Twenty years ago I arrived in Sydney as a skint backpacker. I’d spent the previous 8 months overlanding from London to Nepal and then travelling around India and used up all my savings. I was incredibly lucky when I arrived, on my first day a childcare agency sent me straight to an interview with a family and I started work 2 days later. It got even better when it turned out to be a lovely couple with just one baby girl; and I lived-in in their flat overlooking Sydney harbour – I had truly landed on my feet. They loved the fact they had an experienced “British Nanny”, even if my hippie clothes didn’t quite live up to the image and were so friendly and kind to me. I loved the job and came to really love the place too.
Fast forward 20 years and we were trying to decide what to do with our time in Sydney. We love overlanding and living in the truck but the one place that our type of travelling isn’t ideal, is cities. All that finding somewhere to park; driving though busy streets; trying to navigate tiny roads and all in a massive truck, kind of takes the shine off a place. Our time in Sydney also coincided with the truck’s need for its annual service. As we didn’t think we would be allowed to sleep in the garage in Oz (unlike our great experience in Chile) we opted to rent a flat for a week. Recalling my great time in McMahon’s Point, just a skip and a hop from the northern side of the harbor bridge, we booked an airbnb apartment in the area. Turning up it turned out to be opposite the block I used to live in, slightly strange but perfect. Our apartment for the week may have been one of the contenders for “The ugliest buildings in Sydney Competition” but the view from the balcony of the harbour, bridge and Opera House was perfect. It got even better when we found the garden and pool, way, way down through the multistory carpark – it was right on the harbor. Sometimes returning to a much loved place years later can be a mistake but it was lovely, not too much had changed. Also we all loved jumping on the commuter ferry to take us across the harbour into town.
It was a great week of mixed activities: some sightseeing; catching up with old friends, enjoying city living and just hanging out on the balcony watching the boats. Also we got a chance for more physical space from each other, a break from driving and the everyday stresses of being on the road.
We were thrilled to catch up with Gordon and Michelle who we had met on our trip to Antarctica. We were all a bit unsure about whether our planned trip out to Manly beach with them was a good idea, after a mother of a storm hit just before we met (think soaked to the skin within a few seconds and thunder so loud it made you actually jump). But as we pulled into Manly the sun came out and we had a wonderful swim in the sheltered Shelley Beach before fish and chips and a good catch up.
The following day it was another trip down memory lane, not Sydney this time but from our time in Russia. Philippa and I had had toddlers and big bumps at the same time in Moscow. Now those toddlers aren’t so small and the bumps are not so quiet. It was lovely to see her and her boys for a catch up and a swim.
Our last catch up for the week was also with a longtime and dear friend from Moscow. Steve had worked for a larger than life character Stewart both in London and Moscow. Stewart mentored, encouraged and was a great friend for Steve for many years. His wife Glyn worked in the same group of schools that I did in Moscow and was so welcoming and friendly when we were there. Sadly Stewart passed away several years ago but it was wonderful to catch up with Glyn and hear about her new life in Australia. We spent a lovely lunch and afternoon reminiscing about our time there.
The rest of the week was taken up with sightseeing and revisiting old haunts. We joined the throngs heading for the coast on Sunday for a hot walk from Coogee to Bondi Beaches. We cooled off at the end with a swim in the seawater Icebreakers pool, which had the surf crashing into it. We went to an interesting museum at the Rocks called Susanna Place, a preserved site of a row of 1880’s terraced houses. They had been lived in up to 1990 and as Steve said to Alisha “It’s not that different from my old Nana’s place in England when I was growing up”. Another day we had a delicious lunch at the Fish Market, before a long walk back over the bridge. Alisha and I also had a “girlie day” shopping together, while Steve and Lucy went to the cinema.
We had a great time in Sydney, It was fascinating to think of my 20 year old self standing looking at the same view all those years ago, and thinking about how much has happened since then.