Postcard: Sydney

As Australia’s oldest yet patently modern-minded city, Sydney serves as the perfect port of entry into this captivating continent, and so it is here—harbor-side against a skyline gleaming from glass towers and winter sun—where it all begins (and ends) for our big summer holiday.

From the get-go, we had to believe the hype. Sydney seems to have it all. It is in between gorgeous hilly vineyards and even more gorgeous coast. No wonder it’s a favorite of best-of lists: to live, to work, to eat and drink coffee—and to visit. The trip marks Andy’s second (his oldest sister, Kim, has called the Sunshine Coast home since the early 1980s), and inaugural for yours truly, our 8-year-old daughter, Nina, and Andy’s youngest sis, Nicki, who managed a flight from Scotland just minutes before ours landed from LA.

Red balls outside the Australian National Maritime Museum

Nicki and Andy are nautical nerds, and so we ended up spending much of the first day in and out of the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour, including its related exhibitions on ships and a submarine and surrounding galleries. It’s definitely worth a visit

Like the Maritime, so much of the architecture of this city is contemporary. Coupled with the activity out and about and clearly well-managed urban operations, there was something electric about the place. Sure, there are the Queen Anne, Edwardian-flavored Federation-era and Victorian structures weaving the city’s core outward, as well as neo-Gothic statements such as St. Andrew’s Cathedral. But the post-war boom resulted in a wide swath of experimentation, from Harry Seidler’s Internationalism to the Sydney School collective’s nature-inspired residences. Just about every brand architect has made a mark here, even at the cost of some iconic buildings razed in the interest of The New. (Evidently, it’s not just sun, avocado toast and laid-back vibe connecting Sydney to LA.) Preservation awareness is now on the rise (like in LA), even as new construction continues.

Modern Then and Now: MOCA’s home is both Art Deco and modular minimalism.

MLC Centre retail plaza stands among Sydney’s modern landmarks due it its playful tower designed by Harry Seidler in 1978.

We ferried 11 miles northeast to Manly, a coastal suburban enclave with its share of modernist homes to ogle at as we hiked along the coast. We skipped the sake at our sushi lunch on the sparkling wharf, knowing Andy would be leading us on an energetic walk. Did we complain? Yes. For not being able to spend enough time (like days!) at the private beaches, a paradise lagoon and through North Head to the very end—a cliff stop with spectacular views.

Nina checks out the seashells on the soft sand in a lagoon at Manly.

Despite the need for layers and umbrellas (it is Australia’s winter, after all), we lucked out at Manly and, again, the next day at Featherdale Wildlife Park. A 40-minute drive west of Sydney in Doonside, Featherdale is a favorite of our friend (and my colleague during my former life as a fashion editor) Laura Brown, who, despite her high profile tripping the globe as editor in chief of American InStyle, continues to frequent the place on her visits home, championing the place each time to her legions of followers on social media. Laura’s pal there, director Chad Staples hosted us on an experience we all, but especially creature-crazed Nina, will not soon forget. As if feeding the baby kangaroos was not dreamy enough, she even got to cradle a dingo pup.

Rose feeds a 'roo at Featherdale Wildlife Park.

As thrilling for Andy was the chance to do laps once again in the famed Icebergs Pool at Bondi Beach (something he tried on his first visit 3 decades ago). Like the name spells out, the water temps are cold! But the view and experience is unmatched. Local lifesavers created the club in 1929 to keep fit during winter, and despite the tourist attraction it has become among oglers perched above the entry point, beyond the doors, the Olympic-sized pool against the ocean remains an exercise space for the hard core. Nina and I waded into the child’s pool next to it, the kid braving the temps better than me.

Andy takes on Iceberg Pool.

A view of one of Sydney’s landmarks, both architecturally and geographically, Bondi Beach Iceberg Pool.

And what rocked my world in Sydney Town? Find out in the next post…