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Friday, December 16, 2011

November 24 (Happy Thanksgiving, America!) - December 15, 2011 in Sydney

Happy Thanksgiving from Sydney Harbour. Just being here is enough to make us feel grateful. We puttered on over to our familiar anchorage at Blackwattle Bay finding it very crowded. We greeted old friends Kim and Andrew on Artful Dodger, phoned Mark and Heather and Pauline and Martin to let them all know we’re here. Immediately our calendar got booked with lunches, dinners and coffees. I was anxious to hook up with all of them.
December 4, Mark Dent phoned to ask if we were up to a spontaneous road trip. There is an SUV he wanted to test drive for the week and needed to take it on the road. We readily agreed that we could be packed to go the next morning. He and Heather showed up with two vehicles: the one they were planning to “test” and another SUV which he explained is his mother’s car that needs to be driven because it apparently sits in the garage too much. Mark armed us with road maps and an overview of our destination. We will drive/follow them up into the Hunter Valley as far as Gloucester, then loop over to Singleton where we have a two-bedroom apartment booked for the night. We hopped in and followed them out to a beautiful drive on the M1 up the Pacific coast. We passed through picturesque (and at times odd-named) towns, into the lush green valley and much less populated areas of farmland, hills and mining country. Arriving in Singleton, we had difficulty finding a place open for dinner. Monday night the only eatery available was a pub. I felt as though I’d stepped back in time to an old east Texas honky-tonk town. There were a lot of Bubbas in here, and a few Bubbettes! Yee-haw, we had a good time. The meal was a bit under par, but the atmosphere was priceless. Returning to our very nice apartment, Mark broke out a set of playing cards and as he shuffled he asked what was our pleasure? Frank insisted on teaching us Hearts. We were having a fairly good time until he slammed us with some surprise rules and beat us all to a pulp. Funny how the rules kept changing in his favor wink, wink. Tuesday morning we set off to breakfast at a beautifully trendy antique, floral and collector shop that housed a small cafĂ© in back. Then we hit the road – Putty Road back along the quicker inland route to Sydney. What a marvelous trip! What marvelous friends. But then, we find all of our Aussie friends are marvelous.
On our return Frank tended to do bloke jobs while I spent time with girlfriends. Pauline and I occupied an entire day out shopping one day and then she invited Frank and I to join her for dinner with her very close friend Janet. We ate Thai at “Atom” in Newtown, and found this to be one worthy of a return visit. Frank and I hit it off straight away with Janet. She would become part of our inner circle of Aussie friends.
We took great pleasure discovering new areas of Sydney Harbour, from Manly to 40-Baskets Beach, Iron Cove, Double Bay, Elizabeth Bay, Farm Cove, Middle Harbour all the way up into the secluded and beautiful Bantry Bay and back to Blackwattle. Discovering Sydney in this way is a delight that few travelers will enjoy when they make a trip Down Under. We continue to count our blessings as we explore this city that has much, much more to offer than a bridge and an opera house.
We passed a fair amount of time back and forth to Birkenhead Point where there is a large outlet mall, chandlery and in general good shopping. Mostly we enjoyed the plentiful walking and jogging trails here, and at just about everywhere along the shore in Sydney. The “Manly to The Spit” hike is one of the most popular and one which we did many times. Another favorite of ours is the Coogee to Bondi. Janet lives in Coogee.
The following week while we were anchored at Rose Bay Pauline and Martin picked us up for a drive down to Cronulla, Port Hacking and Botany Bay. Martin wanted us to see the areas we had been thinking of sailing to, explaining that it is good to see it before going all that way in the boat. It was a beautiful drive, along which he also showed us some of the fairly large custom homes he had built around there. We ended the day with dinner at an excellent Greek restaurant in downtown Sydney. The next morning Frank and I watched the Sydney-Hobart race boats doing practice runs just out the harbor from us. Some of them are simply magnificent to watch up close and personal. What a thrill it is to be here – seriously we keep pinching ourselves. That afternoon we decided to get going to Middle Harbour. Rose Bay is nice but with all the traffic of ferries and seaplanes it gets to be a bit too much.

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