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Friday Photo #4

By 14 March 2014 Australia, Photography
Friday Photo series of blog posts.

This week’s Friday photo is influenced by today’s #FriFotos tag on Twitter: edge. This is me in 2008 up the Sydney Tower Eye (was called the Sky Tower) on the Skywalk experience.

I donned this fetching jumpsuit, attached myself to the safety wire and walked around the outside of the building, 268m above the streets below. The best bit is walking out onto the glass platform, which when the guide presses the button, extends out over the edge of the building! There’s nothing between you, the platform and the floor a long way below. It was brilliant!

Check out the stunning view!

This is me on the Sydney Tower Eye Skywalk.
This is me on the Sydney Tower Eye Skywalk. I'm high above the city streets with Sydney harbour behind me.

For more pics, etc, take a look at my post all about the Sydney Sky Tower.

What’s everyone up to this weekend? A friend and colleague is celebrating his 40th birthday so hubby and I will be going out for a drink or two to help him drown his sorrows!

Rachel x

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Infographic: Australia Fun Facts

By 19 February 2013 Australia, Travel

Australia is one of my favourite countries in the world and is pretty close to my heart. Take a look at this funky infographic from the guys and gals at G Adventures. I think my favourite fact is about the record breaking ex-Prime Minister. That sums Aussies up to a tee. Work hard play hard. When I was working in a call centre in Melbourne, every Friday the whole team went to the pub after work. I usually wrote off Friday nights, knowing that I wouldn’t be home until Saturday. Fun times!

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5 Things to do for Free in Sydney

By 1 November 2012 Australia, General, Travel
View of Sydney city skyline from Botanic Gardens

Sydney is an amazing city but it ain’t cheap!  If you want to take in all the attractions it could set you back a small fortune.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are plenty of things to do in Sydney for free.

Fruit bats in the trees in daytime Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens

1. Explore the Royal Botanic Gardens

Established in 1816, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney are the oldest botanic gardens in Australia.  The gardens span over 30 hectares and contain plants from all over the globe.  In addition to the flora the Royal Botanic Gardens are home to various animals including hundreds of fruit bats.  I just happened to look up into the trees when coming out of the loos and got a bit of a surprise!  The gardens are an easy walk from Circular Quay, just round the corner from the Opera House.  The walk around the outside of the gardens offer fabulous views back towards the city (see the photo at the top of this post) and when you walk round to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, actually just a rock ledge, you reach the perfect spot for snapping that postcard shot including the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.  If you want to learn more about the gardens you can join a free guided walk.

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia Circular Quay Sydney

2. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art: Australia

The Museum of Contemporary Art is housed in an industrial-looking Art Deco building that was originally built for the Harbour Services Board.  The museum exhibits, collects and interprets contemporary art from around Australia and the world.  There are over 4000 works of art in the permanent collection, all of which are available to view free of charge.  I do like a free gallery.  I’m not much of an art buff but enjoy looking.  I think I spent about 40 minutes in this museum.  Art lovers could spend many hours I’m sure.  The MCA is open daily from 10am to 5pm, except on Thursdays when the museum is open until 9pm.  The museum also offers free guided tours and there’s an MCA Insight app available to download.

Cockle Bay Wharf Darling Harbour Sydney

3. Wander round Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour is a former dockside area that has been transformed into one of Sydney’s favourite recreation spots.  At Darling Harbour you can enjoy leisurely waterside walks, browse the shops at the Harbourside Shopping Centre and enjoy street performances.  Darling Harbour is also home to the Sydney Visitor Centre, basically a tourist information office, but I love this places because I’ve got a bit of a leaflet fetish!  The newest addition to the area is Cockle Bay Wharf , seen in the picture above.  The wharf is home to various restaurants and bars making Darling Harbour somewhere to visit after dark too.  You can also find some of Sydney’s major attractions in Darling Harbour including the IMAX, Aquarium and Sydney Wildlife World.  If you’re on a budget I’d steer clear of these places.  This November enjoy a spectacular firework display every Saturday night at 9pm hosted by the Harbourside Shopping Centre.  When I arrived in Sydney, Darling Harbour was the first place I found myself.  I was so overwhelmed by the realisation that I was actually in Sydney that I cried!  I’m not sure I should have admitted to that :-/

The Rocks Discovery Museum Sydney

4. Have fun learning at The Rocks Discovery Museum

This kid-friendly (and big kids too!) museum offers up interactive fun and houses a unique collection of images and archaeological artefacts that tell the story of The Rocks area of Sydney from pre-European days to the present.  The Rocks Discovery Museum can be found in a restored 1850s sandstone warehouse in the centre of The Rocks, the birthplace of modern day Sydney.  To find out more check out my previous post about exploring The Rocks area.

View over The Rocks Sydney Harbour Bridge Sydney Opera House

5. Walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge

Now you can’t go to Sydney without seeing the Harbour Bridge.  There’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars on the Bridge Climb, unless you’re feeling flush of course.  It’s perfectly possible to walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  It might not be quite as high but the views are still pretty spectacular.  The picture above shows the view from one of the access points to the walkway that runs from The Rocks to Milsons Point on the North Shore.  The pedestrian walkway across the bridge provides a fantastic vantage point for panoramic views of the city, harbour and ocean.  Depending on how fast you walk and how many photos you take(!) the walk should take about half an hour.  To check access points to the bridge pick up a free copy of a Rocks map from The Rocks visitor centre.

Hopefully this post has given you an insight into some cool things to check out in Sydney without having to spend any money, apart from travel and accommodation obviously.  If anyone has any other tips for free things to do in Sydney please do leave a comment.

By Rachel Birchley

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Exploring The Rocks, Sydney

By 7 October 2012 Australia, Travel

The Rocks Sydney sign

The Rocks is the historical heart of Sydney in the shadows of the harbour bridge.  This village is where the first European settlers in Sydney – British convicts and their prison guards – first made their homes in 1788.  The Rocks has a colourful past but now it’s a thriving area with independent shops, restaurants and galleries.

Sydney The Rocks old buildings with Sydney Harbour Bridge
When the convicts arrived they lived in tents or hand-built shacks.  Eventually buildings started to be built when, in the early 19th century, the town’s Governor Macquarie pushed for the city of Sydney to become a trading city, rather than a penal colony.  There are over 100 historical sites in The Rocks area and the oldest house, Cadman’s Cottage, was built in 1816.  Many old buildings are still standing today: a number have been converted into shops, etc.
The Rocks Discovery Museum sign and logo on the entrance door

The Rocks Discovery Museum is free to enter and tells the story of The Rocks.  This interactive museum is housed in a sandstone warehouse, dating back to the 1850s.  I spent a good hour or so absorbing the exhibits and really enjoyed it.  I do love a good museum, especially a free one!

Argyle Terrace, Argyle Street, The Rocks, Sydney.  Galleries and craft shops.
The houses in Argyle Street, shown above, are now mostly galleries or shops selling arts and crafts, such as jewellery and pottery.  There are still houses in The Rocks and these look like they’ve not changed for the last century or two.

Old houses in The Rocks, Sydney

The weirdest and coolest thing about The Rocks is its proximity to modern Sydney.  It’s such a juxtaposition.

Juxtaposition of historic Rocks houses next to skyscrapers of downtown Sydney

The Rocks is nestled between Circular Quay and the Bradfield Highway, which leads over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  It would be a pretty cool place to stay, really central with loads going on.  If the likes of the Shangri-La fall outside your price range, which I’m sure is true for most people, there’s a new offering.  YHA Sydney Harbour is deluxe hostel that was opened in late 2009 right in The Rocks.  It’s the only hostel in this part of Sydney and has views to die for!  Next time I’m in Sydney I will definitely be staying there!

Roof terrace at YHA Sydney Harbour views of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House

Sydney is a wonderful city with loads going on for the budget traveller.  Exploring The Rocks is free and so worth while.  The Rocks is literally next to Circular Quay so really easy to get to by public transport but most places in the city centre are walk-able.  I was staying near to Central Station about 2.5km away just a leisurely 30 minute walk through downtown Sydney.  I always prefer walking in cities as you get a much better feel for the place and stumble across sights that you may have otherwise missed.  

By Rachel Birchley

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Melbourne Formula 1 Grand Prix from the Cheap Seats

By 28 September 2012 Australia, Life, Travel

The Formula 1 Grand Prix is a star-studded global event with drivers from around the world racing in a calendar of events in various different countries.  My parents have always enjoyed watching the F1 on TV so I grew up with the likes of Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher battling it out on the circuit.  As an adult, I had only really dipped in to the Grand Prix but as the Melbourne race took place during my time in the city I decided I had to go.

Entrance to the 2008 F1 Australian Grand Prix

I was staying at Cooee on St Kilda (now Habitat HQ) hostel just a mile from the Albert Park circuit.  The race takes place on a “street circuit” in the park sandwiched between St Kilda Road, a main artery in to Melbourne city centre, and the beach.  I purchased a general admission ticket for race day at the bargain bucket price of A$99.  At the time, this equated to about £50, half the price of entrance to the British Grand Prix.  I got up early in order to make the most of my day and walked up to Albert Park.  It was already sweltering.  During the day the temperatures hovered around 40 degrees C.  A bit too hot my my pasty English self.

Albert Park lake Melbourne, with view of the city skyline, during the Grand Prix

The actual F1 race wasn’t on until late afternoon but throughout the day there were other races on including the Carrera Cup, which was all Porsches, the V8s with flames spurting out of the exhausts (that was awesome!) and the funny little Aussie Racing cars which are Fiat 500s, diddy, bubble cars.  They ran an Aussie Racing race with celebrity drivers, including the Australian tennis player Mark Philippoussis.

Mark Philippoussis' Aussie Racing car

Before the race commenced there was a fly-past by the Australian Royal Air Force and a Qantas Boeing 747 before the national anthem was sung.  The race itself was exhilarating.  The noise was immense and the speed incredible.  There were many other spectators wearing ear plugs and I could understand why.

Qantas Spirit of Australia aircraft.  Fly past at Australian Grand Prix 2008

I spent the first half of the race perched on what was once a grassy mound (it was now mostly dirt and dust) near one of the corners with hundreds of fellow fans.  I was wearing my newly purchased official Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes cap and wishing there was some shade.  It was so hot.  The queue to refill water bottles was 10 deep around the cart and the drinks vendors sold out of cold drinks!  A friendly Mancunian lady offered to top up my sunscreen on my back and shoulders raising laughs from her friends as she slapped it on an inch thick!  I certainly didn’t burn but got filthy dirty.  The ground was so dry that it was mostly dust, which stuck to sweaty, hot skin.  Yummy!

Filthy feet in mary jane Crocs
Speeding F1 car in blur

Having spent 9 hours in direct sun in such hot conditions I soon developed a headache so ended up spending the last hour of the Grand Prix laying on the floor watching the race on the big screen with a wet paper towel on my forehead.  Lewis Hamilton won the race with style so I rushed to the track side to wave him on his victory lap.  I proudly waved my cap at him as he drove past in celebration.  After the race, the track was open to spectators so we all piled on to the track and walked down toward the pit straight.  I collected some orange kerb gravel as a souvenir and then managed to grab a photo of Lewis’ winning car parked in the pit lane.  My little stolen souvenir was slightly more discreet than a group of lads who were rolling a used tyre down the track!  I somehow doubt that they managed to get away with that one.

After the race, Kiss were performing a live concert, which I know I should have stayed for but I was on my own, hot, tired and had a banging headache.  I took a leisurely stroll back to my hostel where I jumped in the shower.  I was obviously not the only filthy person that day judging by the black floor in the shared shower room!

The day was amazing.  I had such a good time.  My experience in the evening spoilt it slightly though.  I decided to get takeaway pizza for my dinner.  On my way to the pizza place, I was approached by a man who thought I was touting for business if you know what I mean!  I soon told him where to go!  I was so incredulous that he would think I was a prostitute!  He suggested I was making a hand gesture at him.  I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean.  My friends back at the hostel thought the whole episode was hilarious though!

I would love to go to another Grand Prix.  It is so much fun, possibly not so much if you’re not in to cars but I definitely want to go again.  It’s just a shame that it’s so expensive. I was lucky that the Australian F1 Grand Prix has such good value tickets.  If you’re in a country when the Grand Prix is taking place, check out the general admission tickets, you won’t get a grandstand seat but the atmosphere is incredible and it’s much more exciting than watching on telly.

Lewis Hamilton's winning F1 car Australian Grand Prix 2008
By Rachel Birchley

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