30. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Outdoors · Tags: , ,
City from Watsons Bay

City from Watsons Bay

We’ve been to Watsons Bay before, and I took a day trip back there recently. I was actually planning to go to Manly, but 30 minutes before the ferry left it was full up with tourists so I changed my plans and went to Watsons Bay instead! Its about 30 minutes on the ferry across the Harbour and we’ve often recommended it to our visitors.

The reasons Watsons Bay is a good place to visit are:

  • You get to cruise on the Harbour past the Opera House for about a $7 ferry ticket (who needs a $60 tour?!)
  • Doyles (famous here) have a chip shop there with excellent fish and chips – both a cafe style version and a upmarket restaurant if you want to splash some cash
  • You can sit on the relatively quiet beach and look back at the Harbour Bridge in the distance – look out for the nudist section though (depending on your preference of course)
  • There is a gelato shop and I can personally highly recommend the chocolate sorbet
  • There’s a park to sit in and read a book if you want some shade or to escape the sand
  • Up the hill is a bit of a cliff top walk with great views over to Manly and the other way to the city
  • There’s less tourists there than somewhere like Manly

 

Watsons Bay cliffs

Watsons Bay cliffs

 

 

John Lennons glasses

John Lennons glasses

In Sydney, on the edge of the Harbour overlooking the Opera House if the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia. They have a free collection which changes regularly, and rotating paid exhibits to.

Since November there has been a series by Yoko Ono there called War is Over! (If you want it). Tickets are $20 and I thought it was worth a look. There are about 25 different works there, and I spent about 90 minutes going around. The works include sculptures, installations, interactive pieces, films and photographs. The theme (according to the booklet) is about “capturing the power of the human mind to transcend the present and wish for a better world in the future, without conflict”.

I enjoyed the art, and here are some of my favorite pieces (some of this stuff is a bit profound):

Play it by Trust: Another interactive work, these were chess sets where all the pieces on both sides are white. The piece is originally from 1966. Once you start playing and the pieces mix together its hard to know who’s piece is which, the idea of competition breaks down and it is meant to create a shared understanding and a new relationship based on empathy rather than opposition. Like in a real life battle or war I guess, if you realise we are all people. Matt wasn’t there to play a game with me, but given that he wouldn’t have been able to win i’m not sure he would have enjoyed it!

Play it by Trust chess set

Play it by Trust chess set

Telephone in maze: This is what it sounds like. The maze is made of perspex, and very disorientating as you can’t easily tell where the walls actually are. When you go in they warn you to put your hands in front of you as they’ve had a few minor injuries! I was OK inside the maze, but may have had a slightly embarrassing moment when I tried to go into it in a place which wasn’t the door! (Ooops). 

Doors and sky puddles: This was a big room, with a out 10 upright and a couple of fallen over suspended tatty doors with small messages from Yoko on them. On the floor were puddles coloured like the sky – sky is a recurring theme in a lot of the pieces. The booklet says ‘doors are just a figment of our imagination’ and barriers exist in our mind as much as in reality and that we need strength and courage to pass on through them. This idea resonates well with me. What barriers do you make for yourself? What if you didn’t? (A problems not a problem until its a problem).

Doors and Sky Puddles

Doors and Sky Puddles

We’re all water: This is named after a song with John Lennon, and is a wall full of glass bottles, all full of the same amount of water. They all have names of famous people on them from Charles Darwin to Hitler and Cleopatra. The idea (I expect) is all about highlighting the commonality between different people. It made me think about the nature of the self – briefly, until that all became a bit profound.

Touch me III: This was weird. Its about violence done to women and is a series of boxes, with silicone body parts in it laid out in a body shape, some of which have become deformed and worn over time. You’re invited to touch them, which I did. It was very strange as the silicone was a lot wobblier and softer than I expected. That’s all.

Vertical Memory and Wish tree for Sydney: These two pieces were on a similar theme of participation. In the first one you wrote where you wanted to go on a luggage tag and put it into a suitcase (I really had to think about narrowing my list down for that one). The second one was you wrote down a wish and tied it to one of several lemon-scented eucalyptus trees out on the balcony overlooking the Opera House. Its about Yokos belief in the power of the mind to effect positive change. 

It’s definitely worth a visit if you like art, even a little bit. Hopefully this post wasn’t too out there!

 

l there is

Elvina Bay

Elvina Bay

We have a book called ‘Sydneys Best Harbour and Coastal Walks’. We ticked off walk number 3 recently, Elvina Bay.

Its a medium grade, 2.5 hour walk over 6km. It starts from Church Point, about 40 minutes drive north, on the edge of the Ku-ring-gai Chase NP. The walk is pretty exciting becasue to get to the start and once you’re finished you have to go on a ferry across Elvina Bay. It runs in a circle so on the way out it takes about 30 mins, around Scotland Island, and then 10 mins on the way back.

The ferry goes every hour, and we just missed it so we took the opportunity for some light refreshments at the cafe in Church Point in the form of a cream tea. Now I am a bit of a cream tea critic so need to get off topic for a moment to write about it. On the plus side the pot of tea was gigantic, and the scones were gigantic and warm fresh out the oven which was great. However, there were three issues with the cream tea:

1. No fruit in the scones. I like fruit in a scone, becasue it tastes nice and also it makes me feel that it is marginally healthier! I know scone purists might say this is wrong, and can forgive plain scones, but fruit is my preference.

2. Not enough jam. This is a common bugbear or mine with cream teas. I prefer jam over cream and we had one small pot for two massive scones. Nowhere near enough. As it was mainly a lunch place I decided not to ask for more, but this has been known in the past!

3. It was served with squirty cream! This is a total cream tea crime! Now I’ve not had any other cream teas here in Australia yet to know if this is common, but it did make me pretty sad!

Anyway, back to the walk! The ferry ride was very scenic, with lots of houses backing right onto the water and with superb views. We got slightly lost at the start, as the description in the book wasn’t quite as clear and reliable as usual!

Church Point Ferry

Church Point Ferry

Near the beginning was a climb up a hill to a look out with views over the beach, bay and boats. A bit further on there was a series of pools with a water view beyond, which was also nice. Matt had a little dip in the water and we had a bit of a picnic lunch (although admittedly really we were still pretty full from the epic scones). Getting to the end of the walk was a big area of tessellated pavement and some aboriginal carvings including shields, kangaroos and an emu which were cool.

The majority of the walk wasn’t that impressive compared to some in the Blue Mountains, but overall with the cream tea and ferry ride it was a good day out and I’m glad we went.

 

Aboriginal kangaroo engravings

Aboriginal kangaroo engravings

 

Mini-waterfall in the Grand Canyon

Mini-waterfall in the Grand Canyon

No, we didn’t go on holiday to America – there is a Grand Canyon in the Blue Mountains.

This is one of the classic and popular Blue Mountains walks. When we first wanted to do it it was closed due to path work, so we headed back in January. It was a boiling 33/34 degrees, which is officially currently too hot for me to cope with very well! Luckily the majority of the walk is down in the canyon where its shady, cooler, damp and probably around 10 degrees cooler.

The walk is a loop and only 5.5 km, but because of the amount of ascent and descent at the end of each canyon and the path being quite steep and a bit slippery in place they recommend 3.5-4 hours for it. We smashed it in 2 hours 10 mins, even with the heat! You start and end at Evans Lookout with cool views down the valley.

The walk itself starts with a fairly dull road section, and then descends through a glen into the canyon. There are lots of cool undercut rock formations from when the river used to be a lot hire, and even a totally enclosed tunnel which you go through – although its under 20m long its pretty dark! A lot of the walk is probably about half way down the canyon – looking down into it was quite cool – in some places there are just really narrow slots with vegetation so you cant actually see the bottom. There is a relatively short section along the actual canyon floor near the end of the walk where you go along the river and past pools.

Big Water Dragon

Big Water Dragon

The area is popular with canyoners and we saw some abseiling into the start. We also saw a giant water dragon. I was deep in discussion and walked right past it. Matt called my name so I turned around and jumped when I saw it sat on the rock right by me as I hadn’t expected it. He was pretty cool and let us take a few pictures before Matt encouraged me to leave him alone!

I enjoyed the walk, especially ducking along all the rocks and the shady coolness relative to the temperature at the top! The National Pass walk is probably slightly more scenic and varied, but then it does also have a lot more steps to contend with!

Me and the lizard

Me and the lizard

View from the O Bar

View from the O Bar

Back in 2013 I went with my friend Toby to the 360 revolving restaurant at the top of the Westfield tower in Sydney (the tallest building). You can read about that here.

On a recent Sydney city tour, we found out about a similar place called the O Bar and Dining (see here). This is similar to the 360 in that its a revolving restaurant. This one is 47 floors up and takes about 1 hour and 46 minutes to do a rotation. Its less well known, but now we know about it!

We went about a week before Valentines day (when the prices hike massively). We got a window seat as we went in the week when it was a bit quieter. The views were excellent. We went in about 6pm and stayed a bit over 2 hours so got to see the city in the daytime from high up, as well as the sun going down (which was slightly blinding at times). We started with the view over the Harbor and Opera House which I think is just great, and becasue of the rotation speed we got this a second time too before we left. I think the view was better than 360, as you can’t see the Opera House from there becasue of the tall buildings in the way (like the one O Bar is in). That said, I think the 360 revolves faster so you get to see more if you stay for just a shorter time.

The food is pretty pricey as you’d expect, but definitely well presented and yummy. If you go before 6.30pm (which we did) you can have a deal with 2 courses for $56 or three for $72. We went for three plus some bread and drinks on top. This saved me $17 and Matt $25. Although it was on the expensive side, for $200 we got three courses, bread, wine and world class views so in my mind it was totally worth it for a special occasion (not something we’d do regularly!) 

O Bar with Elly

O Bar with Elly

Here is what we ate for the foodies – I’m not totally sure what a couple of the accompaniments are!

  • Spiced prawn cakes with quinoa crust, chilli, lemon yoghurt, soft herbs (E)
  • Organic chicken sausage & farro, agave roasted carrots, flame grapes, chickpeas (M)
  • Blackened miso salmon & white miso, shaved asparagus, young shoots, supergrains (E)
  • Seared beef fillet & red pepperoncini, la chinata, salsa rossa, red elk leaves (M)
  • Hot chocolate soufflé & raw cocoa sauce, mint chocolate ice cream (E)
  • Selection of cheese & agave fruit pickle, walnut bread, seeded lavosh (M)

The raw cocoa sauce with my souffle was particularly good and amazingly rich.

You can go just for drinks and get similar views, and they have a cheaper bar menu too. I’d totally recommend it for a special occasion. I will definitely be thinking about taking our next lot of visitors up there, even if its just for drinks (that’s you Horsham gang!) To go up the Tower Eye for the view without any food is about $30, so you can probably get a couple of pricey drinks for that.

Who else is going to come and see it?

 

12. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,
The boar with the luiky nose

The boar with the luiky nose

When we were down in Melbourne we did the ‘I’m Free’ city tour. Knowledgeable, friendly people in bright green t-shirts take you on a walking tour of the city for about 3 hours. There isn’t a fixed fee, and they’re not paid, but instead you pay them a tip of what you thought the tour was worth at the end.

The Melbourne tour was really very good, so we said that at some point we would try the Sydney equivalent and we got around to it back in January. Although we’d been here nearly a year by then we figured there were bound to be some things we hadn’t seen yet and we didn’t really know a lot about the city history, so it seemed like a good chance to find out.

We met our tour guide Dee outside Town Hall and spent some time working out what major attractions they were likely to take us too. We got most of it right, expect the tour missed out Darling Harbour, although it did get a mention. First up we heard about the history of Gorge Street and how it didn’t used to be so important, hence ending up with a cathedral you enter via the back door as it was built facing the main road at the time which then became disused. We headed up to the Queen Victoria Building after that where we discovered the statue of Queen Victoria’s dog which talks, and that the historic clocks inside have figurines inside which move on the hour including an hourly beheading of Charles I!

We discovered plenty of other places on our trip including the inside of Customs House, the First Fleet memorial, Australia Square and the Rum Hospital (with the lucky boar above), and learnt about some of the city history too which was good. Just like in Melbourne our guide was knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic. We also got a map which had a good list of attractions on it, including some more obscure ones which we will try and see this year – like Hyde Park Barracks, the Rocks Discovery Museum, the money museum and plenty more. Lots of these are free too which is great! 

I’d totally recommend the tour, if you’re new to Sydney and have a few hours to spare or you’ve been here a while and want to get to know it a bit better. 

Artistic bird cages (with sound)

Artistic bird cages (with sound)

09. April 2014 · 3 comments · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,
Outdoor cinema, with bats

Outdoor cinema, with bats

The summer here is typically predictably fine and warm, and a selection of outdoor cinemas pop up at a few places around Sydney.

I was keen to try one out, so we signed up for the Hobbit 2 (the Desolation of Smaug) at Centennial Park for a Friday night (see here).

You can either get standard tickets for $18, or ‘gold grass’. Gold grass gets you your own giant bean bag, a spot right in the middle, plus a hot food service until the film starts. We went with the normal seats and considered hiring a bean bag separately. They were $9 and could clearly fit two although in the end we didn’t need one. We got there nice and early so manged to grab a prime spot, right on the edge of the gold grass to pretty central, plenty close enough to the screen and in the amphitheater style wide steps so we got to use one of the steps as a handy backrest. We could lie down against it which was pretty comfy.

You aren’t allowed to take along seats with legs on as they block other people’s view. We borrowed a Thermarest chair from Penny at work (thank you) which was nice and comfy and took a picnic blanket to sit on, a mini camping pillow and of course a hoodie to wear. The screen was a giant inflatable one with supports each side. It did wobble about in the wind a little bit, which made for some interesting distortion effects! As the sun set there were lots of pretty large bats flying about which was cool.

The film started at sunset (8.15pm) and was three hours long so it was pretty late and chilly by the end. Next time i’d definitely take a second blanket to snuggle under. Also at the end Matt did say “You’ll have to fill me in on the last 20 minutes” as he’d gone to sleep!

We took along a lot of snacks to munch on and ended up buying a bottle of wine there too as I didn’t realise you could bring drink until the last minute and we didn’t find a bottle shop on the way (doh!). Overall it was a excellent evening lying under the stars eating yummy things watching a good film. The actual cinema is a similar price. I’m glad we went and would certainly go to another one.

 

Stalagtites

Stalagtites

In January we had a long weekend for the Australia Day Bank Holiday. We spent it up in the Blue Mountains and had an awesome sheep roast with some friends on the Saturday. On the Sunday we went to visit the Jeonlan Caves, which have been on to the To Do list for a while. Thy’re about an hour west of Blackheath up in the Blue Mountains and there are about 12-15 different caves which you can visit there (all for a few of course). You can read more about them here.

Cave curtain

Cave curtain

We picked out the River Cave as its one with smaller groups and I liked the sound of the underwater River Styx and reflective pools. We’ve been to a few caves before, including recently Hastings Cave in Tasmania (see here) but I’ve not seen one with a big river in so decided to go for something different. The tour was 2 hours for $42 and is labelled as the most strenuous with over 1200 steps!

Twisty cave feature

Twisty cave feature

Before we even got on the tour the drive into the caves was cool, with the entrance including driving through a massive cavern. We were a bit early so went for a walk along the outside lake first, which was very blue becasue of all the suspended limestone particles. We also saw my firsty wild deadly red-bellied back snake. It was on a path which you could easily avoid and marked with this helpful warning sign! (Alight, so I’ll admit I walked along it when there was no snake there, and then when we came back via the higher path about 20 minutes later, there was Mr Snakey. Had the sign said it was a deadly one I might not have gone there!)

Snaaaaaaaaake

Snaaaaaaaaake

Anyway, onto the tour. Our guide was called Sam, was very friendly and took a pretty relaxed approach to the tour which ended up taking about 2 hours 20 minutes so we got some extra value for money in! There were probably about 25 of us on it and the tour included part of the popular Lucas Cave too. Some of the formations in the caves were very cool, particularly the large curtains, stalagmites and stalactites with sparkly crystals in which were very pretty and of course the pool of reflections. The water was so clear and still you could see in the pool really well, it was super reflective and it was in a big cavern all of its own with a walkway along the side. Also we didn’t end up accidentally in Hades, which is always a bonus!

Pool of Reflections

Pool of Reflections

We will probably go back to see some of the other caves which only take groups of 8. The Orient Cave is the oldest in the world (I think) and the Temple of Baal is meant to be very good too. With our tickets we get half price on all other cave trips for a year too and we’re bound to be back int he area for some climbing sooner or later.  

Rock wallaby actually on a rock

Rock wallaby actually on a rock

Our house in Feb 2013 just before we left

Our house in Feb 2013 just before we left

I’m coming to the UK soon for a holiday. In fact, I’m probably in the air now. Before leaving I thought about all the things I want to do while I’m over, and here’s the list. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Visiting:

1. See family
2. See friends
3. Hang out in a country pub, preferably with a fire
4. Visit a building over 200 years old
5. Walk in the countryside, potentially with a dog
6. Have some chips on Brighton beach
7. Go and see our house and nose about inside

Food and drink: (There seem to be a lot of things in this category)

8. Drink a lot of tea
9. Eat a proper cream tea
10. Eat a pub dinner including chips with vinegar on them
11. Eat a roast dinner
12. Eat a lot of marmite and buy lots of smuggle home
13. Eat melting middle fishcakes and Tesco veggeburgers (not together)
14. Have a BBQ using charcoal

Purchases: 

15. Go clothes shopping (including in H and M, Next, Debenhams and of course Marks and Spencers)
16. Get some work shoes from Clarkes
17. Buy the board game Cards Against Humanity

Other stuff 

18. Watch the BBC News
19. Play board games
20. Go on a single decker train
21. Complain about the weather
22. Sort out some stuff we left in people’s attics (not my idea of fun, but I feel a moral obligation)

I’m looking forward to you Poms stll at home helping me out with these!