Australia Day

Sydney Harbour Bridge with giraffe in foreground

As it’s 26th January, Australia Day, I’ve leapt from the English shores over to Sydney’s two biggest icons – the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, albeit slightly less conventional perspectives.

~ Spotted Cow

Sydney Opera House triangles

 

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Chickens as pets

Chickens pecking in the grass

We used to have chickens as pets, until the kids had too many commitments at school and sport and they had to be given away. This wasn’t in the country; it was in residential Sydney. They ran around in the backyard and sometimes they would holiday in our folks’ garden out in way-out-suburban Sydney. Middle-class chickens, these were.

They were called Cluck and Chickarita. Not terribly imaginative, I know, but their names were quite descriptive. Cluck was dependable and a regular egg-layer. Chickarita was a drama queen and her eggs were erratic.

You wouldn’t think that chickens are affectionate creatures, but the children would run out into the garden and hug them every morning. Then, they hoarded their eggs like gold, not wanting to eat them. We would come up to three weeks worth of eggs and have to give them away surreptitiously at an omelette party.

They’re not far these days, at an uncle’s house, and we visit occasionally. As it’s coming up to Easter, we wanted to remember them as they made our lives richer for a period of time.

~ Spotted Cow

Strutting chickensChickens on the clothes lineEggsLeaping over an unsuspecting chicken

Cronulla

Cronulla ocean pool

I wanted to get in another “Greek swim” before coming back to London and so we got on the Illawarra train line all the way south to Cronulla. It’s a long way from where the folks live but we’d never been and thought we should get out of our comfort zone. Cronulla is the only one of Sydney’s beachside suburbs where the train runs all the way to the beach.

We were delighted to find a really lovely and local beach. It’s charm comes from it’s laid back-ness and there are few tourists. And there are two ocean pools! I love Sydney’s ocean pools because you can swim safely on the edge of the sea, with a wonderful view. I’ve never seen pools like these anywhere else.

When we had enough of the sun and sea, we went to get iced lattes at Grind, a quirky coffee shop that has been serving the area for over a decade … and a big wall of photos of their patrons saying “I’d rather be at Grind”.

~ Spotted Cow

Cronulla main beachCronulla sea view Girls on the edgeI'd rather be at Grindiced chai latte

“Greek” swim

Coogee beach

One of our favourite Sydney walks is the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk up the eastern city beaches. It’s an easy walk, the views are amazing, and there is a choice of beaches and cafes to stop off at along the way.

This trip, I did the walk with my beautiful Greek-Australian friend, M. We had a lot to catch up on and we started from the Coogee end – first with a mid-morning coffee and juice – with a view to finishing with a drink from the bar at the Bondi Icebergs at the other end.

The walk takes about 2 hours, and we broke it up with a stop at Bronte beach where I notched up my first swim of 2015. When I say swim, I mean a “Greek” swim, as M calls it. I wade into the sea up to my waist and when the waves come, I jump with them. There is no actual swimming in the technical sense!

~ Spotted Cow

Boats on the beach Bondi to Coogee walk Swimming coveBondi Icebergs and Bondi Beach

Inside the Opera House

Sydney Opera House

We played at being tourists and went on the Sydney Opera House tour. I can’t believe we’ve never done it because it’s really interesting.

The Sydney Opera House on Bennelong Point is so iconic that it is impossible to imagine a conventional rectangular building standing there. But that almost happened, if one of the competition judges hadn’t asked to re-visit the reject pile. He found Jorn Utzon’s design submission and subsequently declared it the winner. Construction began even though they didn’t know how they were going to build the now-famous sail shell structures. What followed was a 15-year controversy caused by design & construction challenges, building delays and massive cost overruns (a 15-fold cost explosion vs estimates), which saw Utzon resign from the project before it was completed.

There is, however, a happy ending to the story. You’ll have to go on the tour to find out.

When you’re there, have a look closely at the sails. They’re tiled with bespoke cream and off-white tiles so that they appear white overall. If the tiles were pure white, it would be blinding when the sun reflects off it.

~ Spotted Cow

Looking out onto the harbourInside the Opera House Curves and linesOpera House sailsTiles

Weekly Photo Challenge: Serenity

Misty mountains

One overcast day, we went up to the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney and we saw the mist rise above the forest floor. It was lovely and magical.  This vista is from the Hydro Majestic Hotel, whose perch overlooks the Megalong Valley.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Serenity

~ Spotted Cow

Checking out the birds

Owl with big round eyes

Sydney’s Taronga Zoo is truly the zoo with the best views. One of our favourite things is the Bird Show, which always has a long queue. They change the programme regularly and we’ve seen different shows each time we’ve visited over the years. It really is quite marvellous, especially against the Sydney harbour backdrop. My favourite on this trip was the owl with the big round eyes.

~ Spotted Cow

Taronga Zoo bird show Galah with harbour bridge in the backgroundBird show with harbour view

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed

Sydney Opera House front steps and entrance

We’re back on the set after the Christmas – New Year (and more) break. Happy New Year everyone.

It was hot in Sydney and I was lazy with the camera, but I do have an image for this week’s Shadowed theme on the Weekly Photo Challenge. It’s a shot of the Opera House sails from the front steps, with the entrance shells deeply shadowed in the midday sun.

~ Spotted Cow

Sydney Things-To-Do List

Sydney Wish List

I’m counting down till Christmas holidays when I go home to spend some time with the folks and the rest of the clan. I’ve already started my Sydney list of things to do and I’ve got to Number 8. Some are old favourites and others will be a completely new experience. Please do chip in with recommendations – especially Sydneysiders, tell me about your hangouts !

1. White Rabbit Gallery. I’ve only visited the gallery once, but I thoroughly enjoyed the well-curated exhibition of contemporary Chinese art.  After you’ve walked up all the floors, stop by the lovely teahouse, and sip lychee iced-tea under the hanging birdcages.

2. Govinda’s. This is an old favourite for a curry and movie night on the large cushions.

3. Mr Wong. We went to Mr Wong for the first time during a Good Food month and thoroughly enjoyed our modern dim sum lunch. We’ve since decided to make it a habit.

4. Coogee Pavilion. I was looking for a lunch place with a sea view and found this reviewed on Not Quite Nigella, which incidentally is also my favourite blog for food reviews and food photos.

5. Sydney Festival. I usually miss the Sydney Festival, but this time I’m home, albeit only for the first days. Yay! I quite fancy some (more) circus cabaret.

6. New Year’s Eve fireworks. I don’t know what we’re doing yet exactly, but we’re going to be there for the countdown and firework display.

7. TreeTop Adventure Park. We love the treetop adventure courses and can’t get enough of whizzing through the trees on flying foxes. We haven’t been to the one in Newcastle yet. The kids are taller now so height isn’t going to be an issue. Everyone gets to go on the adult course.

8. Taronga Zoo. This is the zoo with the fantastic harbour views and it is our perennial favourite. We’ve previously been on one of the personal tours into the private enclosures and it was an amazing experience. An emu trod on my toe while I was visiting. These days there are also summer concerts and there’s a new treetop adventure called Wild Ropes. And I saw that you can get up close and personal with a giraffe !

~ Spotted Cow

Note. Except for Mr Wong, the images have been gratuitously plucked from their respective websites.

Sydney from a 727

Sydney Harbour Bridge & Opera House

I’ve booked my flight home to Sydney for Christmas – woo hoo ! – to catch up with the folks and hang out with the other cows. It’s ages away yet but I wanted to get a decent fare and a decent flight, ie. one without 7-hour connections. I have 8 months to savour the anticipation and note the things I want to get up to, places I want to eat & drink at, and stuff that I didn’t appreciate when I lived there. Anyone with interesting recommendations, feel free to comment below.

Sydney from a 727. It’s the Paul Kelly song that springs up – I can visualise it now – when the plane flies into the harbour head, over the iconic opera house and harbour bridge, then circles into Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport. Only, these days Paul Kelly has upgraded to Sydney from a 747. He originally wrote the song about the red eye flight from Perth to Sydney. I love it. It takes me back to a time when I was a (very) young adult, still naïve and feeling empowered by my new independence.

While looking for the song, I discovered that Paul Kelly had done a TEDxSydney talk in 2011. He talks about his book How To Make Gravy, best listened to as an audiobook, where he tells his life story and there’s one of his songs associated with each chapter. It’s going on my Wish List.

~ Spotted Cow

Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters

Sydney street art

I thought I wouldn’t have an image for the Letters theme in the latest Weekly Photo Challenge. However, I found a photograph I took several years ago of this bit of street art on the side of a building on Abercrombie Lane in Sydney. It was a stylistic collection of cursive words and names, and we wondered what they meant to the artist. Cowlick said that it was originally the entire wall, and the lower part had been painted over. Moo Cow reckoned that she could see her name inscribed above.

I presume that by now, it has been whitewashed over in its entirety.

~ Spotted Cow

Google maps. Abercrombie Lane Sydney
Google maps. Abercrombie Lane, Sydney.

 

Bondi Icebergs

This being Australia Day, I thought I’d take a walk through the archives and look for something quintessentially Australian. Something from Sydney.  My folks and the rest of the cows live in Sydney and every other year I go back to hang out with them as well as play tourist, albeit a familiar tourist.

I’ve chosen the Bondi Icebergs Club, which is a saltwater swimming pool down the road from Bondi Beach. Back in the day, it started out as a winter swimming club so that lifesavers could stay fit in the colder months.

I used to be an avid swimmer but I think I’ve been swimming there only once and I remember that the water was freezing.  It took ages for me to get started on laps because I was standing on the side, not wanting to get in. They don’t heat the pool and I’m particularly chicken about cold water.

I have, however, had lunch on the balcony from their bistro menu. It was a far more agreeable experience – eating and drinking with friends, taking in the ocean view, and watching the lap swimmers do their thing. The Bondi Icebergs website says that 82 whales have been seen from deck. I’m hoping I spy one next time.

~ Spotted Cow

Bondi Icebergs Club

View from the Tree Tops

The Tree Tops Adventure Park on the Central Coast – just under 2 hours north of Sydney – is a fun way to look at nature from 30 feet off the ground.  This is definitely not for vertigo-sufferers. Crawling through netting, soaring on the flying fox, and winding your way through courses made from different ropes and logs on a high-rope course up in the trees.  The course is very safe – the instructors show you the ropes, get you familiar with the caribiner system and might even climb up to save you if you are unsure, scared or have fallen and cannot get back up. This obviously didn’t happen to us !

Up in the trees, you will experience many different challenges. For example, have you tried getting a secure foothold on a swaying log before you lift your other foot off the other swaying log?  For younger climbers, there is a children’s course which is much lower and excludes the flying fox.  We went there as a family and helped each other when possible (if we weren’t struggling ourselves!)  Getting harnessed up is fun too – as long as you don’t get a wedgie!!!

~ Moo Cow

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Up in the Air at Luna Park

Sydney’s Luna Park sits under the Harbour Bridge and has scenic views back onto the iconic bridge and the city. It’s a fun afternoon out as long as you keep in mind that you’re not going to Disneyland.  It’s not glitzy and polished and new … although there is candy floss and fried food. The original park was built in 1935 and it retains that old world character, especially when you walk up toward the big face entrance.

We like heights and we like speed dips. So our absolute favourite was the roller coaster, which we went on several times. Don’t eat a big meal before you get on !

http://www.lunaparksydney.com

Spotted Cow

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