When we are away from home, a hotel room just isn't practical. All of us sleeping in one room is a recipe for none of us sleeping at all. During the day, if there is to be any prayer of kiddie naps, they have to have a separate space. We really need at least two rooms, but it's really hard to justify the expense. Hotels also are impractical for us because the kids wake up so early and usually want to eat right away (and Ellie is supremely selective about which foods are acceptable). Even if the hotel restaurant were to be open, the process of getting us all dressed and down to the restaurant (where we wait for the food) usually takes so long that everyone is cranky by the time the food arrives. Enter apartment hotels! Sydney has a plethora of apartment hotel options, ranging from the totally basic backpacker place to the super-swank right on Circular Quay (next to the opera house). With options scattered throughout the city and surrounds, other factors are important too. My gorgeous redheaded girlfriend (who is from Sydney) highly recommended a place at Bondi Junction, a prime location with tons of shops and close to the beach (that's the famous "bond-eye" Beach, people; don't ever call it "bond-ee" in front of an Aussie). But we have other priorities, predictably FOOD. If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know me well enough to know that it's all about the food. And where do you go in Sydney if you want to be in the middle of all the good food? Surry Hills.
Surry Hills was pretty seedy until a few years ago when hip yuppies starting taking it over. Now, though a bit run-down, it is full of awesome cafes and restaurants, interesting and fabulous boutiques, and lots of friendly people. The architecture is Victorian townhouses, which reminded us of New Orleans, kind of a cross between the Garden District and the French Quarter. There is a fantastic sustainable structure library and a nice playground for the kiddos. It is so great to have all this at your doorstep when you are done with the transport and the big city chaos. Any lingering seediness didn't affect us since we weren't out past 7pm anyway.
We opted to stay at the Medina on Crown and paid for a two bedroom apartment with a view. Great choice! "bills", restaurant of celebrity chef Bill Granger, was downstairs. They opened every day for breakfast at 7 and stayed open all day until 9:30. It had an arrangement with the hotel that you could take your plates upstairs, which meant Markus and I could have really nice dinners served up on restaurant plates in the apartment while the girls ran around in their pajamas and burned their pre-bedtime energy. Breakfast is bills' speciality, and I highly recommend their ricotta pancakes with honeycomb butter. "Billy Kwong" is another fantastic spot downstairs, but we didn't get to try it this time. One block over is "The Grocer" which kept us supplied with fresh pasta and pesto and some delicious cheeses the night Markus and I opted for a wine and cheese dinner. "Pizza e Birre" further down Crown St. serves up real Italian-style, wood-fired pizza. If you are concerned about environmentally responsible food, the "O Cafe" is your place where everything on the menu is organic; though not vegan or vegetarian, they have great options for people who are. Try their vegan French toast with cinnamon bananas and agave; yum! And don't miss "Bourke Street Bakery" for bread and pastries. They have awesome coffee too, and this comes from someone who generally doesn't care for the taste of coffee.
As for the apartment, we were in Room 417. See for yourself:
The rooms were fully decent, if a bit too black and grey for our sensibilities. There was a laundry room with washer and dryer, two full bathrooms (one with a tub), and a fully stocked (with dishes and pans) kitchen. In the courtyard, there was a large pool and jacuzzi tub, and the hotel had a small gym. Back in our room, the TV was only pay-per-view, which would have really been disappointing if we were TV watchers but we're not. Paying for a room with a view...that worked out so well. We knew it would have a balcony (all of the rooms along the back had tiny balconies), but here was ours:
That's a huge terrace! Not a bad spot to eat, drink, knit and unwind after a long day.