We had a 14 hour plane journey from Abu Dhabi to Sydney, but the time soon passed after watching a couple of newly-released movies together with trying to snuggle down for some sleep.  We had been invited to stay with Simone and Tyrone (who we house-sat for in Auckland over Christmas last year, and who now live in Sydney) and, fortunately for us, Simone was waiting at Kingsford Smith airport when we arrived.  It was great to see them again – little Daniel has grown so much!

Next day, after a long, quality sleep trying to readjust to the 11 hour time difference between here and the UK, Simone and I went to her local swimming pool for an energetic aqua aerobics session after which there was just time for a shower before we went to meet Christine and Jamie, who we are going to be house-sitting for here in Sydney towards the end of February 2011.   Their house is absolutely beautiful, overlooking the Parramatta River and within sight of the Olympic Park used during the Olympic games held in Sydney in 2000.   After we had met their little dog Teisha, who we will be looking after whilst they are away, Christine and Jamie took us out for a delicious Italian lunch to a restaurant called The Old School House in St. Ives – an authentic small old school building, right down to the Boys and Girls’ toilets!  The food was absolutely delicious including Franco’s mango tiramisu!  Yummy!

In the evening we went out for dinner with Simone and Tyrone to Parramatta, where we were spoiled for choice in the amount of different types of restaurants, which were all amazingly packed for a Tuesday evening.  It was lovely to see this delightful family once more and we are hoping to catch up again when we come back to Sydney in February.

Next day it was into the city centre to spend a couple of days before our long train journey to Grafton in northern New South Wales on Friday.  Our hotel is right in the heart of the city making it very easy to get around.  After we had settled in we walked down to Circular Quay to catch the ferry to Watson’s Bay so we could enjoy the wonderful fish and chips at Doyle’s restaurant, overlooking the harbour.  This must be once of the most spectacular  and recognisable ferry rides in the world, passing right in front of the Sydney Opera House, by the side of the Harbour Bridge.  Watson’s Bay has long been a favourite place of ours, and it was amazing to think that it has been almost two years since we were last here.

First stop on our last full day in Sydney was a visit to Paddy’s market, situated on the west side of the city centre on the edge of the Chinatown district.  You can buy just about anything at Paddy’s indoor market, and usually for bargain prices.   The largely Chinese  stallholders sell such items as fruit and vegetables, clothing, shoes, household goods as well as lots of ladies wig stalls! 

It is only a short walk through to Cockle Bay wharf and Darling Harbour, where there is the largest IMAX cinema screen  in the world, standing seven storeys high.  Last time we were here, we saw the rock group U2 (filmed in concert in Rio de Janeiro) here in glorious 3D … so we jumped at the chance to see a film all about the Hubble telescope, also in 3D.  It was truly amazing. 

We enjoyed a late lunch in an Arabic restaurant  – beef tagine with carrot couscous and lamb shish kebab with nut rice pilaf and a delicious tangy sauce as well as a nice bottle of red wine.   We considered ourselves very fortunate indeed to be sitting overlooking Darling Harbour on a lovely warm and sunny afternoon.  

At the present time there is a huge ferris wheel, dubbed the Sky View Wheel, erected nearby, affording panoramic views over the city as well as the Chinese Gardens.   At least this is one kind of ride that Michael will go on.

Tomorrow we will catch the train from Central station in Sydney up to northern New South Wales to begin our house-sit at Grafton for the next 7 weeks.