Emerald City is still a gem
THE saying "childhood is the most beautiful of all life's seasons" came readily to mind on a long weekend visit to Sydney last month.
Memories of when our two children were young came flooding back during the final ride on the monorail in the Sydney CBD before it was closed forever on June 30, 2013.
Our (then) six- and 10-year-olds could not contain their excitement as the train travelled the loop and they eagerly pinpointed the landmarks - countless times.
That was more than two decades ago, but it seemed like just yesterday.
The 3.6 kilometre monorail loop included seven stations (Harbourside, Convention, Paddy's Market, World Square, Galleries, City Centre and Darling Park) which 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 and for 25 years was one of the city's largest tourist attractions after opening in July 1988.
But its closure also marked the end of what had arguably been a discordant presence on the western edge of the city.
While it will allow an expansion of Sydney's light rail network, the way is now also open for redevelopment of the area around the entertainment and convention centres.
Our long weekend stay also gave an opportunity to utilise another mode of public transport - trains.
This was an additional benefit as we stayed at the Vibe Hotel North Sydney and thoroughly relished the 10-15-minute ride across the Harbour Bridge into the city.
It was a hassle-free trip from Milsons Point train station, just outside the hotel, into the CBD. All points of interest from there are then within walking distance. What a bonus!
The June long weekend also provided the first opportunity to view some of the activities during Vivid Sydney - said to be the largest light and music festival in the southern hemisphere - that creatively pushed boundaries.
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 celebrated with light and sound at Customs House in Alfred St.
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. More than 40 restaurants, 30 bars and cafes delight the palate, while nearby museums and theatres add cultured value.
In between the hectic pace of sightseeing, it was comforting to unwind in our spacious senior suite at the Vibe Hotel, North Sydney at 88 Alfred St, Milsons Point.
The expansive views across Lavender Bay from the 12th floor were breathtaking, 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 restaurants, entertainment and bars in North Sydney's CBD just a few minutes walk from Luna Park. Take time out to enjoy the rare treat of harbourside walks, central city parkland and the spectacular Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Being so close to the heart of the city, don'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 is The Star at Pyrmont that offers sophisticated luxury fashion and cosmetics.
George St houses 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.
Martin Place features Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani and Paspaley Pearls.
Tiffany & Co. takes pride of place in Castlereagh St for legendary jewellery and accessories.
The writer travelled at her own expense.