This post is brought to you by Jessica's step-mother.
Jessica has given me permission to write about
the wonderful hospitality we received when we visited Jessica and Nick in Sydney.
From the time Peter and I were picked up at the airport to the time we said good-bye we were treated like special guests. They even gave us their bedroom! The four us hiked and drove and dined and drank wine and enjoyed a play and visited the sights of Blue Mountains.
Important Sydney Sight #1, Sydney Opera House.
We saw it from all angles. Looks bigger in the pictures.
Nice setting though, thrust out into the harbour. We took a lot of pictures.
In Sydney we travelled a lot by train which was fast, efficient and inexpensive.
Jessica and I also visited Salvos and Vinnies. Salvos, the only nickname in the whole of the continent of Australia that does not have and Y or IE at the end of it is short for The Salvation Army Thrift Shop. Vinnies is St. Vincent de Paul Society. In Salvos I learned the meaning of the word, Manchester. Not 'The Manchester' or 'Manchesters', it means 'bedclothes & etc.' These products traditionally came from the cotton mills of the English city of Manchester, hence the name.
Important Sydney Sight #2, Sydney Harbour
Bridge. You can pay over $200. to walk across the top.
Jessica plays netball and because we were cheering, her team did really well.
Meanwhile, Nick has abandoned capoeira and has taken up hockey, playing for Canada.
Nick's parents generously entertained us on two occasions. You can get a better feel of a country when you are in a home rather than a hotel and are out shopping for groceries and petrol and going to the dump, er, landfill. Thanks Nick! A highlight of the trip!
The four of us spent a weekend in the Blue Mountains walking through the forests, visiting old mining towns like Leura and
Katoomba. I bought raw wool ready for spinning at a craft fair.
These locks with promises of devotion to lovers or in memory of lost ones are attached to a bridge on a lovely stretch of seaside highway near Coalcliff.
Here is Peter putting together Jessica's bike on the stairwell, by an open window, in the apartment building. The door at the ground level of the stairs was always open. Here is the thing about buildings in tropical countries - one never knows where the line is that marks out and in.
In places that have more defined seasons, where there is a temperature difference of 60 degrees F from summer to winter, we have to close the door and shut the windows. There is a point where you say, this is in and here, we are out. The floor surface changes at the door sill. There
is not just a wide opening with no change in grade or surface. I think this is what defines a culture. Some may say it is dance forms that mirror confines of space that shape us. No, it is the ability to move indoors without moving a door. That and in Canada we skate on water.
Peter's niece, Charlotte, who studies at University of Wollongong, came into Sydney to visit. It was the only day that rained. (They are definitely the same family aren't they?)
With Jessica's friend Jasmine we enjoyed Tarell Alvin McCraney's play The Brothers Size with Mayne Wyatt, above in the foreground. Watch out for him! You will see him on the stage again!
The bower bird lures the female by building this lovely stick structure and displaying blue treasures, so she can exclaim, "Oh my, you are so rich you can build this opulent home and can afford to toss coloured objects willy-nilly. You must carry the superior genes I desire to fertilize my eggs." She falls for that and then learns she has to build a new nest for herself because Mr. Bower Bird is off luring other naive females with his fake nest. I may have anthropomorphised a bit based on my single experiences, but that is all in the past now as I have had 26 happy years with Peter. (He made me write that last bit. It's been 15 happy years.)
These carpets are seen on car
dashboards. Cosy huh? Those Australians,
with their egg-laying mammals,
drug-hazed tree-dwellers, and Easter Bilbys.
These fellows, dressed in wigs and sports gear, assembled at a bar in Sydney, and are off for a day of male bonding.
I love anniversaries! Love is in the air... the couple snuggles and canoodles (love the word "canoodle" too!) and life is happy and glorious; it's kind of like your own personal Christmas. July fourth not only holds a special day in every Americans' heart, but in mine too because it's my anniversary with my looooove. Not only did Nick and I get to spend the weekend celebrating our first year together but we got to share part of it with my good friend Lori, with whom I backpacked around Europe in 2006. She and her bf were in Sydney for only one weekend before they made their way up the coast. It was so exciting to see Lori in Sydney and to meet her lovely significant other too. We had the best day!
We met up in the Rocks and after a walk through the markets we opted to go to the famous Pancakes on the Rocks restaurant for brunch. I'm assuming word has spread about this restaurant as, despite being spread over 2 floors, it was packed and there was a line out the door! Time for Plan B, as the boys (aka ravenous beasts by that stage) were on the verge of going to Hungry Jacks. We poked our head into a nearby French restaurant with harbour bridge views. The maitre d blinked at me in disbelief (in that confused look of disdain that only ze French can pull off) when I enquired about the possibility of getting a table inside without a reservation; luckily they had an outdoor patio. Since it was the middle of "winter" and "only" about 18 degrees, we had our pick of the tables. After tucking in to a glorious brekky, we set off on our quest to climb the bridge tower. This is the little known but great tourist attraction that I first discovered when my friend Jen was here. Lori, her bf and Nick (who despite being from Sydney had never been up there) were very impressed with the view.
After the climb we walk across the bridge (a first for all of us) and were treated to just the most spectacular rainbow over the Sydney Opera House. (I think that was a little divine anniversary present for me and Nick).
Determined not to miss out, and having worked up another appetite, we set off back to Pancakes on the Rocks and although there was still, STILL a line, it was shorter and we got a table fairly quickly. After tucking in to some enormous pancakes drowned in ooy gooy chocolaty goodness we had to say our heartfelt goodbyes and our visit was over. Short and oh so sweet it was to see eachother and for Nick to get to meet a couple more of my friends. As I'm still having trouble with my camera, I'm grateful to Lori for sending these to me over email.
The weekend continued the next day when Nick and I went to Apparatif for dinner. The restaurant is an elegant and delicious Spanish tapas restaurant in The Cross and also where we went on our first dinner date. We booked a table by the fireplace and indulged ourselves in course after course of mouth-watering morsels. It was so great to re-visit the place where our beautiful relationship began and reminisce about the past year and the joys that we've experienced together.
The last memorable event of the weekend was when Nick presented me with my anniversary present- a beautiful silver Tiffany necklace. I was so happy and surprised and I absolutely adore wearing it!
Three words to describe my recent date with Nick to watch a "footy" game. We are so not a movie and dinner date couple, in fact in one whole year of dating we've never been to the movies on our own! The closest we've come was back in January and Nick treated me and his wonderful mother to a date at the movies to see Avatar. I remember thinking when I met Nick and he took me ice skating for our first date, (remember we're in Australia here, ice rinks are about as common as dog sleds in this part of the world) that this guy would definitely keep me guessing!
Not surprisingly then, one evening in late April Nick suggested we travel to the nearby town of Cronulla to watch a live Rugby League game. Now let me pause here to explain that like soccer in Italy, or ice hockey in Canada, rugby is practically a religion here in Australia. Not only are there countless teams and leagues in almost every city and town, but there are 3 types of rugby from which to choose! Rugby Union, Rugby League and Australian Rules Football are all variations on the theme and, confusingly for a foreigner, are all referred to by the generic name of "footy." I suppose if you are in the know, you'll know what type is being referred to, and if you're not, then it probably doesn't matter. The differences are, I'm sure, not subtle, but for a novice "footy" spectator such as myself, it was exciting just to be present at a live game, even if I didn't really know what was going on. I thoroughly enjoyed not only the athletes' on-field performances, but also the half-time show, cheerleading performances and myriad shark mascots parading around the field. The entire spectacle was very entertaining, made even more so by the fact that the home team won the game! The whole crowd launched into a rousing rendition of there team song as the players basked in the glory of their first win of the season. Not even the rain could dampen our spirits as Nick and I got swept up in the frenzied excitement of the crowd!
It was a great evening and I hope to go again soon. Go Sharks Go!
I'm determined to get back into blogging more regularly: there are, after all, so many exciting things going on in my life. I'm just at the point in exams where there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of studying, I thought I'd drop in for a quick hello, and to share one of said exciting things:
I have an [informal] list of answers for when I am posed the "what's-different-in-Australia?" question and I have another item for the list...
This one is a beverage. It may look like unstirred cocoa powder floating atop a glass of milk, but no! It's called "Milo" and it's a malted chocolate drink that people (in my experience, mostly boys) drink instead of chocolate milk. The weird part is that it's consumed without stirring the powder into the milk... After the powder is poured on top of the milk, they let it sit there so that it absorbs the moisture and goes all lumpy and then they eat it with a spoon. Bizarre! My boyfriend, who has texture issues with fruit (ie. he will only eat apples if they're crunchy and not powdery, soft or too crunchy) loves this stuff. I can handle the taste (it's kind of like liquid Malteasers) but I can't get past the lumpy, powdery texture... oh well, it must be an Aussie thing.
It was a stunning sky. As though stuffed with iridescent cotton wool, the fluffy blue-grey clouds occupied my attention when my mind should have been focused on what was happening on the ground below.
The afternoon of my very first game of netball ("netty" in Australian) was a cool, cloudy Saturday in April. I'd brought my favourite two-person fan club (Nick and Jen) and was so excited to try out this brand-new (to me) sport. At the very least, I thought to myself, I'll get to wear this spiffy new netball dress! Had I not become so comfortable in a bathing suit from playing all those years of water polo I might have been just a wee bit self-conscious. The "dress" is more like a bathing suit with a gratuitous little frill. The frill is meant to pass as a skirt but it certainly does not hide much in a fast moving, outdoor game (hello breeze!)
Nevertheless, I forged ahead into the game. It's a bit like basketball however the net does not have a backboard, and instead of dribbling the ball, it gets passed from player to player up and down the court. I managed to stay on my feet (most of the time) and even got an interception! With the support and encouragement from my loyal fan club and Nick's sister (whose team I play on, along with Nick's mum but she was away on business) I made it through the game not only in one piece, but loving a new sport! Ever since injuring my shoulder I've really missed playing water polo so hopefully I'll be able to turn netball into my new team sport!
The hardest part was remembering all the rules. What is considered normal defense in basketball is called, "interference" in netball; needless to say I got a few penalties. Luckily I also managed to get the hang of it and have been looking forward to my weekly game ever since!
I just love having visitors, the only downside is eventually they have to leave :( As I'm knee deep in the study trenches (exams next week, yikes!) I needed something to cheer me up. I took a quick break to peruse through some photos from Jen's last stop in Sydney.
It was a great day! The weather was perfect, and we strolled around the historic Rocks area of Sydney where all the old convict-era buildings give you the feeling of having stepped back in time. It's also home of the famous Harbour Bridge climb. The climb is definitely on my bucket list but for now, we contented ourselves with calling into the bridge climb gift shop and checking out the wall of celebrity photos. I couldn't help but smile at Steve Irwin's classic pic:
We then ventured across part of the Harbour Bridge via the side-walk-in-a-cage to get to a little known secret tourist spot: Take a look!
The bridge tower climb ($10) is a great alternative to the bridge climb. Otherwise at the very least it just might hold you over until you can save the dough ($200+) for the real thing!
Jen, the two Norwegian girls Jen met on her travels, and I did the climb and I'd venture to say the view probably wasn't that different!
We didn't get to wear the funky jumpsuits the bridge-climbers get to sport, but nonetheless we all had a great time admiring the 360 panoramic Sydney harbour views and getting some pretty good happy-snaps too!
I've never been one to miss a Kodak moment (as you know) so it was great that Jen and I passed so many iconic Sydney landmarks during our last days together...