Wednesday, October 3, 2012

It's not so grim oop North!

The great thing about actually spending time as a resident in a city, rather than a tourist, is that you really get the opportunity to see “beyond the brochure”.  Do more than scratch the surface.  A bit like peeling an onion, by slowly removing the layers, you start to see what is hidden under the surface. 

I have spent many a long holiday in Sydney, even living here, albeit briefly, in 1994.  And yet, I’m discovering that I have hardly scratched the surface of all it holds.  There is a side to Sydney that I haven’t seen before.  I suspect, not many tourists have seen it.

What we tend to see as tourists, is the side portrayed in the numerous guidebooks and travel shows.  Picking out the spots our friends have recommended to us from previous trips.  The picture-postcard vistas.  The Opera House, the Bridge (designed and built by a British firm who were also responsible for the Tyne bridge), and the iconic yellow and green Manly ferry.  And these are fabulous experiences.  Sights that absolutely should not be missed.  Veritable rites of passage for any visitor to Sydney.  Even to the regular visitor, the sight of the magnificent harbour as you casually chance upon it strolling from the CBD is breathtaking.  Often described as the most beautiful harbour in the world.  If it isn't it is definitely a contender, up there with Hong Kong.

That said, who hasn’t sat at Circular Quay, or in the Opera Bar, cooling off in the summer heat with a cold sauv blanc, or Meursault if you are posh, and stared wistfully into the smiling, somewhat sinister, eyes of Luna Park across the sun-kissed water and wondered, what treasures are over those hills?  What lies beyond the leafy suburbs of Kirribilli, Milson’s Point, Cremorne, and Taronga?  It’s like an Australian Parallel Universe just begging to be checked out.

This is the first time I have spent time on Sydney’s North Shore; what a delight it’s been.  Starting in Neutral Bay then moving into Mosman, a whole world has opened up to me, one that I would never know about as a tourist.  My local beach is a 10-minute walk away, Balmoral, and it is simply beautiful.  Smaller and less developed than many of Sydney’s larger beaches, it has a real beach suburb feel to it.  From dawn ‘til dusk you can see runners, swimmers, kayakers, walkers, paddle boarders and more, of all ages, taking advantage of this beautiful little spot.  Sunday sees the Rocky Island outlet transformed into a vast picnic area. I even know of one young man who proposed to his girlfriend on that very spot.  Good choice mate. 

I love to walk down to Balmoral, wander bare foot along the sand, the ocean lapping over my feet and just take in the splendor.  Marvel that I actually live here.  I think I’ve found where I will spend my birthday on Xmas Day.  Oh, and did I mention the outstanding fish and chips on offer from the “Bottom of the Harbour”?  Just watch out for the hungry, swooping seagulls.

In the other direction, down the hill to Chowder Bay is the beach at Clifton Gardens, and the lesser known (to me, honest) “nudist friendly” beaches of Obelisk and Cobblers.  At least I now have somewhere to go when my budgie smugglers are in the wash!

And this is just my suburb.  One of many such beach suburbs on the North Shore.  Recently, I took the scooter on a run up the Northern Beaches, calling in and drooling at places such as Freshwater, Dee Why (for fish and chips on the beach – notice a foodie theme?), Whale Beach and finally, Palm Beach.  Not so much as a homage to Home and Away, but more practically as this is where you run out of road.  This is the gateway to the Hawkesbury River, another area that demands to be explored.  Another on my North Shore to-do list.

With so many beaches to visit, camp sites and National Parks on my doorstep, I do wonder how long it will be before I eventually get back over to the Eastern Suburbs and reacquaint myself with Bronte, Coogee, Clovelly and the hip, rough around the edges, backpacker delights of Bondi.  Which reminds me.  If you want a laugh, YouTube the “Bondi Hipsters”, made me smile anyway.

‘Til the next time…this Pom has a fish and chip shop to visit.

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