Whether they're small weekend trips, or week-long holidays, here's a blog to help you do more than two vacations!

Archive for September, 2011

Beach Hopping around Sydney Suburbs

What’s a trip to Sydney without heading over to the beach? The classic Sydney itinerary would point you to Manly beach or Bondi. I’d recommend turning that trip to Bondi Beach into a walking tour – starting from Coogee beach.

 Coogee lies south east of the city center and public buses are frequent.  Once you get to Coogee Beach, instead of lazing on a shore lapping up the sun, take a bit of walking first – marvelous rocky cliffs, hillside communities and seaside houses from the more affluent side of Sydney. The walk takes about an hour and a half, but you hardly notice with the stunning views around you.

If you get the timing right, you get to see some quirky and amazing art installations from Sculpture by the Sea (held every November) along the way. You can also check out the seaside hotel on the way, with its pool. But with a free beach right at your feet, why bother?

 

Don’t forget the Australian adage going for Slip Slop Slap! I got a pretty intense sunburn on a cloudy day. Bring a book if you’re keen on beach bumming and working on that tan, but if you want to go surfing, there are rentals for lockers and surf gear scattered along Bondi beach so that you don’t miss out on any of the summer fun the city has on deck. Also at the northern edge of Bondi, you can see cleverly put together mosaics at the children’s pool.


Swinging Sydney in your Pocket

First a disclaimer – I didn’t go to Sydney on a business trip. It was my two vacations for that year combined and the plan was to travel Australia.  Sydney was my first stop; missed out on New Year’s Eve celebrations (used up my all my holidays before January ended!), but just in time for Sydney festival. It’s September and summer is approaching the country’s party capital, so here are some easy tips to cover a lot of Aussie ground in a short span of time.

Sydney is the ostentatious cousin of Melbourne, as it has got more of the famous and well-known sights the country has to offer. Of course there is the much ballyhooed (10 years of construction delays) Sydney Opera house by Danish architect Jorn Utzon. But upon seeing the expansively complex structure it sure is bound to take the wind out of the sails of its critics. Right across the opera house is the Harbour Bridge where they have tours take make you climb all the way up one of the bridge towers. It’s pretty expensive, and takes about two hours. I think I’ll take the view from down here, thank you very much.

It is almost summer there, so take a good walk along Darling Harbour, relax your feet in one of their pools, or cross on over Pyrmont Bridge, a pedestrian bridge with a monorail built above it. If you get the timing right, you can watch the bridge swing – it’s the first swing bridge  to be powered by electricity. I didn’t get to see it turn, but the control tower is photographed below.

Pyrmont Bridge

Cap off your day with a good view of the city from its many harbours, then head over to The Rocks for a drink in Sydney’s oldest precinct.


Architecture Walk in Berlin – Old and New

Berlin, as they say, has something for everyone. There will be grand museums, quaint neighbourhoods, a sizzling nightlife, a zoo at the heart of the city, and even a raunchy yet accessible underbelly. As with most my visits, I try to take in the diversity of architecture that the city had to offer. The contrasting views of nouveau architecture sitting side by side with well-aged residences and stately apartments are a marvel on their own. Lord Norman Foster added his usual steel-and-glass touches at the top of the reconstructed Reichstag, home of the German Parliament. Admission is free, but the lines were terrible so I had to settle for the grounds around it. To make the most out of my visit, I went to see the annex buildings around it, including Marie Elisabeth Luders Haus, pictured above.

Totally missing where the Holocaust Memorial was, I made a beeline for the Daniel Libeskind creation at the northern part of the city. The Jewish Museum Berlin is a testament to the man’s signature angles and jagged silhouettes, the whole 4 storey museum is shaped like a lightning bolt itself.

The theme of the museum is an emotional one, and is reflected into physical discomfort by the sloping floors that simulate movement up a ramp and uneven surfaces. The museum itself is fairly extensive and could easily take up 3 hours, so try to be selective in what you want to experience. Don’t forget to visit the slanting courtyard outdoors.

If you’re looking for a wee bit more traditional fare, try visiting the Berlin Cathedral – it will greet you to Museum Island and spend a whole day roaming the complex alone. If you’re just here to visit iconic Berlin, walk along the Unter der Linden (translated as under the linden trees) towards Pariser Platz and see the much loved Brandenburg Gate. Have a photo taken with a bear (the city mascot as seen in its coat of arms), or with an imposing military guy. I had mine taken with Darth Vader. And the Holocaust Museum I missed? It was just around the corner from the Brandenburg Gate so don’t make the same mistake I did.

It’s possible to do all of these in a day, but you may have to rush some things. My suggestion is to take walk around Bundestag, then Brandenburg Gate is adjacent to it, and spend the rest of the day at Museum Island. The Jewish Museum closes late, so you can do that at the early evenings. Enjoy Berlin!