Monday, 21 May 2012

A Bonzer Birthday in Sydney

Well, you only turn 40-ahem-something once, and you only have your mother visit you in far-flung lands once or twelve times, so it seemed opportune for a girls weekend away and a boys weekend at home.

We decided on Sydney, the iconic (if not actual) capital of Australia, and a place neither of us had seen excepting the inside of its' airport.  So leaving C2 and J with vague plans for mountain biking, pancakes and copious amounts of computing gaming, we flew Qantas last Thursday to Sydney.

I had decided we would stay in a part of the city know as The Rocks, so dubbed because it sits on a rocky hill overlooking Sydney Harbour and was the site of the original European settlement in 1788.  It was a good choice as it was an area crowded with vibrant cafes, restaurants, historical landmarks, and shops and an easy peasy stroll down to Circular Quay, the heart of Sydney Harbour,  Darling Harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and of course, the Sydney Opera House.

Our hotel the Lord Nelson at The Rocks

Mum in the Lord Nelson pub
Our hotel, the Lord Nelson, argues that it is Sydney oldest and has been lovingly restored incorporating its' convict-quarried sandstone walls with modern hotel amenities.  There is even the second oldest pub still operating on the main floor, in fact, we entered and exited the hotel through the pub.  The hotel also has a well-reputed restaurant with an impressive wine cellar on the first floor.  We stayed on the 5th floor peering out of two hundred year dormer windows into Darling Harbour.

That first evening, we wandered down to Circular Quay in time to watch the sun set over the Harbour Bridge and glisten silver on the magnificent sails of the Opera House.  We settled into chairs outdoors at the Searock Restaurant, ordered champagne, witnessed the lights of the Harbour chase away the sunset, and then ordered more champagne and finally dinner reluctant to chance our perspective.

The next day, we toured all around the city, learning about Sydney's humble beginnings much of its' early architecture built on the backs of convicts, about the First Fleet's landing in 1788, and of that early settlement.  Then for fun, we headed out to Bondi Beach to walk the powdery sand on that famous beach and admire the local wildlife AKA beach volleyball players and surfers.

A bench on the main street in Bondi

This is what winter looks like in Bondi

Part of the great sails of the Sydney Opera House at night
Later than evening, we donned our finest and walked back down the hill to the Opera House to celebrate my birthday with center seats in the concert hall at a Gershwin concert played by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and led by a guest musical director, the remarkably-talented Vancouver Conductor, Bernard Tovy, who could have easily given up his day job for one as a stand-up comic.  The entire evening was a treat and I pinched myself more than once.

Sydney Harbour

Mum on a Kangaroo skin beside an aboriginal street performer playing a didgeridoo
We spent our third day trolling The Rocks market, and we might have spent some time shopping on George and Pitt streets before racing back to Circular Quay and climbing aboard a large ferry for a lunch cruise around Sydney Harbour complete with a three-course meal and a 360 degree view of the Harbour.  

A bit more exploring of Sydney's shopping districts might have completed our day before we stopped in at another of The Rocks historic pubs, the Phillip's Foote, named after Captain Arthur Phillip who led the first fleet from England to Australia in 1788.  Among the convicts on board The Scarborough of the First Fleet was Joseph Tuzo whose descendant helped establish Phillip's Foote in 1975.  Interesting no?

Our final day was spent wandering the historical walks and winding roads of The Rocks, more time at the wonderful market, several coffees, and a whole lot of people watching before eventually heading back to the airport and home in time to listen to J finish his french dictee.