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Month: January 2017

Cronulla, Bundeena and the National Park

Cronulla, Bundeena and the National Park

Visit this place.

 

Getting there

Cronulla is easy to reach about 1 hour out of Sydney on the T4 line.

You can then catch the oldest timetabled ferry in Australia. This was launched in 1939.

It takes about 20 minutes to reach Bundeena.

Bundeena is a small village which is the jumping off point for walks through the National Park which is apparently the second largest only to Yellowstone.

 

The National Park

My visit only scraped the surface and one tiny corner. You could walk for miles and miles.

Choose you paths carefully. One I followed turn out to be soft sand and was energy sapping. Others are rock or much firmer.

Wildlife

I have no idea if anything is poisonous. There were some moderate sized spiders that  I came across.

 

 

There were many birds from parrots and cockatoos to others I could hear but not see.

There are also bigger animals such as Wombats. These excrete cube shaped faeces. I did seem some and can confirm this is true but will not post the picture!!

 

The Coast

The sandstone rocks have been shaped and patterned by the wind and sea  and are quite spectacular.

 

Cronulla

Whilst Bundeena is small and with only a few shops and cafes, Cronulla is a good sized town with decent shops in number and quality. It certainly would be a very nice place to live.

I believe that other parts of Port Hacking contain some of the most spectacular and expensive properties in Greater Sydney so you would have well to do neighbours if you could afford to live in Cronulla.

The beaches were also pleasant and I even had a swim.

 

So this is is a really  pleasant area to visit and you could spend a very long time exploring the park.

And all within a train ride of Sydney.

 

Manly Beach – Sydney, Australia

Manly Beach – Sydney, Australia

I like Manly. Last time I came i thought it was a lovely place with a spectacular walk to the North Head of the Sydney Harour entrance.

So I wanted to visit again this time. I also wanted to explore Manly a bit more so I decided to walk up the North coast and the ocean side beaches.

 

Suburbs and Suburbs

I arrived by the iconic Manly ferry – about 30 minutes from Circular Quay. This is a fantastic way to see the Eastern Harbour.

On reaching Manly I was reminded that it is quite built up. From the quay I walked up the main street and reached the beach with is rolling waves.

I had come before 9am, albeit on a weekend, and yet the place was busy with people surfing, swimming, playing sport, jogging or simply walking their dogs.

I walked the length of the beach and then weaved through residential roads to reach beach after beach after beach. All similarly busy. Many beaches had activities for kids, particularly junior lifeguard training.

I was unable to find a coastal path and t became somewhat tiring walking along streets of houses, although it was a pleasant surprise on reaching another beach.

 

Dee Why – far enough

I made it to Dee Why beach and decided that was far enough, This was a busy place with some beach side cafes and shops and looked quite a nice community,

I was able to catch a bus back to Manly from here.

 

To the Spit.

I then decided to follow a waymarked path along the harbour side coast to The Spit at Mosman. This proved to be an enjoyable 10km walk although quite hard going in places.

There were great views of the harbour entrance

As well as local wildlife!

 

There was also a good view over Manly showing hoax narrow the place is, between the harbourside and ocean side.

Once I reached The Spit I crossed the bridge. This is low level and still needs to open to let yachts through.

I caught a bus back to the city and a rest.

 

Manly – Is it still a yes?

Yes. I still like it. I was impressed with the suburbs and so great beaches but Manly itself and the walk to North Head are great and preferred.

 

Sydney Olympic Park – Slightly Spooky

Sydney Olympic Park – Slightly Spooky

I had heard that the Olympic park originally built for the 2000 Sydney olympics was worth a visit as there was a lot going on. I am afraid I have to disagree although my judgement may be coloured by my mode of arrival.

 

Up river to the Olymics

I had the great idea of arriving by water. I jumped on the Paramatta bound ferry and had a lovely 45 minutes cruise deep into the western reaches of the harbour. I admired the waterside properties and marvelled at the number of Sydney houses that have a view of the water.

Sydney suburbs stretch out in all directions for miles and are a real mix of house designs and sizes.

After admiring the eclectic properties I arrived at the Sydney Olympic Park quay and got off the ferry looking forward to admiring the legacy of the olympics.

 

Where are the Stadia?

Not quite what I expected. Clearly during the games there were shuttle buses, Now I walked. It was a very long way and not really clearly marked.  It took an age to get there. I ended up crossing a “feature”. A water filled hole where, I think. They used to mine clay to make bricks.

.

 

Is there anyone there?

When I eventually arrived at the Olympic site the place seemed really deserted and ghostly.

I came across the Charles Moses Stadium and this was in a state of disrepair.

I am not sure what this was used for in the Olympic s but is now used for a log throwing event.

As I walked though the place the other stadia were clearly in use but the place is massive and felt so empty

I am not alone

As I reached the ANZ stadium and the railway station area there were other people around.  There does appear to be some offices and businesses in their area.

Had I arrived by train I think my impression would have been a little different.

The area is used for a number of events and clearly has enormous capacity for showpiece events but feels underused.

This seems the same  of many old Olympic venues, even those that made  a profit, which I believe Sydney did.

 

So it did initially feel spooky but clearly there is some life in the area still. Just don’t arrive by boat.

Back in Sydney, Australia

Back in Sydney, Australia

I am back in Sydney

Just over 10000 miles and 22 hours of flying I have arrived.

The process of immigration and quarantine check was quick. The bags took a little time to arrive and I noticed mine had had quite a ride. There was a small hole in the top of the case and the padlock and one of the zip pulls had been torn off. It had been kindly put inside the case. So one chore for the holiday is to buy a new suitcase.

Hotel arrival

I took a taxi to the Shangri-La hotel. I had booked a horizon club room so I was directed to the Horizon Club to check in. As it was still before 0900 no room was available. I had not expected anyhing so after a cup of tea I went to the spa to shower and change.

I then wandered down to Circular Quay. From my previous trip I had a Opal card – a prepay card for transport (similar to the UK Oyster or Hong Kong Octopus card. Why do they al begin with O?!) I found I still had Aus$ 5 credit so added a bit more.

Ferry to Darling Harbour

I hopped on a ferry to  Darling Harbour and had a nice view of the bridge and Opera House.

 

I got off at the second Darling harbour stop – Pyrmont. I didn’t stop at the Harbour but walked further to the Sydney Fish Market. Lots of others were doing the same.

 

Sydney Fish Market

I was not sure what to expect. It is a real wholesale market but there is an area that sells to the public and they had a fantastic selection of fish and crustaceans, Loads of varied sizes of prawns to huge lobsters.

So I had a mid morning snack of Sydney Rock Oysters freshly shucked and melted cheese and scallops. Very nice.

 

Early present buying

I remembered that near Chinatown I had found a good supermarket where I had bought some chocolates and other sweets for friends. I decided to do this early as I had some time. I was able to find the shopping centre and supermarket. On the way I noted a political statement in the sky acknowledging the newly inaugurated US president.

 

In the supermarket I came across some Chinese dragons and drummers starting the celebrations for Chinese New Year.

 

Quite an unusual and varied start to my holiday.

 

No upgrade.

I returned to the hotel to collect my key and go to my room. I had booked though American Express’s Fine Hotels and Resorts and was hoping for an upgrade as the terms state this will occur (if one is available) Sadly one was not available so I had the room Iboked overlooking the opera house.

This is the second time I have booked with Fine Hotels and Resorts and have yet to get the upgrade. Perhaps I book too good a room in the first place.

 

Opera House and Botanic Gardens

Once I had settled in I went for a walk to the opera House and Botanic gardens to get the good views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. the gardens are a really pleasant place to spend some time and seem well used by the locals.

 

Finally back to the hotel for a drink and an early night. The jet lagged finally caught up with me.

 

All packed and everywhere to go

All packed and everywhere to go

My Australia holiday starts in a few days

I  have got out all the stuff I want to take and am packing it in my case.

It is probably too much. How many shorts do you really need for a week’s holiday?!

I find myself planning my day wear and evening wear, and then some spares, I could get some stuff washed whilst I am there but have yet to routinely use hotel laundry, or even room, services. As I become more settled in my travels I will. But sometimes it feels so expensive.

So I now find myself pretty much packed but I am not due to leave for a few more days. Do I just leave the case in the corner or unpack and repack trying to weed out stuff and really am unlikely to use? I accept not the greatest dilemma of my life but something to ponder.

And another question:

 

Cabin or checked?

I admire those people who seem to be able to pack for all eventualities and fit it all into cabin bags. Clearly their sense of colour and style matching is better than mine and they are also able to exist on a couple of pairs of shoes. (I find these take up a lot of space). I am already taking 3 pairs. A relatively smart set to travel in. Some trainers to walk the streets and flip flops for less strenuous walking or beach roaming. However I do note that some of those who say they only take cabin luggage do seem to take a lot of it; a cabin suitcase, a tote bag and a handbag. My shoulders are not broad enough or strong enough to carry this.

 

Checked for me!

So I will check a suitcase and then have a small cabin bag that I can drag around the airport and fit a bit of duty free in along with my computer and a few other bits and pieces.

Yes I will wait longer to collect my bag from the luggage carousel and wait on tenterhooks until it arrives.

But I will certainly be less anxious that what I have brought doesn’t match well and I will have a few choices of clothes to wear rather than a multi use outfit.

So I am  looking forward to being chilled with my first cocktail on arrival

Cheers

Hotel Booking Timing – More Insights

Hotel Booking Timing – More Insights

Since my last post on this I have been tracking a couple of hotels in Sydney. These are the Shangri La

(from; Shangri-La.com)

 

and Sofitel Sydney Wentworth.

(from; sofitelsydney.com.au)

 

I realise this is a small sample. I have focused it even more by checking only on the American Express Travel site and the hotel’s own websites.

Even with this limited data it has been interesting, and confusing.

As expected there is no simple answer.

The prices vary almost  day by day and one hotel’s prices will go done whilst the other one’s increase. Room availability is also variable. I realise this is, to some, stating the absolutely obvious.

Of course there will be huge variation. The hotels use a very dynamic pricing model depending on the apparent bookings, and hence remaining availability they have. In parallel to this many people, companies and travel agents and websites will be holding, booking and cancelling rooms as peoples’ plans or minds change. As availability drives cost and this is changing minute to minute then the cost will change dynamically.

I also presume the hotels add special offers and in the internet world flash sales lasting a few hours or a day only will impact on the pricing levels.

 

What is happening now?

As I write this I see that the price for the Shangri  La hotel has increased whilst Sofitel has dropped quite a lot. This trend has continued for the last week or so. I also note that in both hotels the rooms available are becoming more restricted. Yes, of course this is obvious. As you get closer to arrival, plans are firmed up and more rooms and booked. in other words the hotel has less room availability to offer. Perhaps Shangri La is more full at the moment or Sofitel have simply decided to discount further their current available rooms.

 

So what am I going to do?

Well, I made my booking about 2 weeks ago. This seems to have been the right time for the hotel I chose and so I am sticking with it. However, as the hotel seems to be pretty full as evidenced by the small list of rooms types showing as available I bet I will not get the upgrade as part of the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts service I used. This raises the question if it is worth paying more for the potential of these perks; but that is another post!

 

And my conclusion?

It is a mug’s game and a lottery.

 

You need to make a decision at some point that you are happy with the price and the type of room and simply go for it. Yes, it will change. Sometimes up and sometimes down. The type of room availability, especially the premium rooms, will become less available or much more costly.

So my game plan is to book as soon as I confirm my holiday but on terms that can be cancelled and track intermittently for a while. I will not wait until too close to my arrival to make a final decision. At that point stop tracking.

Midlife Perigrinations is now on Facebook

Midlife Perigrinations is now on Facebook

I had a bit of spare time so I thought I would add a Midlife Peregrinations Facebook page.

The set up was very easy and the page was up and running within a few minutes.

I then wanted to get my posts listed on the page. This proved more difficult. I found a tool that I could link to my website. I then had to set up an application user account and through this set up and link Facebook to the website. The walk though instructions were pretty good and the app got plenty of good reviews.

Although it says it is authorised and so I feel it should work there are no posts to Facebook. I am not sure if it does it retrospectively so this post will be a test.

Fingers crossed.

www.facebook.com/midlifeperegrinations

Heathrow Terminal 2 Lounges

Heathrow Terminal 2 Lounges

I am really looking forward to my upcoming holiday to Australia. It starts at Heathrow Terminal 2. I am considering  which lounges to use.

I will be flying with Thai Airways in Business Class. This means I can use the Star Alliance Lounges and so I get a fair bit of choice.

My frustration with the design of T2 is that many International flights, mine included, leave from the satellite. This is a long long way from the main departure hall and is really not a very exciting place. There are some good lounge however.

 

T2 Main Departure Hall

Once I have walked there I do not want to walk back to the main departure hall so I plan to spend some time in the main hall before I trek to the departure gate. Lufthansa has quite a nice lounge in the main hall. I have been there before and quite like it. Interestingly the Senator lounge for use by first class ticket holders and some elite status holders often seems more crowded than the business class section and I am not convinced the service, food or beverages or even the surroundings are much better. The last time I used the Lufthansa lounge I stayed in a quiet and restful business class section and found this more enjoyable.

Once I have had my fill of the Germanic design and have mooched around the shops I will make my way down long escalators, even longer travelators and up another set of escalators to the satellite departure gate area.

 

T2 Satellite

There I have a choice of United Club, SilverKris and Air Canada Maple Leaf lounges.

The United Club is very nice with, apparently, the longest serviced bar in Heathrow. It seems to be the default lounge for many airlines including Thai Airways. Consequently the lounge often seems to be very crowded.

Singapore Airlines SilverKris is also available to me. I have been lucky enough to use their first class lounge in the past and this is excellent. The last time I travelled I went to their  business class lounge. This was certainly quieter than the United lounge but I found it rather depressing. It was quite dark. The small bar was serviced but when I last went there there was no one at the bar. The food choice was also poor.

I have been to the Maple Leaf Lounge before but quite a while ago and I really cannot remember much about it. I do have a vague memory that I preferred the United but I am not sure.

 

So My Decision is…

I will get through security and then go to the Lufthansa Lounge. I plan to relax there for a bit and do a bit of window shopping in the main departure hall. Once I get to the satellite I will try the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge. If this is not to my taste then at least I can use United’s if I can find a seat.

Should I book 5 star hotels?

Should I book 5 star hotels?

I soemtime struggle to decide on what class of hotel I should book.

Of course it is really attractive to stay in luxurious accommodation. Many will comment that this is part of the holiday and it is fantastic to stay in a place with spectacular furnishings way above what you have at home. I agree, and it is wonderful. However, I do sometime baulk at the thought of paying over £200 per night to sleep.

 

On the other hand people argue that as the room is there to sleep in and you are unlikely to spend very much time there because you will be out sightseeing.  So why pay so much? A 3 star room will be comfortable and functional. OK, it will not have the high end toiletries and as fluffy towels as the 5 star room but so what, you will still sleep well and save a packet!

So what do I choose?

I will sit on the fence.

It really does depend on what I am doing and often how “rich” I am feeling when I am booking.

If it is a really special holiday then I will splash out. This is definitely the case if I am holidaying alone as I am less likely to be out partying in the evening and so will make more use of the room.

If I am staying somewhere for business or am spending most of the time out and about worth friends then I will probably book a cheaper room.

I wonder what I will book next!

Pre-holiday Preparedness

Pre-holiday Preparedness

The more I travel, particularly if I have visited a place before, the later I seem to leave it to prepare and perhaps also less organised.

Travel Documents

I am pretty good with these. I have a plastic folder for each holiday. Into this I place the flight itinerary, booking confirmations and hotel details and vouchers. I often place my passport and any appropriate loyalty cards into it closer to departure.

 

Packing

This is becoming a bit hit and miss. When I started travelling I used to get all my clothes out days, if not weeks, before and leave them on a spare bed in my house. This allowed me to “fine tune” what I was going to take. Invariably I took too much, and still do. I have yet to conquer cabin only packing!

Now I have become blase and tend to get things out only a few days prior to departure. I still pile them on the spare bed but adjust them only slightly before putting them in the suitcase.

So far I have still taken more than I need but have not forgotten to pack some essential item. I have a nagging feeling this will happen one day. As long as it isn’t my passport or credit cards I could probably get by.

Writing this is making me think about what I need to take to Australia. I really must get on and get my clothes out ready! How many shorts do I need? What shoes? Will I stay in a smart hotel needing better clothes for the evening?

 

Closing up my house

I thought I was good at this, but I might be overly obsessive. I tend to be up early on the day of departure and go round and around and around my house checking that everything is clean and tidy. Then I check and recheck all the doors are locked and that all the taps are shut off.  The heating is set to frost protection and then I go around again. Even so on my last holiday I managed to leave a room light on for the whole time I was away.

When I leave the house I often fret I have forgotten to do something. Generally unfounded until my last holiday. Even then I had no idea what was wrong just that I had forgotten something. Thankfully only a light. But I will be even more cautious when I leave for my next adventure.