Beach life 

Sydney has hundreds of beaches, bays and coves around the harbour and along the ocean – some I went to with Harry and the girls when we were here last eight years ago and this visit I only managed to do a handful (I probably still have another 80 to discover …  more reason to come back!). So, where did I go this time?

Of course, I HAD TO do the Coogee to Bondi walk along the coast again. It is usually walked in the other direction but I wanted to go for a swim first at McIver’s Baths. Strictly for ladies and only 20cents to get in, it is located on a secluded hillside off Coogee beach which has an ocean pool (no jellies!!), and a beautiful view of the ocean. I absolutely loved it there – so much so I went twice! 

  
The walk to Bondi takes about 90 minutes following the rugged coastline, past a handful of beaches (Clovelly, Bronte and Tamarama to name a few), and even a  cemetery …

  
 .. until you get to Bondi – a long stretch of beach filled with surfers, skaters, incredible hulks, beach babe and tourists ..

   

Balmoral is a beautiful harbour beach which has shallow waters and soft sand. Good for spotting blue-tongue lizards and happy families! 

  
(Sorry no beach photo here .. Was too busy chilling ..)

The walk from Rose Bay to Watson’s Bay is dotted with small beaches and bays (Milk Bay, Parsley Bay with it’s pretty suspension bridge, Nielson’s Point) off-the-beaten track, quiet and clean with beautiful views of Sydney’s skyline. Incredible to think it is only 30minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city ..

       

  
 

On Sunday having looked up “secret beaches of Sydney”, we all piled into the car tackling the sweltering heat to make our way down south to Botany Bay National Park. Near the port there are a few hidden gems of squeaky sand and blue waters .. There are also amazing sandstone formations.
We set ourselves up at Congwong beach (I really don’t make these names up!) along with another few hundred Sydney-siders .. Apparently we weren’t the only ones to be in on the secret … 

   
  
My last farewell to the ocean today was at Bronte. The sun was out and I wanted to lap up as many rays before I had to get my flight. A 30-minute drive away and I was magically transported to glistening surf, clean white sand and beach life! 

   
 
Am so glad I had a chance to go even though it didn’t make it any easier to leave …. 
 

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Kangaroos and Koalas?

.. not on this trip! I did momentarily consider going to Taronga Zoo in the city so I could tick that box (along with the platypus, wombat and possum boxes)  but decided to save them for another visit. The closest I did get to seeing a kangaroo was when I was in Byron walking through the rainforest along the coast …

  
The wildlife I have spotted, however, is definitely a tad more exotic and funkier than what we are used to in Europe. Apart from the bush turkeys and iguanas you might see strolling around, there are often parrots and cockatoos flying among the trees during the days. The pigeons are crowned and the crows make long, strangulated cries.  
   
But my all time favourite wildlife encounter was off the beach at Balmoral

Check it out .. A blue-tongue lizard! 

 

Far out!

  

Where to swim ??

Considering this has been the wettest January in Sydney since 1988, I still have had the chance to check out a couple of beaches and outdoor pools. 

In and around Leichhardt (the East suburb I am staying in) there’s an abundance of possibilities. The Aussies seem to like fitness and outdoor activities so there are lots of facilities. A 5-minute cycle ride from Norton Street gets me to Iron Cove which is part of a harbour – there are two outdoor pools at different ends of this 7km loop which is often busy with cyclists, walkers and joggers.

  
I’ve been to the Leichhardt Aquatic Centre a couple of times and done a few lengths (laps) in their 50m Olympic pool (seems to be standard size at most of these places).

  Feels like such a luxury to be able to swim in an outdoor pool. It might come as no surprise then to learn that swimming for most Aussies seems to come as naturally as skiing does for the Swiss .. And while I “leisurely” breaststroke up and down the pool, the locals continue to  glide effortlessly past me on front crawls .. So envious!!!

Further up past Iron Cove I cycled to a lovely, authentic and original outdoor area .. very retro, like going back to the fifties. Set off a beautiful park backing onto the ocean I was expecting to do a few lengths in salt water. 

  
  
All was going according to plan, I got changed, had my goggles at the ready and was about to jump off the deck when I saw the sign …

  
Well, that was it .. On close inspection I could see the jellies floating around the surface and for a split second contemplated braving the waters ..  but chickened. I did feel like a real tourist especially when I tried to warn an elderly local who asked me why I wasn’t going in. He just dived right in and got his front crawl on!

Happy Australia Day 

  
What a surprise to learn my visit included celebrating Australia Day .. a national holiday which originally marked the arrival of the British but now represents more the diversity of Australian culture and its landscape. (Thanks Wikipedia!)

Now, as a nation the Australians didn’t go too wild in dressing up for the occasion ( the Dutch are still champion at that!) but they did put on quite a show at the harbour. Olivia had arranged a ferry trip with buffet lunch for us all and at 10.30 we sailed out direction the Opera House to see the start of the festivities .. the ferry boat race. The waters were a hive of activity with decorated boats  (also prize for best dressed boat!) of all shapes and sizes and all keen to get a good view of the race. Of the three ferries in the race we were rooting for Golden Gaytime (seriously that’s the name of one of their ice-creams).

        
The ferry boat race was followed by tall ships elegantly cruising by, a gun salute, synchronised sailing to music, and an air show including fighter planes (old and new), helicopters and a Quantas A380 all performing impressive manoeuvres over and around Harbour Bridge. All perfectly timed, all very impressive. 

 
       

The sun was out and the locals were merry – by the time we were on our return to shore proud Australians were singing national anthems and sharing the bubbly! Everyone was definitely having a gaytime!

  
 
Then back on land we got an Uber back to The Haighs to continue celebrating with all .. Liv’s mum made one of her Indonesian specialities sate and I got to see how to make a killer sate sauce! It was a gorgeous day with lots of merriment and delicious food (again!!!). 

 

 
Jill added a funky dimension to the day by giving us all Tarot reading  .. the cards you shuffle  and divide and then, depending on how they are laid out and which way they face, represent different aspects ..  Peace, Lovers, Oppression, Disappointment and Material Diffculty were but a few things I could reflect on .. I’ll let you fill in the blanks! 

I left the party once the mozzies surfaced and I could hear the far away boom of the firework display over Harbour Bridge. It was a glorious day! 

  

Birthday Celebrations

I woke up early on Friday morning and was picked up by Olivia and the girls to go and run a few errands around town .. checking pool levels, picking up wine glasses and doing grocery shopping. Okay (to be perfectly honest I missed that last bit and got a mani-pedi instead!). The afternoon was spent with Liv and Jill setting up the house for the BBQ party next day – hanging up decorations, shoving things into cupboards, moving furniture around and just being there. After all was done we went for a bite at the local Korean restaurant before heading off home .. slightly anxious about whether or not the weather conditions of the day … 

… would be the same tomorrow and the implications this would have for Barbecue Sal, the Uruguayan man Liv had hired in for the event.

But there was no need to fear .. The weather totally cleared and was warm and sunny. The bath was filled with ice and alcohol, Kelly did an amazing job with the salads and Sal (the dude) and his right-hand man did an impressive job bbqing chicken and steaks! 

   
 All too delicious and more-ish, which was dangerous because the piece de resistance was dessert .. and knowing this you seriously had to pace yourself because only a fool would have missed out on it .. the centrepiece – watermelon and strawberry cake from Black Star Pastry!! ( De Rouw .. eat your heart out!). 

Olivia looked beautiful (as always) and happy – she has a lovely group of friends from all over (some who even lived in Amsterdam for a while) and I had a lot of fun chatting with most of them. Ian had also put a top playlist together which really took off once the kids came back and Olivia rejoined the party!

   
 And the festivities continued on Sunday afternoon when Liv and me got in an Uber playing Ian’s playlist (yes .. you can even organise that through the app!!) and got dropped off at The Apollo for a birthday lunch with Liv’s family, mum and brother Kevin and girlfriend Melissa and Jill and family. It is a Greek restaurant which is always an issue with me because, of course, I feel it is my birthright to be as critical as my mum would be (in honour of her cooking) but it was a Greek like no other – very trendy and amazing flavours and combinations.It was a beautiful way to round off the birthday weekend. Olivia is a darling – she is surrounded by wonderful people!

   
 

Suburban Living

Since being back in Sydney I have been staying at an AirBnB in Norton Street, Leichthardt. It’s in an Italian suburb, less than a 10-minute walk to the Haighs and very laid-back. I am staying at Perina’s …. a lovely, warm, friendly, generous lady in her late-fifties who, coincidentally, is a yogi (she can stand on her head!) and loves experimenting with health foods (she been activating her nuts for years!!), creating all kinds of concoctions – check out her latest batch of kombucha tea… 
  
The house is great and it’s very relaxing coming home at the end of the day to just sit around and chat with her, her family and the other guest Rachel about our day’s events.

  

Of course Perina being a yogi means she has been able to give me lots of local information and insight on where to do yoga, food shops and markets. On Saturday I was signed up and in my first yoga class at Egg of the Universe, a 5 minute bus ride away in neighbouring Rozelle. Classes there so far have been great – all very full (about 30 people), hot and sweaty. The Yin classes were a bit different as we did about 7 poses in the space of an hour which left plenty of time in-between to doze off .. which, of course, I invariably did. It’s a really funky place with an open courtyard where they have a café and open kitchen which prepares all kinds of delicious organic delights. I really like going there even though I can’t stand on my head …

  
After my yoga class on Saturday I noticed the organic market on my bus ride home. So (before heading off to the birthday bash) I walked back up to the Orange Grove Tree Market and had a wander round .. sampling all sorts of delicious goodies from bean chutneys to sauerkraut to fruit .. I ended I buying all kinds of fruit and vegetables because they looked and tasted so ripe and fabulous. Seriously, the produce here is so rich in flavour and texture .. it was very hard not to buy anything!!! 

   

   


 

Back in Sydney

So I arrived back in the city after having been delayed for almost 3 hours (one hour was spent circling the airs waiting to land) and once in the ground I ended up waitin for a taxi with another 400 people!! The reason for all this being that Sydney had been hit by a massive storm … again. 

  
But, to be fair, we haven’t had any more since I’ve been here .. only rain and mugginess .. which I suppose is good protection against Australia’s powerful uv rays but absolutely horrid for bringing out the insects – the spiders and the ants I can deal with but the worst are the cockroaches that come out at night in what seems like their hundreds! I kid you not when I say that I had one in my suitcase and one crawling around on my pillow while I was reading in bed!!!!

 Next time I might just call this guy to come and zap them away …