16 December 2009

These Shoes Were Made for Walking

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Up at the crack of dawn, we were!!  It seemed like I had just fallen asleep when it was time to wake up!  We couldn't even get a good shot of Janice's house, as it was pitch dark except for this lovely full moon.  So, our chauffeur Janice got us all loaded up and off to the airport, and soon Rex, Shelley, and I were boarding our flight back to Sydney.  Shelley and I sat together and talked the whole time while Rex got to snooze uninterrupted.  Or maybe he read - I was engrossed in conversation!  Shelley was telling me about this great 'grand finale' idea that she had for us - she had booked us (Rex and me, along with her and Keith) for a seaplane flight to an exclusive restaurant on the edge of the harbour and the Pacific for the next day.  Oh, it sounded so good!!  The only problem - you take your chances with the weather, and the outlook was not favourable!!  But I was SURE that we would have perfect weather for our perfect day.  How could it be anything else?  At any rate, something fun to look forward to, but that was tomorrow - what about today?

I think Keith picked us up at the airport, but maybe Shelley had left her car there - I really can't remember that part!!  We got back to their house in Kensington, got freshened up, and took off to spend the day in town.  We didn't have a set agenda - just thought we'd do whatever we hadn't done yet!  We took a bus down to Circular Quay, where we were again treated to the hauntingly beautiful sounds of the digeridoo.  We opted to take a ferry across the way to the zoo, only this time, instead of going to the zoo, we took a hike around the adjacent shoreline.  Right away, we saw some beautiful birds and pretty plants.  It was very overcast and looked like it could rain at any minute, so one of the only cloudy days we'd had in a month!  I took that as a good sign, thinking that surely the next day would be sunny again!

 The area where we were walking was the site of Curlew Camp, which was one of two artists' camps settled in the foreshore near Mosman in the late 1800's.  It was a place for artists to practice painting outdoors, and some of the more famous Australian painters who visited and worked her were Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Julian Ashton, Alfred Daplyn, Henry Fullwood, and Nelson Illingworth - not that those names mean anything to me, but I can see how they would have been inspired here, even without the views of the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, and the Sydney skyline of today!

Curlew Camp was "very refined" with canvas tents, fences, and maybe even a bush oven!  By the early 1900's, it had a weatherboard dining hall, a billiards tent, and maintained gardens.  This rock still bears the chiseled inscription "Curlew 1890".  Sounded a bit more primitive than refined to me, but I guess considering the time...

While we were amongst the trees, it did start raining a bit.  We wandered right along the coast, and got some great shots of the harbour and boats and just enjoyed the light and the surroundings.  And the company!

We walked through a little park and up a steep hill through the Mosman neighborhood.  There were exquisite flowers and magnificent houses, but no people to be seen!  Not even any wildlife!  I loved the rooftops of the houses - they reminded me of English homes and I was waiting for Dick Van Dyke to pop out singing Chim-Chim-Chiree!

We walked back down the hill to the Mosman ferry station and went back across the way, and we
decided to grab a bite of lunch.  We ducked into City Extra, which was a neat little bistro with a bit of Superman flair to it.  Not only was my meal delish, I got the best and biggest glass of iced tea, American style, that I had on the whole trip.  And to top it off, we all shared a pavlova, complete with strawberries and passionfruit!  Heaven!
After lunch, we thought we would try again to see if we could get an Opera House tour.  This time, we were in luck!

I loved the wavy sinks (and stalls) in the ladies room in the Opera House!  Plus, it was nice and warm in there!!  We got our tickets and waited for our tour guide, who, sadly, reminded us all of one of our worst teachers ever.  She had one of those really grating, sing-songy voices and she talked to us like we were kindergarteners.  And Shelley got reprimanded for (you guessed it) taking pictures!  Oh well, the Opera House was still cool, anyway, and it was fun to see it from the inside out.  Jorn Utzon, the Danish architect who designed the Opera House after winning a design competition begun in 1956, resigned from the project amidst cost overruns in 1966.  The building took 16 years to complete, and was opened by Queen Elizabeth in 1973.  I encourage you to take time to look at this website http://jornutzon.sydneyoperahouse.com/househistory.htm and learn about the history of this iconic building and architectural wonder - it is a fascinating story!  Relations with Utzon were repaired and in 1999 he developed a set of design principles to act as guidelines for any future building or renovations.  Sadly, and remarkably to me, Utzon died in 2008 without ever seeing his masterpiece in person!!  Here are some of my favorite shots from the tour - the huge tapestry in the Utzon Room, our guide, the beautiful and acoustically sound main auditorium, and a close up of the exterior shell:

After our tour, we strolled along the esplanade and did a little shopping, then we took the train over to the famous Queen Victoria Building for more shopping.  I LOVED this building - everything about it!  We didn't do much actual shopping, but it was a feast for the eyes!  There were tons of cool clocks, many with dioramas depicting world history - so entertaining!  Check it out at http://www.qvb.com.au/index.amx?pid=X&mainid=2 - it was built in 1898 as a monument to Queen Victoria and a way to employ out-of-work tradesmen during an awful recession.  It was almost demolished in 1959, but it has now been restored to its original glory.  Magnificent!

By the time we left here, my dogs were BARKING and I was about to lose my personality.  But then I got a glimpse of this building as we waited for the bus...

Mercifully, the bus finally came and we were back at Shelley and Keith's, where they prepared a lovely dinner for us and their son Rob came over to say hello.  Another fabulous day, and more to look forward to on our last day in Sydney! 

All walked out, but still fat and sassy,


15 December 2009

A Ferry G'day, Mate, and O! What a Night!

Tuesday, 2 September 2009

Morning comes earlier every day!  We awoke to a bustling household, with Kerrianne's family getting off to school and the five of us getting off for our day in Melbourne (or meh'bun, as they say here).  Kerrianne's house was so cool - new and modern, with rooms that just kept on going!  We were all envious of her HUGE pantry!  One thing I have really liked about all of the homes we've been in here is how uncluttered and uncomplicated they are compared to our homes in the US.  Lines are sleeker, and knick-knacks are fewer - it made me want to go home and de-clutter - again!  Kerrianne's scrapbooking room was wonderful, too, mostly because of the copious evidence of her creativity!  My head was spinning with ideas, but I was sure I would forget them long before I got back home.

Kerrianne and Janice had tea and lots of toast and goodies for us, and we probably lingered a bit long over our brekky...at any rate, we ended up RACING to catch the Queenscliff ferry!  You would have thought someone was in labor or something.  Complicating matters was the fact that we were in two cars, since Kerrianne would be coming back home after dinner and Shelley, Rex, and I would be staying at Janice's.  Kerrianne and Shelley led the way, and Janice kept them in her sights and we made it on to the ferry, by the skin of our chinny-chin-chins!

Once safely aboard, we went up on the top deck of the ferry, which was completely empty save for the five of us.  It was a bit brisk, but the sun was out and the day was glorious.  We had fun taking 'selfie' photos in as many different ways as we could, and we tried really hard to conjure up the dolphins like the ones Kerrianne had posted, but they weren't coming out today - yet.  We had a nice morning just relaxing on the ferry and enjoying the ride.  As we left the port, we looked back on the town of Queenscliff.  One of the main buildings that I noticed was once a prison, but it was an architecturally interesting building.

Crossing the bay over to Melbourne was such a pleasant ride, and I was again struck by the changing colors of the water here - just gorgeous!  Once we arrived, Janice led us up to Arthur's Tower, which was high up on a hill where a ski lift-like tram used to run.  There was an overlook that allowed us to see Melbourne and the entire area, and we posed for lots of photos on Arthur's Seat.  There was a little pub there, but we didn't stop for morning tea (or afternoon tea!) - too much to see!

Our next stop was at Chapman's Point, where we got another lovely view of the bay and the city below.  It was a beautiful drive down into town, although I have to admit that I may have taken a little nap or two as we drove along.  Janice was a good sport, though, and hopefully Rex was staying awake longer than I was.  When we got to Frankston, we decided to stop for a bite of lunch, so we pulled into the carpark at the Frankston Lifesaving Club.  It was quite an experience trying to find a place to park, but we were finally successful and joined Shelley and Kerrianne in Waves, the restaurant there.  We had a wonderful view of the bay, and we were entertained by our somewhat cranky server.  We used her attitude to invent a whole story for her and some of the other servers and patrons.  Lunch was delish, by the way - I had a great salad!

From here we drove past the house that Shelley's family used to rent on holiday, and then we walked down to the very beach box that was her grandmother's!  I loved the beach box concept - they are little wooden houses (sort of like cabanas) that people could change in and/or store beach toys and equipment.  Shelley told us her grandmother's even had an outhouse next to it (highly illegal, but nontheless handy!)

Our next stop was to see the famous Brighton Beach Boxes, which are so fun and colorfully painted!  We drove past Janice's neighborhood and past a really high-rent district to get here, and we could see the skyling of the Melbourne CBD across the water.

By now it was sunny and warm out, and we had fun picking out our favorite beach boxes and posing in front of them.  We even saw our dolphin!  As we were leaving, there was a wonderful older gentleman sitting on the stoop of one of the boxes watching some children playing.  He wore a straw hat, rakishly tilted, and he just made me smile.

To Janice's house we went, with just enough time for tea (I even got to make some iced tea!) and to grab a change clothes for dinner.  We would be dining in the Conservatory at the Crown Casino in downtown Melbourne, but we still had lots to see before then! With only a teeny bit of trouble (just making sure we didn't miss any streets downtown) we got ourselves parked in one of the many casino parking decks, and we ran off to see the sights in Melbourne while it was still light.  We made our way through the maze of casinos and hotel lobbies until we found ourselves out on the broad sidewalk lining one side of the Yarra River, which bisects the downtown area.

Melbourne is dotted with cool sculptures and artwork - there seems to be a bit of a rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne as to which city is more cultural, but Melbourne claims to be the cultural and sporting centre of Australia.  Melbourne is also home to the Rod Laver Tennis Centre and Australian Open, Aussie Rules Football got its start here, and it's the birthplace of the Australian film and television industry.  A city of almost four million people, Melbourne is located on Port Philip Bay, and it has many parks and gardens.  As I mentioned earlier, the Yarra River runs right through the downtown area.  It's a beautiful city - not as dramatic as the Sydney Harbour area, but full of surprises at every turn.

We slowly made our way (because we kept stopping to take pictures!) to the tram that would take us on a quickie tour of the city, and we paid attention to the signs warning us from hopping the tracks.  Seems at least one of our group has had first-hand experience with some of the consequences of breaking that rule (it wasn't me!)  Soon, the red tram car pulled up and we piled on for our free tour.  We made a large rectanglular loop of the CBD and here are some of the fun buildings and sculptures we saw:

Once we finished our trolley tour, Janice hustled us past the "clocks" at the train station and directed us over to another fun artsy place, then we walked down by the river where we caught a glimpse of the Tennis Centre and the football stadium.  We were on a bit of a timetable, not only for our dinner reservations, but because of the 'dancing buildings' that were alleged to be happening later.  Hmmm.  There were scullers on the river, and we could hear the bats (they are following us, too!) chirping under the bridges.  Night was falling and the lights were coming on - everything was so beautiful as it was reflected in the water.

It was getting a bit cooler, so we walked back towards the car through an upscale shopping mall, but we resisted the impulse to shop (dancing buildings, you know!) and we still had to change clothes before dinner!  We did stop to look at a huge globe of the world hanging in the shopping mall - Australia looked just right, but check out America.  The east coast has sprouted boobs!

Now we were RUNNING back to the car, getting a teensy bit turned around in the maze of hallways and lights and glass of the Crown Centre, and since we had not passed any restrooms along the way, we opted to change clothes in the cars!  Sorry, no photos...oh, and I might mention that Janice just changed in between some cars!!  It was pretty hysterical!  So we fluffed and primped and soon we were respectible enough to go to dinner.  By now, Janice and Kerrianne were PULLING and DRAGGING us along so we wouldn't miss the big show.  Just in time, we found ourselves looking up at giant fire-breathing structures.  Now are these cool, or what?

When not in the middle of a drought, there is water running down the sides of these tall chimneys, and there must have been at least a dozen of them lining the walkway next to the river!  Best of all, once we made it into the restaurant, we were seated at a window right in front of one!  Every hour they erupted in a ball of light and heat and fire!  So fun - much better than dancing buildings!

Dinner at the Conservatory was entertaining all on its own!  It was a HUGE buffet - sushi, appetizers, salads, main courses, side dishes, pasta and rice dishes made to order, soups, and of course, dessert...  We just ate and ate and ate!  And I had the good fortune to snag a Chocolate Dome, which was by far one of THE BEST desserts I've ever had.  Oh. My. Gosh!  I wasn't good at sharing, but everyone got a kick out of me and my "O" face!  And then, out came the iphones, and Kerrianne and I shared our new toys from the night before with Rex and Janice.  Shelley managed to stay on good behaviour.

Once we were so stuffed that we could barely move, we waddled through the hotel, past the tanks of rock lobsters, through the mirrors that made us skinny (we loved them!) and into our cars.  We bid sad goodbyes to Kerrianne as she headed home for the night, and Janice delivered us safely to her wonderful home where we fell into bed - it would be another early morning as we were flying back to Sydney.  Our wonderful trip was drawing to a close...

Visions of sugarplums (well, chocolate domes, anyway) dancing in my head,