Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Years Eve

It's been a blisteringly hot day again today. Apparently tomorrow is gonna be a heat wave!! Early 40's or something! The only thing to do in these situations is head for the beach!
Anyway, tonight we have our tickets for the Botanic Gardens, which offers a fantastic vantage point looking over to the Opera House and in full view of the Bbridge. Which is where the fire works are blasting off from! To get really excited, here's a few photos from last year, which we didn't take because we were in full throws of selling the house and shipping furniture and cat!

Last year included a big light sphere which hung from the bridge, and on our arrival, we kept seeing the ball for the first few weeks.

So 2004 has a significant time frame for us, we didn't get to see the fireworks, but we were making preperations to see the ones in 2005!! Starting to get excited now and preparing cameras, 'esky' for the wine and nibbles and our well used picnic stuff.

Will talk again in 2006. Maybe a New Year's resolution will be to try and update the blog more often!! :o)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Au revoire

Well, the day finally had to arrive for mum and dad to leave us and I had been dreading it. To take our minds off it, we carried on regardless, taking them to another sight! As if sharing my mood, the day was a bit overcast.
We took them to The Gap, a fantastic view from the top of the cliffs that are the eastern-most point of the South Head. The view was still spectacular!

We returned home for some lunch – a good English fry-up!! Then it was a case of gathering the last of their belongings and trying to stuff them in the suitcases! It was panic stations for about 20 minutes when they couldn’t find their passports, but of course they turned up!
The drive to the airport wasn’t very enjoyable and went quicker than expected as the roads were completely empty. I think the majority of people leave the city over Christmas. There’s no point in dragging this out longer than necessary – it was very painful to say goodbye, much worse than when I left them in England.
We’d spent almost every minute with mum and dad and our time was packed with such enjoyable moments, visiting loads of our favourite places. We had such an absolutely brilliant holiday with mum and dad. Thank you so much!!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Sydney to Hobart

The Sydney to Hobart boat race takes place every Boxing Day, so this was the first time we’ve been able to see it. We’ve been told that the best place to view it is from the water on a boat. However, we don’t have a boat (yet!), so we were restricted to land.

This year 117 boats took part, ranging from a 31 to a 98 footer and the winner was Wild Oats, taking 1 day, 18 hours and 40 minutes!
We decided to watch the start of the race from Bradley’s Head, as well as a load of other people, obviously, but it wasn’t as busy as we expected. We’d settled down (with the picnic as usual), but discovered from a ranger that the best view could be had from the beach just 2 minutes down the road. So off we trotted! The view point was much lower down, closer to the water, but you could see more – no trees in the way!

It was another scorcher of a day, so we had hats, shirts and sun cream. [As a side note, I caught the sun yesterday, even though I spent the majority of the day in our sun shelter – amazing!] There were hundreds of boats of all shapes and sizes – it was incredible to see so many together. We were a little behind the starting line and as soon as the horn went, all the boats disappeared into the distance following the those in the actual race.
Then we went back up to Bradley’s Head just to finish off the picnic and the usual……relax!! After a while, all the spectator boats started to come back into the harbour, which was quite funny.
Once all the snap was gone, we packed up and headed back to the city. We wanted to show mum and dad where we first started off in Sydney – at the Wharf, Woolloomooloo, so made a little detour there on the way home.

That evening, we went into Darling Harbour for dinner at Nick's Seafood restaurant. We had a fantastic meal overlooking the harbour. This was the last evening in Sydney for mum and dad, and it finished off the day and their stay wonderfully.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Hot Christmas!!

HAPPY CHRISTMAS to everyone!!!

We’d been completely racking our brains over which beach to go to on Christmas day. The shortlist was Chowder Bay or Chinaman’s Beach, but then at the last minute, we changed our minds and decided on Balmoral Beach, as there’s a little more to see (it’s bigger), better parking & facilities and a slight chance that a coffee shop might be open!! We’d obviously done our food shopping early on and had our champagne that we bought from the Hunter. We had a couple of disposable barbeques, as ours at home wasn’t exactly portable!!
Everyone quickly settled into their personal routines (we’d had lots of practice by this point): mum in bikini laid out on the beach; dad exploring, fishing and sunbathing; me in the shade (I do normally swim, but my knee was still poorly) and Dean in the water. Ben and Em & baby Leo joined us after a short while too. They headed straight for the water and a quick dip, before settling down to their tucker.
This next bit will be disputed by the rest of the gang I’m sure, but hey, I’m writing this and I like to think I’m pretty fair anyway. It was decided that the food would be cooked up on top, off the beach. Now please bear in mind that for the last few days there had been a total fire ban in New South Wales due to the extremely hot weather. These disposable bbqs are quite small and basically touch the ground (the ground here being dried bark mulch and general tree waste)! You can see where this is going?! I was extremely worried to say the least. I could see the headlines: ‘Irresponsible poms flaunt fire ban causing havoc on Christmas Day.’ When the bbq was first lit, the flames shot straight up, looking like they were searching out the bark of the tree we were camped under! I couldn’t take any more and retreated back to the beach, abandoning my family! After a few minutes I thought I’d check it out again. The flames had disappeared so I bravely sat down and tried to relax. Our Christmas picnic was delicious, but I was so on edge I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as could have. And guess what – my worries were justified in the end. I spotted smoke curling up from underneath the foil tin – it was charring the dried bark bits and soil. We sprinkled water on them and put the bbq out with sand! I was so relieved!! We moved once again to the beach and finished our champagne and strawberries!
It was definitely an unusual Christmas, the first any of us had spent on the beach. I’m not sure that it will ever really feel like Christmas to me, being so hot, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy it still – it’s just different!
Sorry there aren't many photos, but we were too busy doing not much at all. With an important accessory (hat) from dad, Ben made this excellent sand version of a snowman, which sums the day up for me!!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Another day, another beach!

We were trying to pack in as many beaches as possible to impress mum and dad and we knew The Basin would be a good one to do that. We had been here once before – the hard way! It’s situated in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, on the east coast and we drove there the first time, which then involved a walk down a very steep track. That’s not so bad, but obviously walking back up at the end of the day isn’t quite as enjoyable! So this time we decided we’d take the ferry from Palm Beach across Pittwater – much more civilised and relaxing! We had the essential picnic and beach gear ready for another hard day! The ferry ride was enjoyable in itself. There were quite a few people taking all their Christmas supplies over as they were camping at the Basin over the holidays.
We had our lunch on a picnic table while a bunch of lads decided to have a game of cricket, well it resembled cricket a little! These guys didn’t seem to take it too seriously though – they couldn’t catch the ball very well with a beer in one hand and I don’t think the beer guts helped them move quickly either!!

There are resident wallabies and monitor lizards wandering around and this monitor took off up a tree, being a little put out by the laddish behaviour emanating from the cricket game.

The lagoon here is incredibly calm and clear and very shallow around the beach. There are small fishes that swim around your legs. We saw some sea eagles and another bird of prey that I don’t know the name of, as well as pelicans that share the water with you. Swimming here is just so relaxing. When you’ve had enough of that, there’s always laying in the sun on the beach or playing in the sand building dams as Dean and dad decided to do (Dean had to rebuild his after a couple of 8 year old hooligans trampled all over it!).
On the way home, we called at Bradleys Head again to catch the sunset. It wasn’t as dramatic as the last one, but still beautiful. We arrived in plenty of time after calling at a bottle shop for some wine. So, me and mum cracked it open and settled on the water front with our cameras while the ‘boys’ did a spot of dusk fishing.
Such a relaxing way to end the day – you can’t beat it! Cheers!!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas - what's that?!!

[Dean writing] I had the sudden shock realisation that it was the 22nd December with only 2 shopping days left to Christmas! As we had been off on ‘walkabouts’ and not paying any attention at all to the fact that it was the Christmas season, we now had to do some shopping!!
A brief tactical get-together resulted in Lisa and Linda going off shopping in the city, while Chris and I went to buy the fish for Christmas lunch on the beach. That says something about no matter how sophisticated we become, it always comes back to hunter gatherer scenarios!!
The fish market is only a 10 minute walk from our house. So we soon arrived and stocked up on the local catches of the day and also had time to wonder around the stalls. It was good reference looking at all the massive varieties of exotic fish that we will never catch!! I will never tire of the weirdness of ‘Moreton Bay Bugs’ and that they look like they should be on the set of Alien!!
After our successful hunter gatherer trip we took the tram into Darling Harbour ready to meet the girls! Realising they will be a little while longer, we took a detour to the Outback Centre to watch one of the daily didjeridoo performances. The 30 minute show was actually pretty breath-taking and the guy playing the ‘didj’ was amazing! Well worth a detour for a free show.
We returned back to Glebe for some lunch where I made a quick getaway to do some shopping myself! Not my favourite past-time but managed OK. I returned home to a feast of buns and tarts of all descriptions that Linda had been baking in the afternoon, the one and only time that Linda was allowed in the kitchen (apart from the previous mini-baking session)!! They were soon devoured though and a job lot were also taken round to Ben and Em’s for them. We had to behave ourselves and not dip into them while we babysat for Leo that night. Ben and Em were let out on a well-deserved cinema pass. I think Linda was disappointed in the end, as Leo spent most of the night asleep upstairs. She only had one chance at a cuddle when he briefly woke up.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Flint and Steel Beach

Flint and Steel is a very special place to us! So it was nice to share it with mum and dad (and hope they think it’s special too!). The beach is in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, so we set off north again. The first stop was lunch at West Head. The views here just blow you away!

You look out west onto Pittwater towards Barrenjoey Head and north across Broken Bay, which is at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River. We set up our picnic under a shady tree when a big monitor lizard strolled along the path. Luckily he went after someone else’s lunch!

Then on to Flint and Steel Beach and the 20 minute steep descent through the ‘bush’.

Arriving at the bottom, we found another group who promptly packed up and left. We must have crowded their space! Too right – this is our beach!! So we had the whole beach to ourselves… a desert island!

The afternoon was spent in total relaxation; swimming, drinking, fishing, taking photographs and exploring the amazing rocks. Hope the pictures do it justice.

I managed to slip on the rocks and cut my knee pretty badly. I hobbled back to base camp with blood pouring down my leg and received loads of sympathy!!

Dad and Dean spent a lot of time fishing from the rocks, and quite a successful trip it was too.
[Dean just wants to add that the fishing took the usual pattern of himself catching 2 little fish at the start – beginner’s luck – followed by no fish whatsoever and dad catching 7 or 8 in quick succession!].

The day ended all too quickly and it was time to head back to the city. It was another day that we just didn’t want to end and Flint and Steel still retains it’s magic for us!

To top it off wonderfully, we saw an amazing sunset from Bradley’s Head. We made a quick dash to the waterfront and dad managed to take this fantastic photo before we got kicked out of the park!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Hunter winos

Wow, what a brilliant idea! We drove up to a cabin in the Hunter Valley that me, Dean and Phil had stayed in last year. We noted that they offered tours of the region, which we intended to participate in, sometime in the future. That time had arrived and we highly recommend it to anyone, it was excellent value.
There were only the four of us and we really did receive personal treatment. We were taken to two wineries, a champagne house, a chocolate shop and a cheesery (this is what they called it)! At each wine boutique we had our own personal ‘wine guide’ who produced about 10 wines for us to try, starting with light whites through the ros├ęs and reds to finish with the ‘stickies’ (the Australian term for sweet after dinner wines and ports). The champagne house was the same sort of thing and we tried pink and red bubbles for the first time. It was an excellent afternoon and proved to be a bit too much for me – I crashed out on the sofa almost as soon as we got back. Mind you, everyone was in bed by 9.30 that night!!
Here is the cabin we stayed in - very peaceful:
Mum awoke the morning after to a glorious day and was just about to go out on the veranda when she saw this local wallaby with a joey in her pouch. She quickly grabbed the camera, still blurry-eyed and manage to capture this great photo.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Culture & glug

We thought we’d be a bit cultural and visit an exhibition. We went to the Australian Museum where they show the annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. There are some spectacular images and some taken by teenagers – really amazing!
We thought we’d treat mum and dad to one of our favourite yum cha places – Bodhi's, which is next to the Cook & Phillip Park. I think that was a hit! Dad was starting to get withdrawal symptoms from fishing, so Dean took him to Bradley’s Head on the north side of the harbour, looking across to the Botanic Gardens and the Opera House and Bridge!! He was able to redeem himself here and actually catch some fish (they both did, apparently!). Meanwhile mum made some delicious Sicilian Christmas mince pies while I updated my CV for a job application. We were going over to to Fredrik and Marie’s that evening, who had very kindly invited us for some Scandinavian delights and glug (mulled wine) – super yummy!! We ended up very much in the spirit of Christmas, even though it was around 30 degrees outside!
Glad Julen!! (Happy Christmas in Swedish for those not in the know!!)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On to Jervis Bay

After leaving our B&B in Leura, we stopped off at a great spot called Euroka Clearing which Libby guaranteed would have Kangaroos – it did and we took loads of photos!

Ironically we drove through Kangaroo Valley, which didn’t produce one Kangaroo!!

We arrived at Jervis Bay around 5pm and immediately went down to Hyams Beach for some relaxation and to take in the last rays of the day – bliss!!

This is the cottage we stayed in. It was so peaceful. There were lots of lorakeets and rozellas squawking and flying around. They were quite timid to start with, but Dean soon had them eating out of his hands - literally!!

The next day was mum’s birthday and dad surprised her by taking her on a dolphin watching cruise. We all went along – didn’t want to be left out!!

There were loads of dolphins dotted around the Bay, frolicking and jumping about. As you can imagine though, a bit hard to take good photos of them!!

We finished the day off by going for a Thai meal in Huskisson and almost blowing mum’s head off with a ‘hot’ chilli prawn dish – sorry mum!
Sooner than you expect, Friday came around and it was time to head back to Sydney. On the way we called at Booderee National Park and we spotted these two fighting over a piece of bread. As expected, big bully Kookaburra won in the end!!

We stopped at the blowhole at Kiama on the way up the coast, but unfortunately the tide was out, so no show there! But it still had a lovely coastline to view.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Blue Mountains

We set off on our adventure into the wild! I’d booked 2 nights in a B&B in Leura, a very pretty village in the Blue Mountains. A gorgeous retreat away from it all and a good base to explore the sights. Two nights obviously isn’t long enough in the Blueys, but we crammed as much in as we could. We went to Wentworth Falls first which has impressive lookouts across the valleys and a great walk which takes you along the top of the waterfall before descending on a very narrow path that hugs the cliff side – not good for those suffering from vertigo. The next day was a biggey – the walk into the Grand Canyon. The trek takes around 3 ½ hours (the guide book says) and we did it in 3 ¾, which is good going to say mum and dad aren’t used to that kind of hiking and also allowing for all those photo breaks! It was a hot day too, making it even more tiring.
But it is an immensely rewarding trek! You gradually descend through the tall, ghostly gum trees and the surroundings becoming greener and more tropical until you get to the bottom. Then you’re clambering over the rocks and fallen trees dotted all over the river that runs through the bottom of the canyon.

Here is a picture of dad, the intrepid explorer with the camera that was never very far from his side - hence all the great photos! After we crawled out the other end gasping for air and water, we decided we should see some more of the Blueys.

We called at Hargraves Lookout, recommended by our B&B hosts Libby and Robert. It was a very prominent headland that jutted out into the landscape with great views of soft rolling hills on one side and the more rugged mountains on the other. Then just to finish us all off completely, we went to the Three Sisters. There is a lookout from the visitors centre across to the Three Sisters, which is pretty spectacular.

We walked down to the first ‘Sister’ which had very steep and scary steps descending to an overhang that you could take shelter under. It was great to get back for a well earned shower and aperitif!!

This is the B&B, 'White Gables', that we stayed in. The next day we had to say goodbye and leave lovely Leura to head for Jervis Bay – what a hard holiday! See next post!