Arriving in town around 11am we called into the tourist information office at Cessnock, in the heart of wine country, and twenty minutes later we had parked up the van in a campsite and departed on a wine tasting tour - so we certainly made the most of our last day before Sydney!
The tour called at five different vineyards (out of a total of 140 in the area) and we did wine tastings at all of them. That left us a little bit tipsy by the end of the day so we were glad not to have to do any of the driving.
We discovered the delights of a nice oaked, buttery Chardonnay and learned that the best Australian Shiraz (as we know and love it) is produced in southern Australia, where it's cooler, as opposed to the Hunter Valley.
We were met in Sydney by glorious sunshine, which would remain until we left Australia - some fine weather at last! Glad to be dropping off the camper van and checking into our swanky hotel, our arrival in Sydney was a happy one. The drive down through the city was tough though, somewhat similar to driving in London, with three lanes of traffic, one-way systems and a generally fast pace, making navigating and driving a bit of a challenge, but we got there in the end.
After checking in to the hotel we set out on a walk around Sydney taking in the famous Harbour Bridge and Opera House as the sun set. It was every bit as stunning as I imagined and very exciting to be in Sydney at last! After a stroll up through the 'The Rocks' we stopped for a couple of pints of particularly fine pale ale in the Lord Nelson and had a spot of dinner.
On day two Kev was booked into a recording studio to record some strings parts for his latest project, so I took the opportunity to do some shopping for Christmas presents and a bit more of a wander around the city, visiting Paddy's Markets and Darling Harbour, plus a swim in the pool.
With the weather still stunning (despite the rain forecast) we made for the beach and did the pretty coastal walk between Bondi Beach and Bronte Beach, stopping for swims along the way. Then we took the ferry out to Manly the following day, affording us amazing views across Sydney Harbour. At Manly we spent some time at the beach before getting some delicious fish and chips whilst watching the sun go down.
On Christmas day we first celebrated our first summer Christmas with a dip in the pool on the roof of the hotel and a bottle of nice Chardonnay over lunch, that with picked up in the Hunter Valley. It was very odd not having a family do to go to, and odder still not celebrating with roast turkey and all the trimmings. Instead we enjoyed a cold buffet lunch, followed by a Chinese in China Town in the evening, as it was the only place open for dinner! It was lovely, however, to catch up with the family on the phone in the evening, making us feel a little bit closer than the other side of the world.
So tomorrow we're off to New Zealand - and once again I can't believe it's come around so soon! Still, we're looking forward to the change of scenery (and the delicious New Zealand wine, of course!)
Speak to you all soon, hopefully.
Love, Sarah & Kev xx