Exploring Sydney suburbs and fresh air in Freshwater

After a few days in the smoke-filled Blue Mountains, we headed to the coast to find some fresh air and explore the area around Sydney. We rented an apartment through Airbnb for six days that was just a couple of blocks from Freshwater Beach.

Freshwater Beach

After big hiking days, our first full day in Freshwater was a relaxing beach day. We also went to the grocery store, now that we had a kitchen, and stocked it for the week. The apartment also had a washer, so we did some laundry (a drying rack was provided for the front yard). The apartment had two bedrooms and a really cute front yard with a gate. The only flaw was a lack of air conditioning. We propped the back door open for circulation and found out that there was a friendly cat that would visit.

Following a relaxing beach day, we took the next day to explore Sydney, via a scenic route. We drove to Manly and then took the ferry into Sydney. We saw the main tourist sites and walked around the Rocks area. The ferry was a great idea because you can’t beat the view of coming in to see the the opera house and Harbour Bridge from the water.

Manly looked like a fun town so the next day, New Year’s Eve, we decided to walk there this time in the evening to find a place for dinner. It was busy but we found a place and then made our way to Manly Cove for the fireworks. We had some young Aussie boys who exuded their love of country by yelling for ScoMo (Prime Minister Scott Morrison) and singing the Australian national anthem.

We decided one more walk to Manly was in order and we ventured down the rocks next to Freshwater beach to find The Wormhole, a carved tunnel that connects Freswater to Manly. We then rented kayaks at the Manly Kayak Centre and went to Store Beach, a beautiful area that is only accessible by water. The kayaking was fairly easy and it was fun to look at the views on our trip. Afterwards, we worked up a big hunger and ended up at BenBry Burgers and devoured our dinner.  After a little souvenir shopping, we headed back to our apartment.

Freshwater served as a great home base to explore other places, and the town itself was walkable from our apartment. We wandered around the town, grabbed some wine and snacks and headed to the beach one more time before we moved on.

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A smoke-filled excursion to Australia’s Blue Mountains

When we arrived in Sydney and headed to the rental car counter, the woman checking us in asked where we were headed. When I said Katoomba, she looked shocked and said “Is it still open?” During the brushfires of 2019-20, the Blue Mountains were filled with smoke. Katoomba lay in between two major fires.

Map of Katoomba in between fires in late 2019.

Coming from California, we are sadly used to smoky conditions and dealing with unhealthy air quality. We brought our N-95 masks before we had ever heard of Covid and set up base camp at the Katoomba Town Centre Motel.

It was a bit of a tight squeeze for four but it included a kitchenette and dining table so it was perfect for our family. It was also in town and walkable to many locations.

We headed into town to find a place for brunch and ended up at the Katoomba Street Café. Everybody was happy with their meals and I learned that rocket is another word for arugula. We wandered the town a bit and then went to the lookout for Three Sisters. Although it was incredibly smoky, the views were still incredible and the walk onto the Three Sisters with many stairs was amazing.

The next day, we had planned to go to Scenic World but came across the Furber Steps. As we were checking them out and deciding what to do, a woman walking by warned us against it. Of course, that meant we were on our way and headed down. The walk was beautiful, like another world, with the cockatoos circling and squawking.

The Furber Steps feed into Scenic World, so we were able to walk around and take the train back up the mountain. We also went on the aerial tram, which was neat but the views were severely hindered by the wildfire smoke.

For dinner, we wandered into town again and chose the Old City Bank Bar and Brasserie at The Carrington. After a big meal and a big adventure, we all slept soundly.

After another good breakfast at Katoomba Town Centre Motel, we were ready for one more adventure before leaving the Blue Mountains. We headed to Wentworth Falls and hiked to an amazing lookout and some (cold) waterfalls.

I’d love to go back to the Blue Mountains again and explore further without the threat of wildfires. It truly is a beautiful place.

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LAX-SYD on Delta

I couldn’t believe that I was able to find a flight from San Jose (with a layover at LAX) on Delta for under 100,000 miles during the Christmas holiday, which is wild because as I look at it today for a holiday trip, it’s 220,000 to 600,000 miles per person.

But we did. And away we went.

Failing at my research prior to the trip, I found photos of the airline-provided travel kit online but it must have been the one for Comfort+, because the main cabin’s kits did not include toothpaste. On a 20+ hour flight, that was a big mistake! I did have gum but sure would’ve liked to have my toothbrush. The kit did have an eyeshade, earplugs and a cleaning wipe (pre-COVID).

Delta travel kit in Economy.

The welcome cocktail was a peach bellini. There were three choices for the main course, and I had the salad with grilled chicken. A fun surprise was dessert, when the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream came out.

While most people fell asleep during the long, overnight flight, there was a basket of sweet and salty snacks in between the main and Comfort+ sections, where flyers could take what they wanted if they became hungry. The flight did offer water several times in addition to the beverage cart, but I was happy to have my own water bottle with me (a must on every flight!) so I could drink whenever I needed it.

Excuse the blue hue from the Delta flight lighting.

About halfway through the flight, we were give a tomato and cheese bruschetta, which was wrapped in foil and tasted more like a Hot Pocket.

Near the end of the flight, everyone woke up and had an egg and cheese breakfast sandwich with fruit and yogurt, then it was time to get ready for landing and head off on an adventure!

Overall, I was satisfied with the quantity and timing of the meals and drink service. If I had more money or miles, upgrading to a roomier, more comfortable seat on a flight this long with be a no-brainer.

Welcome to Sydney airport.
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An extended leave of absence

Who knew the world would change so much before I got back to this site? My first excuse was that I started – and finished – my master’s degree. I had no room for personal writing. At the same time, my kids were getting older and much more active in sports and school activities.

And here we are in the midst of Covid-19. At the moment, I no longer have a 3+ hour daily commute. And now, both of my kids are licensed drivers. So I’m not sure how frequently I’ll be here but I plan to catch you up on some pre-Covid trips.

And after Covid, I can’t wait to get out there again.

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