(Another) Postcard from Sydney II

Our last night in Australia was, for convenience, spent at a hotel in the International Terminal of Sydney Airport. This afforded my beloved a catch up with his Australian distributor while I enjoyed a final day in Sydney in Hyde Park and at the NSW Art Gallery.

I took the train from the airport to St James station and enjoyed the short stroll in the sunshine across Hyde Park. As I neared the gallery I noticed hoards – and I do mean hoards – of school children heading in the same direction. Luckily, they were split into smaller (and quieter) groups and escorted round the gallery by guides.

On entering the gallery I headed for the lower floors displaying Aboriginal Art making my way back up to ground level. The gallery is set on a hill overlooking where we stayed when we first arrived in Sydney all those weeks ago.

I was particularly interested to see the winners and main participants in the Archbald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes for contemporary living artists. Of course, I also had a pit stop in the cafe and bookshop!

On emerging from the gallery, I confess I did stray into the main shopping area for a spot of window shopping, and further refreshments, before heading back for dinner with my beloved.

We later boarded our overnight flight to Dubai. On red-eyes I tend to follow a similar routine. A glass of champagne, followed by sleep. I cover my eyes with my own sleep mask, plug in some soothing music, wrap myself in my cashmere shawl and affix my “DO NOT DISTURB” sign to my seat. Nine hours of blissful sleep later and I’m ready for a stroll around and a spot of breakfast before landing.

Hard to believe we’d shortly be back home. Like all holidays, this one passed in a flash. Our next trip to Australia, scheduled for 2021-22 will be much longer.

 

 

 

(Another) Postcard from Sydney: Part II

We spent that first Sunday in Sydney largely walking around its splendid (and free) Botanical Gardens which we accessed from the other side of the wharf. The weather was glorious for a winter’s day as you’ll see from the various photographs.

The map below shows the gardens occupy prime real estate: a heritage-listed, oasis of 30 hectacres in the heart of the city. The Gardens wrap around Farm Cove at the edge of Sydney Harbour, occupying one of the city’s most spectacular spots.

Established in 1816, it’s Australia’s oldest scientific institution, home to an outstanding collection of indigenous plants and those from around the globe. The Gardens overall structure and key elements were down to Charles Moore and Joseph Maiden and have been built upon by successive directors.

It’s a popular place with families who were out en masse enjoying the fine weather and like us looking at the various displays, including one which  honoured the Cadigal, the original inhabitants of Sydney’s city centre and their relationship with this land.

There are spectacular views across the water from the Gardens and it’s possible to walk round to the Sydney Opera House, a piece of architecture which has stood the test of time, and that iconic bridge. After we strolled around the centre of Sydney looking for interesting doors and admiring the mix of old and new buildings before heading back to base.

 

I have no idea how far we walked because my beloved  forgot to put on his Apple watch but I’d say it was approaching 15km, well over our 10,000 steps!

 

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(Another) Postcard from Sydney: Part I

We’ve arrived in Sydney after a stopover in Dubai. I should warn you that if you’re expecting to read about Sydney’s iconic sites, you’re going to be disappointed. If that’s what you’re after, check out my earlier posts from 2010 and 2016. No, this post is about one of Sydney’s many ‘burbs, the wonderfully named Woolloomoolloo, a harbourside town 1.5km east of the Sydney CBD, near to Kings Cross and Potts Point.

Woolloomooloo was originally a working-class district, largely docks, which has undergone significant gentrification, particularly along its waterfront where we were staying.  Its name comes from the first homestead in the area, Wolloomooloo House, built by its first landowner John Palmer. There is debate as to how Palmer came up with the name with different Aboriginal words being suggested. Was it Wallamullah, meaning place of plenty or Wallabahmullah, meaning a young black kangaroo?

After the First Fleet’s arrival in Sydney, the area was initially called Garden Cove or Garden Island Cove after the nearby small wooded off-shore Garden Island. The first land grant was given to John Palmer in 1793 to allow him to run cattle for the fledgling colony. In the 1840s the farm land was subdivided into what is now Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst and parts of Surry Hills. Originally affluent residents built grand houses here, many with spectacular gardens, attracted by the bay and close proximity to the city and Government House.

Woolloomooloo has a number of heritage-listed sites, including a couple on Cowper Wharf where we were staying. The town is also home to Finger Wharf built in 1911-15, and at the time the world’s largest wooden structure, to help re-organise Sydney Harbour’s foreshore facilities. The wharf’s influence diminished during the 1970s and it became derelict until the mid-1990s when it was turned into private residential apartments, a boutique hotel and several restaurants and bars. It’s now a thriving and popular area.

And, they’re off……………………….

Today we’re flying to Dubai en route for Australia, and another big adventure Down Under. On our three previous trips, we’ve not visited Queensland – too hot. But Australia’s wintertime seems to provide ideal temperatures, plus my beloved is attending a dental exhibition in Brisbane. You knew there would be some work involved!

Going via Dubai allows us to take a couple of days’ breather between long-haul flights even though it’ll be roasting there. We’ll be taking refuge in the shade and chillin’ wherever we can, plus my beloved can meet up with his Middle Eastern distributor – more work!

As usual I started planning our itinerary over nine months ago – never knowingly unprepared. Fellow bloggers have provided a veritable font of knowledge in terms of what to see and do, as have friends in Australia. I love, really love planning trips almost as much as I enjoy the trip itself. Luckily my husband adores “just turning up.” It’s not that he’s uninterested, he just knows I’ll do a much better job than he would.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I shouldn’t be too ambitious and plan to do too much, otherwise there’s no scope for any spontaneity. I book all the airport transfers, car hire, flights and hotels and a number of trips, plus a few restaurants. The rest I play by ear but, having done tons of research beforehand, I have plenty of ammunition to ensure we have a wonderful time.

From Dubai we fly to Sydney, rather than Brisbane, because I want to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Blue Mountains, and my beloved needs to meet up with his Australian distributor ahead of the August exhibition in Brisbane. After a few days in Sydney, staying not too far from where our distributor is based, we head off for three days in those mountains.

Careful planning means my beloved will, on average, drive no more than 5 hours per day when we’re on the move. I hate having to pack up on a daily basis, so there’s only a few spots where we’re spending just an overnight. With the exception of Brisbane itself, we’re generally spending 3-4 nights in most places.

After our spell in the Blue Mountains we’re wending our way up the coast to Byron Bay where we’re going to chill for a few days ahead of the drive to Brisbane (and the exhibition), where we’ll spend two weeks. Given that my beloved will be working for part of that time, I wanted to ensure he had plenty of opportunity to see all Brisbane has to offer.

In Brisbane, we’re staying in a hotel in the CBD which is part of same group as the one we’ve stayed at in Adelaide. They have studio apartments with cooking facilities so that we don’t have to eat out all the time.  The hotel also has a pool, a gym and an on-site restaurant. Fortunately, I won’t have to help out at the exhibition which will leave me plenty of time to investigate Brisbane’s culture and its book shops. We won’t be able to watch any cricket at this time of year but we would like to see an Australian Rules Game, a sport which is hugely popular in Oz. I need to understand what all the hype is about.

After Brisbane, we head north once more along the coast to Mooloolaba and Noosa, finally heading to Port Douglas. During this part of the trip we’ll be flying over the Whitsundays and The Great Barrier Reef and also visiting them in a glass-bottomed boat. This is shark territory, so I won’t be dipping so much as a toe in the water. We won’t be ignoring the rain-forest, we’ll also taking trips inland looking for friendly wildlife. Finally, it’ll be back to Sydney and then home once more via Dubai.

During the trip, I’ll only be posting pictures and snippets about our travels, waiting for the most part until I get back (early September) to tell you all about our travels in detail. However, it won’t be a WordPress blackout. I’ll try to keep up with all your posts and I’ve scheduled a few of my own, including a number of award posts, which will pop up while I’m away. I hope everyone has a great summer!

12 Days of Christmas- day 5

This one’s from Manly Beach in Sydney. Not as well known as nearby Bondi Beach, but it’s much bigger and tends to be less crowded. I first visited Manly back in 2010 when we were in Australia for the UCI Road World Championships. My beloved had to cut short his vacation to head to a Dental Meeting in USA so I spent an enjoyable few days exploring Sydney on my own. I got the ferry across to Manly and then hired a bike to ride around the place.

Captain Arthur Phillip named Manly after the indigenous people living there, stating that “their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place”.

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Surfer braving the current in Manly

My beloved took a number of pictures of the surfers but I chose this one because I liked the juxtaposition of the surfer and the danger sign. The sign warns of strong currents but, in my mind, it could equally be warning you about sharks – cue music from Jaws!

The bits in between – Sydney to Adelaide

As we left behind the lush, manicured, green suburbs of Sydney on our 1380km drive to Adelaide, we encountered golden scrubland punctuated by trees, grazed by cattle and sheep somnolent in the warm morning sunshine. The road was undulating at first with gullies, creeks and water holes but it gradually became flatter and, as we neared our overnight stop in Hay, dotted with small vineyards.

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Goulburn was our first port of call. It was Australia’s earliest inland city and is famous for wool production, which explains the town’s giant statue of a ram. We dined at the Niagara Café, first opened in 1902 by a Greek called Nick and still run by his ancestors. The cafe had last been updated in the early 70s and was clearly a popular luncheon spot. Photographs of Greece and its sporting triumphs covered the walls.

Some 250km later we filled up the tank in Wagga Wagga (many crows – another Hitchcock reference?), the garden city of the south. I have insisted, we fill up with petrol at every opportunity. I didn’t want us to run out.


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We broke our journey overnight in a forgettable motel in Hay on the Murrumbidgee River, another of Australia’s premier wool growing areas. During WWII it was home to three prisoner of war camps. I suspect no one ever tried to escape. We dined in thanks to the local supermarket as all the cafes had closed late afternoon and neither of us fancied a takeaway.

The following day, we were now on flat pastoral roads with endless blue sky, scrubby grass, knolls of trees, and plenty of cattle and sheep as far as the eye could see, and beyond, as the road snaked endlessly beyond the horizon.

We stopped for a light lunch in Ouyen, a small town at the junction of the Calder and Mallee highways, roughly mid-way between Adelaide and Melbourne, at what appeared to be its one and only restaurant.

As we drove closer to Adelaide, the countryside changed again, with more and more vineyards and orchards amidst the scrub, as we entered the fertile Murray River plane. We reluctantly gave up our organic tomatoes at the border control between S Australia and New South Wales. Just as well we’d eaten the peaches and apples the night before.

This leg was a question of getting from A to B as quickly as possible but it nonetheless provided us with some spectacular countryside, an insight into what life was like in the Outback and what a challenge it must have been for the early settlers.

The towns en route had charmed. You had a sense of going back in time, particularly when you looked at the cafe menus. They reminded us of small neighbourhood restaurants, providing excellent home cooked food just like my grand-mother used to make.

We also pondered what did Aussie families do to entertain their kids on long journeys before technology helped them out? It would have been pretty useless to play either pub cricket or even I Spy. Still there’s always the Spelling Bee or Mental Arithmetic, two of my Dad’s favourites. We sang along to the selection of tracks on my beloved’s iPhone. Luckily the roads were deserted so no one could hear us. Neither of us can hold a tune.

Postcard from Sydney

We departed Sydney under leaden, rain-laden skies after three gloriously hot, sunny days where the temperature peaked at 42C! Thank goodness for air con and SPF 100.

Darling Harbour at dusk
Darling Harbour at dusk

We stayed in a hotel close by Darling Harbour, an area we both know well. My beloved usually stays here for the exhibition centre while I was here on my own in 2010. It has the advantage of a great choice of restaurants within easy walking distance, the Sydney Fish Market which has a large lobster with my name on it and it’s handy for public transport.

In 2010 I made exhaustive use of the hop on – hop off bus to visit all the usual tourist sites. So don’t expect shots of the iconic Sydney Opera House this time around. This was our maiden opportunity to cycle and drive around the area.

Eastern shore and that well-known bridge in the distance
Northern shore and that well-known bridge in the distance

With the mercury rising steeply we headed for the shoreline, its cooling breeze and spectacular property porn. We covered the northern and eastern shorelines of Mosman, Manly, Rose and Double Bays affording me plenty of window shopping opportunities – much the best kind. The beaches were gloriously sandy and not, unlike Bondi, overly populated.  The weather demanded frequent pit stops, my favourite was ice-cold fresh coconut water.

Barely populated Manly Beach
Barely populated Manly Beach

There was little chance of us getting homesick. In one restaurant  our waiter hailed from neighbouring La Colle sur Loup where his parents run a small restaurant we’ve eaten in. In another, our Parisian waitress afforded us a further opportunity to chat in French – don’t want to get rusty.

Sydney was buzzing, both with local residents and holiday makers enjoying the Sydney Festival and taking full advantage of the warm sunny weather which frankly we found scorching and saw us taking frequent refuge in the shade.

Pyrmont Street Art
Pyrmont Street Art

The weather burst late on Thursday afternoon with a torrential storm and downpour. We sought refuge in the hotel gym and pool. Friday morning the mercury had dropped to 15C as we headed for Hay, the first stop on our cross-country dash to Adelaide. Oh, and that lobster had a lucky reprieve – next time.

Wise words

A very dear and wise friend said we should celebrate we’ve reached the grand old age of 60 without suffering from any serious illnesses, ailments or injuries. Well, there’s no point in receiving words of wisdom if you don’t act on them. Her birthday was the month before mine and she rejoiced in style at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.

Where did we want to spend January? My beloved and I were of one mind – Australia. Now, it’s a big place. You’d need a year to do it justice. We had five weeks, several of which we’d be spending watching cycle races. Now, come on, you didn’t seriously think we’d head Down Under without taking in the first race of the 2016 WorldTour season did you?

My beloved and I both enjoyed our trip to Australia in 2010 for the World Championships when we visited both Melbourne and Sydney. It would be unthinkable not to again include them on our itinerary, plus there’s the Sun Herald Tour and The Great Ocean Race to see. We’re taking our bikes so, even though internal flights in Australia are pretty cheap, we’ll be travelling by car and taking  in some of the coastal scenery and vineyards.

In no time at all, I’d sorted out our itinerary and booked everything. It was time pleasurably well spent. There’s nothing I love more than a spot of planning and preparation while my beloved is just happy to turn up.

We’re staying in a mix of hotels and self-catering apartments so that we won’t have to eat out all the time.  I also needed access to a washing machine to cut down on the amount of clothing for my beloved otherwise he’ll be counting the number of days we’re away and packing the same number of t-shirts, socks and underpants. He does NOT travel lightly.

We’re flying Emirates with an overnight stop in Dubai which should make the length of the flight a bit more bearable. Of course, I’ll spend a lot of the flight sleeping. I have my cashmere blanket, eye mask and headphones which I’ll plug into the music channel, pop on my Do Not Disturb sign, and get my head down. I’m pretty much the perfect frequent-flyer.

If bored, I may scroll through the entertainment options to see if there’s any cartoons I’ve not yet seen. I watched the latest Minions’ movie en route to New York in November – adorable. Surely, it’s time for Toy Story IV or Happy Feet III? Just a suggestion!

By my standards I’ve not organised too much while we’re away as we’ll be out on our bikes as much as possible. I have made a couple of restaurant bookings but some of the ones I wanted to visit have only tasting menus, and not a la carte, none of which meet my specific dietary requirements. However, this won’t be a problem given the vibrant dining scene in Australia.

If the trip is half as much fun as I’ve had planning it, it’ll be fantastic. Anything more will be a bonus.

Postscript: Thanks to iffy WiFi – surely the bane of all travellers – my posts are on delayed transmission.

Postcards from Sydney II

Heading back to Melbourne today and then flying home tomorrow via Doha. My flight’s late so I’ll get to spend all day in Melbourne. I’ve enjoyed my brief stay in Sydney, particularly my bike ride around Manly yesterday. Though my idea of a “road bike” differs markedly from that of the bike shop. What I got was a sit up and beg bike, commonly seen on the bike lanes of Belgium and Holland. But beggars can’t be choosers, or so it seems. I’m less than impressed with the beaches in Sydney, Bondi beach was a real let down.

On the way back to my hotel,  I decided to have an early dinner in town and popped into the Four Seasons. No, not in my cycling gear, I had a change of clothes with me. Aching feet notwithstanding, I walked all the way back to my hotel just to reassure myself that I had indeed done Sydney. I didn’t seem to be feeling any after effects this morning as I went for my jog around the harbour.

Australians are unabashed foodies. My favourite spot in the whole of Sydney might just be the Cookery section in Dymocks on George St. I have never seen so many cookery books in one place. I immediately found at least 20 I simply have to acquire but there’s no way I could cram them into my luggage. I’ll have to place a large order with Amazon when I get back. However, there’s a couple not available on Amazon which I’ll have to buy in Melbourne.

I have also been very impressed with the general standard of the restaurants and cafes both here and in Melbourne whose cooking fabulously  fuses the diverse ethnicity of its citizens. Australians are incredibly friendly and within about five minutes you’ve learnt their entire history. I’ve met people who originally came from as far away as Mongolia and Peru. My visit has coincided with Spring-break and a high for the Australian dollar but it’s no dearer than at home. And when I say home, I mean, of course, the Cote d’Azur.  It’s good to travel but it’s even better to return home.

Postcards from Sydney I

Despite 10 days in Australia, thanks to a hired bike, gyms in the hotels and suitable places to jog, I have been able to keep up with my training programme. I am however having severe withdrawal symptoms which will hopefully be assuaged tomorrow in Manly, where I’ve hired a road bike for the day. I’m hoping this will bear no resemblance to the bike I hired in Melbourne, which was the mountain bike equivalent of the supermarket trolley with the wonky wheel. That said, it was better than nothing.

My feet are feeling distinctly the worse for wear. This, I suspect, is a direct consequence of hours standing watching the cycling and hours spent pounding the pavement: walking and jogging. A foot massage would be bliss but I’ll have to settle for soaking them in cold water.

Strand Shopping Gallery – like going back in time!

I have done Sydney. Yes, I have walked all over the place, aided and abetted by the Hop on/Hop off buses. I love the juxtaposition of old and brand spanking new in the centre of town. I particularly liked those modern buildings that take some reference from the surrounding sandstone ones, specifically those in Macquarie and Bridge Streets.  I loved the refurbishment and conversion of the Queen Victoria Building and the Strand Arcade into Shopping Malls. I approved of the refurbished Hilton Hotel, opposite the QVB, and the retention of the historic Marble bar. I adored the view of Sydney from the Rocks where you can see the town’s modest beginnings against the backdrop of the modern skyline  and the iconic Bridge and Sydney Opera House. I also liked  the renovated wharves at Star City.

Barely populated Manly Beach

I revelled in the bohemian feel of Kings Cross and Paddington with their eclectic mixes of dwellings and their pavements enlivened with restaurants, bars, cafes and interesting shops. Equally, I enjoyed the ritzier locations of Rosecutters, Double, Rose and Vaucluse Bays where some of Sydney’s most expensive real estate is located.  While the bus commentary advised that there had been no deaths from shark attacks on Sydney’s beaches since two incidents in 1929, it failed to mention the numerous attacks since where victims had lived to tell their tales, albeit with missing limbs. You won’t therefore be surprised to learn that I passed on the opportunity to get up close and personal with sharks and other assorted marine life at the Sydney Aquarium. Equally, I felt no pressing need to visit Sydney’s Wildlife World despite the presence of a huge crocodile and a deadly taipan. I guess this isn’t one of those touchy feely places where the kiddies are encouraged to pet the animals.

Spoilt for choice!

I did however stop off at Sydney’s fish market, where the exhibits are largely dead, apart from a few swimming around in tanks awaiting their fate at the point of a finger. My father would have loved to have seen this wonderful array of glistening, fresh fish. I dined on an assortment of plump oysters for a fraction of the price I’ve been paying in local restaurants and would have had a lobster if only I could have found one small enough. They breed ’em big in Oz.