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

Australia

Visiting the Australian Open

Admittedly, my trip to Australia was to watch a tennis event – the so called “Happy Slam” or the “Grand Slam of the Asia Pacific”. Here’s a quick itinerary to get the most out of your visit to Melbourne Park.

Heading for Melbourne Park? Be prepared!

The Australian Open is the most conveniently located Grand Slam of the all; it’s a quick 20 minute walk along the banks of the Yarra river to the centre of the city, leading to the popular attractions such as Federation Square and Flinders Street Station. If you’re rushing to get to the stadiums, there are free dedicated trams that will take you directly to the venue during the course of the sporting event. Warning – Australia takes it sport seriously, crazily dressed (or undressed!) fans wearing flags, or spelling out their favourite players’ names will be all over the sport grounds, and in Melbourne.

Note: There is no tennis player named Ringo. Yet.

Ticket prices have gone substantially over the past couple of years – the 5-day grounds pass used to cost AUD 99, but for 2013 it’s now AUD 130 at the gates; with the appreciation of the AUD, the cost of the ticket is compounded further. My tip for tickets: be there on the first week – that’s when you’ll have the practiced courts filled with players before their actual matches. The 5-day grounds pass will let you choose any of the 5 days (does not have to be consecutive) within the two weeks. Do not use your grounds pass when you have a ticket to the show courts (Rod Laver Arena or Hisense Arena), as they show court tickets already have a grounds pass for the day it is valid. No tickets to the games? You can watch for free and still get the stadium experience (well, sort of) at Federation Square. They have a giant screen set up there, and particularly great to watch events in the night time while downing some beers.

Don't miss a game by hanging out in Melbourne's city centre at Federation Square

Speaking of drink, save a bit of money, and bring a water bottle to the event – there are plenty of drinking stations with free water; also the Ozzie Open is kind enough to let people bring in their own food to the grounds (although not sure if this has changed for 2013).

Picnic time!

There are plenty of things to do on the grounds itself – the usual picnic, games for kids, and oddball tennis ball costumed-guy on stilts; but when Garnier used to be a sponsor, there was a 2-hour wait to get a facial on the tennis grounds!

Inside Hisense Arena

Final note – when they shout “Aussie!” you say “Oi”, and they shout “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!” you reply with “Oi oi oi!”. It’s catchy; enjoy the games!

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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.