'I think I've found the perfect city!' Former weather girl Sian Lloyd falls in love with Sydney on a flying visit (but vows to return)
By Sian Lloyd for MailOnline
Sydney has to be one of the best cities in the world to fly into. It always makes me smile. You see Sydney Harbour in all its radiance and prepare yourself for an in-your-face physical beauty fest.
In fact, I reckon Sydney is probably the perfect city, startling and yet familiar. It's the city where it's almost always summer. The sun shines, the water sparkles and superb sights abound.
We were treating ourselves to five days there to celebrate my husband Jonathan's birthday. We'd even splashed out on the Park Hyatt Hotel, perfectly located for the historic district of the Rocks and busy Circular Quay, and boasting ravishing views of the pearly white Opera House.
It was also perfect for climbing the steel arch of the famous Harbour Bridge, rated by The Lonely Planet as one of the top ten adrenalin rushes on earth.
Clad in the special blue and grey bridge suits, having taken the required breathalyser test and signed the necessary forms, we joined the eager climbers aiming for a 360 degree view of super scenic Sydney
So, on the big day, clad in the special blue and grey bridge suits, having taken the required breathalyser test and signed the necessary forms, we joined the eager climbers aiming for a 360 degree view of super scenic Sydney.
Not only was the relaxed climb brilliantly organised, but the views from the 440 ft vantage point at the top of this beautiful curved bridge, were utterly astounding. We just did not want to descend.
On the recommendation of friends who live in Sydney, I'd booked Nomad in the Surry Hills suburbs for Jonathan's birthday dinner. Think old warehouse with lots of light, chic yet intimate. More importantly, think glossy goat's cheese drizzled with truffle honey, juicy roast pork with cheese and sweet potato gratin, and feather light doughnuts dipped in rosewater and cardamon custard.
The meal was outstanding, as was the easy-going service. We ended the evening with champagne on our hotel balcony, humming Lou Reed's Perfect Day and drinking in the beautifully illuminated shimmering sails of the Opera House.
For the last part of our stay,we took time out from the well-trodden tourist trail to become locals for a day. I wanted to book something extra special for my car loving husband's birthday gift. So, the next day as arranged, a lovingly polished 1964 EH Holden Premier picked us up.
Even at the Hyatt, where flash cars are ten an Aussie cent, Richard Graham's gleaming motor icon caused quite a stir. We cruised around the boho Redfern district and were charmed by his beloved Bronte Beach. We sipped flat whites on a grassy knoll overlooking the rolling waves of Bondi Beach and lunched at Kitchen by Mike, a fab favourite with Sydneysiders.
Richard gave us a passionate insight into his home city and we were sad to finish his My Sydney Detour and wave him goodbye.
But, happily, we then hooked up with his charming French wife Berangere, for her signature Sydney concept, neatly called My Walking Detour. It was a nicely paced walk, starting at Rose Bay and taking in everything about coastal Sydney we hadn't yet seen - secret beaches and hidden coves, mansions, old and new, and a bit of bushland.
It was a friendly, fun and informative adventure and Berangere even supplied us with beautifully wrapped delicious home-made energy bars. A lovely touch, as were the famous fish and chips at Watson's Bay right at the end, before the short water taxi ride back to our hotel. We felt we'd had a very special and different day.
If you're in Sydney, a trip to the World Heritage listed Blue Mountain is a must. They are so named due to the blue haze from sunlight interacting with eucalyptus oil particles in the air. A short two hour drive from the city brings you to this incredible part of Australia, with views that just blow you away.
There are hundreds of uncrowded spectacular lookout points, cascading waterfalls, steep ravines and rain forests. The area is also steeped in Aboriginal history. Being in birthday mode, we checked in to the stylish Lilianfels Resort & Spa, a five-star hotel renowned for its fabulous food and adjacent to the awesome rock formation called The Three Sisters.
Lilianfels is also next to Scenic World. Talk about a ride with a difference! It consists of the world's steepest incline railway, the Cableway to and fro the rain forest floor, and the Scenic Skyway, a glass-bottomed cable car gliding between cliff tops across the stunningly rugged Jamison Valley.
It was very well organised and great value for money, and again, we just did not want to leave. But our tummies were rumbling and we'd been told that nearby Leura village was flush with charming restaurants and coffee houses.
We strolled down the delightful tree-lined main street, popping in to quirky boutiques and quaint stores, and ended up picnicking on Leura Bakehouse fresh-from-the-oven pies in the idyllic grounds of the renowned Everglades Gardens.
And so to the highlight of our New South Wales adventure. The drive from the Blue Mountains to the Wolgan Valley was enjoyably scenic and relatively short. When we arrived at the Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, we both exclaimed 'WOW!'.
The towering red sandstone rocks above this most tranquil of private valleys gleamed in the evening sun, kangaroos and wallabies grazed peacefully, and the beautiful scattered resort cottages were barely visible. Upon entering our villa, we gasped again.
A double sided cosy fireplace separated the spacious lounge and bedroom, the huge rain shower had a glass star-gazing roof, the dressing room was the size of most London flats, and joy of joys, we had our own personal eight metre heated pool.
We lazed around and enjoyed meals and movies in our suite, but also got into activity mode. Mountain bikes are parked outside each cottage and hiking and horse riding are included in the tariff, as are all the meals.
The dining experience, from breakfast to dinner, was simply beyond superlative. The produce is all locally sourced and of the highest quality - walnuts, apples, jams, eggs, herbs and beef, to name a few. The spacious Spa is completely private and akin to pampering heaven. The staff are passionate and enthusiastic.
If you want some serious spoiling, fantastic bush walking and wildlife spotting, this is the ultimate place to be. The only downside - we booked three nights and wish we'd opted for six. Reluctant leaving proved to be a bit of a theme on this trip. But then I console myself by saying that parting may be sweet sorrow, but returning is absolute bliss. And I'll be back!