'd walked enough and spent the remainder of the journey on my shoulders. I one the bet of who would see something famous first, when I spied the harbour bridge through the pedestrianised area.  At the hotel we paid a supplement of $50AUD for a room on the 28th with a view of the opera house.

Next we decided to explore the Circular Quay itself, at this point I have to say the winter sunshine was not with us!  The skies were black and even before we reached the steps of the opera house the wind was driving us back.  So we took a few hasty photographs and to make good on a promise to my son, we bought tickets for the Manly ferry.

Had someone explained that that the Manly ferry passed through the heads, where the waves of the Pacific Ocean meet the still waters of the Sydney harbour I would have picked a different destination.  The first ten minutes of the crossing went smoothly, then I started to notice security staff appearing on the lower deck - their purpose was to ensure the side doors were closed and that everyone stayed seated.  "You won't drown, but you might break a leg if you try and stand up" I heard one say.  The next ten minutes lasted a lifetime - during which we were quite literally shaken, rattled and rolled.  Everyone went quiet and water sprayed through every gap in the doors.  Then just as I thought it might never end the waves subsided and we cruised into Manly Wharf.  As we left the boat, I overheard another conversation "Of course it is far worse on the way back".

I am not too much of a man to admit, that I chickened out and point-blank refused to travel back to Circular Quay by ferry. Manly isn't directly linked to the city by train or bus.  Luckily, the bus drivers of Sydney are an understanding bunch and as well as making sure there was room for my daughter's pushchair told us where to get off and which was the next bus to get onto and from where.  So unexpectedly, we also got to ride over the Harbour Bridge before being deposited a block away from the hotel.

That night, rather than risk the tantrums and tears of our littlies we had a feast brought to us by room service.  Which - if a little expensive - was very passable indeed.

The next day, with a hearty buffet breakfast inside us and a warm sun in the sky, we set forth once more to explore, sight see and take photographs.  Before slowly making our way back to Central Station to meet our train.  For our return journey, we were treated to a carriage almost to ourselves (at no point were there more than four others sharing it with us).  We would definitely go by train to Sydney again..

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