Melbourne and Sydney, Australia – March 2015

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Sydney Harbour

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What is there to say that everybody doesn’t already know about this beautiful antipodean country?

Although this is our third visit down under, we never seem to have long enough to do everything we want to do.

This time, of course, we were there on business so Geoff mainly got to enjoy the fabulous autumnal weather from the inside of various offices across the country ;-).

I made up for his office confinement by spending each full working day out and about enjoying the weather at ground level. It was tough ;-).

Melbourne was lovely as ever – time was frittered re-visiting the parks; chocolate-tasting my way through the fabulous, famous victorian shopping arcades of Royal and Block Arcades; pottering along Melbourne’s Yarra River and the Southbank cafes and restaurants; and checking out the latest in Aussie street art and graffiti in Hosier Lane. At the weekend, together we got to see some of the artists in action (whilst simultaneously trying not to breathe in the carcinogenic fumes from the spray paint wafting through the air).

Best of all we met up with an eclectic group of friends for dinner – 2 old London friends from Geoff’s early US days at Hewlett-Packard (currently on a trip through South East Asia and Australia), an English friend from his Digital days in England (with his Aussie bride to be), and an English/Australian friend of ours from his US Compaq days…. it’s a small world :-). The company and food were exemplary – which pretty much set the scene for our whole trip to Australia.

Up the coast in Sydney, Geoff’s view from the North Sydney office was stunning – right across Sydney Harbour – and if he looked closely enough he would have seen me crossing the Harbour Bridge every day en route to the city where I got to gaze at the Opera House, stroll along Circular Quay with all of its constant boating, ferrying and cruise ship activity, wander through the Botanic Garden and out to Macquarie Point with its wonderful views of the city and the Opera House and… just as in Melbourne, I couldn’t resist chocolate-tasting my way through the even more stunningly beautiful Queen Victoria Building.

Let’s face it – Sydney is fabulous – who wouldn’t want to live here? :-).

Almost year-round sunshine, golden sand and sparkling clear coastal waters (almost warm enough to swim in!! 😉 ). I managed just fine to spend a happy few hours being pummeled by the rolling waves but poor Geoff could barely dip a toe into the Pacific without recoiling in horror like Dracula caught in a ray of sunlight … absolutely pathetic ;-).

Ferrying across Sydney harbour to its seaside communities of Manly (considerably more upmarket than 13 years ago when we last visited it) and the peaceful harbour town of Watson’s Bay (famous for its fish and chips 🙂 ) was idyllic as you might expect – the wind in your hair and the sun on your back – gliding across the (mostly 😉 ) calm harbour waters.

You never know who you are going to meet…or where… or when in life…. A couple of years ago we kept bumping into an Aussie couple during a skiing vacation in Steamboat Springs, Colorado – on the gondola, in restaurants and in a remote mountainside hot spring … so we got chatting, got together for dinner and kept in touch in that vague way you do when you meet fun people whom you like – but, inconveniently, they lived on the other side of the world in Sydney…

Who would have guessed that we would actually get to catch up again in the flesh on their home turf 🙂

For once, someone else got to take us on a weekend guided tour (instead of the other way around!) through their favorite local haunts :-). We were driven in great style through Ku-Ring-Gai National Park with its fabulous view over Palm Beach and Barrenjoey Lighthouse and taken for fish and chips for lunch at a very posh beach shack in Pittwater. I was “encouraged” by Sharon into the Pacific for a death-defying “swim” in the relentless crashing waves on Palm Beach. This turned out to be mainly a lesson in trying to stay upright and not get knocked off my feet and dragged into the surf never to be seen again ;-). Geoff and Gary chose the sunbathing option because the lovely warm water wasn’t quite warm enough for Geoff. And, finally we were chauffeured to Balmoral Beach for sunset and cocktails – another drop-dead cute multi-gazillion Aussie $$$ seaside community …. sigh…. :-).

In a fruitless attempt to burn off some of the accumulated chocolate, cakes and seafood calories we decided to take a Sunday morning stroll on the famous 7km Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach coastal trail on the hottest and most humid day of the week. It was, as it was hyped to be, a beautiful, mainly up and down steps kind of trail with endless views of flower-strewn headlands, beaches, surfers and enormous crashing waves. These are the type of crashing waves for which any other country in the world would close their beaches to the public due to hazardous conditions. However, the Aussies are a fearless nation of swimmers and the terrifying seas were littered with tiny bodies and heads bobbing about in waves large enough to sink small fishing vessels ;-).

In order to recover from the strenuous walk we agreed on one last Aussie fish and chip lunch 😉 …and…rather than endure the embarrassment of baring our flabby, pale skin on Bondi Beach with the local thinner, younger and more tanned bodies we headed off to the far smaller and more exclusive beach at Watson’s Bay. This suited us just fine as, if the truth be known, Bondi is not really all it might be – more tattooed backpackers, empty beer bottles, and discarded fish and chip wrappers than the considerably more pristine, serene and upmarket harbour town of Watson’s Bay ;-).

Even after a full fun-packed day of sweating on the hottest day in fall, Geoff couldn’t resist one last run across Sydney Harbour Bridge, through “The Rocks”, around Circular Quay, past the Opera House and onto the Botanic Gardens… I think he will really miss the view on that run… To be fair, we did attempt to run that route, or some truncated version of it, every day to keep the effects of over-consumption of delicious things at bay but sometimes the actual over-consumption of delicious things won the battle and we just went straight out for dinner instead 😉 :-).

And so, our fun in the sun ended on a high note … but we could have stayed on for another week… or another month… or another year or 2.. 🙂

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