Going ‘solo’ in Sydney

RAZZLE-DAZA - Pat-P Daza - The Philippine Star
Going �solo� in Sydney
Cousins’ bonding time: Gabbie, Paolo, Catrina and Alyssa Leong in Toronga zoo.

The latter half of our Sydney trip was nothing short of sensational. At this point, my daughter Gabbie and son Paolo were off on their own adventurous agendas while I was looking forward to quality catch-up time with my cousin Maya. Since she got married 23 years ago and made Sydney her home, I only got to see her when she came home to Manila once a year, so I wanted to spend precious time with her.

Growing up, Maya and I were as inseparable as Siamese twins. Our birthdays are only 19 days apart — hers is June 10 while mine is June 29. And aside from being first cousins (my deceased father was her mom Tessie’s younger brother), we were also next-door neighbors since we lived in the Daza “compound.”

During summer vacations, Maya and I would play, swim, eat, sleep, and take a bath together. We even developed the bad habit of sucking our thumbs until we fell asleep at the same time! This only stopped when I was seven and had a tonsillectomy, and my papa used the procedure to force me to quit thumb-sucking. When I told Maya about it, she kicked the habit as well. 

Cousins bonding more with the iconic Sydney Opera House as background.

Our fourth day in Sydney was Palm Sunday, so Maya and I went to an early Mass at 7:30 a.m. near her home. My kids each had their own itineraries. Paolo attended the 10 a.m. service at Hillsong Church around 45 minutes away from Maya’s place. Gabbie, on the other hand, had plans with her friend Kyle Buhay, who has been living in Sydney for five years now. We dropped her off at the train station in the morning, and her adventure began!

The best fish and chips from Bottom of the Harbour located at Balmoral beach.

Here’s Gabbie’s recollection of going “solo” in Sydney: 

“Since Kyle lives in the city and I was coming from St. Ives, we agreed to meet up at the Central Train Station that Sunday for convenience’s sake. I love having brunch, and Kyle knew exactly where to take me. We went to Surry Hills, an area known for its hip & cool restaurants.

Yummy avo crush: Smashed avocado on a homemade sesame bagel with hummus, tomato, feta cheese and egg from Malika bakehouse in Surry Hills.

“We talked and caught up over a to-die-for meal at Malika Bakehouse. I had the Avo Crush, which was smashed avocado on a homemade sesame bagel, with hummus, tomato, feta, and egg. Yum! After this, we went for more coffee for the road.

Gabbie atop a hill overlooking scenic Palm beach.

“Kyle and I headed for Palm Beach, which for him is THE spot in Sydney where he chooses to take friends who visit because of how beautiful it is. It was a wonderful and sunny day, perfect weather for walking along the beach and later, hiking up to the lighthouse and beyond. The hike up was around 30 minutes, and the view was spectacular, making me feel like such a tiny girl in a big, big world. We stayed up there for quite a while, then headed back down. By then, it was quite hot so we helped ourselves to soft serve from a classic ice cream truck.

“We then headed back to the city, with Kyle dropping me off at the Opera Bar because I was going to meet up with Paolo and Tita Maya’s daughters Catrina and Alyssa for a cousins’ night out. Perhaps because it was a Sunday and almost sunset, the Opera Bar was packed with people. It was quite difficult to get a table, so we decided to take photos and enjoy the sunset by the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge instead.

“After a bit, we walked to The Rocks to have dinner there. We agreed on El Camino, a fun Mexican restaurant with great margaritas. We enjoyed our meal and hoped to go clubbing afterwards. All the places, however, were empty because it was Sunday. Instead, we got frozen yogurt at Yogurberry in Circular Quay and just sat and talked on a bench with a lovely view of the bridge. We even got to see fireworks at the Opera House. At around 11 p.m., we took the train back to the house and called it a night. What a great time just hanging out with our cousins.

“The next day, we went to a really good sushi place, called Moeru, for lunch to satisfy our cravings! Because Catrina did not have university classes, Paolo and I spent the day with her. We took a train and went to Haymarket, where we had donuts from the popular ShortStop Donuts shop. I loved their matcha cheesecake doughnut! I also got an Iced Matcha Latte from The Brothers, which was perfect considering how hot it was that day.

“For the most part, we walked around, shopped, and even visited Chinatown. We headed back and just chilled at home and had Shirley Temples to cool us off. It was another ‘relaxed’ day since we had a flight to Fiji the next day (more about this next week).

“Of course, I wanted to make the most of our last day in Sydney. Tita Maya, her husband Uncle Curt, and Catrina and Alyssa were kind enough to drive me to Observatory Hill before 6 a.m. to watch the sunrise. I have always loved watching sunrises and being calm and quiet. While overlooking the city and the Sydney Harbor Bridge, I was in awe and felt so content.

“After that poetic sunrise, we had a McDonald’s breakfast and went back to the house because we had plans to visit the zoo. At around 10 a.m., we were at Toranga Zoo because Paolo and I wanted to see the cute animals. Catrina, Alyssa, Paolo, and I had a lovely time at Taronga, which had me wishing that our zoos in Manila could be as nice and well-kept.

“Since we were all hungry afterwards, we went to Balmoral Beach while mom, Tita Maya and Uncle Curt lunched at the Bathers’ Pavilion for a yummy Thai meal. We ate by the beach and had the best fish and chips from a place called Bottom of the Harbour. Back at the house, we all took a nap and got ready for dinner.

“For old time’s sake, we went to Macquarie Shopping Center again and had our last meal at Bondi Pizza, with frozen yogurt from Yo-Chi for dessert. Not wanting the day to end, Paolo and I, along with our cousins, went to see a movie at the HOYTS Cinema in Chatswood Mandarin. It was a long but fulfilling day, one that I wouldn’t have traded for anything.”

Thank you, Maya, Curt, Alyssa and Catrina for making our stay in Sydney such a wonderful and sparkling experience. Thank you for your precious time and extra warm hospitality and for helping us create so many beautiful bonding memories that will last a lifetime. Family is truly love.

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