The next trip was a visit to the beach at Manly. Popular with all Sydney-ites, there are non-stop fast ferries straight from Circular Quay, so it tends to be pretty well populated, but we got a fairly good day. Good for surfing, we rented a board and the girls and Alberto got stuck in- and compared to the freezing Atlantic, the warmth of the Pacific meant minimal wetsuits, which is a huge bonus. The Shelley beach at the far end is good for a snorkel on clear days too.
Nevertheless the slightly grotty town – and maybe because it got cloudy- left me a bit underwhelmed. I think we’ve got beach-and-scenery-spoilt after the beauty of New Zealand.
That evening, we met up with lovely Ed, the farming cousin of great friend in Madrid, whom we met at a great bar in Darlinghurst, the boho-arty-cool neighbourhood downtown. Which, surprise surprise, we loved! The girls survived the pandemonium, downed a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s to keep them quiet, looking on rather scornfully as we ordered another beer, although nothing untoward or the Australian fun police would no doubt come get us, as Ed told us, corroborating what friends and family had described. Quite extraordinary really the amount of prohibition and control they exert: curfews, banning of alcohol in festivals and concerts, you name it. There would be a veritable revolution were they to try that out in Madrid. But no messing- they are a formidable lot…
Fast forward and Ed then proposes a weekend trip to Palm beach, just north of the city and a favourite spot for Sydney weekenders and the Sydney jet. After a visit to see his lovely mother and partner in Mosman en route, we stopped off for lunch in a GREAT spot, The Newport. Owned by restaurant mogul Justin Hemmes, this place is such fun- a kind of St Tropez-without-bullshit meets beach bar, with lots of different stands for all types of food, play area for children and generally nice feel about it. Best oysters and tiger prawns this far.
The golden sand of Palm beach beckoned for a swim and impossible siesta. Warm warm sea and literally an hour and a half of playing in the surf. This, the Home and Away beach (not that I have it
etched onto my mind anymore, since the last time we all saw it at school), is definitely more like it. Had we had more time, there are walks down the beach to the dunes and lighthouse, kayaking in the lagoon behind, bush walks, everything. We finished with a visit to the bible gardens above before heading back – a perfect look out and place to meditate. Not that we did any meditating up there of course. We did see a lizard that looked like a dinosaur though.
Our last supper was Bondi, with Susie and Drew, leaving the kids to fight it out. For some inexplicable reason I had expected Bondi to be seedy and over touristy, but our short experience was a great one. People and tourists, inevitable, but loads of great restaurants, juice bars and places to go out. A margarita or two and some tacos in Fonda, and life was good… until we got home, had to pack, check in and be up at 5.30am ready for next stop: Byron Bay…. so actually, complaints were minimal, at least for us. For alberto, whose next miserable 30 hours were to be spent on China Southern to Madrid via Guangzhou and Amsterdam, the reluctance was understandable.