Sunday 25th March 2018
Yesterday’s rain had cleared and the sun was cracking the paving slabs as our two heroes trotted west along George Street heading for the harbour. We might even have held hands, we probably reminded people of the ‘start-right kids’.
George Street is the main road through Central Sydney and is full of impressive buildings built over the last 150 years, however that is not what strikes you! All you notice are hoardings running along the kerbs, fencing off the excavations for the new tram system being built. Sydney is almost gridlocked with cars most of the day so anything that will take some off the street has got to be a good thing, but at the moment you do feel penned in. Sydney seems to be in thrall to the car. Pedestrians have to wait an inordinate length of time for a green light to cross at each intersection and then you only have a brief moment to cross before it starts flashing – it is not surprising that Sydneysiders have a reputation for ignoring red lights at pelican crossings.
A glimpse of the top of the iconic bridge, peeping over the hoardings, gives you a clue that you are getting close, then the Harbour Station building looms up and you walk underneath it to see the wharves of Circular Quay with the bridge to the left and just to the right is the armadillo outline of the Sydney Opera House. What. A. View.
The best way to see the harbour is by boat and there can be no better way than to take the ferry across the harbour to Manly. The boat was packed, but a bit of judicious jostling got us to a rail where we could take everything in, boy has Wendy got sharp elbows! It was worth it, the views were stupendous. I wonder what those settlers, soldiers and convicts on the ‘first fleet’ in 1788 would think of it now?
Manly was a complete contrast to the city centre; it was like a town on the French Riviera. It has a wide traffic free avenue, the Corso, which runs from the ferry wharf to the beach bisecting the town. This was full of surf shops, ice cream parlours, gift shops and clothes shops; as well as bars and restaurants and buskers. There was also a Sunday market selling high-end tat. It is a good thing we have a tight luggage weight allowance on our next flight or Wendy might have succumbed to temptation!
There was no more time for perusing prints, jewellery, and home made gnocchi; we had an assignation to make. Waiting for us back at the ferry stop were Tom, the son of our friends Dick and Betty, and his wife Anna. These two young people have made the smart decision to leave the damp and dreary London behind and work in Sydney for a couple of years. They left the UK in early January, spent six weeks travelling around Singapore and Indonesia before arriving in Australia just in time to start their new jobs. They looked fantastic; chilled and very happy, and clearly very at home in their new surroundings after only a month or so.
Their plan was to show us something of Sydney’s famous northern beaches. We drove up to Palm Beach and the Governor Philip Park at the mouth of the Pittwater. Then it was out of the car for a stiff climb up to the Gledhill Lookout and our first Australian lighthouse. By now the day was hot and sticky and the climb made up for the Zumba classes Wendy has missed so we had a quick drive to Tom and Anna’s favourite beach, Bilgola, for the first swim in the Tasman Sea. Bilgola is only a small beach, more of a cove, compared to the other beaches along this coast and it wasn’t very busy, but I saw more good surfers here than I have ever seen on a British or French beach. They were mesmerising and effortless in the tricks they could do in what was only average surf.
Still, no peace for the wicked, Tom and Anna had more in store for us – the Newport Arms – a great pub on a big piece of land overlooking the Pittwater. All the seating was outside and it was so big that there were three bars and three or four kitchens to order different types of food from. There was even a band playing good soul music. After a couple of schooners and more seafood than we could finish I could feel ‘the shutters coming down’ as my lack of sleep caught up with me so it was time to go.
It was another great day Wendy and I were very grateful to Tom and Anna for taking the time to show us some of their amazing new life in such a vibrant part of the world.
We wish you both all the very best for the next two years.