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Published: February 10th 2019
Eunice’s apartment is on the 6th floor with great views over The Bay. So it’s the high life .... but not too high! Modem and minimalist with big glass sliding doors onto a balcony, it attracts a gentle breeze ..... even on the days when temperatures are tipping over into the 40’s.
Of course , arriving late at night in the dark, I have no idea where I am, so when Eunice asks me where I’d like to go on my first day, I have no idea, no Lonely Planet and my planning hasn’t gone beyond the train ride from Melbourne to Sydney ( and I’ve discovered that as the tennis was on in Melbourne I’d have been very unlikely to get a flight anyway and was quite lucky to get a seat on that train..... so it wasn’t such a bad travel decision after all!) So a decision is taken and we leave the apartment after breakfast and get a bus to Bondi Beach. I can’t believe that this iconic Australian beach is so near the city, and considering that the sky is blue and it’s still school holidays ..... it isn’t that crowded. We had a coffee and then
View from Eunice’s balcony
walked along the esplanade, taking in the yellow sand, clear blue sky, crystal clear blue green sea, white surf and of course the Bondi surfers and sunbathers. Beautiful tanned young bodies all around and interesting graffiti on the walls. We walked on around the bay and marvelled at the rock face sculptured by the wind and the tide.So many different shades of blue in the seawater and on the rocks. And I hadn’t realised before that Bondi Beach was in fact in Sydney-I’d always imagined it was further up the coast. Just to think of growing up in a city where beautiful beaches like this are only a bus ride away. It’s pretty hot to be out walking though, so we caught a bus back to town. It’s the last of the Christmas summer holidays so the kids are making the most of their beach days. Back in the Central Business District ( CBD) we looked in a department store full of Japanese shops, and a very lovely bookshop. Found some Sumi ink for Jackie.
On the ground floor of Eunice’s apartment block there’s a restaurant , a super shop full of beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables and a great
Coffee and muffin stop in Bondi
coffee shop too. We went downstairs to have a Happy Hour drink with some of Eunice’s friends who also live locally. Sitting outside and watching the world go by ....., and then sharing our ‘leftovers ‘ for a sharing dinner with Ann and Jo. Next day was Wednesday and we were up and out at7.30 to meet them for a walk around the park bay. ‘Traffic’ was fairly heavy in the park with walkers and runners , many in another zone with their earphones in, slim, tanned young mums with pony tails swinging as they did fast walking or jogging with baby strollers pushed before them. Tanned men jogging fast, retirees strolling and chatting and cyclists whizzing past. And all this activity at 7.30am on a February weekday morning! There are so many inlets and water views too, and the park is in the grounds of a now disused old mental institution with the signage still intact ...., so it’s a bit spooky. Back at the apartblock and we stop at the coffee shop for a drink and glasses of water flavoured with fresh blueberries and cucumber. One of Eunice’s neighbours has rented out her apartment and is going back
Life’s a beach ( in the school holidays)
to Warsaw for a year. She’s an artist and is looking forward to seeing old friends, having exhibitions and ...... the cold! She’s emptied her drinks cabinet and hands out farewell bottles of booze to all her friends. So the coffee shop table is covered in alcohol! Looks good! Young owner steps out and makes a joke about not having a licence-everyone chortles at that!
Sorry -it’s got to be a day-by-day and blow by blow account of my time in Sydney. This , together with the photos, can be used to help me relive the experience all over again if I’m ever trapped and unable to roam one winter. So please feel free to skim.
A quick shower and change and we catch a bus to the QVB ( Queen Victoria Building ) Queen Vic stands outside , presiding over Sydney and reading the plaque it seems that the statue was a gift from the Irish who obviously had no use for it! If only she could have seen what her statue replicas saw all around the world! While waiting for Eunice’s friend Monica we had a peek inside the arcade of Victorian shops with bevelled and curved glass
windows, beautifully tiled floors and elegant staircases, glorious stained glass windows to the outside and a magnificent clock with moving parts. Could have lingered there for ages, but we hurried back out into the glaring sunshine ( is it 35 degrees, or more, today?) to meet Monica. We shared a great lunch in a Japanese restaurant, and with Buffy footwork Monica got us in there and with a table before the boarded of CBD office workers descended locust -like on all the eating places. ( now, you’ll have to keep up..... CBD is Central Business District..... remember? Australia is full of abbreviations and acronyms) we walked across Hyde Park , in front of the cathedral, sun blazing down and me snapping photos of charming turtle statues squirting water from their mouths. Round the corner to the impressive building that is the Art Gallery of New South Wales. There was a free French film being screened in the theatre, documenting life just before the break up of the Soviet Union. What a contrast to Sunshine Sydney! No dialogue, just the sounds of buses and railway stations and people trudging to work in the snow in the dark of winter. Unsmiling, harrowed
Selfie on the famous Bondi Beach
brows of old and young and overwhelming GRIM. Well, we sat in the parallel universe of the frozen north for an hour ...... and then escaped into the warmth, light and colour outside. I had a little look at some aboriginal paintings, but we’re leaving a true gallery visit for another day. Instead we headed to the gallery cafe ( almost always as much loved as the gallery shop) and sampled coffee and cake on the balcony outside. Soon to be joined by a flock of emerald and lorikeets and the odd mynah bird. It wasn’t long before they were charmingly pecking up crumbs from the table and becoming overfamiliar. One even tested out Monica’s finger. That was going too far, and we sent them packing -to another table. We walked out through the Botanical Gardens. Wonderful trees..... and a special exhibition of insectivorous plants. Eunice has been working there as a volunteer for the exhibition so I really must get her to take me around it. Volunteering....... that’s another thing everyone of a certain age is involved in here in Australia. We walked down to Circular Quay and a view of the Sydney Opera House with its iconic winged
The coastal path
silhouette. The Harbour Bridge too, is so huge and they are so close together ...... but have a different spatial relationship from every angle you view them. Eunice has booked tickets for us to go to a performance at the Opera House on Friday night -Spinifex Gum. I’m intrigued..... but will wait and see what it is.
We did about three consecutive days of the brisk early morning walk. Doing lots of ‘steps’ per day according to the health check on my phone, and definitely not consuming my normal UK amounts of daily cake testing........ but weight seems to stay the same. I’ve had a recurring back pain problem since I’ve been away so I booked myself in with a physio. A very pleasant and capable young woman , Katie, who’s been in Australia for 9 years and originally from the Cotswolds. She gave me a brilliant massage and some exercises to do.
On Friday we went to an exhibition of black and white photos by South African photographer David Goldblatt. It was at the imposing Museum of Contemporary Art ( MCA ) down by Circular Quay. A huge cruise liner was docked nearby, dwarfing everything around it. David Goldblatt
Coastal path from Bondi
Rocks sculptured by wind and water
is known for his portrayal of South Africa during the rise and fall of apartheid. We arrived at the exhibition just in time to join a guide, and she gave us some insights into his work. There were also a few short interviews with the photographer shown near different sections of his work, and another longer documentary about him. Although he primarily documented his own country, he’d also visited Western Australia in the 1990’s and there were colour photos of asbestos mining in both countries and the devastating human cost of these industries.
And then in the evening we went to the Opera House itself to see Spinifex Gum. It featured a group of eighteen young indigenous singers and their musical collaborators Felix Riebel and Ollie McGill who were founding members of an Australian band called Cat Empire. The evening began with a traditional Welcome from the people who lived on the land before the arrival of the white settlers. The Eora enjoyed the sheltered waters of Woolloomooloo Bay for thousands of years before the first settlers arrived. The young women sang with joy, passion and humour and the film footage running behind them reflected the issues and politics behind
Beautiful coastal path
the words. The huge audience in the opera house responded enthusiastically and they sang almost continuously throughout the concert, ending with a standing ovation and clapping and cheering that fairly raised the roof of the opera house. As we came out of the Opera House another event was just finishing -a rehearsal for the Australia Day celebrations tomorrow. And the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House were all lit up. Magic!
It was Australia Day on Saturday. A day of celebration for some and sadness for others as it marks the arrival of the first European settlers in Australia. For the indigenous population it marks the end of their lifestyle and cultural link with the land. It was a public holiday and together with the proximity of the end of summer holidays, all Sydney seemed to be out and about for the day. Eunice drove us to the suburbs, to Canulla, where we left the car at Lynn’s house. Another dog moment, as she has a yellow lab -a real softy. Lynn has recently had both her knees operated on, and in the heat of the day, was finding it hard going. We collected together the wine, Eunice’s lemon
Bondi in January!
polenta cake and Lynn’s magnificent oysters and prawns and set off for the ferry to Bundeena, where we were to lunch with another friend, Liz, who is an artist. Lynn is one of the teachers who came out to Australia at the same time as Eunice, in the 1970’s. We stopped along the way at a coffee shop..... and then walked on to the ferry. It was very busy due to Australia Day , but we managed to squeeze on and get a seat. I was amazed to hear that some people catch the ferries to and from work. It was a really hot day, and Liz was there to meet us with the car. Not far to her house but it would have been exhausting in the heat and a punishment for poor Lynn and her recovering knees. Liz’s house was cool and shady and we enjoyed lunch on the balcony of the house, overlooking the garden. We went down to the garden and to have a look at Lynn’s studio.They’d recently had an open studios weekend, so her work was still hanging up. She also indulges in ceramics , and it was fun to see her Donald Trump
bird feeder. The birds had declined to eat from his stomach, so that was telling. And one of his legs had fallen off. Late afternoon we accepted a lift back to the ferry. As we queued, lots of children, large and small, were jumping off the boardwalks into the sea. Amazingly no one landed on another underneath, and no one scraped into contact with the wood and barnacles.
It was tempting to set off into the city again to see the free shows and fireworks down by the Opera House, but not tempting enough..... and we ended Australia Day watching it all on the telly with a glass of wine.
Next day was Sunday and Eunice drove us up to the Blue Mountains. Now, it seemed quite a trek for a one day car trip. But this is Australia and distances are all proportional!
These impressive mountains are World Heritage listed, and claimed their name by the blueish haze that seems to hang over them ( apparently from evaporating eucalyptus oil) we parked the car and then went to gaze at the view from Echo Park. It was a beautiful clear day and you could see all around for miles.
It’s happy hour!
The Three Sisters, a geographical feature of dramatic proportions with a dramatic fable attached, of three sisters turned to stone to protect them from wicked suitors. After a good walk about ( and having lost that initial amazement at the view) we headed for the little town of Leura to look for some lunch. A pretty little town with lots of boutiques and galleries and a flea market where someone was selling buckets of plums and passion fruit...... so we got some. Eunice bought a gorgeous black and white photo from a gallery on its last day, and just about to close down and go on line. Same everywhere it seems. Next we called in on the Everglades garden. Thirteen acres of European styled gardens and native bush land around a 1930’s house. There was just about to be a Shakespeare performance in the gardens, but we hadn’t got tickets and had one more place to try and get to before it closed. The home of the Australian author of The Magic Pudding children’s book,(1918) Norman Lindsay.. His home is now a National Trust property. We arrived as the house itself was actually closing for the day, but not too
Happy Hour dog-under-table
late for a nice cup of tea and coffee and a quick look in the gift shop. I loved the cushions in the tea shop .... a Norman Lindsay image of a black cat ... and his handwritten title “ Fuzzy Buzz looking affectionately at toast”
Time for a little break now everyone! And another Opera House visit and a road trip south ....... coming up soon!
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