We arrived at Sydney airport at around 5pm and had agreed to wait there until Nettie and Tiffany, E-J's Mum and Sister, arrived a few hours later from England. We were all going to be staying in E-J's Aunt and Uncle's flat in Darling Harbour, which they had very generously let us all stay in.
We killed time exploring what the airport had to offer, which wasn't much and found a bar to have a few drinks. E-J was like an over excited puppy who just couldn't sit still, driving Sam slowly mad!
Finally, two and a half hours later and after much anticipation, Nettie and Tiffany arrived through the gates and we were all reunited with a few cheerful tears.
As the three girls chattered continually without drawing breath throughout the entire journey from the airport to the City, it suddenly dawned on Sam, this was what the next two weeks were going to be like....
Once we had reached the flat and settled ourselves, we caught a taxi and had a drink in the bar under the Opera House.
Seeing the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House brought it home to us that we really were in Sydney and we were not disappointed by either sights, as they were simply spectatular. Also, E-J hadn't realised, was just how close they were together. Seeing both pinnacle features of Sydney lit up, on a lovely warm night really started our experience in Australia on a real high.
Exhausted from the travels, we returned back to the flat after our drink. E-J decided to surprise Nettie and Tiff with her bungy video. It went down a treat as they had no idea she had done it, until they saw her jump.
The next day we were all up early and after a pleasant swim in the downstairs outdoor pool (we're telling you, this is the life), we caught a ferry to Manly, where we met Nettie's brother who lives in Australia. Nettie's brother Michael, has lived out in Sydney for the last twelve years and lives about an hour's drive from the City in Avalon. Kathy is Michael's wife and they have four children, Jessica, Georgia, Oliver and Coco.
The ferry ride to Manly was a wonderful experience as we were able to get some fantastic pictures of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Also, it gave us an opportunity to take in the sights and see the different bays around the harbour. It really is a fantastic place.
Once we'd met Michael, we made our way over to Avalon to see the rest of the family. It was strange for E-J to meet her four cousins that she had never met before, but after some initial shyness, they were incredibly friendly and wanted to play with us.
During the day we went down to Palm Beach, which is a local beach to Michael and his family and it is also the beach where Home and Away is filmed. Tiffany, Sam and E-J took great delight in walking up to the surf shop and recognising the different areas from the filming. Although, Sam was mortified on the way back, with both sisters singing the theme tune at the top of their voices!
After the beach, we returned to Michael's house and played around with the kids in the garden, before a lovely meal and then headed back to the flat in the City.
The following day we all decided to do our own thing, so Sam went about looking into work stuff, E-J and Tiff went off shopping in Bondi Junction and Nettie went to see her brother again. In the evening, we went out for a lovely meal on the harbour just outside the flat, it was so special to be in such a fantastic location.
On the Tuesday we headed into town to the QVB, which is a beautiful Victorian Building with lots of boutique shops and cafes inside.
Sam humoured the girls as they took great delight in looking around the place. It also had a spectacular clock in the middle of it, which would play a song on the hour and the inside would light up with machnical scenery reenactments of history, which would rotate around.
Having enjoyed the ride to Manly on Saturday, we decided to spend Tuesday on the beach and Tiff's friend, Claire who lives in Sydney, joined us.
A particularly interesting observation about Sydney is the colour of it's beaches. In Manly, in the centre of Sydney, the sand is a very yellow and gold colour, yet in Palm beach, which is part of the Northern Beaches, the sand is far more reddy, giving it more of a pink colour.
After a short stint on the beach, we resorted to finding a bar and having a few drinks there. That evening, Sam and E-J met up with Dave and Liz for a quick drink and catch up. Liz use to live with E-J back in London and now lives and works in Sydney. It was lovely to see them both and they both seemed so well and happy in this more laid back lifestyle.
Wednesday, Nettie and E-J decided to do a boat ride around the harbour ending in Watson's Bay, where they sat, chattind and catching up over a cold glass of white wine. Sam and Tiff decided to explore Sydney on foot, so went to thousands of places, from the Rocks to the Military area and the Botanic Gardens and much more. In the evening a friend of Nettie's came round for drinks and then we all met Michael and Kathy in Paddington for a meal.
On the Thursday, we collected the hire car and decided to put it to good use, by going to Bronte beach about thrity minutes away by car. It is a really beautiful, little beach and there is a walk that you can do from a beach a bit further along called Coogee, all the way to the famous Bondi beach.
We think this is probably our favourite beach in Sydney, as it is not at all touristy and there is something really cosy and intimate about it, especially since it is not very big.
After a few hours of sunbathing, E-J and Tiff decided to do part of the Coogee to Bondi walk along the cliffs. We got to Bondi and on first impressions, E-J didn't really think much of it. The beach itself is quite pretty, but it is so over packed with people, that there is literally only a metre between you and the next person. Also, it's as though people are on the beach because they think it's the one they should be on, rather than looking around the corner to find one a lot quieter and a lot more beautiful.
Having stopped for a Boost juice, which is a freshly sqeezed smoothie (absolutely delicious), we made our way back and then E-J drove everyone home. That night we decided to go across the road for a cheap and cheerful wagamamas.
On Friday, Nettie went off to see Michael and the family, so Sam, E-J and Tiff amused ourselves in Sydney, wondering around Darling Harbour, The Rocks and Circular Quay.
On Saturday we drove to Balmoral, which is another beautiful, white sandy beach.
It has a lovely restaurant in the middle of it called Bathers. When you step into the place, it's like stepping into the 1950s. There is something very special and old fashioned about it.
After a quick coffee we decided to do part of a walk to Chowder Bay.
This walk was along the cliff edge and gave us the most spectacular views.
Occassionally we would get a little freaked out when we had to pass under a massive cobweb, with a huge spider hanging from it.
In the evening we headed into China Town and managed to have the most disgusting Chinese food.
Also, E-J had a little tandrum at the waiter, when they didn't serve aromatic duck with pancakes. She is very embarrassed about her behaviour now.
On Sunday, we all returned to Avalon again and spent the day with Micheal and his family. We did the same as before, spending some time down at Palm Beach and then returning to the house for a few drinks and being entertained by all the children's many talents, before heading back into the City.
On Monday, Nettie headed over to Manly to spend time with Michael and his two year old Coco, Tiff went to see her friend Claire and Sam and E-J spent some time together. It was so strange after being just the two of us for so long to suddenly be surrounded by E-J's family. We decided to head to Manly and go to the beach. After a walk up and down it, discussing our plans about travel and work, we went to meet Nettie and Michael in a bar by the water front and Tiff ended up meeting us there too.
The next day, Sam wanted to work on his C.V and continue looking for a job, so E-J, Tiff and Nettie took the car off and went for a walk around Rose Bay, Watson's Bay and Double Bay.
It was so lovely to have the opportunity to see so much with the advantage of having a hire car.
On the Wednesday, Nettie and E-J headed to The Botanic Gardens during the Morning, while Sam and Tiff did some shopping.
The Botanic Gardens are amazing as they are right on the water's edge, but at the same time, behind them you can see the massive, City skyscrapers.
The gardens are absolutely huge and so lush and green, with various types of trees and vegetation, along with ponds, pathways, rose gardens and sculptures throughout them.
There is also a certain section in the middle, which has about three trees just filled with masive fruit bats hanging from the branches. Theses bats are so big and although they are suppose to be nocturnal, they make one hell of a racket throughout the day. It is almost creepy as you walk under them, with the fear that they might just drop onto you or by some freck chance, attack you!
After a morning of different chores, we headed to Bronte for a few hours to enjoy our favourite beach. In the evening, we drove to Balmoral and had a lovely meal with Michael at Bathers, the sweet little 1950s place, right on the beach.
Sam's comments: With E-J's mum proving to be a great tour guide, my start to life in Sydney has been very enjoyable.
E-J's comments: The last two weeks have been fantastic and I feel as though I have been on holiday rather than backpacking, as we have crammed so much into the time with no expense spared! We have been utterly spoiled by the fantastic flat my aunt and uncle have let us stay in.