Sydney, The Big City

We need to start with a confession here. I have never really been a city girl.

 In the 1109-page epic tome that is Lonely Planet’s guide to Australia I read about a place high on a hill where the plains stretching out beneath it are so vast and the sky so huge you can actually see the curvature of the earth. Sounds pretty good to me. Especially if there are kangaroos and emus and maybe the odd camel bounding free across those very plains. I must go back and find out where that spot is as part of the planning for the next trip.

But concrete, noise, the sheer volume of people that typify any city on earth? Not so much. And of course our timing for this particular city visit was just about perfect wasn’t it. New Year. When the resident population swells by upwards of a million extra souls. (Yes Janna, you were right!)

So, in spite of everything, did Sydney manage to win over even this committed country bumpkin? The fireworks, as you saw, are truly spectacular. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. But Sydney has so much more to offer than that.



The Opera House. Who knew that those iconic sails are actually made up of a mosaic of tiles? Beautiful.



And being built around a glittering harbour, you don’t have to wander too far in Sydney to come across a glorious view. This one from the zoo. For most people, other than me of course, travelling by ferry or water taxi is one of the principal ways of getting around.



And then this city is so green..

The Botanic Gardens nestle under the skyscrapers of the central business district and provide an oasis of calm at any time of year.



The Meadow Garden



If I end up living anywhere I can grow frangipani I will die a happy girl.



From a garden that could almost be made in England..



To something a touch more exotic. I did love this tapestry of foliage colour and form.



Glorious cannas



Magnolia grandiflora



But there was one thing impressed me particularly about the Botanic Garden. And that’s how they’ve managed to get the wildlife on board. Clearly I am missing a trick.



Border management

Mulch spreading and weeding. Straight ahead of you mate.. yep, you got it.



Deadheading the containers



Facilities management

Daily fountain inspection.



Gully clearing



Visitor Information

Body language could possibly be improved.



The rose garden


And then of course there are the beaches.

On one of the cooler days in Sydney we went for a walk along the clifftops, the well trodden 6 km (3.7 mile) route from Coogee Beach to Bondi.



Contained within the city suburbs for the whole of its length it makes for a fascinating walk. Urban development on one side with some uber contemporary homes I just couldn’t keep my eyes off. On the other side, fabulous coastal views and dramatic rock formations.



The path follows the coastline through a series of sandy coves. It’s hard surface all the way although the undulating nature of the terrain does necessitate the scaling of a few sets of steps. Not the sunniest day and the wind off the sea wasn’t taking any prisoners. Of all our time in Australia, this was the only day I got seriously burned. And that with the sky mostly covered in cloud!



Shark Point, just north of Clovelly Beach, the result of wind and salt spray erosion.

It’s a short stroll off-piste from the path for those with a good tolerance of heights. From that edge, a sheer drop down to the sea. Bracing it most certainly is. No danger of cobwebs here.




Did I mention the wind?



Our first glimpse of Bondi off in the distance..



Zoomed in and you may just be able to make out the faint line of people on the headland centre left. Look for the boundary between the rock and vegetation. It really is a breathtaking walk.



The famous Bondi pool. In seas like this the waves break right over the top of it.

Moving swiftly on…



Wait for it.. wait for it..



Yo.. catching the wave.



Journey’s end

Just in time for lunch. (Maybe another Pinot.) And for the clouds to finally clear!



How about it then chaps. Time to hit the surf?

Er..OK, maybe not then.



Only in Australia..

Catching the bus back to town.



Maybe all cities aren’t the same.


pin it?


2017-10-26T10:19:12+00:00March 23rd, 2017|Tags: |


  1. Freda March 23, 2017 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    Oh the smell of frnagipani! Lovely post.

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      That smell transports me back to tropical holidays every time.

  2. justjilluk March 23, 2017 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    Some of those sea/beach/surfer and birds were just like Fraserburgh!!! Honest. And the wind!!

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 9:01 pm - Reply

      I believe you Jill. I’ve often looked at your photos of Fraserburgh beach and thought it should be in the tropics. With the temperature tweaked up a bit!

  3. Diana Studer March 23, 2017 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    You have given me a fresh view of junior hadeda ibis – who has appointed himself as resident pest control. Fossicking thru the mulch for snails and bugs. And startling the blue daylights out of me when a chunk of the garden rushes into the air complaining bitterly.

    Mosaic detail on the sails is wonderful. You can walk up there I believe – escorted and roped on?

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 9:20 pm - Reply

      I thought the ibis were wonderful. Even better if they eat snails. A must for every garden!
      You can walk up to the top of the bridge, escorted and roped on. If you click on this photo to enlarge you can see people up there: We’d have loved to have done it, but it’s very expensive.

  4. smallsunnygarden March 23, 2017 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    I’ve become an inveterate country girl myself, but you almost have me convinced! Thanks for introducing us to Mrs. Macquarie, who was certainly making her point…
    And I am reliably informed that frangipani grows here in the Phoenix area, just saying… 😉

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      Ha! Mrs Macquarie certainly has a point. I could see myself living in a desert. I don’t mind heat and have seen enough rain for a lifetime I reckon. And that’s just this year.

  5. Sue Garrett March 23, 2017 at 11:09 pm - Reply

    I’m not a city girl,veither but when you are close by you have to visit iconic ones don’t you?
    The flowers and gardens look beautiful.

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      You do and we couldn’t pass through without seeing something of the city. A couple of days only gives time to scratch the surface though. Next time, longer.

  6. Kris Peterson March 24, 2017 at 2:08 am - Reply

    Some cities are much more attractive than others. Sydney looks to be near the top of the attractive list. Los Angeles, a rambling mess of a city, is not; however, we can grow frangipani, agaves and canna lilies and we do have beaches and some wonderful public gardens (The Huntington for one). But we also have more than our share of smog and horrible traffic. And then there are earthquakes. That said, you might be best selecting a city in Hawaii.

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 9:40 pm - Reply

      Yes, I forgot about horrible traffic. One of the reasons I don’t especially enjoy travelling around the UK. There are too many cars and a snarl up can occur pretty much anywhere. The Huntington is definitely on my list if I ever get to be in LA. You and Hoov have convinced me of that.

  7. Dorothy Borders March 24, 2017 at 3:39 am - Reply

    Yes, almost enough to convert a confirmed country girl.

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      I used to commute into London for work every day. Our train service back then was dire, probably still is for all I know. It put me off for life.

  8. danger garden March 24, 2017 at 4:58 am - Reply

    What a wonderful look at a gorgeous city. Lucky you!

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      The botanic gardens are amazing. Even an agave.. several!

  9. germac4 March 24, 2017 at 6:18 am - Reply

    I love your Opera House photos, they capture just how elegant that building is, and it is hard to do. My cousins recently visited (from Scotland) and said the Opera House surpassed their expectations…..hard to believe that there was so much opposition to the Opera House, when it was being built! Glad you got a walk along the cliffs near Bondi, and of course the bus ride back home amongst the surfers…such a part of Sydney that I take for granted as my brother lives near Bondi.

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 9:49 pm - Reply

      I did enjoy that walk. It was so blustery, almost impossible to hold the camera still, but it made the sea all the more dramatic. I wish I’d been brave enough to take a ferry ride, that’s supposed to be the best view of the Opera House, from the water.

  10. Marian St.Clair March 24, 2017 at 7:39 am - Reply

    City rather than country, summer rather than winter, sunshine rather than rain…always good to get a little outside the comfort zone:^)

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 9:59 pm - Reply

      Summer rather than winter I could take any time! But it is good to experience something different once in a while. I loved the cafe culture, sitting in the Opera House bar people watching. Not a lot of opportunity for that in an isolated Devon village. I suppose the postman does arrive once a day..

  11. Anne Wheaton March 24, 2017 at 7:56 am - Reply

    I’m not a city girl either but Sydney is the one city I could live in. Love all your photos – you’ll have to show the Rusty Duck wildlife so they know the procedure.

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 10:01 pm - Reply

      The rusty duck wildlife have it far too easy. It’s time they too earned their keep.

  12. Anne March 24, 2017 at 8:55 am - Reply

    I have just finished reading all your posts in order, from your arrival to date. It’s like reading your autobiography! I really admire your tenacity in dealing with the problems encountered, from sewage tank to mice, and you have created a wonderful spot down in SW Devon. So you both deserved a treat Down Under and I hope you had that extra glass of Pinot. The photos and stories are just great; thank you for sharing.

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your kind words Anne. We rather underestimated the scale of the task we’d taken on. But having arrived here the only way now is to just keep going. We’ll get there in the end. Probably when it’s time to start all over again.

  13. kate@barnhouse March 24, 2017 at 10:02 am - Reply

    Fabulous, Jessica, what a way to end your great adventure. I’m packing my bags … alas, we are heading only as far as north Cornwall for a spring break. Temps look likely to plummet, but hey, ho.

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 10:17 pm - Reply

      Forecast down here is looking up for the next few days. Chilly maybe, but at least the rain has stopped! Have a lovely few days.

  14. derrickjknight March 24, 2017 at 10:14 am - Reply

    Marvellous photos

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 10:48 pm - Reply

      Thanks Derrick.

  15. Jo March 24, 2017 at 10:53 am - Reply

    It looks fabulous, so much to see and do there. I’m not sure I’d manage Shark Point though with sheer drops, that’s definitely not my thing.

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 10:49 pm - Reply

      I kept well away from the edge. The wind that day was almost enough to blow you over.

  16. Wow…Australia looks amazing! Reading about your adventures trailing through the the outback, going through rainforests, then venturing to the developed city, filled with interesting architecture and beautiful gardens, I am exhausted! Your photographs and stories taking us along on this virtual tour of your trip are absolutely wonderful! Thank you for sharing.

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 10:52 pm - Reply

      I think I probably packed too much into the six weeks, but I’d been wanting to go to Australia for so long it was difficult to leave things out! Thanks Lee.

  17. Elaine March 24, 2017 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    I lived in Sydney for 7 years in my twenties. Don’t think I appreciated it then. Too hot for me & couldn’t garden as terrified of snakes & spiders. But frangipani is to die for.

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 11:10 pm - Reply

      Hi Elaine and welcome.
      It’s a good point. A gardener is more likely to come across snakes and spiders. I’d like to think they’d move out of the way, but perhaps they don’t!

  18. Rosie March 24, 2017 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    Great photos. The Botanic Gardens look amazing and the beaches too:)

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 11:13 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rosie. I wish we’d had longer and seen more. I was even contemplating a ferry trip but the strong winds whilst we were there made the sea very rough. Next time. Maybe!

  19. jannaschreier March 24, 2017 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    It really is an amazing city (especially for us city-resistant types). It’s very odd to sit in my home country feeling homesick for it (and my Frangipani tree), though! Well done for surviving New Year and the crowds; as you said, it’s something worth doing once. And I think you need to get researching Arnhem Land for your views. Looking out from Ubirr is probably the most serene thing I have ever experienced. Gosh, you’re going to have to go back once a year, I think. There’s so much more for your list! Still very much looking forward to seeing your photos of a very very special Australian island though!

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 11:19 pm - Reply

      I shall get on to Arnhem Land, maybe that is the place. Possibly at a different time of year though! There must be several more trips worth of things still on my list.
      LHI will be the next Australia post. How I will edit down the pictures though I’ve no idea. I have a card full of the birds alone.

  20. Brenda March 24, 2017 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    Some magical cities can win over a country person’s heart. It looks as if Sydney falls beautifully into that category. I’m a country girl myself, but enjoy a small bite of city once in a while. It keeps the palate sharp! Thank you for the wonderful tour. And thank goodness the powers that used-to-be fought through the opposition to build that opera house. Think of the millions of eyes that have feasted on its beauty. … I must be hungry, this comment is oddly food-related …

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 11:23 pm - Reply

      It was very strange to see the Opera House in the flesh as it were. Seen so many pictures of it I wondered if it would be as impressive in reality. And it is.

  21. frayedattheedge March 24, 2017 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    The first time we went to Sydney was when we were living in Indonesia. Stuart had come out to visit in his Uni holidays, and we flew down to Sydney for 6 days. When we went to see the Opera House, we all reached out at the same time and touched it, as if we couldn’t quite believe we were there! We have been back several times (we now have wonderful friends there that we met through blogging!) and we just love it!!

    • Jessica March 24, 2017 at 11:25 pm - Reply

      Australia certainly has something that pulls you back. If only it wasn’t so far!

  22. Lana_SHON March 25, 2017 at 1:20 am - Reply

    Wow! Very interesting! Thanks for sharing.

    • Jessica March 26, 2017 at 9:15 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome.

  23. Cathy March 25, 2017 at 7:47 am - Reply

    Such an interesting post – and seeing the opera house from ground level was an eye opener

    • Jessica March 26, 2017 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      It’s pretty impressive from any angle, but I liked the views that we don’t normally see in all the photos.

  24. Ian Lumsden March 25, 2017 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    I have never visited the city. Your tour certainly invites me to do so. And birds doing the pruning is my idea of paradise.

    • Jessica March 26, 2017 at 9:17 pm - Reply

      I wish all my resident wildlife earned its keep!

  25. ginaferrari March 26, 2017 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    Sydney certainly sounds like a city worth visiting.

    • Jessica March 26, 2017 at 9:20 pm - Reply

      It seems so much more laid back and friendlier than here. And of course the weather helps!

  26. snowbird March 26, 2017 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    I’m not a city girl either but like you, I just loved Sydney. Lovely to see the wildlife in the Botanical gardens, did you see all the fruit bats hanging in the trees there? A wonderful post with stunning pictures! xxx

    • Jessica March 27, 2017 at 8:20 pm - Reply

      No! I missed the fruit bats. How infuriating. What a sight that must have been.

  27. Julieanne Porter March 28, 2017 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    As a Melbournian, I confess Sydney is impressive to visit and you look like you had a fine time. Gosh, the botanic gardens are bright! Superb photos Jessica.

    • Jessica March 28, 2017 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      Melbourne next time. I won’t be letting Mike get away with not taking me back 🙂
      Thanks Julieanne.

  28. CherryPie March 28, 2017 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    It looks fabulous 🙂

    • Jessica March 30, 2017 at 3:35 pm - Reply

      Thanks Cherie, it is. 🙂

  29. hb March 28, 2017 at 11:07 pm - Reply

    Not quite as wondrous as the wilds of Australia, but quite beautiful–for a city. I imagine the BG wildlife tasks include fertilizer distribution as well?

    • Jessica March 30, 2017 at 3:37 pm - Reply

      I didn’t catch one at it but I’ve no doubt they serve that function too.. 🙂

  30. Judith March 29, 2017 at 7:12 am - Reply

    I have a similar thing about cities and much prefer to be miles from the nearest one, but like you, I adored Sydney. If I were half my current age I could see me staying there. Gorgeous pictures

    • Jessica March 30, 2017 at 3:40 pm - Reply

      It is definitely a young person’s city. But aren’t we told age is an attitude of mind? Get yourself a selfie stick and go.. I’ll be right behind you. Albeit out of shot.

  31. Michelle Chapman March 29, 2017 at 8:51 am - Reply

    I love Sydney, especially the Botanic Gardens. We were there when they were bidding for the Olympic Games and sat out at a bar overlooking the harbour asking ourselves ‘Sydney or Manchester, hmmm which would you choose?’ There was really no contest. One of my clients was the marketing manager of Sydney Opera House… she now has a garden at West Green House in Hampshire.

    • Jessica March 30, 2017 at 3:45 pm - Reply

      With limited time I guess we stuck to the main sights, never far from the RBG or the waterside. Thus it didn’t really feel like being in a city at all. It certainly has better weather than Manchester..

  32. aberdeen gardening March 29, 2017 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    Well, yes, shown a picture of the Opera house, Sydney would come to my mind. Glad I dropped by, I never realised the city was so fantastic.

    • Jessica March 30, 2017 at 5:13 pm - Reply

      It must be one of the best cities for quality of life. Waterside restaurants, beaches, wide green spaces. But the same is true of other Australian cities by all accounts. I’ll just have to visit them all.

  33. Indie March 30, 2017 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous! I’ve always wanted to visit Australia. I am not much of a city person either, though I enjoy visiting them and seeing the sites. Love all the birds! I saw a lot of frangipani growing in India when I visited, and I drooled over them all. So beautiful and such an amazing smell! That pool is incredible.

    • Jessica March 30, 2017 at 5:17 pm - Reply

      Frangipani is THE tropical flower for me. They’ll always be associated with holidays and relaxation. I wonder if you can buy the scent in a bottle?!

  34. pollymacleod April 2, 2017 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    I’ve visited my daughter in Australia many times and still haven’t been to Sidney. Your wonderful photos make me want to go next time. I love your wildlife “helping hand” descriptions. I absolutely agree about the frangipani, it is divine. You have a great sense of humour Jessica, and an eye for really interesting photos.

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 7:47 pm - Reply

      Thanks Polly. I tried growing frangipani as a houseplant once but it never really worked, a miserable looking thing compared to what you see growing in warmer climes.

  35. monalisa April 3, 2017 at 11:09 am - Reply

    Goodness the possess a scent reminiscent of frnagipani! Beautiful post…

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 7:58 pm - Reply

      Thank you!

  36. Peter/Outlaw April 5, 2017 at 7:18 am - Reply

    Clever of the botanical garden staff to have wildlife do all of the work for them! An enjoyable walk in a spectacular city!

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 10:07 pm - Reply

      I only wish the wildlife here were so obliging. It’s time to put them on performance management I think and make them earn their keep.

  37. Brian Skeys April 9, 2017 at 10:44 pm - Reply

    Are you taking up surfing now you are back in sunny Devon, Jessica or is gardening on the precipitous bank enough excitement for you?

    • Jessica April 9, 2017 at 10:55 pm - Reply

      Definitely the latter Brian. The only water involved is when I accidentally put a fork through the irrigation pipe.

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