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Category: Australia

American Express Lounge – Sydney Airport

American Express Lounge – Sydney Airport

On my way home from Australia I decided to have a look into the American Express Lounge in Sydney Airport.

This has had a good write up by others.


As a Platinum card holder I was able to access the lounge free. There was a large placard in the reception of all the accepted American Express cards – and there were loads!


The Lounge

On entering the lounge it was quite light with windows overlooking the airport tarmac. I wondered down the lounge to the food and drinks area. I was then struck that it was not very big.

It was moderately crowded although I was able to find a comfortable seat. Armchairs are by the windows and against the wall opposite and in the middle is a long set of tables and chairs with power access for computers etc

There was a small food area serving and hot and cold food. It looked quite nice although I didn’t try any as I was “saving” myself for the onslaught of food on my 24 hour return flights to the UK. I did have a gin and tonic and was pleased to see they were serving Hendricks gin.

The toilet was a weird affair with an electronic sliding door and once inside you had to press a button to lock the door. There were large signs about this so presumabaly many an accidental door opening had occurred!


In conclusion

This was a small but pleasant lounge with a nice food and drink selection. It was a little crowded and hence not as relaxing as it could have been if it were a bit more spacious.

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.


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.



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.


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



and Sofitel Sydney Wentworth.



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.

Welcome to 2017

Welcome to 2017

Welcome to 2017.

Another year ahead.  A year older and a year closer to retirement but I am not there yet. So I will still need to fit my holidays into the few weeks leave I get per year.

So how will I make the best use of the time? Do I go long haul for a couple of weeks or shorter haul for a week?


I have already decided on one trip in January. Long haul for a short time!


Yes, I have been before and had such an enjoyable time I am going again.

Thankfully my holidays start at the airport so I consider even such a long haul fun. I hope I will still feel this when I arrive.

I am flying Thai Airways; London to Bangkok and then with about a 2 hour break in the airport I take the connecting flight to Sydney so I lose 2 days on the outward journey.


I’m not sure where I am going to stay. I’ve booked a cancelled one hotel as I was able to get a better price for the same place a few weeks later. I am looking at other hotels and I am not sure whether it is best to book directly with the hotel or through my American Express Travel Service. I can get better deals if I book a non-refundable tariff but I do not want to do that and commit.

I think I will do this closer to the time unless prices have skyrocketed.

What to do

The last time I visited I used the ferries and visited all around the harbour

I am keen to go back to some places like Manly and explore a bit more. It has also been suggested that I should visit the Blue Mountains. I came across a newspaper article recently recommending them as well but I am not sure whether I should make a day trip or stay overnight. This might affect whether I book a full week’s accommodation in Sydney or not.

So much planning, but so little time!!

2017 here I come.