Back to Sydney....

Trip Start Nov 16, 2005
Trip End Apr 11, 2006

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Monday, January 30, 2006

I have now been back in Sydney since last Tuesday and have done the following things in the past week...

Back to Sydney....Tues. 17th Jan - Catherine's birthday - Happy Birthday Catherine!!

I got back to Sydney to pouring rain. I should have stayed in Melbourne where it was gorgeous weather! Alison picked me up from the airport and we went shopping for food. I had such a marvellous time in Melbourne that I was sorry I had not booked for a longer time - I would have gone to see more of the tennis and completed a few unfinished outings in the city. Never mind, this is all a learning curve and it means I have unfinished business there so I shall have to return some time.

I spent the evening watching more of the tennis and did my washing and sorted out my paperwork - one collects so much travel brochures and info along the way. I was thinking of sending some of it back home by post to myself but got a fright when I checked out the postage - really, really expensive (AUS$75) so, I will have to read and digest and only keep the top one percent of the brochures to put in my case - it calls for ruthless decisions!

Wed. 18th Jan.Thurs. 19th Jan.
As these were wet days I caught up on some correspondence and went to Birkenhead Point for lunch and shopping with Alison. Nothing exciting to report.

Fri. 20th Jan....
The weather, having been quite rainy the past few days, picked up today and was dry but cloudy. Alison took me to see a Japanese gardens during the morning - it was the kind of place that a "tourist" would not find as it was off the beaten track - a most interesting place - the Bonsai collection was fascinating - such symmetry. How do they do it?? I then saw a Bamboo garden with many different types of bamboo - I thought they were all the same - I now know better. We then went to Ku-Ring-Gai National Park where there are some great look-out points to Palm Cove/Palm Beach area - this is where they made Home and Away and Nicole Kidman has a home here. We had lunch at Church Point - a quiet seaside area - unfortunately, just as we were having lunch outside the rain came down and we had to run for cover!! That was the end of that day - so home again to watch the tennis from Melbourne. Incidentally, the weather in Melbourne was in the 40's and they had to cover the main courts and have a break from tennis at the outside courts due to the heat!!! What a difference!

Sat. 21st Jan.....
This was the beautiful sunny day so I decided to do one of my now famous "walks" in Sydney. Simon was taking Liam for a swimming lesson in the pool in the Botanical Gardens and as this was the start of my walk I cadged a lift into town with them. We got there at 9.45 am and I set off on my walk - there was a lovely breeze off the bay and it was good to be out there on a walk. I forgot to say that the Sydney Festival is on until 26th Jan (Australia Day) and there are many free events in the Bot. Gardens - one of them being "Wind in the Willows" for children. As I walked through the park this concert was starting and all the children were sitting on the grass being entertained. That evening there was a live free concert in the park of the music of Gershwin - I could not go as I had another commitment. My walk took in Botanical Gardens, the Opera House, Circular Quay and the Rocks area (this is a very trendy part of Sydney with many old listed buildings and French/Italian restaurants with secluded courtyards - very pretty and unspoilt - a contrast to the in-your-face style of Circular Quay eateries. When I had finished my walk I had a well-earned coffee and French pastry in one of these establishment courtyard gardens!

I had to get home by 3 pm as I promised my hosts that I would look after Liam while they went to see "Narnia" at the local cinema - well, I must do something to earn my keep!! He sat and watched the tennis with me and he is getting quite good at clapping when the spectators do so!

Sun. 22nd Jan.....
After Church and breakfast I had arranged to visit a friend of Siobhan's who she stayed with in 1992/3 when she went back-packing around the world. I promised Siobhan that I would contact her and meet up with her. By coincidence, she only lives 10 minutes away from Simon and Alison's house so they dropped me off there on their way to the park. I had a most relaxing afternoon with Beth - she made me very welcome - and I am going to stay with her on Tuesday for 2 nights. In fact, I shall be sleeping in "Siobhan's bed" when she stayed there all those years ago! She has a most wonderful house - it is called a "Federation" house which, to you and me, means a house with bags of character - high ornate ceilings, marble fireplaces, beautiful stained glass doors and wonderfully designed. The design is such that with the doors and windows open you get a cool breeze and do not need air-con even with a temp of 30 degrees! It was built in approx. 1890 and as they say "they do not build them like that anymore"!! That evening I watched more of the tennis - Andy Roddick got knocked out and Federer marches on - I think he will win the final - he is so cool.

Mon. 23 Jan....
Once again I ventured up to the Blue Mountains - it was well worth it. The weather was glorious. On the way I stopped to visit a Shrine to Our Lady - it is the smallest church I have ever seen and is exquisite - it is called Schoenstatt and it is in a place called Mulgoa near Penrith. There is another similar shrine in Manchester dedicated to Our Lady - in fact, there are 165 such shrines all over the world. The movement was started by a Palatine priest from Germany called Fr. Joseph Kentenich, founder of the International Schoenstatt Movement. It is in a wonderful position overlooking the Blue Mountains and people come here for Retreats - what a peaceful setting. It is amazing what you come across when you are travelling!

I then carried on up to Katoomba where the tourist office had agreed to honour my previous ticket - this they did without any problem. Firstly, I had a coffee and muffin, as I did not have time for breakfast before I left Sydney. Then, I took the Skyway Car which travels 350 m across mountain gorge above Cooks Crossing, providing magnificent views of Katoomba Waterfalls, Orphan Rock and Jamison Valley. Echo Point is the best place to view the famous Three Sisters rock formation within the Blue Mountains national park - it was spectacular and I took loads of photos. While we were waiting for the Skyway car to leave the docking area I got talking to a lady with her two grandsons - she had just got back from a Blues Festival in Thredbo (in the Snowy Mountains, near Canberra). Every year this town has a Jazz Festival in May and a Blues Festival in January for one week each time - she goes every year to both of them - need to file that away in my memory box for future reference!!! Both very good events and well worth a visit - who knows?? Please excuse me going off the subject - an occupational hazard - I have to write these things as they happen!

When I got back from the Skycar ride I took the cable car down to the floor of the rainforest and did a 30 minute boardwalk along the bottom of the rainforest - it was a very peaceful experience - due to the advice of one of the staff at the start, I was one of two people on the cable car - most go down on the railway (the tour bus groups) and come up on the cable car - I did it the other way round and it was the best advice - took some great pics of the mountains on the way down. The train ride up to the top was hair-raising - I had to hang on for my life as it was a fast sheer climb up and even now I get goose pimples just thinking about it! This is the world's steepest railway and descends into the Jamison Valley at an average incline of 45 degrees through a sunlit tree-lined gorge approx. 445 m in length. I was so lucky to have the opportunity to go up to the mountains again before I left Sydney - I feel sorry for those who only have one day and it rains and is misty all day - they have no hope of seeing anything. A good tip is to ring the tourist centre before you leave Sydney to check the weather up at the Blue Mountains before you go there - it will save you a two-hour journey for nothing!

After my jaunts in the mountain I had a very pleasant lunch in Leura - I really like this little town and could easily spend a week there - if the weather was good! Wentworth Falls is also worth a visit. Got back to Sydney at 5 pm to a nice shower and hair wash - even though it was hot it was also quite humid.

Tues. 24nd Jan...
Went into town and did another walk - I am gradually crossing them all of my long list! The weather was rather overcast - but, good for walking. Had lunch with Patricia. Collected by Beth at 5.30 to go and stay at her place for a couple of days. Had a very pleasant evening - did some shopping for dinner and watched the tennis after dinner.It seemed funny not having Liam there!!

Wed. 25th Jan..
It was raining again so I decided to send some postcards and "thank-you" notes to lots of people who have been so good to me here in Aus. Then I went to the Post Office and posted them. As it was such a dreary day I decided to have a manicure and pedicure to pass the time - they were Vietnamese and were very good and professional - went back home happy! Also, had my eyebrows done - I dare not meet up with Catherine next week if I did not have them done - otherwise, she tells me I look like a sheep!! That's daughters - to the point! When I got back Beth was home from work so we had a nice walk to her local shops and had a coffee and lemon tart - really scrummy!! Had another relaxing evening - but, no Liam to talk to!

Thurs 26th Jan.
This is Australia Day and it is a public holiday here. It is akin to the Queen's birthday honours and some people get awards and others are made Aus. citizens (14,000 thousand of them). Beth took me on a tour and showed me Botany Bay and the place where the Aborigines settled. When we got back we were invited to a BBQ by the boys next door - we spent a very pleasant time with them and their friends - finally, Beth took me back to my base - she has to go to work on Friday - poor girl - soomeone has to keep the country going!! I also managed to watch Henin-Hardenne beat Sharapova and Klisters had to retire injured and Meuresmo claimed that match - the final will be Henin-Hardenne and Meuresmo. I am really enjoying seeing the tennis here - more than I thought I would!

Fri 26th Jan..
Today went to lunch with Jean and before that she took me to Kernell - this is the spot where Capt. Cook and his ship Endeavour first set foot on Aus. soil in 1770. He was there for 8 days and then moved on to Sydney Harbour. We visited the museum there which gave us the lowdown on his adventure. I then met some friends of Jean - in fact, Siobhan had spent Christmas evening with them when she was back-packing around Aus. some years ago. In the evening I went to see Sydney Opera House to see "The Elixir of Love" - it was quite good even though it was a modern production! Tomorrow night I am going to see Madame Butterfly - I am looking forward to that. Will finish this on Sunday evening.....

Sat. 27th Jan....
A friend of mine, Marion, who I know in London, invited me to visit her in North Bridge - this is an area in the North Shores of Sydney. I got the bus to where Marion was staying with her mother and having read my diary she noted my penchant for Sydney rock oysters and King prawns! I was spoiled rotten for lunch - oysters to start, king prawns and salad, fresh mango and pineapple for dessert plus of course some chilled white wine - how I am going to get back to normal when I go home is anybody's guess! After this delicious lunch Marion took me to her favourite beach - Balmoral - this is where she would like to buy a place (having won a big sum on the lottery/premium bonds)because that is the kind of money you are talking about for this area! Anyway, we made do with a nice walk along the beach and sat for a while looking over the bay. That evening I had planned to go to the opera in Sydney so I persuaded Marion to join me - not that she needed much persuasion! During the month of January there is a Festival in Sydney - much like the Brighton Festival in May - at this festival, there are many free concerts - eg. Sydney Symphony Orchestra, a George Gershwin evening, a Jazz evening and of course Madame Butterfly, which we went to hear and see. We were part of an audience of approx. 85,000 people - all there with their chairs, rugs, wine, champagne and food - sitting on the grass on a warm evening - what could be nicer - there was a marvellous athmosphere - the evening was sponsored by Mazda and a lady won a Mazda MX5 in a draw during the evening - lucky b......! Imagine, going to a free evening of opera and coming away with a new sports car - can't be bad! I wonder how I would have got it home had I won it?? I do not have to worry about it, do I?

The whole proceedings finished at about 10.30 pm - what a lovely end to the day. I could get quite used to this way of life!!

29th Jan..... The Blue Mountains again??
When I got up on Sunday morning I had a call from Kerrie (the lady with the cottage in the Blue Mountains, in case you had forgotten)who told me it was a glorious day up there and why not hop on the train and come up to see the place at its best. I got my a... in gear and after church I took the train (not quite - the train drivers were on strike!) no, the coach half-way up and then the train up to Katoomba. From there, I went to Echo Point - a great look-out/viewing spot for photo opps. I saw the Three Sisters in all their glory - see the pics! When I had my fill of sightseeing I had a late lunch with Kerrie and Jennie (Ladies Capt. and President respectively of Leura GC)and Geoff (Kerrie's husband)popped in to say 'hello'. It was really nice to meet up with them again before I left here - they are really friendly and made me very welcome at their club. If Kerrie comes to the UK I have asked her to come and play at our club - so, you will have a chance to meet her (EBGC girls)! I got back home at about 10 pm - after train and coach again back to Sydney. Oh yes! On the way up, I met a family of mother, father, son, daughter-in-law and grandson from Taiwan, who are on holiday in Sydney for Chinese New Year - the son had very good English and we had an interesting conversation about life in Taiwan, as you do! All this adds extra value to my trip.

Got back home to do a little packing for my two-day jaunt to Canberra. Simon, Alison and Liam have gone to the Snowy Mountains for 4 days to stay with some friends they knew in Japan so I have been cat-minding!! Much easier than dog-sitting.

Will be in touch when I return from Canberra.
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