Truth is, I miss Australia. Having spent a good three years there in Brisbane as a student, I must confess that I really miss the idyllic places and leisurely paces that have become a hallmark of life in the land of wandering wombats and crisp morning air. There are always uncrowded places to go over the weekends and scenic environs that are as pleasurable to the eyes as they are nourishment to our souls. And what I really enjoy most about the place is the length of time that you get to spend just being by yourself and unwinding.
So, as deep calls unto deep, my husband and I went back to Australia for a short but well-needed two-week holiday. People around us often wonder why we’re going back to Australia again, and why we’ll rather spend the money in a place we’ve already “been there, done that and bought the tee-shirts”. Well yes, travelling is about seeing the world. I would venture that travelling is just as much about re-connecting with the circadian rhythm of life and we’ve found Australia to be just the place for it.
Our every visit to Australia is memorable. A leisurely drive along the Margaret River and its surrounds, the aroma of freshly baked Yatala mushroom and beef pies over at exit 38 on the Pacific Motorway, the picturesque meander of the Great Ocean Road, the lush hinterlands of Launceston dotted with lazy grazing cattle, exciting weekend markets at Salamanca (now that’s what I call a REAL market), the gigantic strawberries at a farm headed towards Sunshine Coast, the gorgeous sunsets over Cottesloe Beach, the many craftshops (scrapbooking enthusiasts’ dream come true) … there’s just no end.
Anyway, the Pacific Coast drive from Sydney to Brissy and back is one downunder journey we’ve often heard talked about by friends. It’s a good 950 or so kilometres. And if you’re the sort who thinks in terms of time, well, a drive like that would set you back 12 long hours. Or if you’re like us who just can’t take long distances for extended periods, break the journey up into a three or four day one, and you’ll find yourself enjoying it much better!
The Pacific Coast drive is certainly one worth taking, especially if you’ve always dreamt of driving great distances with the wind blowing in your hair and not having to stop then and again due to motorway congestion. Along the way, there is much to see and a lot more to savour. Starting out at Sydney where you get The (historical) Rocks, Darling Harbour and the amazing views of the famed harbour bridge, we made four overnight pitstops at Newcastle, Port Mcquarie, Coff’s Harbour, and the Gold Coast. These all turned out to be very interesting sideshows that made the whole roadtrip a really great experience. Well, since we’ve got a long distance to cover, let’s get started with … Sydney!
There are loads to do at Sydney and we made sure to get out early to maximise the short winter day. The Rocks is a really fascinating place, with quaint shops inconspicuously tucked into corners and passageways, with specialist shops that sold things like lollies.
We also found some great restaurants and cafes that serve really excellent grub in such massive portions. As you’d expect, I came back to Singapore a few kilos heavier.
Tea was one thing no one can resist, not if you happen to be strolling past these gorgeous bakeries with their cakes and biscuits displayed right out the shopfront beckoning to you.
Another treat we enjoyed thoroughly is the Tiger Pie that we bought off Harry’s Cafe de Wheels. All thanks to my colleague Sin Yee, my husband and I walked what felt like a thousand miles to Cowper Wharf Rd, Woolloomooloo just to get to it.
That said, the long distance was worth it. The pea and potato mash on juicy peppered beef pies and bratwurst on sauerkraut and bun were really good and for less than AUD20, we were well-fed, well-quenched and satisfied. So, who says good food can only be had at sky-high prices?
Another place for good food was a chance encounter at The Rocks. It was a German restaurant called Lowenbrau Keller that boasted good brew and beef. It’s a little more pricey though. I had this really melt-in-your-mouth dish affectionately referred to on the menu as Cheeky Beef which is really beef cheeks tenderly stewed in Lowenbrau beer and it was really superb! I’ve never tasted beef that good. Every bite was a wow. You can try the beef goulash too which is really comparable to the ones I tried in Budapest years back. It’s got enough zing, bite, and whiff. And my husband just loved the pork knuckles!
Ok. Before I get too far ahead of myself, Sydney isn’t just about food though. It’s just that my husband and I both love good food. Sydney’s also a great place and city for shopping, with Queen Victoria Building so well-connected to Pitt Street Mall through an underground pass. And with the Direct Factory Outlet conveniently located at Drummoyne, there’s just no lack!
Sydney is also an enjoyably scenic destination. We enjoyed just walking around and taking in the views of the harbour, taking photos of the eclectic union of old and new architecture and just soaking in the great wintry weather. It was drizzling time and again when we were there, but despite getting soggy feet nearly every day, the time spent was really a breath of fresh air.
After three exciting days at Sydney, we decided to zoom up to the Blue Mountains in a rented car. The journey took only a short 2 hours and the roads are easy to access and good to drive on. It wasn’t our first time at the Blue Mountains but it certainly felt so. We visited a few of the usual touristy spots like the Three Sisters, Katoomba Township. What I was really happy about was the two nights we spent at the really lovely Kurrara guesthouse which was a historical relic in itself. The entire place was decorated with memorabilia of days gone by, old faded photographs, a really quiet atmosphere punctuated with the occasional crackle of wood toasting in a real fireplace and the sound of gentle footsteps on creaking floorboards. Everything there felt very homey and back in time.
Although Katoomba is probably the most visited part of the Blue Mountains, there is so much more to see beyond this little town. Regrettably, we didn’t have that much time on our hands, and had to settle for the immediate surrounds like Leura and Wentworth. Wentworth Falls was actually worth a leisurely pitstop if you wanted a quick bite. We had this really mouth-watering beef pie and blackforest at the Conditorei Patisserie Schwarz bakery, easily located on 30 Station Street, Wentworth Falls.
Of course, Blue Mountains is the sort of place you’ll want to go to for recuperation, relaxation and retirement. The air is fresh, the walks are therapeutic and life there slows to a close halt – which is really good given that I had been really busy prior to the trip. So, when you’re there in Sydney, do visit the Blue Mountains. Take time to enjoy the crisp mountain air, be visually inspired by the flora native to the region, and greeted by a sense of timelessness every morning you wake up to the call of garden birds.