Category Archives: Sydney

Sydney Expat Interview Series Part 18: A Photo of Your Sydney

Sydney, Sydney Expat Interviews Leave a reply

I can’t believe it! After a year and a half, we’re reaching the end of the Sydney Expat Interview Series. For the past 18 months, I’ve been sharing stories, observations, and experiences from a group of expats who made Sydney their home, some for a short time, and some for the long term. 

*If you missed any of the series or want to revisit any, you’ll find links to the entire series at the end of the article.*

I can’t thank these expats enough for sharing their thoughts with us. I hope those of you native to Sydney have had the chance to view your city through new eyes. For anyone considering a move to Sydney, I expect this will take you well beyond the guide books. And, to the fellow expats here, I trust you’ve seen some familiar and some new ideas and attitudes, a reminder that none of us are alone in this big, international city, though we’re each travelling a journey our own.

For the 18th and final installment of the Sydney Expat Interview Series, I’ve asked the expats to share an image that says Sydney to them. Have a look at their Sydney. I think you’ll agree, it’s quite a place to hang your hat. 

As always, join me over on Between Roots and Wings’ Facebook page. And, make sure to visit the fantastic pages of the expats linked below! 



Please share with us a picture that says “Sydney” to you.


Name: Melissa
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year

Melissa blogs at Leche Love 

I have sooo many pictures of the opera house, bridge, harbors, oceans, plants, parks, food, everything, but all I could think of was this. We flew across the world! There are so many things to choose from that it’s hard to pick just one to give Sydney a true representation.

 


Name: Shane
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Shane blogs at Sea Salt Secrets

 

 


Name: Julia
Country of origin: UK
Lived in Sydney: 7 years

Balmoral Beach.


 

Name: Rachel
Country of Origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 4 Years

Taken on a walk to Shelly Beach. It’s the vantage point from my favorite reading place, under the much welcome shade of a tree on a hot summers day.


Name: Victoria
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 6 years
Victoria blogs at The Freedom Travellers

Icebergs, with Bondi in the background.


Name: Erin
Country of origin: Texas, USA
Lived in Sydney: 7 1/2 years
Erin blogs at TexErin-in-Sydneyland


Name: Kirstie
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: Since September 2013
Kirstie blogs at Venga Vale Vamos

A beautiful sunset, Sydney icons, and wildlife I’d never see back home, plus this was taken at a barbecue with all of my closest friends in Australia.


Name: “Bushranger”
Country of Origin: Serbia
Lived in Sydney: 6.5 Years

Sailing Sydney Harbour


Name: Dido
Country of origin: India
Lived in Sydney: 2.5 years

 


Name: Ashley
Country of origin: United States

Lived in Sydney: 2 years (in Newcastle)
Visit Ashley on Instagram 

My kids at a Sydney Sixers match. For me Sydney and Australia mean watching my kids fall in love with things WAY different than I did as a child. I love that they get to experience all these new things!


Name: Debbie
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 10 years

From the St. Patrick’s fireworks.

 


What does Sydney life look like to you?

And, what would you like to see here next???


Read the rest of the Sydney Expat Interview Series!!

Read Part 1: Expectations vs Reality
Read Part 2: The Most Memorable Sydney Day
Read Part 3: Your First Day in Sydney
Read Part 4: Drinking Like an Aussie
Read Part 5: The Birds of Sydney
Read Part 6: Australian Christmas
Read Part 7: Off the Beaten Path
Read Part 8: Questions About Your Home
Read Part 9: What People at Home Think of Australia
Read Part 10: Advice for Moving to Sydney
Read Part 11: A Sydney Weekend
Read Part 12: Australian TV
Read Part 13: Something I Miss From Home 
Read Part 14: Favorite Sydney Restaurant
Read Part 15: The Huntsman Spider
Read Part 16: The Weekend Getaway
Read Part 17: Aussie Slang

Vivid With Kids – It’s All North of the Bridge!

annual events, art, Sydney 2 Replies

Vivid Festival With Kids - North of the Bridge

I’ve made no secret of my love-hate relationship with Sydney’s annual Vivid Festival. On one hand, the light displays are spectacular. On the flip, there’s the crowds – the soul crushing crowds. Add a small child to the experience, and it can become an experience that makes a woman question her own sanity.

It’s like the organizers of Vivid heard my agoraphobic cries, and arranged for families with small children to have a completely satisfying Vivid experience, all on the north side of the Harbour.

Chatswood

Last year was the first time Chatswood took part in the Vivid Festival, and we loved the easygoing and family-friendly atmosphere, so we headed straight there with our girl this year. The theme is on dinosaurs, which could not have been more perfect for our dino fanatic (ours, and just about every other 2 – 5 year old I know).

We started our night at The Concourse, where a moving dinosaur show was projected on the huge outdoor screen and dino eggs glowed below in a smokey swamp. Vivid Festival Chastwood

Hushpuppy’s favorite part of the night was interacting with the roaming mechanical dinosaur skeletons, which were manned by Vivid guests who could take a turn wearing them. Both the kids and volunteers seemed to be having a great time playing with these puppets.

Vivid Festival ChatswoodFurther down Victoria Avenue is a fun moving light display full of dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, which was particularly fun for the little kids to interact with. Vivid Festival Chatswood

Vivid Festival Chatswood

At the Interchange (next to the train station), is definitely the coolest part of the dinosaur spectacle. Large glowing and squawking pterodactyls soar up and down 3 stories, powered by visitors on step machines below. It’s definitely a sight.
Vivid Festival Chatswood

Finally, up at The District (dining district above The Interchange), the kids found the “crumbling bridge” – another light projection that young children were loving. Hushpuppy managed to “cross” the uneven bridge, and then looked up with amazement with it crumbled away under her feet.  We ran into some friends, and from The District, we decided the best way to end the night was with dumplings at Tim Ho Wan (can recommend!).

Lights at Chatswood are on at 5:30p.m. and there are plenty of dining options at Hawkers Lane, The District, and in between.

If you happen to be in Chatswood during the day, or between 5-7p.m. on a Thursday evening, there’s one more display you might try. On Level 1 at Chatswood Chase is “The Luminarium,” where kids (and grown ups, too) get to dress up in underwater explorer costumes and enter a “deep sea” adventure, mostly to do with projected light sea creatures and some mesh and light “jellyfish.” I wouldn’t say it’s worth a special trip, but if you’re there, it is fun for the kids to wear the costumes and enter through the secret door.Vivid Festival Luminarium

Taronga Zoo

We didn’t know what to expect when we booked tickets to the Vivid Festival at Taronga Zoo, as this was the first year they’ve had a display there. Our day finally arrived, and what a bummer – there was a huge rainstorm. On top of that, my daughter decided that she didn’t care to leave the house without her “super duper” jacket, which after running through all possible candidates, I found out was the one that was soaking wet in the washing machine. Though we’d been looking forward to it, none of us were in much of a mood as we arrived at Taronga!

The good news was that there was no crowd, thanks to the weather, and we hopped right onto our round trip ride on the Sky Train (booked through the ANZ Blue Pass, which is limited, but the same price as regular admission). The bad news is that we couldn’t see much out the windows, which were covered in rain. So much for our view of the city.

Aaah, but everything turned around when we got off, found that the rain had stopped, and started to make our way down the ramp into the zoo. The path was illuminated in blinking green rays of light that felt like stepping into a mystery jungle land.

From there, we spent an hour or so walking the well marked path with illuminated sculptures of endangered animals around every turn. “LOOK AT THAT!,” was Hushpuppy’s refrain for the remainder of the evening. Many of the displays moved or had an interactive quality, and zoo volunteers staffed each display, happy to tell you more about the animal.

Each display was just so beautiful and charming. I was particular to the gorgeous elephant, and Hushpuppy loved the tail-wagging tiger. Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

At a few spots along the walk, there were additional light displays, several of them made from paper lanterns shaped like animals, made by Sydney schoolchildren. Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

And, we got one final surprise on the way out – a real animal, out for a late night snack.Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

I was a little sad when we came to the end – I could easily have done another loop around, as it was all so magical. But, the parent in me knew that was pushing our luck way too hard with Little Miss Super Duper. Fortunately, on the way out, we had one more treat, which was the light and sound display that was projected on a loop on the front of the Taronga entrance. We’d passed by it on the way in, not wanting to stand in the rain, but settled in for the show on the way out. The theme was on human’s responsibility towards protecting endangered animals and featured moving images of all of the species that were displayed inside. It was gorgeous. I wanted to applaud at the end. Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

If you’re thinking of going to Vivid at Taronga Zoo, do make sure to book your tickets online ahead of time. Lights are on at 5:30p.m. Food options are limited both inside and near Taronga Zoo, so either eat before, after, or bring food in with you.

The Vivid Festival runs through 18 June (Chatswood ends 13 June). If you’re attending with young children, my best recommendation is to head over the bridge for these perfect family nights at Chatswood and Taronga Zoo.

How to Ride Sydney Buses with a Stroller Like a Pro

Sydney 8 Replies

How to Ride Sydney Buses With a StrollerSince landing in Australia, I’ve done everything possible to avoid driving. Lucky for me, Sydney public transport pretty good, and there are rarely places I can’t get by bus, train, or ferry. When I started my Mother’s Group, it actually came as a shock to me that all the other local mothers drove, as a lot of my expat friends were also non-drivers. Never one to conform, I was determined to carry on riding public transport, baby in tow.

Trains and ferries are fairly straightforward, but catching the bus with a stroller (pram) is a different animal. Like going out to eat or boarding an airplane with your new baby, riding the bus can seem daunting for a new parent. Will I know how to get on and off? Will I be able to balance everything? Will the bus driver gnarl at me if I’m not fast enough? Will the other passengers shoot me death rays from their eyes if my baby cries? I know I’m not alone in this, as many people have told me that they find the prospect of riding the bus with a stroller daunting, and I, too, was so nervous on my first few trips. Having been riding Sydney buses with a young child for over 3 years now, I think I’m a bit of an expert, and I want to share with you my top tips for riding Sydney buses with a stroller.

Catching the Bus

Your best option for riding a bus with a stroller is to catch an accessible bus. If you’re able to plan ahead, use the Transport NSW Trip Planner tool. Look for buses with the wheelchair symbol. Most accessible buses will also have the wheelchair symbol displayed on the front or side. Accessible Bus

For the official word on riding an accessible bus, this is Transport NSW’s policy.
As for my suggestions …

  • Hail the bus, as usual, then have a look to see if there is space for your stroller. Most accessible buses have two areas where the seats fold up for wheelchairs and prams. They are usually red seats across from each other near the front of the bus (just behind the luggage racks), or sometimes they are closer to the middle door. If both sections are taken with wheelchairs or prams, you’ll either have to wait for the next bus, or choose to fold your pram (more on this later).
  • Assuming there is room, the bus driver should lower the bus for you (though, honestly, I can manage even if they don’t). Push on your handle bar to lift up the front wheels of your pram, and lift it on board. Remember to tap your Opal card.
  • If there are people sitting in the accessible seats, and they don’t automatically move, you may need to ask them nicely if they’d mind sitting elsewhere. 99% of the time, people are happy to make room for you, though very rarely I’ve had someone either rude or completely oblivious. *Do be mindful that there are people with invisible disabilities for whom changing seats may pose a problem, so if you’ve asked nicely and been told, “I’m not able,” please don’t press the issue.
  • Fold up the seats, and move your stroller into place, facing backwards, and apply the brake. There is also a seatbelt that can be looped around the stroller’s handle for extra safety. I don’t often use it, but you will occasionally get a driver who insists that you do, which if fine.
  • If you’re nervous about riding the bus with a stroller, definitely do your first couple of trips outside of peak hour when the buses aren’t as full and people are less frenzied.
  • And, you’re all set. Enjoy the ride – could be your first chance to sit all day! And, if your baby cries, don’t stress it. 90% of the passengers have headphones in, anyway!

Getting Off the Bus

  • Ring the bell for your stop, as you normally would. Wait until the bus has come to a full stop to take the brake off the stroller and begin to roll towards the exit. You never know when a bus can make a sudden stop, so seriously –  always err on the side of caution.
  • If the bus driver notices you getting off, she will often stop any passengers who are getting on, as there’s really not enough room for you both to pass. If not, you may just need to ask them nicely if you can pass.
  • *This is my number one tip for riding the bus with a stroller* When exiting the bus – GO BACKWARDS. I can’t tell you how much easier it is to get your stroller off the bus if you pull it, rather than push. You can step down first, then pull down the back wheels, then front wheels. It’s far more manageable than trying to push your stroller off the cliff that is the bus step.
    If you take nothing else away from this article – go backwards!

Oh, and don’t forget to thank your driver and tap off with your Opal card.

Non-Accessible Buses

Don’t even get me started on why Sydney Buses even have non-accessible buses in their fleet. Can you imagine the frustration if you’re a wheelchair user? Completely not cool, in my opinion. Yet, they do exist. I had a chat to a bus driver about this once, and he told me that the plan is to have all buses accessible by 2018, so that’s still awhile before the non-accessible ones are out of the equation. Based on my experience – and completely unscientific – I’d guess that maybe 10-15% of Sydney buses are not wheelchair/pram compliant. So, if you’re a frequent rider, you’re going to get one of these, eventually. As I said above, your best bet is to pre-plan for an accessible bus. However, often you’re just rocking up to the closest stop, and hoping to catch the next bus that comes, and pre-planning isn’t possible.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Ask the driver (nicely) if you can push your pram in between the red seats. The non-accessible buses have a bank of four seats in the front which face each other. If the bus isn’t busy, some drivers won’t mind if you just push your pram in between these two seats. Be aware, that you do this at your own risk, and the drivers can’t guarantee the same level of safety as in an accessible bus. And, some will downright refuse, which they are completely within their rights to do.
  • Can you fold your stroller? If your stroller isn’t too unwieldy and you don’t have a lot of shopping in the basket, consider folding and storing your pram in the luggage rack. Only do this if you’re comfortable folding and lifting your stroller with one hand (baby in the other arm, of course!), as it is unlikely that the driver will help you.
  • Wait for the next bus. Such is the reality of public transport – sometimes it’s just necessary to wait for the next bus. As much as possible, leave yourself extra time when travelling. Thankfully, the chances are that the next bus will be accessible.

Choose Your Stroller Wisely

If you are an infrequent rider of public transport, bus riding won’t play much into your selection, but if you think that you and your little one may hop the bus with some regularity, I urge you to take that into consideration when purchasing your pram/stroller. A couple of things to think about:

  • Can you fold it easily? As I talked about above, there are times when the ability to fold your stroller may mean the difference between getting on the bus or waiting for the next one, and with a cranky baby, the wait can seem like an eternity. Even accessible buses can get full – I’ve been on a bus leaving the beach with as many as six strollers – two parked and four folded up in the luggage rack! Make sure that you can fold your stroller with one hand, and that you can lift it at least to shoulder height for storing it.
  • Is it light? You definitely want a light stroller if you’re storing it, but not having to push too much extra weight will also just make things easier for you as you maneuver on and off. Don’t forget that you’ll also have several kilos of baby, a nappie bag, and maybe even some shopping tucked away. Make it easier on yourself with a lighter pram.
  • Double strollers. If you have more than one child in a stroller, I highly recommend that you get a double stroller with the seats above and below, rather than the side-by-side style if you’ll be riding the bus with any regularity. All strollers need to fit within certain width guidelines (less than 800mm wide), and it’s very hard to get through the aisle with a side-by-side stroller. I have actually seen a mother refused a ride because her double pram was too wide.

How to Be an Awesome Bus Rider 

So maybe you’re not riding with a stroller (I don’t know how you made it to the end of this article, but cheers!). As a mother with a stroller, this is what I’d say to my fellow passengers who want to be awesome:

  • If you’re sitting in the accessible seats (the ones that fold up), please don’t zone out or get so engrossed in your phone that you don’t notice when someone who needs that seat – either because of a wheelchair or stroller – gets on the bus. Don’t make us ask you to move, if moving does not pose a physical issue for you. Be rad and jump up when you see us coming. Extra awesome points for the people who push the seats up for us. Yes, I can do it, but it’s a kind gesture. Your parents raised you well.
  • If you’re getting on the bus, take a moment to look down the aisle to see if anyone with a stroller is getting off. If they are, stand to the side at street level, and let them pass before you step on. I promise the bus won’t leave without you.
  • Offer help, if you’re able. It’s so nice when I’m stepping on the bus and someone offers to lift up my pram, or on the odd occasion when I’ve had to fold my stroller – yes! I could so use your help, thank you! I don’t actually typically need help when I’m getting on and off, so I sometimes decline with what I hope are profuse and sincere enough thank yous, but you never know who does, so it’s really lovely to offer. It just makes everyone feel happy, you know?
  • Don’t give the stink eye if a baby is crying on your bus. Actually, this is just a good general rule in life. Babies cry. Move along.

There are a lot of perks to using public transport – better for the environment, not having to find parking at the other end, letting someone else deal with the traffic jams – and having a stroller shouldn’t be a deterrent to choosing this method for getting around. Let me know if you give it a try. I expect you’ll also be an expert in a couple of trips.


 

Do you ride the bus with a stroller? Have I missed any pro tips? 


More on Sydney with kids, join me – 

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Sydney Expat Interview Series Part 11: A Sydney Weekend

Sydney, Sydney Expat Interviews, Sydney With Kids 2 Replies

Hey, Sydneysiders, what are you doing this weekend? For this month’s Sydney Expat Interview Series question, I asked the expats what they’d most likely be doing on a beautiful weekend day in Sydney. Let me tell you, none of them seem to have had any trouble getting into the groove of this city. Beaches, parks, cafes, BBQs and friends. It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it!

(This is the 11th in an 18 part interview series with expats living in Sydney. Please make sure to visit the fantastic websites of the participants linked below, and follow me on Facebook for much more on expat life in Sydney. )A Sydney Weekend



Question 11: It’s a beautiful weekend day. What are you up to, where are you going, and who are you spending the day with? 


Name: Debbie
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 10 years

I’m with my family and if I can roust them away from the X-box, then our first choice is always Fagan Park (Galston).


 

Name: Julia
Country of origin: UK
Lived in Sydney: 6 years

At Balmoral Beach – we’d normally get there early and have brunch with friends getting a take-away bacon and egg sandwich and coffee from The Boathouse, picnic blankets out near the kids playground so our kids can run about – and just enjoying the beautiful views.

Balmoral Beach

Balmoral Beach – photo by Julia



Name: Dido
Country of origin: India
Lived in Sydney: 1.5 years

With family or friends – playing lawn balls, or going for a beer, or on my bike, or going for a bush walk, or going to a beach, or having a family picnic, or going for a swim, or having a barbie in a park … or grocery shopping…


 

Name: Mollie
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 4 years

In one of our many parks, with my husband and our dogs. Maybe Cafe Bones.


 

Name: “Bushranger”
Country of Origin: Serbia
Lived in Sydney: 6.5 Years

With my wife and daughter at Cremorne Reserve. It’s astoundingly beautiful.

Cremorne Point

Cremorne Point


Name: Melissa
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year

Melissa blogs at Leche Love

As we’re still pretty new, we’re still exploring. However, we’ve been to Sydney Park quite a bit. Usually my husband, 6 year old son, and myself, enjoying the lovely weather, playing, and having a picnic.


Name: Ashley
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: 2 years (in Newcastle)
Visit Ashley on Instagram

There are so many stunning outdoor places in Sydney. I’d be with my husband and 2 kids (5 and 7) We’d probably grab lunch at a cafe, find a playground, and just chill out. I’ve found there tend to be a lot of art exhibitions going on so those are always fun to check out as well!


Name: Victoria
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 5 years
Victoria blogs at The Freedom Travellers

I’d be doing the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk with my girlfriend Elaina finishing up at The Hill Eatery in North Bondi for a late lunch and good coffee. North Bondi


Name: Caitlin
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Caitlin blogs at Where’s Wallis

First I’d be going for a spin on my bike around Centennial park with the gang from Coogee Triathlon Club. This would be followed by relaxing in the sun on Bondi beach before an afternoon drink and snack at the Bucket List.


Name: Kirstie
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: Since September 2013
Kirstie blogs at Venga Vale Vamos

I’d love to be having a picnic and sipping wine in a spot in Kirribilli my friend used to live right by, overlooking the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, surrounded by my fantastic group of expat and Aussie friends.

Kirribilli


Name: Rachel
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 4 years

I would probably be with my boyfriend and group of friends, relaxing and enjoying the sun either with a few schooners at our local, or with an esky of beers at the beach or a perhaps enjoying a bike ride with a few laps around Centennial Park.


Name: Shane
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Shane blogs at Sea Salt Secrets

Strolling around the city, checking out the markets, street art and local beaches.
Don’t forget your sunscreen, there’s a hole in our ozone layer!


Sydneysiders, tell us, what are you doing this weekend?


Read Part 1: Expectations vs Reality
Read Part 2: The Most Memorable Sydney Day
Read Part 3: Your First Day in Sydney
Read Part 4: Drinking Like an Aussie
Read Part 5: The Birds of Sydney
Read Part 6: Australian Christmas
Read Part 7: Off the Beaten Path
Read Part 8: Questions About Your Home
Read Part 9: What People at Home Think of Australia
Read Part 10: Advice for Moving to Sydney

 

Ephemeral City at Barangaroo

art, Sydney Leave a reply

I love the idea of grand and ephemeral things that exist solely for the purpose of adding wonder to our lives. It’s the theatre person in me, as everything about theatre is fleeting, designed to last only a few days or weeks. In an era where we can document every nano-event and share it with the planet, I love something whose feeling and scope carries on only with a particular community – the people who came together to see the play or, in the case of Sydney Festival’s Ephemeral City, the cardboard city.

A massive installation at Sydney’s newest park precinct, Barangaroo, Ephemeral City is a village of buildings made of cardboard, all constructed by the visitors. That’s cool, right? Truly, it was.

The city was well underway when we arrived today, as it’s been under construction for a number of days now. It was quite the thing to walk into this space with these massive and impressive structures, and see so many people buzzing around, packing tape in hand, busy as a hive with the continued building of this corrugated village. 

I didn’t give it a try (I really should have), but those who wanted a different perspective on the landscape could zip-line above the construction.

We did, however, decide to add our construction skills to the project, especially given that the bulk of Hushpuppy’s waking hours are dedicated to erecting with anything that even remotely resembles building blocks. We asked a volunteer for a project, and he had us build a triangle. 

One triangle construction was about enough for her (and by “her” I mean “me”). We could be proud of our contribution.

We were pondering how they got the buildings so high – most of them were nearly touching the ceiling – and our question was answered when the staff started shepherding everyone to the building we’d been working on. “Time to lift the building!”

It took quite a bit of preparation, and I opted for us to watch rather than participate, but the building was surrounded by guests, hoisted a couple of meters into the air, the new level was placed underneath, and then everyone hastily got to work taping it together. 

We enjoyed being part of a moment in the short life of Ephemeral City. Thank you, Sydney Festival, for giving us the chance to come together and make our own little impact on something that exists for the sheer purpose of its own becoming.

The Ephemeral City will cease to be when it is demolished on Australia Day (Tuesday)!

Tunks Park – Our Tucked Away Retreat in Cammeray

Little Aussie, Sydney Leave a reply

One day last Spring, the weather was the cool, blue, and clear perfection that makes you feel like going all “The hills are aliiiiive with the sound of muuuuusic.” I had the afternoon free, so I tucked Hushpuppy into her stroller, and set out walking with no destination in mind. We walked and walked, I resorted to Google Maps for some guidance, we walked some more down some windy, residential streets, and finally found ourselves at Tunks Park in Cammeray. (Pro tip, I’d strongly advise you *not* to walk to Tunks Park via the roads, if you go. They are not pedestrian friendly, and definitely not pram friendly.)

Partner-in-Crime was, mercifully, able to pick us up in the car to spare me the long, uphill end of my Spring Fever retreat. When he arrived, he looked around and was surprised to find that he’d been here a number of times. He’d taken up walking trails near us, and always ended up at the other end of this park. So, it turned out that both of our wandering pairs of feet had brought us to this lovely spot, and since then, we’ve claimed it as one of our favorite places to roam.

At the bottom end of the park, there’s a boat ramp and a couple hundred meters away, a green lawn with a BBQ grill and a picnic table. We love this spot, and it never seems to be crowded, even when we spent the afternoon there on New Year’s Day. Or, as Hushpuppy said on our last visit, “so nice and quiet!”

Best of all, this is the view. Tunks Park1

There’s a tiny rock beach, which Hushpuppy quite likes exploring. It’s also popular with dogs who want a refreshing cool off (be aware that there tend to be a lot of dogs here, if you have a little one who is afraid of them … or, one who loves them and needs a canine fix!). IMG_6804

And the boat ramp… Tunks Park2

Across the way is a large playing field, which often serves as a dog park. The last time we visited, we took advantage of the walking track along the filed, which was perfect for Hushpuppy’s Christmas scooter, and for her to stalk some puppies. Tunks Park7

Tunks Park4

A few steps up the hill is a marvelous playground. There’s an area for the little ones… Tunks Park6

…and a very cool treehouse for the bigger kids. The diggers for moving rocks definitely have Hushpuppy’s heart.Tunks Park5

We love this park for a picnic or a play. Tunks Park Map

A few things to know if you go:
Tunks Park, Brothers Ave, Cammeray
Public toilets on site (next to the playing field
Dog-friendly
Playground suitable for all ages
BBQ on-site

Wonderfully Odd: Our Brilliant Day at Sydney Festival’s Family Week 2016

Little Aussie, Sydney, Sydney With Kids 10 Replies

Family Week at Sydney Festival 2016Once upon a time, the Sydney Festival for us was about avant-garde theatre pieces, evenings on picnic blankets in the Domain, and discovering new musical acts. Those days are more or less on hold for us since becoming parents, but thankfully, the Sydney Festival rolls out a very worthy lineup of events for the mini connoisseurs, including Family Week at the Festival Village in Hyde Park.

I trotted Hushpuppy down today for the first afternoon, and we had the best time. I’ll hardly miss seeing The Violent Femmes or Robert Wilson’s Woyzeck (well, maybe just a little)

As you enter the Festival Village, the first stop is the City of Sydney’s Lawn Library, which has has a take-one-leave-one selection for all ages. We didn’t catch one of the daily storytelling sessions, but Hushpuppy did pick out a couple of books for us to cozy up and read together.

We’d brought a picnic lunch, so we sat and ate at a table in front of the entertainment stage, where singer Ana van Riel was beginning her set. She was energetic, getting the kids moving. Hushpuppy stayed to dance to a couple of songs, but was then ready to mosey along.

After a bathroom break (I only mention this because I thought you’d like to know that they were plentiful, mercifully clean, and even included actual sinks and soap), we went to work on some craft.

First, the colorful Post-It Note booth caught Hushpuppy’s attention. We were offered the chance to Instagram ourselves and get a print out copy (why not, heh?), and then we sat down to work on a large card where Hushpuppy could match the Post-It Note shapes with the pictures. She went into an intense concentration, and particularly loved the animal shaped notes. For the older kids, there were also cards for making a family tree and working out compound words. It was all colorful and, just quietly between us, even educational. We walked away with a party bag full of Post-It fun. (Can I say Post-It more times in this article? Well done, Post-It, marketing team!).

At the booth next door, The Australian Museum was hosting mask making. The recommended age was 5+, but we gave it our best shot. Thankfully, they had little stools so that Hushpuppy could reach the table. She was especially proud of her finished product, and was eager to make her Dad wear it when we got home.

Improbable as it might be, the biggest hit of the day was the boxes. First, we met “Boxy,” who I understand is making the rounds at the Sydney Festival this year. He was quite the cheerful cardboard ambassador.

Then, we found our way to the Super Box Friends, and we didn’t leave for at least 45 busy minutes. Mechanized and dressed up boxes rolled around the area, and the kids were instructed that they needed to look out for the boxes, as they don’t know where to go. Hushpuppy took this directive quite seriously, as she took under her charge a few boxes, though she was particularly drawn to care for one with bumble bee antennae. Three cheerful staffers guided the kids, and kept the mayhem to the level of fun, rather than chaos. It really was odd and wonderful.

box1

We were hot and ready to sit after so much work keeping the wayward boxes in line, so we had to take the opportunity to visit Gelato Messina‘s stand. We were having so much fun, it just seemed like the sort of day to indulge in one of Messina’s decadent treats. They were running a carnival theme, and hence, we ordered the “Bearded Lady,” which was an ice cream bar on a stick, covered with cotton candy (or, fairy floss, as they say in Australia). This was Hushpuppy’s first cotton candy experience, and she was amazed. And, with good reason. This was a pretty mind-boggling desert.

After a thorough cleaning for both of us (we looked like a crime scene), we took our chance on the Bubble Silent Disco. Each participant got a pair of headphones playing music, and were free to dance in the yard, which was graced with a steady stream of bubbles from a couple of bubble machines. It was the most fun of the day for me to watch Hushpuppy get increasingly comfortable with the construct, and then just lose herself in the joy. She made friends to dance with, reveled in the bubbles, and at one point, stood in the middle by herself singing away. It was gorgeous. 

Finally, we concluded the day with the musical performance, Inside the Loop! with Adam Page. I wasn’t sure if Hushpuppy would go for this one – a funny man in a beard playing electronic music – but she sat herself down right in front of the stage, and was captivated for the entire show. She laughed, danced, talked into his microphone, and was still talking about how funny he was at bedtime. We were in in agreement on this one. I thought he was great, quirky, amusing, and just genuinely charming.

Hushpuppy thought this beard on the face routine was about the funniest thing she's seen to date.

Hushpuppy thought this beard on the face routine was about the funniest thing she’s seen to date.

insidetheloop2

The Sydney Festival has gotten everything right with this event. Boxes, bubbles, music, crafts, food, and books – the toddler and I are in agreement about how special this day out was.

Sydney Festival’s Family Week runs January 12 – 16
10a.m. – 3p.m.
Hyde Park

Free admission

 

The Summer Playground at the Sydney Opera House

Sydney Leave a reply

 

On Sundays, we like to go on adventures. Public transport is unlimited at $2.50 (mega-deal!), and so, if the weather is nice, we often decide on someplace to go on a ferry, which is obviously the cruisiest way to get around in this fair city.

This Sunday, it was a glorious summer day, and I had a vague idea about maybe doing two or three stops around the Harbour, starting with a “quick” play at the Summer Playground at the Sydney Opera House, inspired by this post over at Adventure, Baby.

Never mind multiple stops. We ended up staying all day.

Through January, the Opera House forecourt is set as a festive hub with something for all ages.

Hushpuppy and I started at the garden play area, which encouraged kids to get in touch with nature. 

Hushpuppy particularly loved the “loose parts play,” which was simply a collection of rocks and wooden pieces. Over the course of a couple of visits, she made an art installation with them and then, later in the day, went to work returning them all to the little hut she’d found them in hours earlier. This little section seemed to be particularly enchanting for kids about her age.

We stepped inside the foyer to take a peek at the current Creative Play (the Opera House hosts a Creative Play activity every school holiday). This one was a light and shapes display, which could be manipulated by moving your hands or body near the screens. Older kids really seemed to be enjoying this one, but Hushpuppy actually found it scary. We tried it three times throughout the day, and she backed away from it each time. Based on that, and the kids we did see playing with it, I’d probably recommend this one for 4+.Creative Play

The big hit of the day was the large sand pit, which was stocked with plenty of sand toys. Lawn chairs perched all around the faux grass yard, so it was easy for us to drag a couple of chairs into a relatively shady spot and supervise her sand pit play from there. Luxury accommodation for all of us!

IMG_6850

 

An outdoor restaurant and bar kept us well-nourished. We shared a pizza ($18), which was nice and gooey from the outdoor pizza oven, if a little on the bland side. No complaints about the drinks – including the jugs of water provided, which were needed on this quite warm day.

Wine with a view. Cheers!
wine

 

We were also entertained with music throughout the day. The best was the Hot Potato jazz band who came out and did a lively set on yard. We also saw a children’s performance and a lovely, mellow singer-songwriter.

For me, the day was reminiscent of one of the long, glorious Sydney days we used to spend with friends at a beach or Harbourside restaurant in our pre-child days. Only this time, I got to share it with this one. The best of all worlds. Summer Playground

The Summer Playground activities are all free and open to the public and run through 31 January.

 

Sydney Expat Interview Series Part 7: Advice for a Tourist

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So many expats bring an insatiable curiosity to their new homes, causing many of us to explore with a fervor unmatched even by long-term residents. Perhaps it is because a lot of expats know they they only have a limited time before the next assignment, and also the inherent sense of wonder that brought us across the world to begin with, that we want to peek into every crevice.

With that in mind, I asked the expats this month to play tour guide. Assuming we’ve seen the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Darling Harbour, and Bondi Beach, and we have one last day in Sydney, where would you tell us to go? I think you’ll agree that there are gems in here for any taste. Our tourists are going to need to add a few more days to their trip!

This is the 7th in an 18 part interview series with expats living in Sydney. Please make sure to visit the fantastic websites of the participants here, and follow me on Facebook for much more on expat life in Sydney.

Sydney Expat Interview Series - Advice for a Tourist


 

Question 7: I’m a tourist. I’ve seen all of the typical “must-do’s.” I have one more day in Sydney. What should I see?

Name: Debbie
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 10 years

Oh wow, so many places; for a slower pace I love to recommend Fagan’s Park up at Galston to families with kids. It’s a huge, open, green park with paths for bikes, scooters, prams etc. plus a playground, coffee shop, barbeques, a lake and lots of different cultural gardens.

It’s a little way out of Sydney, but while out that way, there’s also the Cumberland State forest which also has a café and some small bush walks and right next door is the Koala Park.

The Sydney Olympic Park is always worth checking out – they have lots of events going on all the time.

Then there’s Palm Beach where ‘Home and Away’ is shot on location, there’s not much else there though – so take your own food and drinks.

And of course, not forgetting the fabulous Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. Stunning views and if you time it right, you get to see all the sculptures in ‘Sculpture by the Sea’ between Bondi and Tamarama.

Name: Erin
Country of origin: Texas, USA
Lived in Sydney: 6 1/2 years
Erin blogs at TexErin-in-Sydneyland

I’d suggest a coastal walk – Bondi to Coogee is probably the most famous of the bunch (and is worth its reputation), but there are so many others as well. A great site for this is http://www.sydneycoastwalks.com.au/

Bondi to Coogee

Name: Victoria
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 5 years
Victoria blogs at The Freedom Travellers
I have two recommendations for tourists in addition to the usual tourist attractions. The first is Taronga Zoo, get the ferry across from Circular Quay, the bird show is a must, one of the best views of Sydney from there.
The second would have to be Manly, again, a ferry ride from Circular Quay. Think beach, bars, restaurants and shopping all in one place!

Name: Dido
Country of origin: India
Lived in Sydney: 1.5 years

Couple of options: Taronga zoo in the morning and Luna park at night. Balmoral Beach is another hidden gem if you are a family picnic and beach person.

Name: Julia
Country of origin: UK
Lived in Sydney: 6 years

Go to Balmoral beach and have fish and chips sitting on the grass in front of the Rotunda. I think its such a beautiful beach compared to the “must see” Bondi. Walk up and down the promenade, go and walk up on the island and look out at the stunning views. Or if you’ve not done the zoo – catch a ferry from Circular Quay and go – as it has to be one of the most stunning locations for a zoo in the world – the Giraffes have views to die for!!

Another option would be to go to the Sydney fish markets and have fish and chips at Doyles! just beware the seagulls!!

Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo

Name:  “Bushranger”
Country of origin: Serbia
Lived in Sydney: 6.5yrs

Featherdale Wildlife Park if you actually want to pet kangaroos and koalas.
Also, I would have them visit West Head – amazing views and nature.

Wallabies at West Head Lookout

Wallabies at West Head Lookout

 

Name: Caitlin
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Caitlin blogs at Where’s Wallis

Hop on a ferry from Circular Quay over to Cockatoo Island. If it’s summer time you can get a drink and a pizza from the Island Bar before exploring the island. It has such a rich history and it’s great fun poking around the deserted buildings.

Name: Kirstie
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: Since September 2013
Kirstie blogs at Venga Vale Vamos

Wander around Newtown and take in all the character!

Name: Shane
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Shane blogs at Sea Salt Secrets

Newtown Street art via Sea Salt Secrets

Newtown Street art via Sea Salt Secrets

The street art of Newtown!!!

 

 

Name: Mollie
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 4 years

Go walk around Balmain and see the shops, check out the views from one of the parks, and eat at a cafe and get dessert at one of the patisseries. Have a relaxed day.

Name: Ashley
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: 2 years (in Newcastle)
Visit Ashley on Instagram

The view from the park in Dover Heights. It’s such an amazing view of the harbour and I don’t think many people get to that area.
If you’re feeling brave, there’s nothing like checking out Ikea in another country!
Also, check out a cricket match. I thought I would hate it when I moved here but I find that I really enjoy watching it and my kids love playing it!

Name: Rachel
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 3 years, 9 months

Apart from seeing and appreciating the incredible historic architecture around the city (QVB, The Rocks, Australian Mint, etc), I would recommend participating in or watching a live Australian sporting event. Whether it be Aussies Rules game, the Australian Tennis open, a cricket match at SCG, seeing the Melbourne Cup or local soccer match, I’ve always found it gives real perspective to the Aussie culture. It amazed me at my first Aussie Rules game to see the spectators from each team sitting amongst each other and being good natured. This would never happen in the UK, with much less verbal chanting in Sydney.

What’s your best tip for a Sydney tourist who has seen all the most famous sights?
Your favorite spot just a little off the beaten path?


Read Part 1: Expectations vs Reality
Read Part 2: The Most Memorable Sydney Day
Read Part 3: Your First Day in Sydney
Read Part 4: Drinking Like an Aussie
Read Part 5: The Birds of Sydney
Read Part 6: Australian Christmas

2015 Between Roots & Wings News In Review

expat issues, Little Aussie, politics, Sydney 10 Replies

5How was your 2015? Are you dragging to the end, ready for a fresh start? Or, were you #blessed? I like the ritual of having a scan back over the year, even if it’s just to say, well thank George Washington that’s over.  So, in the spirit of seeing where we’ve been, I’ve complied the Between Roots and Wings 2015 News Roundup. This is what made the news in my world of toddler-rearing, expat-living, Sydney-siding, American-being, travel-hopping, coffee-loving, and just generally interested in the world-ing.

Before we cue the soundtrack (what song are we using this year, guys? I haven’t listened to any new music in half a decade at least!), I want to thank you. Sincerely. There are so many things you could be reading right now, and that you’re here is just the stuff. My little spot on the Internet is about living away from home, seeing Sydney (and beyond) through expat and parent eyes, raising my  third culture kid, and just being interested in the world and kind to each other. Meeting other people who care about these things in this space is just a wild, affirming thing every day of the year. So, if you’ve read posts here, left a comment, joined me on the ol’ Facebooks, Twitters, Instagrams, etc., THANK YOU. I hope your 2015 has seen love, and curiosity, and laughter, and generosity. I look forward to sharing more of those things and whatever else 2016 offers us.

Happy New Year! *Cue “Uptown Funk!”*


*January*

  • I lost the first two days of 2015 to travel and the International Date line, and so, there were only 29 days for interesting things to occur in my January, 2015. #expatlyfe
  • In breaking local news, the cubby house at my favorite cafe became a news story, one which burned for a day, then fizzled. *The cubby house still stands like a fortress guarding all that’s good about childhood.*Sprout cubby house
  • Australia’s Prime Minister made a royal error in judgment  in knighting Prince Phillip.
  • Starbucks introduced the pride of Australia, the flat white, to its menu. People liked it. I know, right?!?
  • My one year old became a two year old.2yr

*February*

  • Parks and Recreation ended.
  • My two year old gave up her nap. The days became very looooooong.
  • Rosanne Cash responded in the most wonderful way to something I wrote about her, and I went, “Gah! You guys…!” rctweet
  • Australia’s Prime Minister managed to keep his job, just barely. He promised to do better, pinky swear.

*March*

  • I was probably more excited than is normal to vote in my first Australian election.photo 1 (8)
  • A family of possums took a summer home on our balcony. Because Australia.
  • Australia’s Prime Minister stuck his foot in his mouth.

*April*

  • A lot of us put our time, hope, and energies into trying to spare Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan a death sentence in Indonesia. We still mourn them. photo 2 (13)
  • Sydney had the wildest storm. It blustered and rained and gnashed its ugly teeth for days. That thing was crazy, y’all.
  • Australia’s Prime Minister had a 12% approval rating.

*May*

  • Johnny Depp’s poor dogs took a short trip to Australia
  • We didn’t know how old Rebel Wilson was. It bothered us. And then we did. Rejoice. wilsondepp
  • Prince Harry came to town, and Sydney was all like, “O.M.G., you guys! He is is SO cute!”
  • Emma and Lachie from the Wiggles got engaged, and I was all like, “O.M.G., you guys! That is SO cute!”
  • Australia’s Prime Minister was a little out of touch with the people. tony abbott again

*June*

  • The. U.S. just one day up and decided to get marriage equality. Are you kidding me?!? This was THE greatest day of the year. Rainbows for everyone! (Except Australians). I don’t say this very often (ever), but, U-S-A! U-S-A!
  • I did this interview about being an expat, which was kind of fun.
  • Donald Trump announced that he was running for President. Every person I met in Australia wanted to know – what the actual…? “Don’t worry!,” I told them. “He’s a joke candidate,” I said. …err… U-S-A! U-S-A! …?…
  • The Killing Season documentary on ABC was amazing. And, it reminded us of how charming our Prime Minister can be. tony abbott

*July*

*August*

  • Nothing happened. Seriously. It was weird.

*September*

  • Serbia
  • Greece
  • The refugee crisis
  • Oh and, fair go, Australia decided thought it would try out a new Prime Minister. Who could have seen that coming?

*October*

  • American had another mass shooting. This one was at a college. Australians to America: “Are you kidding me, bro?”

*November*

  • One guy on Twitter got his panties twisted about red coffee cups, and the Internet imploded
  • The Paris terror attacks were just too awful
  • Australian commentator Walleed Aly won the year by saying a lot of smart things

     

  • I gave thanks for many things. Some of my friends did, too.

*December*

  • We had a By-election in my district, or as I liked to call it a “Bye-election.” Bye to Joe Hockey, who said almost as many ludicrous things as Prime Minister #1 this year. Look out, America – he’s Australia’s new ambassador.
  • A shark jumped on a guy’s surfboard at Bondi Beach. They were both fine. ‘Straya, mate.
  • Christmas took over my life. It was perfect.photo 1 (23)

So, hey, that’s what my last revolution around the sun looked like.
What was the big news in your world this year?
THANK YOU, AGAIN, YOU GORGEOUS, FUNNY, MARVELOUS PEOPLE!