In March we did something that I've been wanting to do for 12 years! We visited Australia!!! Ever since coming home from my mission in June of 2004, I've wanted to go back and visit, and to take my family with me! Being here in Japan has opened up so many traveling opportunities for us, and Australia was one of them. It is so much more affordable to fly to Australia from Japan than from the states, so we figured that if we didn't go now, who knows when we ever would. And because the prices are so much less flying from Tokyo, we figured out that we could fly all 5 of us (well, we went 2 weeks before Bennett's second birthday, so technically we only had to pay for 4 tickets ;)) for the same price as if only Peter and I were to go from the states. So, in short, it was too sweet of a deal to pass up! And even better . . . once we arrived in Japan and conceived of this plan to visit my old mission country, we began accumulating Marriott points on our credit card so that we would have enough built up to pay for all of our lodging! Mission accomplished! By March we had enough points to stay at Marriotts in Sydney and in Brisbane for 8 nights for free! The hotels were unbelievable--they were in beautiful and ideal locations. It was absolutely perfect.
The flight from Tokyo to Sydney is LONG. About 9.5 hours. We took a redeye (with 3 kids--super fun btw) and arrived very early the next morning. Even though the flight would be rough, we thought it would be worth it to have a full day ahead of us that wasn't eaten up by traveling. Which turned out to be true, for the most part. We dropped our bags off at the beautiful Pier One Sydney Harbour Marriott, which is essentially right beneath the Harbour Bridge! The back of the hotel is on the water and it was gorgeous.
After walking around the Harbour a bit, we were starving, so we decided to pop into a burger place that looked pretty good. And, I don't want to brag or anything, but we happened to pick the best burger joint ever!!! Seriously, it was amazing! The place was called Ribs and Burgers and it was at The Rocks right by the Harbour. Peter and I each had "the burger with the lot", which in my opinion, is the only way to eat a burger when in Australia! The burger came loaded with beets, a fried egg, bacon, cheese, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, and pickles! Soooooo delicious. This is the food I have been missing since my mission!
After eating lunch, we opted to take a red, double decker Hop On Hop Off Bus. This was a great way to see the city, especially since we didn't have a car and there aren't really any trains. Sydney is so beautiful and there is so much to see, but let me tell you, sitting in the hot sun on top of a bus the day after taking a 9 hour redeye flight with kids can make you quite sleepy! Hahaha, we may have struggled to stay awake, and more than a few us dozed off for a bit as well. Needless to say, we didn't "hop off" as often as we'd planned on doing! But, it was great nonetheless and we took it over to Darling Harbour, which is a really cool area and has a super fun playground and water/splash pad area for kids. It was the perfect way to end a hot day of sightseeing. Well, the playground plus the yummy ice cream bars and Aussie treats and drinks that we snacked on of course!
At the end of the day, we strolled back past the Sydney Opera House to our hotel exhausted, and ready for sleep.
Day 2 in Sydney we woke up and check out of our hotel and had a taxi drive us about a mile over to the Sydney Harbour Marriott where we checked in to stay the rest of our time while in Sydney. Overlooking Circular Quay, this hotel was incredible! We had a great view of the Harbour and of the Opera House from our window. Gorgeous.
After checking out our new room, we loaded up and headed out to catch the ferry to take us across the bay to Manly.
We had a fabulous day in Manly! We rented bikes, one with a half-wheeler attached for Will and one with a trailer attached for Bennett and Clara. Then we took off to explore! And, let me tell you, with 3 kids under 6, biking is so, so, so much better than walking! We rode over to Manly Beach and to the cliffs on the far end to explore "the wormhole". This was the perfect, short hike to do before soaking up the sun and playing in the water.
We hopped back on our bikes and found a little beach cafe after climbing on the rocks and through the wormhole. We ate delicious fish 'n chips, my very, very favorite Aussie meal, and then rode over to Shelly Beach to camp out for the rest of the afternoon.
Our day in Manly was absolutely perfect!!!