|Early Saturday morning, ready to explore Sydney!|
We arrived back from Thailand on 9 April, and Denisse would be flying home via Florida on 6 May. It was hard to believe that her time here in Australia was coming to an end. Six months had gone just like that! We had tried to do as much as we could with her; she had seen a lot of Victoria and even gone overseas to Thailand, but she had not been to Sydney … yet! We all know how much better Melbourne is than Sydney (lol), but we could not possibly send her home without having seen some of our national icons. So, as soon as we were back in Australia, we were looking for cheap flights to Sydney. We ended up getting a great deal through Tiger, leaving early on a Saturday morning and coming home on a Sunday night).
|Early Saturday morning in Sydney.|
What didn’t we do on that weekend? We had purchased a weekend travel pass which we would be able to use on all trains, buses and ferries, and our plan was to max it out, seeing as much as we could! Upon arrival we made our way to Bondi Beach, which is quintessentially Australian, with its cafes and shops along the beach, filled with people and surfers. Denisse was in awe and this was actually the stereotype that she had expected. From here we made our way to a lookout not too far away. Whilst not that well known, and thus not touristy, it has an amazing view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with hardly any people. It’s really just a big park with a phenomenal view. Again, Denisse was in awe. I must say the view is pretty spectacular.
|Bondi Beach walk.|
From there we made our way via bus back to Bondi Beach, where we checked out a Farmer’s Market, after which doing some of the coastal walk from Bondi to Bronte. It has been said that this coastal walk is amongst one of the most beautiful in the world. I am personally never disappointed by it, as you oscillate between virtually being able to touch the water, to viewing the amazing coast from up high. It was lovely to just stroll, observe and take in some of Australia’s spectacular natural beauty!
Next on the list was Circular Quay and the area around the Rocks. Circular Quay is the hub of Sydney Harbour and the founding site for Sydney and Australia. It’s also the point at which you can catch a number of ferries to a number of destinations. It’s always abuzz with people and tourists and buskers; a great people-watching vantage point. Besides, it’s really the point that you get up close and personal with both the infamous Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. More wow factor for Denisse. Our aim was to show her as much of Sydney as we could in a weekend, and I think we were managing to do a pretty decent job. After some oohing and aahing, we made our way to the Rocks, including the weekend market there. The Rocks is the oldest part of Sydney, and is nestled right under the Harbour Bridge and right alongside Circular Quay. It is quaint and historical, yet a number of tourists pass through. I like being a tourist in my own country. I like seeing foreigners’ reactions to the country I call home (most of the time!).
|On the ferry to Manly.|
Next on the agenda was a ferry ride across to Manly. It was a beautiful day, with clear skies and perfect weather. I must say that the 360 degree views from the ferry were exhilarating. It was mid-afternoon by the time we reached the other side, and we were all starting to feel the lack of sleep and early morning start. We decided to find a picnic bench on the beach and have a bit of a power nap. Clutching our small backpacks (we had brought the bare minimum and would not be checking into our hotel until late that night to save time), we all nodded off for half an hour or so. Yes, it did revive us a little. We had a look around Manly and its beach after making our way back across the harbour.
|Sydney Opera House.|
We were working on ticking off the main attractions on our checklist. Next the Opera House. For our foreign friends, and perhaps the Aussie ones too, did you know that the Sydney Opera House, completed only as recently as 1973, was designed by a Danish architect? It is undoubtedly one of the most recognisable images of the modern world, up there with the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building, and one of the most photographed. Who doesn’t know what the Opera House looks like or where it is? As you start to get closer and walk around it, the sheer size of it is also impressive. We walked right around it as well as all the way up the steps to one of its many entrances.
|Fireworks at Darling Harbour.|
By the time we had circled the Opera House it was dark, giving the whole harbour, bridge and Opera House a totally different look. They all looked spectacular lit up. The idea was to then finish off the night at Darling Harbour, another Sydney must-see. Somehow the option of getting a ferry across had deluded us and we walked the one hour or so to get there. Welcome to Sydney by night Denisse! We arrived just in time to see the fireworks, which go off every Saturday night. Quite frankly, they were much better than the New Year’s Eve fireworks in Melbourne recently. We sat on the steps and watched the throngs of people talking eating and playing. This is another terrific spot to people watch. We wanted to go for a coffee somewhere, but we were having trouble peeling ourselves off the steps. By this point it was pure exhaustion. We were spent! We slowly walked back to our hotel, which was fairly close by. It did not take us long, as we weaved through China Town and the city centre to get there. Upon arrival at our hotel, we checked in and crashed!
Day two in Sydney. It was a windy and blustery day. Our hotel included a basic buffet breakfast and it really wasn’t too bad. We made sure we filled up, including (in my case) several cups of coffee. Ready to go? We were all still tired, but we wanted to make the best of our second and last day in Sydney. We made our way to the infamous Oxford St, home to the world famous annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, one of the largest such festivals in the world. That early on a Sunday morning it was rather quiet and deserted. We later walked back to Circular Quay and visited the market at the Rocks which we had only passed the day prior. We also visited the Museum of Contemporary Art which has recently had quite a spectacular facelift. Finally, we made our way to Newtown, Sydney’s version of our Brunswick St, where we grabbed ourselves a bit of (very kalate) lunch. And before we knew it, we were making our way back to the airport. We’d had a full-on two days, but had managed to show Denisse a far whack of one of Australia’s most iconic cities. Needless to say, we all collapsed into bed that night!
|Australia St, Newtown, Sydney.|
The next few weeks seemed to pass at lightning speed, and Alex and I were acutely aware that Denisse’s time was coming to an end. She had been studying English daily at Lyceum Language Centre in the city, which wrapped up a couple of weeks before her departure. I must say that the improvement, although she could already speak English before she got here, was impressive. The week before she left it all started to feel very real, with her suitcases, bags, clothes and other things adorning her bedroom floor, as she aimed to get it all packed. Eventually, her suitcase would prove to be almost bigger than her.
|Goodbye and good luck Deni.|
Just before she left, we organised a farewell for Denisse at our place. It was a fun night with a number of people coming to say goodbye. She had been a major part and had played an important part of our lives for six months, and many people had come to know and love her. I was going to miss her terribly. Speech time … I couldn’t get the words out, as I realised how much I was going to really miss Denisse! With tears in my eyes and a choked up throat, I tried to talk of what it had meant for us to have Denisse with us for the last six months. Denisse had to comfort me! It’s a tough gig; I have two families, one in Australia and the other in Ecuador and it’s often really hard to not be able to be close to the one in Ecuador. Even harder for Alex! This opportunity to be with his niece for six months had meant the world to Alex. To be able to share, impart, teach and give Denisse a different opportunity in life was indescribable.
|Alex and Deni at the airport.|
And almost as suddenly as she had arrived, she was leaving. Dad came past and the three of us took her off to the airport early Sunday morning. After check in, we all had a cup of coffee (we have inducted Denisse and she now understands this ritual). It was soon time to board. I saw the six months flash before me, where had it gone? We all hugged her and wished her luck. Hopefully this would only be the beginning of the rest of her life!
That Sunday was a sad one for us. It felt empty without Denisse around. I came home from the airport to find two cards awaiting us, one for Alex and I and the other for me. The front of my card read, “Hey Mum, thanks so much for the last half year. It can’t have been easy putting up with all of my shit!” Of course I cried some more. Denisse was not the only one had learnt a lot in the last six months!
“The eyes are useless when the mind is blind” – Unknown.
Dedication: To my Dad (Doobie), brother Fulvio (Fuzz), sister-in-law Kazz and nephew James, for making Denisse feel like she was a true and real part of our family. Thanks for being so kind, welcoming and warm towards her. I know she will go home with loving and fond memories of her Australian family.
Dedicacion: Para mi papa (Doobie), hermano Fulvio (Fuzz), cunada Kazz y sobrino James, por hacerle sentir a Denisse como fuera parte de nuestra familia. Gracias por haber sido tan generosos, carinosos y calidos con ella. Sabemos que va a regresar a su casa con buenos recuerdos y memorias de su familia Australiana.
|Time to go!|
|At the Coburg outdoor pool.|
|Saying goodbye at the airport.|
|Glass blower, The Rocks Market.|
|Bird’s Eye view of the Harbour Bridge.|
|The Opera House.|
|A bit tired on Day 2!|
|Luna Park, as seen from ferry back from Manly.|
|Sydney, as seen from ferry back from Manly.|
|Sydney Harbour Bridge.|
|Manly at dusk.|
|Alex and Deni at Circular Quay.|
|Beach Volleyball, Bondi Beach.|
|What to do in Sydney?|
|Sydney … Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!|
|Surfie chicks at Bondi Beach.|
|Ombi and Deni on the Bondi walk.|
|Finally … Sydney!|