A Weekend in Sydney


Karen at A+S Wedding

My husband and I flew over to Sydney for a quick, weekend trip to attend a wedding.

We were only there for 2.5 days. But we flew without kids and oh boy, it was soooo relaxing and fun!

This is me wearing my Self Portrait 3D Azaelea Dress. I love that I can fold it up, shove it into my suitcase… and then throw it on and go! No ironing required!

Also wearing Schutz Cadey Lee Heels. And gold tassel earrings by Mezi.

(I swear I’ve worn this ‘heels and earrings’ combination for the last 3 years, with every dress I’ve owned haha!)

Sydney 2018

The first morning, my husband and I woke up early at 6am to go for a walk, in search for a coffee by the river.

We stayed in the Kirribilli area (a very old and posh suburb, where the Prime Minister lives) and the houses and gardens were just beautiful, amazing and full of character.

I guess, if you’re rich, you can afford a gardener and you can water your garden to perfection haha.

Sydney 2018

We found a cafe by the river called, The Flying Bear.

The view was stunning. The coffee was just ok.


Sydney 2018

We walked down a street and I noticed that it was really pretty – lined either side with blooming jacaranda trees.

I took a few quick snaps… then I noticed lots and lots of other people taking photos.

Girls in ball gowns. Asian tourists. Photographers with very big cameras. Matching couples. Backpackers. Families. It was like a street festival.

Later on, I found out that we had stumbled across one of those “Instagrammable Hotspots” and the street was a bit famous.

Search up “McDougall St, NSW” or “Kirribilli, NSW” to find it.

Sydney 2018

The next day, after the wedding, we woke up at 9:30am (yes, 9:30am).

It was the best sleep-in ever. I felt rested, fresh and like a completely new human being haha. I don’t think I’ve felt like that in 15 years!

We stumbled over to join the rest of the family and wedding party (who were staying at an AirBnb, which belonged to celebrity chef, Rick Stein!) for a long, relaxing, chatty, 6-hour brunch.

In the late afternoon, my husband and I spontaneously decided to head out into the city – because you know, we were travelling without kids and we could do whatever the heck we wanted haha!

So we caught the ferry into Circular Key, caught a glimpse of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, and walked around for a few hours.

We went back to the Airbnb for dinner with the family again, left early for an early night, and caught a cab to the airport at 6am.

It was a quick and simple trip, but yep, I didn’t have to do any cooking or anything important, so it was my idea of a relaxing holiday!

Holidaying Without The Firstborn

Dunsbourough 2018

Aah, for every long weekend that comes along, it feels like the whole of Perth drives down to enjoy the chilled out vibes of Dunsbourough!

Even though it gets a bit crowded and busy down there, I really do love it and I wish we could buy a place near the beach :)

We joined 5 others families, stayed with friends and “camped” on their property for a few days.

This trip was slightly different for us.

My 15 year old remained back in Perth and stayed with my parents, because he had to go to work! He just works in a cafe, but has to give 2 weeks notice of leave.

Part of me felt a bit sad and filled with regret, that my first born son wasn’t joining us. He IS still a kid. He should be doing stuff with his family. He should be going on family holidays. He has his whole life to work. He’ll never get his childhood back.

Buuut part of me knows that we have had many, MANY great family holidays together and we did just come back from a 4 week overseas family trip. Also he is a teenager… and although he wanted to stay home alone for 3 days (to which we said NO) staying with his grandparents gave him a nice taste of “freedom”. Kinda.

He survived. We survived. There were no parties. And our house didn’t burn down.

An excellent outcome!

What Cameras Do I Take While Travelling?

Istanbul, Gülhand Park

Oh my, I love this photo! I love how it captures my son’s curiosity and wonder of the world.  I took this snap while we were in Istanbul, walking through some quiet back streets from Topkapi Palace to Gülhane Park.

I took it with my phone’s camera – and I believe that “capturing the moment” is much more important than using a “proper camera”. You see, I have a lot of photographer friends, who poo-poo my constant use of my phone camera haha!

I feel a little pang of guilt too, because in my freelance gig, I actually work as a photographer for some clients! My house is full of new and old cameras. I have very expensive camera gear and lenses. Yet they hardly ever leave my house :)

Two Cameras

So what cameras do I take while travelling?  

In the last few years, I’ve been to Singapore, Bali, Tasmania, London, Paris, all over Australia, Istanbul, Scotland and Dubai.

For all my trips, I took two cameras.

1) My iPhone –  To capture ALL the small moments.

Istanbul Photo Tile

Here’s a little edit of my camera roll during our last family holiday in Istanbul.

Basically, I like to take photos of us sitting, walking, eating, looking, smiling, laughing, horsing around.

But I’m very stealthy about it! I whip out my phone from my bag, take two snaps and immediately put it away. It takes me 4-5 seconds from identifying the moment I want to capture, getting my phone out and taking the shot, which is perfect for spontaneous moments.

I don’t go on and on trying to get “the perfect shot”. I don’t try to stage or force things too much. And I don’t like to be too intrusive to the moment itself.

I’m very aware not to annoy the people I’m with. But they do oblige me with a smile when I do.

The gallery of photos I take is like a frozen documentary of our trip. My kids LOVE it and can see the benefit of it, even days later, when we’ve forgotten all the details and order of events.

2) Sony RX100 Mark 4

This was a bit pricey for a compact camera. It cost me about $1,100 in 2016. It’s a high-end compact, with full manual controls and takes high quality video.

I wanted something small and compact to put in my handbag. I wanted to take high quality HDR + Raw photos. I didn’t want a mirrorless camera with inter-changable lenses, as I find them just as chunky as my DSLR pro camera.

It takes me about 20-40 seconds from identifying the moment, taking it out of my bag, unzipping the case, turning it on, waiting for it set up, check and change it to the right setting, then snap!

So I always find that I miss “the moment” with this camera.

I use it more when I know I want a higher resolution in my photo!

Another thing I wanted to share is my REASON for taking so many photos.

I take photos for my kids.

Not for social media, not to share with my friends (although, I usually end up sharing the highlights on Facebook).

I make photo books for all our trips, I stick the book on my bookshelf and every now and then, the kids will pull out the photo books and go — WHOA I REMEMBER THIS! THIS WAS AWESOME!

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And I hope one day they will show all the photos to their kids!

Our 3 Days in Istanbul (With Kids)

Blue Mosque, Istanbul 2018
(View of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, or the Blue Mosque, from a rooftop cafe!)

I had quite a few emails and messages from people asking questions about travelling with 3 kids to Istanbul.

So I answered a few common questions and included our 3.5 day itinerary (what I planned vs. what we actually did!)

Did we feel safe?

Yes. Absolutely. The tourist areas are very tourist-friendly. The locals are very friendly and hospitable!

There were lots of police in the tourist areas, but they were dressed casually (shirt, jeans and a police vest), not full-blown army/military uniform.

Currency and Exchange Rate?

Turkish Lira. Exchange rate is AUD 1 = TL 3 or 4

Food and eating out was very cheap. One morning, we ate a hot breakfast at a touristy cafe and we fed a family of 5, including 2 Turkish breakfasts, 2 omelettes, a side of bread, 5 drinks… for about AUD $30 .

One evening, we had a delicious Turkish dinner for a family of 5, including pizzas, seafood, meat grills, salads, drinks and desserts… and the total was about AUD $48.

How was the AirBnb?

It was fantastic. We booked with a “Superhost” in a 5-Star rated apartment with 2 bedrooms with a great kingsize tv bed each, lounge room, kitchen (sleeps 5 people), situated about 5 minutes walk from the Blue Mosque (which is pretty much THE top rated thing to see in Istanbul) and it cost us around AUD $500 for 3 nights.

What’s to see there?

Lots of beautiful historical mosques, buildings, museums, great river views. Lots of cool streets and districts, affordable places to eat,

A wonderful combination of Eastern and Western culture.

When is the best time to go?

Turkish summer is July/August and apparently can get very (very!) hot. We aimed to go slightly before (in June) or slightly after (September).

What should I wear?

My husband and boys wore t-shirts, jeans or shorts. I wore t-shirt with comfy jeans, culottes, or a midi skirt most days.

If you visit a big/famous mosque, they have helpers who look you up and down to judge if you are dressed appropriately, then they provide scarves, elastic skirts (for women and men!), and little plastic bags so you can take off your shoes and carry them with you.

Istanbul Basilica Cistern
(Inside the Basilica Cistern, ancient underground water storage. Photo taken by my husband.)

Our 3.5 day itinerary for Istanbul

We focused our trip in ‘The Old City’ area, or Sultanahmet District, where the majority of all the historical sights were. We booked ZERO tours, because I already did lots of research, I wanted to see specific things, I already knew the history – and with kids, our plans were bound to change, so I didn’t want to be stuck on a 4 hour tour. Our kids were aged 15, 13 and 9 years old during this trip.

Day 1

– Arrived 8am in the morning (Sunday) after flying for 17 hours from Australia.
– Drop off luggage at the Airbnb. Breakfast at local cafe.
– Took a walk around the Sultanahmet Square and Sultanahmet Fountain and saw all the big sights from the outside eg. Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Hagia Sophia, other museums and enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere. We ate food from street vendors and did a lot of people watching.
– We visited the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art and bought 5 Museum Passes (5 day pass) for TL 125 each – this was a tip I read from a few travel guides: to buy the pass a day before, in the evening, to skip the queues for the next morning.
– Our kids were very tired, so we had to head back for an early night.

Day 2

– Up early for breakfast at Sultanahmet Square.
– Morning walk to see Gülhane Park (next to Topkapi Palace), went to see Topkapi Palace. We already had the Museum Pass, so we skipped the enormous queues, it was so good.
– Lunch at Seven Hills Restaurant (roof top) with amazing views of the city!
– Went to see the Basilica Cistern (ancient underground water storage).
– Went to see the famous Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque).
– At 6pm, we walked from Sultanahmet Square to the Grand Bazaar for shopping and dinner. Took us about 20 minutes to walk there (we loved this so much, the small streets were so colourful and full of local shops and activity!)

*We did this whole day by walking!

Day 3

– Up early, first in line at 8:30am for the Hagia Sophia, or Aya Sofya (totally worth it to be early!)
– Walked to see the Istanbul Archeological Museum.
– Took a tram to north of the river, Karaköy tram stop
– Walked around Karaköy to Galata Tower.
– Had lunch at another rooftop cafe, Konak Restaurant in the Galata area.

(I planned to visit Taksim Square, walk around Taskim Gezi Park, or walked back over Galata Bridge in the evening, to the Suleymaniye Mosque, then to the Spice Bazaar — but our kids were too tired! Ambitious much?)

Day 4

– Breakfast at Sultanahmet District. The kids were tired and not feeling great.
– We checked out of Airbnb. Went back to the Hagia Sophia to take more photos.
– We ate and walked around to do some souvenir shopping near Sultanahmet Tram Stop / Basilica Cistern, where there were lots of shops and cafes.
– Then we left for the airport at 2pm for a 5pm – and we *just* made it to the plane because of the bad traffic!

On hindsight, we could have seen a LOT more sights and did more stuff.

I would have loved to have seen the Walls of Constantinople (saw it zoom by through a taxi window!), Suleymaniye MosqueHagia Irene, Taksim Square, Spice Bazaar, Dolmabahce Palace, or maybe a Bosphorus River Cruise… but we couldn’t fit it around the kids and their energy levels.

But that’s ok! It was still a fantastic trip, and we all rate it as one of our coolest trips ever!

How Reading Enhanced My Travel Experience

Karen at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

4 months before we visited Istanbul, I started reading history books and listening to history podcasts about Istanbul. I wanted to read a fiction novel too, but I ran out of time.

I had heard that reading a novel set in a city, before you went to the city, was thing.

I never quite understood how reading could enhance my travel experience… but I get it now!

I read about all the significant Emperors of Byzantine/Constantinople/Istanbul (from 300 BC!) their career highlights and low lights, their life story, their wives and children, the current state of the city, the mood of the people, their political alliances, why they decided to spend money in a certain way and build certain buildings…

Then to actually SEE those buildings, their remnants, the city and the streets in which they walked… it made me feel like I was visiting old crazy friends and seeing their handiwork.

It made me feel like a time traveller and a possessor of secrets.

It added so much depth to everything I saw.

I absolutely loved how all the places I visited was brought to life by the stuff floating around in my head and heart.

I felt connected, empathic, humble, small. I felt like a little speck in the timeline of life.

And I had sooo many pinch-me moments and spine-tingling moments that went well beyond “wow that’s so pretty”.

I’ll definitely be doing this again the next time we travel to a new city.

(My next travel wishlist is Italy and Greece!)

Here’s to a lot more reading and travelling soon!