Sydney and Bondi
We took a flight from the Brisbane airport down to Sydney and guessed we’d be gone about a week and I did take enough stuff to last a month. I know that now, looking back, but a big old row almost blew prior to our leaving, with Ray on my case, literally.
Sydney is one hour ahead and our mid day flight dropped us in Sydney by early afternoon. Alex, now back in Sydney had kindly offered to collect us from the airport. He drove us the 40 minutes to Bondi Junction, where we’d booked in for three days at the Quest Hotel, suggested by Charlotte and Brian. Bondi Junction, where they used to live, is really handy for the city with great train and bus connections and also a bit cheaper for everything. Our accommodation came with a kitchenette which meant we could buy in few bits and pieces for breakfast. We got a travel card that gave us access to train/bus and ferry throughout the area. We’d been advised that a great walk to do around Bondi would be the coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee – so on our first day that’s where we headed.
Unfortunately, the day was overcast and windy, but it didn’t rain. Up to that point we’d been very lucky with the weather. Being winter the beach wasn’t packed and the Pavillion was full of OAP tourists (like us) mostly Chinese. Bondi is one of the oldest seaside communities around the Sydney area and the local architecture reflects that. Our first port of call was a coffee at the Bondi Pavillion. Down on the beach we walked along the wall and you will see from the pictures that the wall, running for about 300 yards, is full of ‘graffitti’ but not really. An elderly man with a white beard was busy putting the finishing touches to a huge and brilliant painting of a very young Arnold Schwarzenegger and I asked him about the wall.
He told me that each painting will be displayed for six months and you have to apply to the local council for permission, putting your proposal forward anif it’s approved you then get a designated area – I think it was 12 feet wide. I did note that a good many of the other paintings were memorials, some relating to WW2 and also the Bali bombings.
We put our best foot forward and headed along the coastal path to Coogee with the promise of a good lunch when we got to the other end – about 4 miles. Along the way we passed by the Icebergs swimming pool, where some of the old members were doing their daily work out. They swim every day of the year in the outside pool. Some of the amazing rock formations looked like great big crunchies – there were plenty of plaques dotted along the route explaining the history of the volcanic soft rock, accompanied by the aboriginal names and the age old stories of the region.
We kept up a reasonable pace along the coastal and didn’t complain too much about all the up and down. Some parts would not be suitable for anyone with rickety knees. But, we did notice that the locals, like everywhere in Australia made good use the excellent pathway, walking, running strolling with the dog and you could of course do as much or as little as you wanted to. Passing by a huge cemetary we noted that some of the stones dated back over 150 years and bore so many names we recognised – English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh. Some even stated where the deceased had come from – Eric Brown from Portsmouth, England. Finally we reached Coogee and headed to the restaurant serving the famous ‘Moo Burger’ which we were assured was the best in the vicinity. It was if you had a mouth as big as a cave entrance. We’d worked up quite an appetite but sometimes, you can have a bit too much. Ray enjoyed his, but it was massive and I could barely get my delicate little mouth around it. We got the bus back to Bondi and collapsed after all that exertion and fresh air, not to mention a massive burger. We planned our much anticipated trip into Sydney for the following day.
How many times have you seen that iconic building ‘The Sydney Opera House? I don’t think there’s a soul on the planet, apart from a few pygmies in the South American rain forest, who wouldn’t recognise it immediately. When we got off the train in central Sydney we stepped on to the famous George Street and walked the length of it heading down towards the harbour. The pictures will show a good many of the key buildings and places of interest, some I took from the Sydney Eye, observation tower, situated at the top of the Westfield Tower.
Approaching Sydney Harbour was quite a moment and I wasn’t disappointed with that first glimpse. The city, like Brisbane, is fresh and new and a pleasure to walk through. When we hit the harbour the sights were truly breath taking, with the Opera House taking centre stage. It was around mid-day and the waterside cafes were buzzing with the lunchtime trade. Office workers and tourists mingled, eating alfresco and enjoying the glorious sunshine. To make the most of our day out we decided to go to the Opera House and Botanic Gardens, both sitting fairly close together. I wanted a tour around the inside of the Opera House, Ray wasn’t bothered so we split up for a couple of hours. The inside of Sydney Opera House is amazing and they now run more commercial shows, like Les Mis and whole host of Andrew Lloyd Webber type musicals and even pop concerts. They have six theatres, and our guide gave us a brilliant tour with just the right amount of information. My tour cost $37.00 which I thought was reasonable. A show cost something like $80 – $100 which is comparable with West End tickets. On the tour it was just me and two elderly Danish couples. When we got to the bit about the architect, he was Danish, and how he’d fallen out with the Australians after many difficulties over many years. He left the project and never returned to see the Opera House completed – one of the Danish women began to cry… (sad, but not what you’d call devastating) strange what moves people.
In one of the corridors I was surprised to see a picture of a young Arnold Swartzeneger posing and receiving his trophy for winning Mr. Olympia in 1980 – it was held at the Sydney Opera House. Then the penny dropped and it seemed apt that the artist back on Bondi was probably doing his wall art, commemorating 35 years for Arnie’s win in Oz.
When standing on the steps of the Opera House, looking dead ahead is the Botanic Gardens and to the right is a stunning view of all the chic restaurants and outdoor cafes running around the curve of the harbour. We headed to Circular Quay, the transport hub, and had lunch while watching the ferry boats busily loading and unloading passengers, after which we boarded the ferry ourselves to Manly and thoroughly enjoyed getting yet another dynamic view of the Opera House as we moved away under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, another brilliant structure. Manly is a well known upmarket suburb, full of very expensive property.
Back at Circular Quay we boarded one of the double decker trains for our trip back to Bondi and we couldn’t help but be impressed. The train was clean, on time and everyone got a seat, even at rush hour and the cost of rail travel seemed to be very reasonable. The transport system throughout Australia is government owned, no privatisation and that I believe is where we in this country went wrong.
Back at the Quest we collapsed, exhausted from all the walking. Day three we headed back into the centre of Sydney and took a trip up the Sydney Tower Eye, getting a real birds eye view of the whole city. When we got out of the lift we were ushered into a side room where they ran a short 3D film. It felt so real, with a parrot flying (appeared to be) in and out of the screen and sharks and surfers coming up close and personal, a spray of water over us just to add to the reality. The view from the tower was spectacular and we could identify most of the landmarks, from the Opera House to Darling Harbour, which was our next port of call.
Darling Harbour is surrounded by hotels, apartment blocks, restaurants and plenty of interesting places to attract the many tourists. On the day we visited it was a bank holiday weekend and the whole area was buzzing with a Latin American extravaganza, with lots of vibrant dancing and music coming from all quarters.
We stayed one night with Alex and Tess in their new apartment in Cronulla, about an hour south of Sydney, which we really appreciated, considering that they’d only just moved in. They were so hospitable, giving us a bed for the night and cooking our breakfast the next morning. Cronulla which boasts one of the longest stretches of beach in Sydney, with miles of golden sand and lively surf is where Tess grew up; its a popular place for visitors and a great place to live, if you can afford it.
We had a bit of a whistle stop tour of Sydney but I saw enough to know what the attraction is and why people flock there to visit and if they’re lucky to live. It’s a beautiful city in a beautiful climate.
Alex kindly dropped us back at Sydney Airport, where we hired a car for the next leg of our journey. Our plan was to take our time driving up the east coast, back to Brisbane.