Sunday 26th September

Sadly our planned outing in Tony’s boat with a waterside barbecue to follow had to be deferred until our next visit as the weather was cool and rainy and a mist had more or less obliterated our sea view from the house. In the event we pottered away the morning waiting for the sky to lift and rain to clear and at about 2.00 pm we set out to go for a walk around the Narrabeen Lagoon.

En route we dropped in on the Hacienda del Halliday to collect Justine’s bag and were able to admire the view that had not been possible on Saturday night.  It was, of course, absolutely stunning.  The sea in the distance another inland lake.   However, not wanting to be dismissive of the view, almost more awesome (in the true sense of the word)  was the fact Lesley had talked of gardening at the dinner party and as I looked down from the balcony, sure enough sloping away from us, there was a garden, almost hewn from the rock.  She must garden with a pick axe!  Her talk of breaking a rib while gardening took on a whole new meaning!

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Leaving the Hallidays it was off, first to Pittwater where we should have been boating.   Here dogs were having a great time on the dog beach. It seemed as though we weren’t the only ones pleased to see the day brightening and taking the opportunity to get out!

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We were then off to North Narrobeen and a stroll around the lagoon. Once again we were to be overwhelmed by the properties surrounding and rising up the escarpment from the water.  All seemed to sport balconies, some almost outside rooms, and seemed to come with the ‘must have ‘ appendages of boat/surf boards/four wheel drive.  It is a different world but great to have the opportunity to see people living the dream,………  There certainly seems to be no shortage of funds in this area of Australia.

Our walk got off to a very good start with an Echidna snuffling around a log looking for ant by the path.  We had not seen one ‘in the wild’ before – so it was very exciting and another thing to tick off in our mental ‘I Spy’ book of Australia!

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We strolled on – inevitably frequently passed by the cyclist or runner.  I loved the the running parents with the children on bicycles almost herding them along – apparently a not unheard scenario for the Family Wightman. They are definitely embracing the life of the young Australian family!

it was about 10 kilometres around the lake and a great walk. Unfortunately the pain from the previous day’s boxing training had reached monumental proportions for some among us and while Keith and I skipped along at our normal pace, our two athletes somewhat hobbled and groaned along behind.

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Our reward at the end was to sit and have a cold beer and a few nibbles and watch the sun go down.  Nearby a patient fisherman cast his line over the still water.  There was high excitement when it looked like he might have caught something, but in the event it was just his hook caught in the weed.

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It was then home for meat barbecued on the balcony with a full mooning shining down on the on the ocean.image

A great weekend!

Saturday 26th September

Tony and Justine returned from a very energetic boxing session – which was to give rise to much anguish later in the weekend – ready for a shopping expedition that took in the local wholesale butchers, the supermarket, the dressing up shop (for a grass skirt and lei for the evening’s Hawaiin dinner party) and to see the local Australian pie shop – a ‘full on’ couple of hours!

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After one of Tony’s splendid bacon and egg brunches, we were off to do some beachy sightseeing!  First there was a coffee stop at a beach where Tony has finished one of his ocean swims in the past.  From what I can make out these are 10 kilometre swims in what can be a pretty rough ocean.  We were told a tale of a freak storm – Tony’s delayed return,  Justine, Mickey and Coco escaping thunder and lightening and the rain (collecting a lost child on the way), running from the beach and sheltering in an open garage and Tony eventually managing to get through the surf, a very relieved mother and child reunited  …… All told as a normal day out!  Life in Australia sounds a bit too exciting to me sometimes!

The perils of ocean swimming aside at Bilgola Beach  (what about the sharks I whimper…), it was off to Whale beachimage

Then Palm Beach where they make Home and Away, I am told (I sometimes fear I am very poor on the viewing front as I had never heard of it!), where we walked up to the lighthouse.  This was where we first heard about the painful muscles from the morning’s boxing –

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Looking back from the top we could see, not only the ocean and the beach, but a strip of land and the lagoon behind it – a frequent phenomena along this coast.  We took the opportunity while there to book ourselves onto a seaplane flight from the lagoon (weather permitting) for our last day in Australia on the 1st October……. Yet another adventure on this adventure of adventures.   The area of Palm Beach has a very Australian feel – very outdoors, fresh, action packed.

A quick stop for a snack at Barranjoey (where do they get these place names?), it was back home to prepare for our dinner party with David and Lesley, the two good friends of Tony and Justine we had met at the Colleroy Club.  In preparation Tony and Keith had lashed out on two highly suspect Hawaiin shirts especially for the occasion….. I have to report Keith somewhat reluctant to don this pineapple covered creation – I think it was the yellow that caused the reticence! I have never thought of yellow and Keith in the same sentence!

It was a great evening – Lesley and David (in his sarong!) were great hosts and we met two more English people who have moved to Australia to work, Wendy and Simon.  They were lovely too and it was a very colourful and fun time, although for Lesley slightly dampened by the rain downpour that extinguished the flaming torches that she had strategically placed on the balcony!  I was personally concerned that the light from these might cause a distraction for shipping or aircraft in the area as the Hallidays live on another high spot (Elanora Heights) across the valley from the Collaroy Plateau and, if anything, is even higher!  The house is almost ‘perched’ on a rock shelf – we don’t cease to be amazed by the locations of these beautiful houses…..

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Friday 25th September

We had planned to do a cruise on the Hawkesbury River with Sarah and Wendy, but the weather was wet and windy – certainly not cruising weather – so the girls came and picked us up and we went to a couple of exhibitions at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.  We had set out to walk across the Botanical Gardens to get there on a couple of occasions but the weather had been so poor, we had abandoned the previous trips, so it was an ideal opportunity.

First up was the 2015 Archibald Prize.  This was a competition for portrait painters   There were some amazing entrants and they were all of a very high standard.  Keith and I did not agree with the prize winner, although Sarah did. She loved it.  I think my taste is a bit more conventional.  We spent a very happy hour strolling around the paintings and identifying our favourites.  There were two other prize categories – both interesting but I felt the portraits were the best.

The second exhibition was from the Victoria and Albert in London.  It was the photographic work of the 19th century photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron.  She is obviously well thought of and a pioneer of portrait photography.  She travelled around a bit and spent some time in Australia – hence the connection.   I found them a bit whimsical for my taste, although the photographs of some of the prominent figures of her day, eg Darwin and Dickens, were interesting.  She seemed to specialise in out of focus pictures – something I seem to frequently achieve without much effort………

Our culture trip over, we adjourned to an area called the Surry Hills (the Australian spelling – not mine!) for what turned out to be a great Lebanese meal for lunch.  We all ate vegetarian and it was really good.

The girls brought us back to our eyrie and we had a couple of hours down time before we were whisked down the hill to the Colleroy pub for what was called a ‘grown up’ beer!  Like the Colleroy club last week, it overlooked the beach, but given the inclement weather the surf was much more evident crashing on to the sand below us.  They had some really interesting photographs of the Colleroy area in the 1920’s.  A very different place with a real pioneer feel…..

Thursday 24th September

Another dull day dawned so we decided to go into the City In search of a birthday gift to leave for Mickey, do a little retail therapy for ourselves (!) and have lunch, as we had agreed on an independent eating day with Justine and Tony.  We took our time on the bus issue and arrived in the city centre at circa 11.30.

We almost stumbled on the Queen Victoria Building when we got off the bus.  It is quite beautiful – several floors of shops in a stunning red brick Victorian building with stained glass windows

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There were cafes on nearly every floor where ladies who lunch were beginning to gather…….   A number of designer shops displayed their expensive wares – all geared towards the imminent summer.  We found a toy shop, but despite a thorough search, left still undecided as to whether we had found a suitable present for Mickey. We took photographs to consult with Justine and Tony and went in search of Cafe Sydney, a restaurant that Keith had identified as doing good food.

The Cafe was on the top floor of the old Customs House building near the harbour. The window seats looked over the water and the bridge. However the only remaining table was further back in the restaurant which enabled us to look out on the assembled fellow diners and on the kitchen teeming with gastronomic activity.

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The food was lovely and I ended the meal with a most amazing cocktail instead of a pudding – salted caramel, butterscotch, vodka and Kailua.  It was the most incredible taste – like nothing else I have ever tasted!!!  Apparently it had just come second in the best cocktail in Australia competition.  I cannot imagine what the prize winning cocktail was like!

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We left there very happy with life – not a good time to go shopping!  A few purchases later we were back on the bus. I have to admit to a bit of a doze on the journey home……..

Wednesday 23 rd September

We woke up to a wild and woolly day, very overcast with a strong wind howling around the house.  Not what we have been used to! Tony and Justine had left with the girls for the airport just after 6.00 am.

We had committed to cooking for Justine and Tony and Keith was keen to explore the fish market, so we set off down Market Street and over the Darling Harbour Bridge as the map said the fish market was over the other side.  The bridge is pedestrian only and you could see the Maritime Museum, Sea World and Madame Tussaud’s, an outing high on Coco’s list of places to visit!  Once over the bridge it was still quite a walk to the market, but once we got there it was buzzing with activity.

On the market complex there were sheds involved with all sorts of marine doings – large refrigerated trucks were either parked or coming and going, men in oil skins were hosing down the pavement and there was all sorts of fishing apparatus heaped around.

In the market itself, not only was there fresh wet fish for sale, there were also many stalls selling cooked fish of all sorts. Most of the people seated at the long eating tables were Asian – Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian. They were tucking into platters piled high with every sort of fish and crustacean.  They were eating with the usual Asian gusto!   It is unfair that they are all so slim!

We wandered the different stalls, Keth deciding what he was going to need.  It was all very colourful, the counters piled high with ice and colourful fish of all sorts nestling atop the ice mountains.  There were whole fish, filleted fish, crabs, lobsters, abalone, fish heads for sale to make stock, tanks of live crustaceans. A man in one area was hacking at an ice mountain with a large shovel. It was all going on!

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There was an excellent vegetable shop where we were able to find all the vegetables and herbs required, a bakery (with a very good brand!) and a delicatessen.

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We decided on the fish to be purchased and, our shopping done, we decided to take advantage of the cooked food – Keith had soft crab and I had a piece of salmon.

When we emerged from the market the weather had taken a serious down turn.  The return walk over the bridge was hard going. The wind had really got up and the flags that lined the bridge were flapping and straining against their flagpoles. It had also started to rain.  It was grim. However we battled our way across and back to the central Wynyard bus stop where all the buses go from and made our way home.

Keith then embarked on a cooking frenzy to prepare a tapas supper.

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A good time was had by all!

Tuesday 22nd September the Sydney Opera House

The girls were going to visit Justine and Tony’s offices for the day, so we all set off for the City again together. The bus took forever this time and we were all getting quite anxious by the time we got there as we had a pre booked tour of the Opera House starting at 11.30. We delivered the girls to Tony and made it, but there was not too much time to spare!

The English tour group was a big one so we were a bit unmanageable, but the tour proved to be very interesting.  There were rehearsals going on in a number of the many theatres, open spaces and enormous concert rooms so there had to be some fancy footwork to ensure that we saw it all…,

The Opera House is considered to be a sculpture as well as a building  it was built by a chap from Denmark called Jorn Utzon, but his relationship with the building had a somewhat chequered history.  His father was a naval architect and ithe building was built incorporating ship design features. For instance the windows facing out over the harbour have a slope of 45 degrees so there is no reflection – the same technique as that used on a ship’s bridge.  The building was also built to last  – most modern buildings have a built in obsolescence – i.e. Are destined to exist only for a few years and then be replaced.   The Opera House was built to last at least 250 years.

Uztons design was originally rejected from the number of tenders originally generated, but was brought back into play as the only one that embrace the position on the water front and he was given the job

It was originally anticipated the Opera House would take 3 years to build and cost $7 million. In the event it was commissioned in the 60’s and eventually opened in 1973 and cost $102 million, but Jorn Utzon never saw the building completed. He resigned from the job before it was finished due to political pressures over the costs and never came back to Australia.  The money for the building was eventually raised by public subscription and the Lottery Fund.  Three years after it was opened Jorn Utzon was re contracted to revisit some areas that had not been built to his original plans.  He worked on this project from Denmark, sending his son  to Australia to see the task completed.  Jorn Utzon died in 2007 by which time the Opera House had been pronounced a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Up close, that amazing roof is not the white it appears from a distance, but is made up of  1,200,0006 self cleaning  tiles In a sort of cream/ ivory colour.

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On the inside it has wooden struts that span out under the ‘sails’ and allowing light in

The huge opera house complex incorporates different sized theatres, restaurants and the two large areas for opera and orchestra.  The large Joan Sutherland Hall was built for the performance of operas and ballet.  The opera and ballet season finished at the end of August and the set for Cole Porter’s musical Anything Goes Was on stage when we went into the auditorium.  No microphones are needed for any of the productions as the all wood build provides perfect acoustics and no other means of amplification is required. In the 2,600 seat concert hall, where the Sydney Symphony orchestra was practising when we visited, the enormous organ has over 10,000 pipes and took 10 years to build.  It sits imposingly fair and square along the whole back wall of the stage.  Both halls are enormously attractive with their modern wood interior and bright red cushioned seats  – just oozing a good musical experience.

It is possible to walk out on to balconies overlooking the harbour and the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge on a number of the levels and although there are few reflections on the inside, there are some wonderful opportunities for arty photographs on the outside

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The tour finished and we were just wondering what to do next when the five minute bell went for the Matinee Performance of Anything Goes   On the spur of the moment we dashed to the box office to see if there were any tickets left.  Miraculously, they had two wonderful seats not taken and with seconds to spare we were back in the Joan Sutherland Hall for an afternoon of familiar tunes, corny repartee, colourful twenties gowns and tap dancing.  I could not think of a better way to spend a cool and cloudy afternoon in Sydney.  A great decision!

The show finished at 4.00 and we were out into a far more dismal day than we had left and we were starving.  However we were meeting up with the family for a last supper with the girls, so we had a light snack on the hoof, a glass of wine and a coffee and it was time to meet up with the family Wightman.   Given the weather, plans to take the ferry to Manly were abandoned and we all went home on the bus and had a very good Indian Takeaway in from the friendly Jaz at his restaurant in the parade of shops at the end of the road on the Collaroy Plateau.

The girls then packed their bags as they were off to see Grandma and Grandpa Wightman in Wellington for a couple of weeks and were flying to Adelaide the early the next morning and we are to be gone before they return.   We reluctantly said our fond farewells ( they were to leave the house at 6.00! In the morning ) and promising to return we adjourned to bed.  It has been fun spending time with them.

Monday 21st September

it was a beautiful sunny day and the Mickey and Coco were taking us to the zoo! We gathered ourselves together and caught the bus at the bus stop just outside the house – it has the best view of any bus stop I have ever known!

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The buses are very efficient and reliable, but the journey is quite a long one. The girls were very tolerant.  Tony met us with a free pass to the zoo (what a boon!) and we were soon on the ferry that plies its way between the harbour and the outcrop of rock that is the zoo site.  The girls are quite familiar with the zoo and its excitements.  We had all identified our favourite bits and were soon into it.

The Sky Train, a cable car that carries you from the top to the bottom of the site, is a particular favourite so, making a note to return for the seal show,  we made our way the via giraffes, elephants and tree kangaroos for an overview of the establishment. Poor old Keith, there was no quarter allowed for vertigo. In no time at all we were swinging out over the tree tops.  There were amazing views of the harbour!

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The girls had bought a packed lunch (Coco’s enhanced by her new birthday lunch box) but Keith and I had forgotten to bring our bananas so had to buy ours – irresponsible grown ups!

We did the excursion proud – ice creams, photographs, we looked and commented and in my case blanched at the snakes in the reptile house – but we all agreed our favourite was the seal show.  It was great fun and of course, with the excuse of two young ladies who knew the ropes, were strategically placed to get very wet in our seat in the third row.  And so it came to pass – four rather wet, giggly and happy people emerged after the show which we had really enjoyed.  Nothing like a shared experience to eliminate the age gap between us!

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Second to the seal show for us all was the koala bears.  When we arrived at their enclosure they were all sleeping but they rather remarkably woke up to the sound of branches of eucalyptus leaves rustling – apparently these have to be treated carefully or the leaves bruise and the kualas don’t like them   Fussy little creatures aren’t they?

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Eventually it was time to go home so, managing to get in a second ride on the Sky Train, we set off for home. Back on the ferry, back to the City bus stop and then the winding route up to the Collaroy Plateau. A good day had been had by all!

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