26 September 2023

Reminiscing about the Vibe-rant surroundings in Sydney

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By Rama Gaind.

As Australians slowly emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown, domestic travel restrictions are being lifted in some states and territories. While some of us are unable to travel regionally, the next best thing is to reminisce about some good holiday getaways.

The Harbour Bridge in Sydney looks majestic from faraway Milsons Point railway station. Photo: Rama Gaind

One such sojourn was to Sydney more than two decades ago, but it feels as if it was just yesterday!

The candid, but carefree abandon of a bygone era reverberates in the saying “childhood is the most beautiful of all life’s seasons”.

That June long weekend spent in the Harbour City was epigrammatic, but eventful where nostalgia prevailed, later tinged with some sadness. Memories of old came flooding back during what for us was the final ride on the monorail in the Sydney CBD. It was closed forever on June 30, 2013.

Our two young children could not contain their excitement as the train travelled the loop and they eagerly pinpointed the landmarks – countless times. The 3.6-kilometre monorail loop included seven stations (Harbourside, Convention, Paddy’s Market, World Square, Galleries, City Centre and Darling Park) that were located inside buildings, over freeways, at hotels and near a broad selection of the city’s major tourist attractions.

The monorail was a bicentennial gift to Sydney, but the closure marked an end of 25 years of service as one of the city’s largest tourist attractions after opening in July 1988. It was the end of what was arguably been a discordant presence on the western edge of the city.

While it allowed expansion of Sydney’s light rail network, the way also opened for redevelopment of the area around the entertainment and convention centres.

Vivid Sydney

The Sydney monorail on one of its last stops at Galeries Victoria Shopping Centre, with access via Pitt and Market Streets, before it was taken out of service on June 30, 2013. Photo: Rama Gaind

The sojourn also gave an opportunity to utilise another mode of public transport — trains. This was then an additional benefit as we stayed at the Vibe Hotel North Sydney and thoroughly relished the 10-15-minute ride across the Sydney Harbour Bridge into the city and getting off at Town Hall station.

It was a hassle-free trip from Milsons Point train station, just outside the hotel, into the CBD. All points of interest from there were then within walking distance. What a bonus!

One of the highlights that holiday weekend was being given the first opportunity to attend some of the activities during Vivid Sydney — said to be the largest light and music festival in the southern hemisphere — that creatively pushed boundaries.

Unfortunately, Vivid Sydney 2020 has been cancelled due to the pandemic, but it will shine brighter in 2021!

What fun it was getting acquainted with what Vivid had to offer back when we visited. It incorporated live concerts, light installations, large-scale projections, free events, creative workshops, public talks and industry seminars. The festival included various events around the Opera House, the Rocks, Circular Quay, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and the 50th anniversary of the British television show Doctor Who was celebrated with a spectacle of light and sound at Customs House in Alfred Street.

Vivid Sydney 2020 has been cancelled due to COVID-19, Vivid Sydney will shine brighter than ever in 2021!

Darling Harbour has always been larger than life and the inaugural celebrations transformed the precinct into a vision of dancing water fountains, water screen projection performances and dazzling light and water shows.

Darling Harbour is a scintillating drawcard. Restaurants, bars and cafes that delight the palate, while nearby museums and theatres add cultured value.

In between the hectic pace of sightseeing, it was comforting to unwind in the spacious senior suite in our Milsons Point hotel. The expansive views across Lavender Bay from the 12th floor were breath-taking, watching the moored private member sailing club watercraft gently bobbing up and down — belonging to the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, in Kirribilli.

It was not difficult to find lively entertainment and eateries in north Sydney’s CBD that was just a few minutes walk from Luna Park. Additional benefits meant taking time out to enjoy the rare treat of harbourside walks, central city parkland and the spectacular Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Fabulous shopping

Picturesque views can be seen across Lavender Bay from the Vibe Hotel North Sydney. Photo: Rama Gaind

Being so close to the heart of the city, we didn’t miss out on the chance for some fabulous shopping. Sydney is famous for its world-class shopping, with Australian top brands joining international labels including French, Italian, British and American luxury brands.

The newest retail area then was The Star at Pyrmont that offered sophisticated luxury fashion and cosmetics with impressive boutiques including the Chanel Fragrance and Beauty Boutique, Bottega Veneta and Gucci.

George Street housed the magnificent Louis Vuitton Maison featuring three storeys of women’s and men’s fashion, and iconic British brand luxury items can be found at Burberry. Tiffany & Co. takes pride of place in Castlereagh Street for legendary jewellery and accessories. Martin Place featured Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani and Paspaley Pearls.

Westfield Sydney had endless choice: Chanel, Gucci, DKNY, Miu Miu, Diane van Furstenberg, Prada, Hugo Boss, Ermenegildo Zegna, Christian Louboutin and Mulberry. We found Montblanc watches and writing instruments in Castlereagh Street and Bvlgari had some stunning Italian jewellery, watches and luxury goods.

The MLC Centre had both Australian and international high-end boutiques including Salvatore Ferragamo, Longchamp and Jimmy Choo’s handbags and shoes.

Some exhaustive retail therapy, and a few days away, that left some amazing, lasting memories of much fun and fanfare!

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