Thursday, 10 January 2013

You know when you discover somewhere you like so much you're in two minds about telling anyone else about it incase they spoil the party? The locals are likely to be a bit fed up with you too. Hey ho, have to tell you: take a trip to Cronulla.

Ok, it's a bit south of Sydney on the train (45 mins), but it's a little gem and you could always read a good book/check your messages en route to pass the time. Fab beaches; cute ferry; great fish & chips; and the sunsets aren't bad either.

True Brew serves the best flat-white and smoothies in town; and it's next to the movie house where I cried through Les Mis. What is it with Hugh Jackman? He's simply the best of Oz. Sadly, I'm not saying this through personal experience; just guessing. 

That's Chrissie out of the way and now it's NYE and I've blagged my way into watching the pyrotechnics from the roof of a building on the harbour. The fireworks are so popular the city has two goes at wowing the crowds:at nine and then at midnight.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald,  9pm is the new midnight so I decided to follow their advice and watch the earlier show. Yep it was fab, but the bridge doesn't feature as much as later on: no golden waterfall effect. I had to watch that on the telly.  

Sunday, 23 December 2012

I do love the Sydney buses. They're cheap, pretty good on time-keeping and the drivers who've ferried me around have surely been schooled to be ever-so-nice to idiotic tourists.

I fancied a swim yesterday, so I took the bus east from Circular Quay to Nielsen Park via interesting spots like Kings Cross & Rose Bay. All jolly and busy. As usual I wasn't too sure where I was heading, so I asked the driver to tell me when to get off, as it were. As the trip was taking quite a long time, I thought (half an hour - surely we're there by now?) I jumped the gun, deciding the next stop must be mine and rang the bell at the last minute, forcing the driver to slam on the brakes.

Not a sign of irritation from his side. Could have something to do with the fact it's customary to thank the driver when you get off in Oz. Works a charm, clearly.   

Back to Nielsen Park. It's worth a trip or two: netted swimming area; kiosk; very picnic-friendly and one of the best vantage points for the start of the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race on Boxing Day.

Update: I saw the start - pretty spectacular. My boat won of course.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

The southern skies at night - what can I say? I've been getting neck-ache gazing up at the celestial show at every opportunity, but most of the time I'm not really sure what I'm looking at, exactly. A little instruction in the star-gazing department was definitely required. So last night I headed to the Sydney Observatory for a master-class on the Milky Way. And the universe never looked so lovely.

Seriously, if you can't make it into the Oz interior where the skies are likely to be clearer, the observatory is a good starting point. And even though the skies were cloudy last night, the moon peeked through the clouds and we had a grandstand view through one of the observatory's huge telescopes, in the 19th century copper-covered north dome.

Thanks to instruction from young Edward, who knows a bit about physics, astronomy and things that my little brain can barely compute, I learned a lot last night. Such as: when we look at space we're looking at what's already happened one heck of a long time ago. And if I ever get up early enough to watch the sunrise, I'll remember that what I'm looking at happened eight minutes' before.

And another fascinating tip-bit: Captain Cook originally planned to go to Tahiti to track the transit of Venus, but got diverted to Oz. And if he hadn't? Who knows how different Australia might be now.
In the planetarium, we had a talk on how to spot sparkling things in the sky, like Sirius, the brighest star, and the Southern Cross which of course I don't normally see at night in Blighty. And then onto the 3D cinema for an amazing romp through space exploration; the future of planetary life and how size does matter. A tricky business it seems. The moon and the sun look the same size to us here on the ground, but are they really?

Don't take my word for all this - grab a place on a night tour.


Monday, 17 December 2012

An art dealer has been explaining the essence of Aboriginal art to me. Roughly-speaking, it's to do with a certain amount of dreams that have been handed down and how they're expressed and interpreted through art.

I then got a guided tour of her gallery, which is stuffed to the gunwales with rather fine paintings; even if they all seem to be covered in dots. My eyes were going a bit funny with it all. "Yes there are a lot of dots which I think can be traced back to when the indigenous people used to draw in the sand. They'd take a bit of food, chew it into a ball, then 'dot' with it", she tried to explain. "If you stare at the paintings for too long, they can be almost hallucinogenic can't they?"  Too right.

Fired up, but without enough readies to buy one of her paintings, I searched out an Aborginial centre and bought a lovely writing pad with a stunning cover design (acrylic on linen) by Angelina Ngale from Ahalpere, Utopia Region in Northern Territory.  I had to have some of her work as, let's face it, there aren't too many utopias here on earth.

Sydney's got quite a lot of these beasties scurrying around I hear, and this morning I saw my first (and hopefully last) cockroach - in the loo. I was very brave. Actually that's a porkie: I asked the housekeeper of my hotel to kindly deal with it. It was her first one too, so we've both had a rite of passage, bugs-wise.  

Friday, 14 December 2012

I've just spent a few days in the glorious Blue Mountains. Absolutely, no question about it, the highlight of my trip so far.  I could even get carried away and call it my Aussie spiritual experience.  Forget Uluru, bring on the Three Sisters!

These rock formations at Echo Point have a sheer beauty that just blows you away. Steady on there, I hear you say, but they're truly awesome. Legend has it they're named after 3 Aboriginal sibs who were turned into rocks, and then saved by the Lyre bird whose echoes reverberate across the valley.  Suspending disbelief, I tried to lose myself in the mystique of it all, but sadly a nearby ankle biter*,  practising his echoing skills, kinda killed the moment.   But I went back at sunset and became a believer. 

If you're into bush-walking - as I am now of course, practically an expert - this is the place for you. A friend warned me before I headed into the bush to make sure I had water, flares and a map incase, given my lack of directional skills, I got lost.  No worries..I just followed the people in front of me.

There are loads of walks to choose from, with pretty cascades/waterfalls along the way. And if you buy a hop on/hop off explorer (for that is what I've become) ticket, the bus drivers will point you in the right direction. Even, occasionally, jumping off the bus to plonk you (ok me) on the right path. They were a real laugh those drivers. One plays a ukelele in a local band and was busy telling me about the concerts happening across the mountains. So if you're looking for an alternative Blue Mountains' experience...