Sydney, with a caravan and in holiday season, had the potential to be expensive and a long way removed from the city centre. Instead we've discovered Lane Cove River Tourist Park - a caravan park about 15 minutes from the CBD, set in the beautiful Lane Cove National Park, with city views and great facilities, and all for less than $40/night! Honestly, this has to be one of Sydney's best kept secrets.
Driving from Canberra on Monday, we got in late in the afternoon and set up in our site backing onto the kids playground (instant winner!) Our neighbours on one side turned out to be fellow Brisbaneites with friends in common. The predominance of Queensland number plates around the park is a reminder we're close to home. Before dinner and bed the kids had to try out the pool - water cool but getting warmer than down south.
On Tuesday, after another swim, we headed out for lunch with Christine (Sal's cousin) and her boys, Matthew and Stephen at their place in Birrong. Also there were Christine's dad, Don, and Sal's cousin Nicole with nieces Angelique and Charlotte (not to forget 10 week old puppy Bethany). It was the first time the kids and I had met Christine and her family and we all had a great time enjoying their hospitality and catching up. We got back to the caravan park just before the Clancys arrived from Canberra. The kids had another swim and there was plenty of play in the playground.
Wednesday was our trip into town, our day to 'do' Sydney. We caught the train in and headed for the Sydney Eye Tower (formerly Centrepoint tower). The trip to the top includes a short 4D movie experience - basically a five minute promo of Sydney which includes smoke and spray and vibrating floors along with the 3D visual effects - and then access to the observation deck. It was a beautifully clear day for looking out over Sydney and its surrounds, and the harbour looked its sparkling best. We then walked down to Darling Harbour, making a stop for lunch on the way (though not before a couple of the kids had put on an impressive sidewalk meltdown display for the numerous CBD lunchtime pedestrians), and headed around to see the Opera House. The original plan of walking across the Harbour Bridge was then abandoned in favour of catching the train back to base for a swim.
On Thursday Brendan and I stayed at the caravan park with all the Clancy and Richardson kids while Inga and Sal spent the day attending to the important matter of some Christmas shopping.
Today turned out to be a real stinker in terms of heat, reaching about 40 degrees. All the Richardson and Clancy girls went out on a date together, ending up at the Stamford for cake and drinks. The boys meanwhile sank into a heat-induced stupor until we got a call from the girls to join them somewhere air-conditioned. It ended up being the local McDonalds, where all the kids watched iPads while the adults chatted.
Tonight we headed back into the city and watched the full dress rehearsal for tomorrow night's Carols in the Domain. Fortunately it had cooled off a little and even rained on us briefly. The kids were particularly thrilled to see the Wiggles while the adults also enjoyed Dami Im, Tina Arena, and Jimmy Barnes (belting out Oh Happy Day as only he could!) among others. Apart from getting home at 11 o'clock with very tired kids the only real downer on the evening was realising I'd parked in the hospital car park rather than the event parking lot and being charged $62 for my error.
Woohoooooooo! Sydney - 8th and final capital city of our trip!!! We are so close to saying 'we did it' with only a bit more of the coastline left to traverse before we complete our trip around Australia. We are doing some processing and reflection at this stage and I, for one, am experiencing a roller coaster of emotions. One minute I'm excited at going home, the next I'm tearful that such an adventure will be over. There really is so much to think about over our last six months and in considering life back in reality and the rest of our lives (whoa!). Every now and then the enormity of what we as a family have experienced together overcomes me with happiness and relief. And the most pressing thought for me is - so what are we to make of all this? Hopefully over the next couple of weeks, we'll come closer to working this out, but at the moment it's too big to grasp hold of.