Ever since my parents decided to make Sydney their home more than two decades ago, I’ve been visiting this very special city at least twice a year. Then Covid‐19 hit and everything changed; none of us could travel freely for leisure any more. I didn’t know it then, but it would be nearly two years before I next step foot into Australia again.
In December last year, after more paperwork and nasal swabs than I care to remember, I finally jetted off. A lot was riding on this; not just the investment of time, energy and sheer perseverance, but also emotions—what if (touch wood), after getting every detail down pat, I were struck down with Covid? So I spent the week before my trip self‐quarantining at home and when that fateful day came, I double‐masked for the eight‐hour flight; my skin was raw from the sheer amount of wet wipes and sanitiser I used on every visible part of the body.
It all went well. The scene at the airport was overwhelming—it felt so comforting to hug Mum after such a long period away. We spent a good two weeks just catching up, managing even to squeeze in a Christmas trip down to the Central Coast for a short staycay at Bells at Killcare, visiting beautiful Avoca Beach and MacMasters Beach, and enjoying the wide, open spaces of Killcare Beach.
I also took the time to re‐explore my second home city, so to speak. The streets of Paddington, an inner‐city suburb, were quiet; some shops were shut and most had just a smattering of locals window shopping. The central city area was comparatively buzzier, with locals hitting the malls for the post‐Christmas sales. The beaches, too, were packed—far more than usual; partly because many locals weren’t travelling overseas, partly because everything shuts down in Australia for two weeks during the Christmas/New Year break, and partly because the beautiful beaches, of which there are so, so many, are a welcome respite from all the doom and gloom on the news. (Australia was dealing with the Omicron wave then, with Sydney being the city worst affected.)
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I spent a good amount of time at Balmoral Beach, and whisked Mum to my favourite restaurant, Bathers Pavilion, for lunch and a video shoot. I also spent many mornings exploring the famed Watsons Bay, home to Camp Cove and the Hornby Lighthouse, which affords wonderful views of nature’s bounty. I indulged in the quaint, rustic charm of Nielsen Park, where multi‐generational families gather as early as 6am to “chope” their favourite spot on the beach where they would then spend the entire day lounging in the sun. I relished the long walk from Tamarama Beach to Bondi Beach, where the most beautiful bronzed bodies were out on display.
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Way too soon, the time came for me to fly back to Singapore. But my heart made a strong play for staying on and so I did—with work from home still the default for our team, it was easy enough for me to work remotely. I took the chance to try something new: Staying at an apartment hotel. Checking into A by Adina Sydney, one of the city’s newest, proved to be a wise decision. The beautiful skyscraper, which sits on Hunter Street in Sydney’s CBD, put me within easy reach of the best that the Harbour City has to offer: shopping choices that span from luxury to market, a host of top restaurants and hip cafés, a pulsating night scene, and headline acts such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, The Rocks, and the Sydney Opera House—a leisurely 15 minutes or so walk away.
The first pleasant surprise came at check‐in—21 storeys up, where Australia’s first sky lobby wows with a chic dark palette accented with pops of gold and floor‐to‐ceiling glass windows that afford immersive city views. A high‐tech gym and a lap pool hug the perimeter of the sleek space, where a grand, brass‐hued staircase leads one level up to my second surprise: The bar and restaurant Dean & Nancy on 22—the latest venture by the team behind Maybe Sammy, which was named Best Bar in Australasia at The World’s Best 50 Bars 2021.
A heady mix of mid‐century decadence and contemporary touches, Dean & Nancy on 22 is outfitted with classy gold‐veined marble tables and black leather chairs. Here, you can order a Sakura Martini served tableside, sample bold flavours and leave your worries far below. The space, which seats 120, is a great vantage point to watch the sun set and the city come alive— which was exactly what we did. We decided to splurge, ordering a Dean & Nancy seafood tower with lavish servings of oysters with champagne mignonette, coral prawn ceviche, calamari larb, scallops, san choy bow, and torched miso and roast garlic scampi—all of which bowled us over with on-point flavours. We contemplated adding caviar to the mix, but the tower was more than substantial—at the princely price of AUD$240 (about S$243).
We also ordered a whole roast chicken with all the trimmings, croissant and whiskey stuffing, which was so succulent, the meat fell right off the bone. Then there was the Angus rib-eye, a generous slab of delicious, pink, prime steak seared just right and served with chimichurri, shoestring fries and steamed broccolini. Definitely over the top but absolutely scrumptious. By the time we finished our mains, we were so stacked, there was just no room for dessert.
As I stood by the window wall back in my gorgeous apartment, sipping one of the many cocktails laid out for the evening tipple, it felt as if I were in the middle of New York, with skyscrapers as far as the eye can see. I was suddenly glad for this new experience, which opened my eyes to a new way of travelling that perfectly combines work and pleasure.
My one-bedder, for instance, comes with all the mod cons of a home—a kitchenette, laundry facilities, and separate dining and lounging areas, the last of which also providing a nook where I could comfortably work—plus the conveniences of a five-star hotel, including complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi and a bar fridge stocked with soft drinks, wine, beer and even ready-mixed cocktails from Maybe Sammy. The minimalist décor and very chic palette further add a Wall Street vibe to the home away from home—a refreshing change for this seasoned traveller who desires something different from the traditional hotel.
My time at A by Adina Sydney capped off my three-week stay in Australia, during which I ate too much, laughed a lot, and rediscovered the delights of the world and the joy of time spent with someone precious. I loved every moment of this healing visit Down Under—in a time when Covid makes the heart grow fonder.