Friday, October 6, 2017

Adelaide - The City of Churches


Named after the wife of King William IV, Adelaide sits on the bottom coast of Australia.  In the state of South Australia, some 2 hours flight from Sydney, it has the unusual quirk of being half an hour behind Sydney.  Where else in the world do we get increments of 30 minutes between time zones?  Just for clarity, this is rhetoric. I'm sure it happens elsewhere in the globe, I just didn't have the time to Google it.  My free 30 minutes wifi allowance was quickly running out.


If you are wondering, as I was, how the city gained the nickname “ city of churches”, it may be linked to that fact that there are over 700 of them, in a small, very compact city. Only outnumbered by pubs, it feels as though there are multiple churches on every street.  Well, thinking about it, there probably are.


Europeans first settled in Adelaide in 1836 as a place for ships that were sailing around the coast of Australia to stop and replenish their stocks of food and grog. Over 200 years later it is still an excellent place to do the very same.  Interestingly, Adelaide was different to Sydney, and Melbourne, in that no convicts were shipped here. It was a place for free immigrants to settle, and work.

Beautiful cottages of Adelaide
Adelaide is the capital of South Australia, and the 5th most populous city in Australia. With a population of only some 1.3million. The city straddles the River Torrens, with the very impressive (now that it has had a multi million dollar facelift) Adelaide Oval on the north side, and the CBD on the other. And all across the city remain pristine examples of the architecture dating back to the first settlements. The cottages you see everywhere are very distinctive, and very Adelaide.


On the banks of the River Torrens
Our Jetstar flight from Sydney landed on time at 11.40am, after accounting for that spurious 30 minutes, and being only about 6kms from the city centre, we were in our cosy, no frills Air BnB a short time later.


Nothing much is far from anything in Adelaide, and although our accommodation was on the outskirts of the CBD (city centre for readers from the UK) we were still only a flat 20 minute walk away.  The city is bounded by North Terrace and South Terrace, the latter of which is where we are staying for the 3 nights we were there.


The first thing that you notice when in Adelaide, when you come from Sydney at least, is the lack of traffic.  Then you notice how wide and expansive the roads are. Set out by Colonel Light, one of Adelaide’s founding fathers, in a perfect grid pattern, there are five squares in the city centre, and a ring of parks surrounding it. This gives Adelaide a very green, leafy feel. Not something you immediately associate with cities.



Looking down the roads, east to west, you feel you can see all the way to the horizon. In the distance loom the Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale.  And despite the lack of traffic, people appear to not be in a rush, actually waiting for the green man. How very novel. It took some getting used to. Slowing down to this place of life. But when you do, you feel a sense of calm, and a wish that only every day could be like this.


Talking to people from Sydney you would think that Adelaide was some long forgotten backwater.  
That could not be further from the truth.  You may be aware I have an obsession with quality coffee. Maybe I have mentioned it in previous blogs. Or perhaps you have seen my Instagram posts. Adelaide maintains the very high standards you can rely on in Australia, and that I have become accustomed to in Sydney.


Keeping the coffee warm at Fawn cafe
The same goes for breakfast and brunch.  And it is not all smashed avo and vegemite. Two highly recommended options are “Coffylosophy” on Hutt Street, and “Fawn” on nearby Gilles Street.  Great food continues into the evening.  I would give a nod to “The Greek” on Halifax Street, where else for a boy from Halifax?, and the many options around Leigh Street and Peel Street.  I would highly recommend pre dinner drinks at “Clever Little Tailor”.   Or an afternoon sharpener at “Proof”. Both great bars.


In the Barossa
I have got all this way without mentioning one of the main draws of a visit to Adelaide.  The world class wineries.  We took a full day trip to one of them, the Barossa Valley, with Taste the Barossa. The full day trip starts from your pick up in the city and ends approx 5pm back in the same place. The drive takes you up through hills, and into the valley, where you visit some great wineries, and have a fabulous antipasto board lunch. All in, a wonderful day.



And what is a place in Australia without a beach?  Well, Adelaide has you covered on this front too, with a long, wide beach at Glenelg, which you can easily reach in less than 30 minutes, on one of the many trams trundling between the city and the beach.


Although it wasn’t beach weather the day we were there, we still had a wind blown walk along the front, before decamping to the very imposing “Grand” pub fish and chips.  Some traditions just refuse to die.



Adelaide is a small city with a big personality. It has everything you need for either a visit, or for those looking to settle somewhere a little more personable than one of the bigger cities in Australia.


I’m looking forward to returning already.

Friday, July 21, 2017

We laughed, we cried, we hugged

However long you are away from family and friends, by the time you have had the first sip of your coffee (French press, not instant.  Mum is a fast learner), or a couple of swigs of that first real pint of Timothy Taylor’s (do any other ex-pats miss real British ale?), it is as though you only saw them yesterday.  Is that the same with everybody?

In fairness, I had only been gone just shy of 2 years, but it is the longest I had been gone from the UK since landing in Australia back in August 2012.  I had somehow found myself going back each year, a pattern that stopped last year when it was decided a “proper” holiday was needed.  

Let me explain that.  Not that going to the UK isn't a holiday.  But it is not the most relaxing holiday.  To fit everybody in, and give yourself chance to see everybody, the time spent needs managing with military precision.  Which is achieved to great effect by my now fabled spreadsheets.  I may be a project manager by trade, and this comes in handy when scheduling my days overseas.  Needless to say, each trip has been more successful as result.  In my opinion.


So after a hiatus last year, spent on the west coast of USA and Canada, it was time to visit England again.  Time to dust off the spreadsheet, and get planning. I have some catching up to do. Little nephews and nieces grow up fast, I'm finding.

Landing at Manchester, under blue skies, on a mild June lunchtime, we were only a short 40 minute drive over the Pennines, into Yorkshire.  No matter how many times I do it I always feel a glow of pride when passing the border with Lancashire, and see the white rose of Yorkshire marking entry to one of the most beautiful places on earth.  I have a passport now that proclaims I am Australian.  But first and foremost, I am, and always will be, a Yorkshireman.

According to the spreadsheet, we had 13 nights in England, to see and do everything we had missed out on the preceding 2 years.  The clock was ticking.  No time for jet lag on the first day, as the top priority was to get a good Indian curry, something that is inordinately difficult in Sydney.  Yes, we have curry houses, but can they do a good curry?  The jury is still out.  And on the same night, there was a football World Cup qualifier on.  England versus the auld enemy, Scotland.  Football at a normal time.  Imagine that!  Until you have spent 4 seasons bleary eyed from watching football at all hours from midnight, through to 4am, you won’t really appreciate how this feels.

And that folks was day 1.  Done.  Just like that.  Only 12 nights left.  And now do you see the need for a spreadsheet?  You see my predicament?  Not only do we have lots to do, every day, and every evening, but we have to navigate it after traversing multiple time zones.  My eyes tell me it is 10pm.  My head tells me it is sometime after 6am.  On the FOLLOWING day.  Good luck getting any sleep.

And this is how it is, going overseas (do some people say “abroad”?) from Australia to Europe.  But those 12 nights, they will soon be 11.  Then 10.  And so on.  Time to crack on and see what is next in the spreadsheet.

Last time I was in the UK, back in 2015, I was treat to the BBQ of all BBQs.  I mentioned it in a blog at the time.  The belly busting portions of food, and a quiche that would win first prize in any quiche contest.  If such a thing existed.  So, when promised a BBQ this time around, albeit with a different chef, I jumped at the chance.  I drooled at the thought of everything that would be going on the BBQ.  Cooking off the snags, and replacing them on the large, sizzling, hot grill with steaks.  Throwing on some corn, and making room for some chicken.  And then…



I had heard it was a small BBQ.  I didn't realise it was a BBQ for a hobbit.  One hobbit.  One very small hobbit, even by hobbit standards.  Good lord, “this could be a very long night”, I thought.  I definitely had not had my expectations set.  I think plying me with extremely large Aperol Spritzes was a deflection tactic.  I have never seen a magnum of prosecco disappear so fast.  

And yet, we had a bloody fantastic evening.  In no small part to the food that miraculously appeared from the kitchen, and wasn’t reliant on the behemoth that was our BBQ.  We had a veritable Spanish feast, eating drinking, laughing into the small hours.  This is why we travel 24 hours across the world.  Priceless moments.

Did someone say tapas?
Talking of priceless moments, I also found myself doing something, twice, that I wasn’t sure would ever be on one of my spreadsheets. The school run.  Yes, you read that right.  Uncle Fran did the school run.  It was insisted upon.  No mummy, you can stay at home.  Just me and uncle Fran today.  So there I was, slightly dusty after another fantastic family catch up, slightly cold having to go out in the morning drizzle without a coat (I was on holiday!  Who packs a coat for their holidays?), and saying hello to Mr Varley, the lollipop man.  Wonders never cease.

There have been a number of traditions created through my visits home, and my waistline fought valiantly to get through them all whilst back. The obligatory breakfast at Wetherspoons, which I somehow managed to do on three occasions, fish and chips (if I had to have a last supper, this would be it), the aforementioned curry, mouth watering sausage butties to start the day (pork please, if I see another chicken sausage!), and at least one "all hands" family meal. We ticked that one off on day 2, with seventeen of us having a raucous lunch, and a not insignificant amount of drinks. Thank you sis for all your hard work in organising, and managing to keep it from mum so I could surprise her on the day. Cue tears. I think maybe even mum cried too.

La familia
Blink, and the time was nearly up. We had visited Yorkshire, explored all the nightlife that West Vale has to offer, walked in the Dales, played golf at Lytham-St-Annes (and forgot my "safety first" mantra by neglecting to apply sunscreen), BBQd in Poulton Le Flyde, had fish and chips at Harry Ramsden's in Blackpool, lunched in gorgeous West Sussex, swam at the historic Spread Eagle hotel (and then had one of their famous "full english" breakfasts), strolled the pier, and The Lanes, before having dinner in Brighton, and lots in between. The weather had been kind to us, which it always seems to be. Maybe we bring a slice of Sydney back with us each time.

Thankfully I now had a couple of days relaxing in the beautiful city of Palma, on the (almost) annual boy's trip. These occasions are renowned for slowing down, enjoying the culture of a place, taking in a few museums, a little tipple in the evening, then early nights. This trip would be no different. After that, I would fly to Milan, meet my better half, and 3 weeks exploring Italy would commence.

It is times like this I tell myself how lucky and blessed we are.

Ciao, until next time.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

When it comes to travel, it’s the business

Whilst not quite having the romance of train travel, getting to the UK any way other that jet propulsion would be quite an undertaking.  As much as I love riding the rails, the distance between Sydney and Manchester might be too much even for me.

So, an airplane it is, and all the associated rigmarole this brings.  Checking in online.  Getting to the airport hours before you are due to fly.  The pain that is airport security.  Not that I think we should reduce this security, not for a moment, but, you have to admit, it is a bloody painful process.

 


Working your way through lines that snake around those mobile barriers.  All the while, some little kid is lifting up the spring loaded barrier and unclipping it, throwing the queuing system into disarray.

Once you have negotiated this, you then have the screening.  Ensuring you have no liquids in your bag.  Scratching your head and wondering of this is one of the airports that make you remove your iPad from your carry on, remove your shoes, belt, or even your watch.  You then go through the scanner yourself, only to beep and suddenly remember the erroneous 10 cent coins rattling around deep in your pocket.

Survive all this, and you still have to negotiate the retail hell that has become all but the tiniest airports.  You are deposited into the duty free stores, which are harder to navigate than IKEA on a Sunday morning.  With thirteen after shave samples, on those little cardboard strips, in your pocket, all you want is a cold beer.  Where has the pub gone?  It has been given a facelift, a very modern name, and is now a gastro-wine-artisanal-microbrew-resto-eating establishment.

By the time you eventually get your beer, you have to down it rapidly, as the announcements start that your gate is open, and plane ready for boarding.  So you skull your beer, and run to the other side of the airport, where your gate is located, only to find that your plane isn't in fact boarding.  Yet every passenger has decided to start queuing in anticipation, even though everybody has a seat booking, and a boarding card that proves it, and will all get on the plane.  Eventually.

You know you are going nowhere fast.  You would have had time for a few more ice cold pints, a burger with hand cut chips, and a bag of pork scratchings.  Now you are going to have to settle for a dry bread roll, and a little aluminium tray with a scrawny chicken sausage and a cheese omelette with a splash of brown water in a plastic cup, masquerading as coffee, whilst having yourself elbowed from both sides, and trying to drown out the screaming child in row 44.  Oh the joys.

 

Unless.  You accept the airlines very generous email offer to upgrade to business class.  And so this is what we did.  I have never before been offered a reduced rate upgrade. Having had the opportunity to experience the delights of business class previously, with Singapore Airlines, I wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity. No sir.  

Whilst the above describes the Sydney to Doha flight (15 plus hours), what followed, for the Doha to Manchester flight (approx 8 hours) could not have been more different. Champagne upon boarding.  An a la carte menu.  From which food is served on demand.  On a crisp white table cloth.  With wines expertly matched.  And a seat that fully reclines into a flat bed for your post lunch nap, with a real pillow, and thin duvet.  Not that I did much sleeping. I was far too excited to sleep.

 

As I finished off the last of the cheese board, I totally forgot that I had flown around the world, over the last 24 hours, as we slowly descended into Manchester.  Going home, in economy, just won’t be the same.  All suggestions of best way to snag an upgrade are most welcome.





Friday, May 19, 2017

Confess, who keeps a diary?


Writing a diary is as old as history itself.  Sitting down, at the end of a busy day, and journalling your inner thoughts is nothing new.  And in our crazy world, journalling offers a brief respite, where you can close out the world, and just be mindful of events that have happened.  How you feel about them.  The emotions they evoke.  Reminding yourself what you are grateful for.  What you appreciate.  Mindfulness has suddenly become fashionable, and yet is has been one of the central tenets of Buddhism for centuries.

From the greatest diarist of all time, Samuel Pepys, whose diary was written in the 17th century, to Anne Frank, and onto the fictional Bridget Jones and Adrian Mole, the trusty journal has been a haven for getting your thoughts, feelings, emotions down on paper.  And we are fascinated with reading other people's diaries.  To the extent that we many were duped into believing that the diaries purchased for €4.7 million, purporting to be the diaries of Hitler, were genuine.  Of course, these sixty volumes, written between 1981 and 1983 turned out to be the elaborate hoax of Konrad Kujau.

I am guessing that many of you have at some point or another written in a diary.  Many of you may still do.  Some of you will have written one when you were younger, only to be discouraged when an older sibling searched out your most private possession, and read all about your school crush, who you wanted to dance with at the school disco, and how much you hated said sibling.  A brief flirtation with journalling that ended years ago.

I have been fascinated with journalling, and writing from a young age.  Writing by pen and paper, moving on to an old typewriter, and then digitally, as the world changed, to virtual keyboards.  In the last year the balance has swung back a little towards actual writing with the introduction of the Apple pencil that now allows me to write by hand on a digital screen.  With many apps mimicking the look of paper this is as close I will get to “real” writing that is not on actual paper.

And yet.  There is just something about real pens (who can resist the history and allure of a Mont Blanc?), and real notepads.  Harking back to an era where Hemingway would go nowhere without his trusty Moleskine notepad.  And Bruce Chatwin said it was worse to lose one of his notepads than his passport.  There is a magic evoked that can not be matched digitally.

So I have been experimenting with new journalling mediums.  Putting aside the pen for now, and trying out other options that are available online.  Many in the form of apps.  The one I have been using for about a month now is a daily journal app called “Day One” which captures all kinds of metadata related to all your posts, such as your location when you wrote the post, what the weather was like, and even what music you may have been listening.  With the ability to add pics too it is a great way of journalling my day and capturing anything that I’d like to look back on and remember.  

What do you prefer?  Writing in a real diary, or notepad.  Or have you moved to digital, and started reaping the benefits that brings such as tagging, allowing you to immediately find any entry, from any month, or any year.  And allowing you to include photos, be they daily selfies, or memories from holidays.  Do you use a stylus, and try and retain some sense of tradition, or have you moved fully to virtual keyboards.  I would be very interested to hear from all of you who write a diary, or journal, and how you maintain it.

For me the jury is still out as to which I prefer, the traditional, or the modern way.  I will keep experimenting.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

What has been happening through Autumn?

So many things seem to have happened since we last spoke that it is hard to think where to begin.  If i was a better write than I am I would write in a nonlinear fashion, dropping crumbs all over, then bringing them all together at the end.  Like a literary masterpiece.  However, you don’t have Hemingway.  You have me.


In the spirit of seeing as much as we can, within Australia, a couple of weeks ago we took an early mark from work, and headed downtown, to our usual car hire place, and from there headed off to Kangaroo Valley.  Somewhere new.  For a couple of nights.


In Friday afternoon traffic, Kangaroo Valley is almost 3 hours south of Sydney, in an area called Shoalhaven.  We have been down this part of the world previously, having once spent a great weekend in Jervis Bay with friends.  Kangaroo Valley is a little further inland, through the picture postcard village of Berry.  And if you know of Berry, you know of the “Famous Donut Van” in Berry.  Needless to say, we got ourselves acquainted.


Talking of “famous” food outlets, Kangaroo Valley has it’s own.  Not wanting to be outdone, there is the “World Famous Pie” shop, something I was not going to miss.  And my oh my.  The pie was outstanding.  Best I have ever had.  Period.  If it wasn’t for the pre-holiday health kick I am about to embark on, I would have brought enough home to fill up the freezer.




Despite the name of our home for the weekend, ironically, we saw very few kangaroos.  Not as many as we see when we visit our favourite spot in the countryside, Mudgee.  I had been teased with the prospect of seeing wombats in the wild, but despite trying to make myself invisible, and wait for them to come out in the evening, the reclusive little blighters never showed their cute, fat little faces.


Our accommodation was a perfect little cottage, called “The Hammock”, with an open fire that we got roaring in the evening.  The temperature drops a lot when the sun goes down, and when I saw the open fireplace I was in my element.  I am not sure what it is about fire, but getting it started becomes an obsession.  Then keeping it going becomes hypnotic.  Hearing the fire crackle, feeling the heat, watching the flames, with the alcoholic effects of a few large, full bodied, glasses of red wine (bought from the local winery, some 20 minutes from the cottage) it was a heavenly evening.




We were soon back in the real world, back in the city life, so why not make the most of it. As we had been away so recently, we decided to remain closer to home for the Easter break, and instead booked one of our famous city "staycations".  We seem to be getting around most of the hotels in Sydney, and Easter saw us staying at the Old Clare Hotel, in Chippendale.  On the site of the old Carlton and United brewery.  For UK readers, it is where your Fosters lager used to come from.  The area has gone, and is going, through massive regeneration, and is fasting becoming one of the places to be in Sydney.


The hotel is on Kensington St which has become a restaurant hot spot, which also incorporates “Spice Alley”, a fascinating blend of old and new, housing numerous excellent Asian eateries.  Definitely worth a visit, if not an overnight stay, if you are in the neighbourhood.




And with all the eating and drinking that has been occurring, virtually non stop since Christmas, there has been the inevitable addition of a few pounds around the waistline.  If you love food and fine wine as much as I do, who said bon vivant?, you will know that it is not a one way street.  You have to put the effort in to keep from blowing up like the Michelin man.


I continue with my gym work, and weekly 5 a side run out, but have added something else to my repertoire.  Dynamic Pilates.  Yup, you heard right, I have started doing pilates.  The kind where you lay on what looks like a torture bed.  Or something you may have read about in 50 Shades of Grey.  All springs and straps.  With less pleasure.  I’m assuming about the pleasure, of course, having had no experience of anything you may have read in any of EL James’s “best sellers”.


It is amazing how fast an hour passes when doing pilates, focussing the mind, breathing in tune to the exercises, compared to time spent on the treadmill in the gym.  I’m not afraid to say I loathe running.  Unless it is on a football pitch.  Running, for runnings sake is not what i was created for.  And the time I spend knocking out a few kms on the treadmill seems to drag in comparison.


That said, needs must. So, for the next few weeks, my aim is to shift my “winter coat”, in time for my European summer.  Alcohol canned (which means abstention, not drinking tinnies) for a month.  Exercise upped for the month.  And no treats in between (after I have eaten all my Easter chocolate).

Wish me luck friends.

P.S. voting in Australia is compulsory for all citizens, which now includes me of course. So this month also saw me casting my first ever vote here in Australia, in the local by election. This Yorkshire lad is already making his contribution.

P.P.S. In the last couple of weeks, the government has announced sweeping changes to how you achieve citizenship. Seems I got in just in time!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Celebrating Australian citizenship in Mudgee


It is easy to see why it is called “nest in the hills”.  Some 3 and a half hours from Sydney, in mid-central New South Wales, Mudgee (from Moothi, which literally means nest in the hills) is a world away from the bright city lights of Sydney.  And with over 43 wineries to explore, it is an oenophilia’s paradise.  On the couple of weekends we have stayed, we are steadily working our way through the best of them.


Taking the Old Bells Line of Road, up through the Blue Mountains, we stopped briefly in the apple capital, Bilpin, for a piece of the world's best apple pie.  Pushing on, arriving mid afternoon at Riverlea Cottage, south of Mudgee, we were greeted by Toto and Guinness, the family dogs, like we had never been away.

In the 12 months since we were last here, not much had changed, just the addition of guinea fowl it seems.  And why guinea fowl you may ask?  Just as I did.  Well, the brown snake I almost stepped on whilst walking in the paddock answers that one.  Depending on what you read, the brown snake is reputed to be the second most venomous snake in the world.  I'll say that again.  The second most venomous snake in the WORLD.  And I almost just stood on one.  A recent blog had me celebrating making it past 44.  Making 45 was looking decidedly at risk.

The welcoming committee
Enter the guinea fowl.  As our saviours from snakes.  Apparently.  Somebody had told Helena that they were a good deterrent for snakes.  And now Ned had more mouths to feed along with the dogs, the alpacas, and the chooks.  I assumed the many kangaroos we saw managed to feed themselves. What I hadn't accounted for was dealing with the infamous Huntsman spiders.  Quite possibly harmless, everybody tells me, but just the sight of the bloody things are enough to give you a cardiac arrest.  THAT little critter was something I wasn’t going to deal with.  Cue shouting for Ned!

Australia Day finished with us stargazing, with a chilled bottle of locally produced wine.  And with zero light pollution, the effect was amazing.  But the day started with me meeting Tony Abbott (ex prime minister, originally hailing all the way from London) at my Australian citizenship ceremony in Mosman.  A journey that started on a bitterly cold December morning in Halifax, 2010, posting my permanent residency application off, which was granted on 26th January 2012, culminated on 26th January 2017, with the grant of my citizenship.  I am thankful to call home a country that welcomes immigrants, and builds its strength from the diversity that we can bring to a country and it's culture.



My struggles at times, settling into a new culture, thousands of miles from family, friends, and my beloved football club, have been well documented here.  I have to be honest and admit that on many occasions I didn’t think I would reach this milestone, becoming Australian.  But if you just focus on the days, the years have a way of looking after themselves, and here I am, a dual national, with opportunities now opening up in front of me.

Regardless of what happens now, from trying another country, a new culture, immersed in a new language, doing a doing a stint closer to home, or just taking an extended break travelling, having the passport allows us to return to Oz at any point.  Remaining in Oz, or returning later to downsize our life and live the quintessential laid back Aussie lifestyle.  There are many little towns that are perfect for such a life.  And what a life.

Reading here about something called "stress"!
Which is one of the reasons we love Mudgee.  A typical conversation goes something like this;

“Where are you from?”

“Sydney.  We are just up in Mudgee for the weekend.”

“Ah, Sydney.  I went there once.  Never again.  Too busy, too many people.”


And returning on the Sunday, to Mosman, brought this starkly into life.  Crossing the road, on a pedestrian crossing, the lady driving the car was revving her engine, actually edging onto the zebra crossing, and shouted out of her window for us to hurry up.  City life, for all it’s upsides, leaves a lot to be desired.

Tree change anyone?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Reflections on a fantastic Xmas 2016

I have said it before.  And it needs saying again.  I live in a very beautiful, picturesque part of the world.  The village I live in has everything I could ever want, or need, without having to leave the confines of the post code.

But when I do venture out, beyond 2088, I am always greeted with new, and amazing sights, and experiences.

That said, into year 5 of living in Sydney, and with the daily drudge of the commute into the city, with everybody else, heads down, engrossed in their smartphones, it is often easy to miss what is in front of you.  Slightly take for granted that my office, in the architecturally magnificent, restored old General Post Office in Martin Place, is in the centre of Sydney.  One of the world's most visually stunning cities.

So, it is with delight, that when we have first time visitors to Sydney, as we have had over Christmas, I get to see Sydney all over again, vicariously, for the first time.  The first sight of THAT bridge, and the Opera House, as the Mosman Bay ferry rounds the bend at Cremorne, and Port Jackson comes into view, in all her glory.  This time of year, we also have the joy of seeing one of the many large cruise ships, docked in Circular Quay, speculating on where they are headed for the season festivities as they enjoy their sail away party, which is an actual thing, apparently.  Which you would know, if television programmes about cruise ships were amongst your favourite shows too.

In the beautiful Hunter Valley
So, how to best plan for visitors?  Regular readers of the blog will be aware of my love of a spreadsheet.  Not the boring kind I have to maintain at work, tracking annual budgets, and project forecasts.  But the more exciting kind, if there is such as thing.  Burger rankings.  Wine tastings I have done around the world.  And the one that gets recycled the most, the “See everything in Sydney in a week, or two, tour” spreadsheet.  Where all that seems to get changed each time it is used are the dates.

Planning for our visitors, the most recent of which arrived on these shores on December 18th, is spreadsheet nirvana.  Into Google Sheets (other applications are available) I go, save a copy of the last used, update the names of the guests, and away I go.  Wine tour, tick. (Special thanks to Sam at Kangarrific for what is perennially the world's best day trip).  Bondi to Coogee walk, tick.  Spit Bridge to Manly scenic walk, tick.  Blue Mountains day trip, tick.  Proper Aussie barbie, tick.   Xmas day on the beach, with beers, tick.  Chicken schnitty, tick.  Nothing gets left to chance.  Nothing gets left out.

I’d like to think, and hope, that all our guests go home with a real sense of what Sydney is like, and having had some quintessential Australian experiences.  Tim Tams included.

And in return, I get to learn things myself. Who knew “dabbing” is not just the latest dance craze?  That you could get “black jack” scented vapers? (a pretend cigarette, if like me, you were clueless).  And that you can actually buy “In The Navy” briefs.  Say whaaat?!?  Every day is a school day in my life.  Thank you Serge, and Serge, for those snippets of information.

Much fun was had over the holiday period, and I am just thankful we still had a regular bottle recycling collection.  I think we kept Dan Murphy's in business over Xmas.



The lads obviously brought their drinking boots.  After we warned them we would be sup’ing.  Being from the area in and around infamous Blackpool, they assumed it would entail many visits to Yate’s wine lodge, Wetherspoon’s, and the Tower ballroom type pubs and bars.  Little did they know this entailed a long board, a paddle, and much balance, as we attempted to traverse middle harbour at Balmoral.

Stand up paddle (SUP) boarding is harder than the people gliding out in the water would have you believe.  That said, one of our party was annoyingly good at his first ever attempt.  Most of the hour was spent trying to dunk him in the invigoratingly chilly ocean, once he had been suitably reassured there were no sharks lurking ready to take a large chunk out of him.  At least in the water he was safe from spiders.  And safe from pictures of spiders, which seem to cause the same involuntary reaction, which at first I worried was a stroke.

What is the first thing an English person wants to do in Australia?  Yes, determine the hottest part of the day, find the spot with the least amount of shade, and sit there.  And sit.  Well, I don't need to spell out the result to you.  You have all (Aussies excepted) been there yourself.  Day 1, first degree burns.  Whilst my call for shade on the first day ignored, the rest of the holiday followed a “safety first” approach.  Slip, slop, slap.

End of the Bondi to Coogee walk - beer awaiting

I'm sure the good memories will last longer than the pink faces that were still in evidence as we said a very sad farewell.  A great holiday, with great company.  You are welcome back anytime chaps.

Squish squish.