This is Emily, Elder and Sister Kinghorn’s daughter. My husband Trevor and I were able to visit Sydney at the end of November, and Sister Kinghorn asked me to write a blog post about it. Here I am, only a month later, delivering on that request! Thanks for being patient, Mom.
We left Salt Lake City on Friday afternoon, November 20th, spent the evening in the LAX international terminal, and boarded our flight for Sydney just before midnight on Friday. I was nervous about the 14-hour flight, but it actually went really well. If you can manage to sleep for 5-6 hours (which I did, with the help of earplugs, neck pillows, unisom, and melatonin), then the rest of the flight is easily filled up with meals, reading, and watching movies. We arrived in Sydney on Sunday morning, a few hours before church began. Perfect timing! Sister Kinghorn and I even and time to run through our musical number before the meeting began- she played “There is Sunshine in my Soul Today” on violin and I accompanied her on piano. The Chinese branch members were very friendly and most of them spoke English, so we were able to meet many of them. Sister Kinghorn has mentioned before that they have a meal after church- here is everyone enjoying the meal after church right next to the church building.
After church, Mom and Dad took us on a drive to the coast to see the amazing SeaCliff bridge, which is a highway that is built out away from the coast, since they had so many problems with falling rocks on the old highway. Trevor and I were both very groggy and dozed in the car. I actually really liked the effect jet lag had on us- it made us tired early every night, so we went to bed early and got lots of sleep!
On Monday, we all took a tour of the Sydney Opera House. The architecture is amazing, inside and out. A few interesting facts that we learned: An international design competition was held to choose the design for the opera house, and Jorn Utzon’s winning design was actually chosen out of a pile of rejects by a judge who arrived late. It was initially estimated that it would cost $7 million and take 4 years. It ended up costing $102 million and taking 14 years! As you can imagine, there was a lot of frustration, anger, and controversy surrounding its construction.
The Kinghorns headed back to the mission office after the tour, and Trevor and I went on a walk through the Botanic Gardens and along the harbour. We loved the views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, and also noticed a few things. First, all of the plants in Australia are different than what we see in the states. None of the trees look familiar, and even the grass is different. All the birds are different, too! Another thing we noticed was all the runners. The Botanic Gardens are right next to the busiest part of the city, so the only thing we could guess was that everyone runs on their lunch break. Really, there were so many runners, we spent our whole walk dodging them! It’s kind of neat to see that it’s not just a trend in the US.
After our walk along the Botanic Gardens, we hopped on a ferry to Manly, a famous beach just north-east of the city. The ferry gives you great views of the Opera House and bridge as you pull out of the harbour.
We had great weather in Sydney! A few days were cool enough that we wanted jackets, and we also experienced hot days when we needed shorts and sunscreen. On one of those hot days, we walked past this house near the mission office in Mortdale that was all decorated for Christmas. It feels strange to take a picture of Christmas decorations while you’re sweating and wearing shorts!
I was hoping to learn more about Sydney’s history, and the Hyde Park Barracks museum was the perfect place to do that. On Tuesday, we spent the morning at the museum, then we walked through the city to find lunch, then to walk across the Harbour Bridge, and headed back to Hyde Park and relaxed and read for a while. Our walk took us through several different parts of the city. The city felt really similar to New York, and I realized that it’s probably because Australia is about the same age as the US. The city is peppered with 200-year-old buildings and modern business buildings and skyscrapers. Here is Trevor- as we walked across the Harbour Bridge, we got a great view of the Opera House.
We loved the day that we spent at Bondi beach! We laid in the sand and read books and watched surfers all morning. It wasn’t what I expected coming to Australia, but the “surfer dude” vibe is strong there! There are lots of surf shops along Manly beach, and the restaurants at Bondi beach all have surfboard racks. I loved watching surfers, both at Manly and Bondi, and there were a lot to watch!
After our relaxing morning on Bondi beach, we did the “coastal walk,” which runs for a few miles along the coast south of Bondi down to Coogee beach. It was so fascinating and breathtaking! We loved exploring the tide pools and seeing all the smaller beaches along the way.
We headed to the Blue Mountains to escape the heat, and it was still plenty warm there. The view of the Blue Mountains from Katoomba is amazing.
We hiked a little in the jungle at Blue Mountains National Park, and again- no familiar foliage!
Next to the National Park is a sort of theme park, where you can pay to get in and go on “rides” and explore the Blue Mountains more. We rode the steepest train in the world down into the jungle, then walked along the boardwalks and saw some interesting plants and birds, then rode a cable car back to the top of the mountain. When we rode on the “Skyway” across the valley, the wind was blowing so hard that the car rocked back and forth. We didn’t spend much time outside looking at the view- we didn’t want to blow away!
Mom and Dad took us to some beautiful local spots in the evenings along the Georges river. We didn’t see any sharks or jelly fish, but apparently the water is swarming with them!
Do you see the purple tree in the background? There are beautiful Jacaranda trees all over Sydney and they bloom with bright purple flowers in the summer.
Trevor may not appreciate me posting this, but we turned him into a mermaid at Manly beach, for the amusement of our children.
I had to include this picture of the gym of the Mortdale church building- completely transformed for a wedding! It’s a typical 70’s-style cultural hall, but you could hardly tell!
On the stage of the cultural hall, behind the curtains, the Chinese branch was having a ping-pong night, which we couldn’t miss! Trevor is an avid ping-pong player and he fared pretty well against the competition!
Our last day in Sydney we spent at Featherdale Wild Aminal Park seeing all the different animals that are native to Australia. Koalas really are cute- even cuter in person, if that’s possible!
One of my favorite parts of the trip was participating in “normal” stuff with my parents- we went grocery shopping at “Woolies,” we went with them to inspect a flat to see if it would make a good home for missionaries, and I went to Kmart with Dad to purchase dishes and kitchen utensils to furnish a flat. Dad, Trevor, and I even went to see the new Hunger Games movie! Staying with them in Mortdale and walking to the train station every day gave us a feel of what it would really be like to live there. They also really spoiled us with good food- I forgot how much good food my mom makes for every meal. Even though we were gone for Thanksgiving, we got to enjoy a feast with President and Sister Back and Elder and Sister Tolman on Thanksgiving at the mission home.
Thanks for the great trip, Mom and Dad! It really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, although I wouldn’t be sad to make it a twice-in-a-lifetime experience!