Vivid Sydney, Grant Burge on the Harbour, Amex at Bennelong and an NZ trip

What a whirlwind, packed out week we’ve had. The past 7 days have flown by – perhaps because so much cool stuff has happened.

From a harbourside wine-tasting with Grant Burge’s master winemaker to a special lunch at Bennelong Restaurant in the Opera House – and then there’s Vivid Sydney and the fact we’re now in New Zealand… it’s a big week all right.

We hope you enjoy this Weekly Edition.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

It’s that time of year when Sydney really lights up. Every year at the beginning of winter, Vivid flicks the switch and turns the whole city into an art installation of light and motion.

Fireworks on the Harbour Bridge are a sign that things are about to get started – and the tall ship near the Maritime Museum is always a spectacle.

And tonight, that same tall ship is moored up in the best spot in town to see the Vivid lights at their best. Circular Quay really epitomises Vivid, with the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and everything in between really lighting up.

But this is why we’re at Circular Quay tonight. Grant Burge Wines has invited us to a very special night of wine tasting and learning more about wine.

Best of all, this rather splendid wine tasting (look at the size of those pours by the way!) is happening at the beautiful Squire’s Landing right at the end of the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

If you want better views of Vivid and Sydney Harbour, you’ll need to rent a helicopter!

Leading us through some of Grant Burge’s best is Chief Winemaker Craig Stansborough. He’s here running four pop-up wine tasting sessions (which all sold out a while ago) to lead wine fans through his choice of Grant Burge wines.

Craig’s incredible knowledge and perspective on wine is inspiring and fascinating. There’s plenty of food here – including some superb cheese, but we’re holding off for dinner…

Through in the Tower Room at Squire’s Landing looks right out over Circular Quay. However, I’m more focused on my dinner.

This rib fillet steak with chipotle butter, spring onions and a little jar of demi glaze is superb. And the Grant Burge Holy Trinity GSM 2014 goes perfectly with it.

For dessert, the caramel tart with salted popcorn and clotted cream really pushes us over the edge. Good job the sticky that Craig has paired with it – the Grant Burge Black Apera PX – cuts through the sweetness and tempers the dish.

The tasting, the dinner and the view have all been excellent, but now the event is drawing to an end, Christina and I are keen to get down onto street level and check out some of the things going on for Vivid this year.

Customs House always draws a crowd. And for good reason. The images and stories Vivid creates to project onto this beautiful, iconic façade are consistently impressive.

Everywhere, there are installations that light up the city, and create beauty and intrigue in places that people would normally just walk past.

These giant turtles are entirely handmade and were created by traditional Chinese lantern makers. And the mechanical flippers move to give this impressive installation an extra element of interest.

All too soon, it’s time to head home. But I’m sure we’ll be back before we head away on our upcoming trips.

Vivid Sydney is such a great time of year to be in the city. The moon is bright tonight – almost as bright as the Opera House.

This afternoon, I’m flying solo (Christina’s had to take her mum to a separate engagement) here: Bennalong! Yes, Christina’s not happy about missing this one.

One of the best restaurants in Sydney and the best located one, Bennalong is in one of the sails of one of the most recognisable, iconic building in the world: Sydney Opera House!

I’m in this legendary venue by the very exclusive invitation of American Express Australia. We’ll be working with them again this year, and we’re really excited to be telling more of their story to you.

Amex has some really handy features that help so much with travel. Things like free travel insurance, airport lounge passes and travel credit with particular card programmes – and the fact that Amex is accepted in so many countries – makes it a great thing to be able to pack for your trips.

Along with my main of wild-caught barramundi with heirloom red speckled peas and a miso emulsion, I learnt about this year’s plans for Amex to be focusing on things like their Shop Small campaign and the incredible rewards and benefits card members are privy to.

Dessert options are a tough choice – green apple granita with vanilla and coconut, chocolate cake or cheese. As you can see, that’s what I’ve gone for. I’ve chosen wisely. Love the use of the toast rack btw!

And this is the gang. Us select few have been chosen for this year’s Amex influencer campaign. The nine of us (minus Christina of course) will all be working to get the message out there of all the great things Amex offers.

From left to right, Kate Waterhouse, Luke and Joe from 2 Hungry Guys, yours truly, Alyce from The Daily Edited, Hayden Quinn, Helen Chik, and Sarah of Spoonful of Sarah. As you can see, I’m in pretty auspicious company!

After the food’s all gone, we move about five metres over closer to the bar. Bennelong’s cask-aged gin negroni is off the charts. Made better of course by the lovely company I’m in.

We polish of our drinks then move outside to catch a glimpse of Vivid, now in full flow.

Here’s an example of what’s being projected onto the very walls we were just behind. Every year the shows from Vivid get better and better. 2019 is no exception.

And the best news is if you’re an Amex card member, you can get into the American Express Lounge in the heart of Vivid.

Right above Cruise Bar at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay, you can come in and enjoy some of the best views of the festival completely free. There’s even a bar and food you can buy here too.

If that’s not a perk to having an Amex card, I don’t know what is!

It’s fly time!

This afternoon, Christina and I are off on a trip. This time to New Zealand.

Stupid as it might sound, neither of us has seen much of NZ in spite of it being our closest international destination. And, more to the point, in spite of it being so beautiful.

We’ve only got a few days here, but we’re packing it in, so keep an eye on our IG Stories. There’ll be plenty to see.

Almost there – flying into Auckland. The north island of NZ always seems to get a bit over-looked, with people just going straight to the south. But watch this space for news on how much you can do, see and eat in the North Island.

We’ve got so much to tell you!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this Weekly Edition. Before we go, we want to introduce you to Doug. He’s one of the beautiful dogs from Assistance Dogs Australia that American Airlines (the programme is called emBark!) has sponsored to come to Sydney Airport to offer his calming influence to stressed travellers.

It’s working with us.

But Doug is one of the many assistance dogs being trained to help people such as retired military veterans with PTSD. There’s a terrible shortage of dogs and a waiting list of two years. As always, it comes down to money, so check out the website here to see how you can help out.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

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