The chance to sample life in Australia for three months was too good an opportunity to miss for Chris Hamson…
Watching live pictures of Sydney’s magnificent New Year firework display this year on the
BBC’s News Channel, my thoughts were taken back to the same time last year when my wife Margaret and I were packing the final few items before flying off to the city on 2 January. We visit Australia for about a month every year, having a son and his family living in northern New South Wales, and always make sure we see something new, as well as catching up with the family. This time however was going to be different.
rather than just tourists. We took the chance to undertake some tourist trips, notably travelling the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, but staying three months meant that we could relax, get to know the neighbours and the community, and just, well, live as Sydneysiders.
We could relax, get to know the neighbours and the community
Another of our children, Keren, is married to a casualty doctor, Tim, who was to work for six months for Careflight, an organisation contracted to the New South Wales government to provide emergency helicopter ambulance services.
Keren asked if we would consider accompanying them for the first three months to help look after her two little boys, arriving in Sydney a week before them to make their house ready. It almost goes without saying that we leapt at the chance!
HERE COMES THE SUN We had left Heathrow with the temperature at minus four. We arrived in Sydney with temperatures in the mid-30s.
Four days later, exhausted by our efforts to make the house habitable, we treated ourselves to a drive into the Blue Mountains. By then, we realised that we had fallen on our feet in terms of the accommodation. Renting a house 10,000
As tourists, we are always conscious that there is never quite enough time to explore – there is so much to see, with the pressure of a return flight in so few days – and we thought that having three months would give us the opportunity to be a little more leisurely in getting to know Sydney.
The couple stayed in this house in Homebush Bay
Our experience bore this out, but there were also benefits in being residents
Sydney’s harbour ferries offered a good way to explore the city miles distant is quite scary, but Tim had done us proud, with a house on the waterfront of Homebush Bay, an inlet of the Parramatta River, located on the Olympic Park, with what is now the ANZ Stadium within walking distance.
Such a location also meant that after an initial few days we’d be able to return our hire car and rely on public transport to get about – Olympic Park is well connected with river ferries linking to Circular Quay, trains delivering you in about 20 minutes to downtown Sydney, and buses taking
Chris andMargaret about to take a city helicopter ride
A u s t r a l i a & N Z | M a y 2 0 12
www.getmedownunder.com LIVING THERE RECCIE
you in a similar time to the shopping centre in nearby Burwood. We had decided to use public transport for a number of reasons – first, a long car hire was going to be expensive, a price which we would probably have been happy to pay as tourists, but would be too much when we were there for so long.
Secondly though, we wanted to feel part of the community, and sharing transport with children coming and going from school, mums with strollers doing the supermarket run, and seniors like us with time on their hands, somehow helped us to feel we belonged. We have always felt a warmth of welcome from Aussies, and from the first, we discovered that staff in information centres were just as happy to help us with day-to-day detail as with tourist information.
It turned out that the lady we approached in the Darling Harbour Centre lived in the adjacent suburb to where we would be and gave us the lowdown on the best local shopping centres, as well as the location of Ikea (very important when part of your job is to furnish the house with bedding, crockery, cutlery and all the other necessities of life).
RELAXED LIVING Once we took possession of the house, we were immediately greeted by the neighbours, and the secretary of the residents’ group was quick to invite us to the community barbeque, notwithstanding that his beloved Aussies were just being thrashed by the England cricket team!
Once the rest of the family arrived, we had to begin our weekly shop, and of course built up preferences regarding supermarkets, finding that just as in the UK there are loyalty schemes to keep you visiting the same chain.
Our big discovery though was that Sydney’s produce market was little more than two kilometres away, and this became a place of pilgrimage every Friday morning, when we would run the gauntlet of an army of forklift trucks stacked high with a range of fruit and veggies wider than we’d ever seen. Just as with the supermarkets, we soon found our favourite stalls, and would return home laden with exotic fruits, some of which we’d never seen in the UK.
Life on our housing estate was relaxed. We’d often get up and watch from our balcony as rowing eights were put through their paces on the river. Just round the corner on the piazza there were a number
Top tips for a reccie
Use your time efficiently while you’re in Australia to get a good feel of your surroundings. Here are some handy tips…
■ Don’t be afraid to use public transport – it’s good to get a feel for how efficient it is, and will make you feel like part of the community.
■ Stay in self-catering accommodation in an area you are interested in living. This will give you a good idea about what it’s like to live and shop there.
■ If you have a hire car, use it to drive to different parts of the city and explore different suburbs.
■ Look at schools in areas where you are interested in living. ■ Visit estate agents in areas you are interested in, to get an idea about local house prices.
■ Visit the Medicare centre in the area you are interested in living.
■ Check out different shopping centres, pubs, and restaurants and see how easy these are to get to.
■ You’re on a fact-finding mission, but fit in lots of fun activities, such as visits to wildlife parks, beaches and parks.
A u s t r a l i a & N Z | M a y 2 0 12