One of my favourite beaches in Australia has always been Manly, just east of Sydney harbour and a 20 min. ferry ride from the city’s Circular Quay. My travelling companion, Suzi, is also a fan of Manly so the first thing we did when she arrived in town was head down to the ferries for our Manly adventure. The trip was relaxing and scenic, going past the glamorous neighborhoods with multi-million dollar homes, sailing clubs and national parks and indigenous tribal lands.Upon arrival, we headed along The Corso, the shopping/dining pedestrian precinct that runs straight to the beachfront. There was an ANZAC memorial event the day we visited with lots of old “diggers” in attendance and a youthful contingent of military personnel paying respect.Aaaah, the beach – the broad golden sands looked stunning, even on an over-cast day.
After a half-hour stroll along the beachfront, we walked back towards the ferry docks stopping to admire some of the great old Victorian and Edwardian buildings, including the New Brighton Hotel (where I would frequent enjoy a frosty beer when travelling home for Christmas in the 80s and early 90s), and various vintage advertisements… Heading back, the ferry offered some great photo opps of the harbour, the bridge, the Opera House and the big cruise ship that was docked at Circular Quay. A fantastic and affordable ride. I wonder what other adventures await us tomorrow…..
As I previously mentioned, my hotel window overlooked Hyde Park in downtown Sydney, and every night this gorgeous building was illuminated and shone through the trees. Walking up to it during the day, it loomed over the lawns and water features and was a stark reminder of Australia’s war efforts from the turn of the last century up to today. On my second day there, I venture inside and this stunning bronze sculpture of a fallen soldier (Sacrifice by George Rayner Hoff – 1934) greeted me as I entered the lower exhibition halls…
You could feel the solemnity and national pride in the coolness of the marble halls. I viewed a number of WWI and WWII displays as well as Vietnam exhibitions and was overwhelmed by the photos, artifacts and information posted in the display cabinets. I had to sit down and rest for a bit just to absorb what I had seen and felt. All my school history lessons came flooding back and I only wished I had paid closer attention back in the 60s – this memorial brought history to life!
I spent nearly an hour in the gift shop, talking with a lovely gentleman who volunteers there regularly to assist with informing visitors as well as sales & donations. I purchased a beautiful pendant with a tiny round glass case of red dirt from the heart of Australia, a golden keyring in the shape of an Aussie digger’s hat made from an old genuine penny (handcrafted by the Vietnam Veterans Association), plus a series of postcards – my contribution to the upkeep and fundraising for the memorial. Stepping outside into the bright daylight, I headed towards a very unusual sculpture….a group of giant bullets and casings!This stunning and massive art installation is a tribute to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who served in the Australian military. If you visit Sydney, I strongly recommend you visit Hyde Park and the ANZAC memorial to learn how important Australia’s war efforts were to all previous wars and how many lives were sacrificed so we may enjoy our freedoms. www.anzacmemorial.nsw.gov.au
Touchdown! It was late in the evening when my plane landed at Kingsford Smith airport in Sydney (named for a famous early Aussie aviation hero), and the first thing I did after passing through customs was….get a meat pie! Yummmm…I’ve been jonesing for an Aussie meat pie for years and fortunately there was one café open in the airport and yes, they had meat pies!I hopped in a cab and headed with my pie in hand to the Hyde Park Inn, a modest hotel located in the downtown core, overlooking the famous park. What a great view I had.. My first morning in Sydney started with a bucket of latte from Starbucks (below) 1 block down from the hotel. Friendly staff ended up taking care of me for 4 days and got my coffees just right! BEWARE: in Australia there is no such thing as drip coffee. Everything is based on espresso and boy are their coffees (all styles) super strong. I learnt quickly to request 1/2 strength in cafes – fortunately in nearly all the hotels I stayed there were kettles and packets of instant coffee which was just fine for me. Anyway, my daily breakfasts were ham and cheese toasties (toasted sandwiches) which were delicious, fast and convenient.
While waiting a few days for my friend and travel companion, Suzi, to join me, I decided to do some touristy things including a sightseeing trip around town on the Big Bus. Although it was a bit chilly (it was late spring Down Under), I took a seat up top in the open upper deck. I loved seeing the bus stops with shout-outs to indigenous language and recognizing the land and tribe associated with the region.
The city of Sydney has a very distinct vibe: high-energy, raucous, fight-or-flight. I’ve become used to Toronto’s noise and chaos but Sydney is a whole other world! In fact, I couldn’t wait to get outta town and start my outback adventures. I did love visiting the Queen Victoria Building, filled with exclusive boutiques, lots of cafes and sweet/cake bars, filled with olde worlde charm and stunning architecture.So many other great old buildings to admire and the wide pedestrian-friendly sidewalks…The next day, I decided to visit the big ANZAC memorial in the park opposite my hotel…I’d been looking at it from my window for 2 days so it was time for me to explore and learn about the Australian New Zealand Army Corp. history from WWI thru Vietnam and the middle east. I knew it would be an emotional journey so…..it deserves its own blog post (tomorrow).
Throughout the 80s and 90s, I frequently journeyed home to Australia from Toronto, always spending a day or two in Hawaii to break up the very long journey half-way around the globe and chillin’ on the beach at Waikiki. I had originally booked for 3 days in Honolulu so I could do the touristy thing before heading Down Under but thanks to Qantas being so short-staffed with pilots and crew, my flight was cancelled and I had to scramble to find a seat on a plane 2 days earlier so all I had was 36hrs to enjoy the tropical paradise.This trip, I checked into the Holiday Inn Express, a couple of rows back from the beach and several hundred dollars a night cheaper!! Had a great view over the canal and up into the mountains…and the comfiest queen bed in which to recover from the Air Canada economy seats from Toronto and Vancouver (12 hours in total flying time). First place I visited was the Duke Kahanamoku memorial (below) on Waikiki beach – it is said he invented surfing as we know it today.I then worked by way along Kalakaua Avenue to view the grand old ladies – hotels Royal Hawaiian (the “pink palace”) and the Moana (pictured below) – I’ve stayed at both in the past and you get a real feel for 1920s old school hotel glamour when you walk in. Being on a budget this time, I headed over to Duke’s Lane, a great flea market where I found some treasures including a beautiful hair comb that the lovely stall holder lady put in my hair…isn’t it lovely?The famous International Market was torn down about 20yrs ago and in its place, there’s a suburban style mall with fancy-schmancy boutiques that you get in any major city. I really miss Trader Vic’s and all the cute stalls…but I did like seeing Don Ho’s memorial (below)Time to depart for the longest leg of my journey – the 10 1/2hrs across the Pacific to Sydney. But look what I found in the lounge at the Honolulu airport. I was having visions of Jack Lord calling Hawaii 5-O HQ while chasing a villain through the airport…”book him, Danno”!!So Aloha and mahalo to Hawaii, and westward ho on to Australia….
So now that I’ve been back in Toronto for 5 days, I’m finally catching up on sleep (crossing the int’l date line twice plus going thru numerous time zones creates havoc with mature bodies!) but am still re-adjusting my body clock. I’ve uploaded all my photos – over 1,000 snaps – to my laptop and will start to post blogs featuring the wonderful towns and cities I visited, the beaches and the bush, the flora and fauna (in particular the stunning gum trees and wildflowers), the cool people I met and the unique events, historical places and indigenous arts and landmarks. I was also able to re-connect with my sister, her husband and my nephew in Perth, Western Australia.Some places exceeded my expectations while others somewhat disappointed, but the nearly 2 months I spent Down Under in August & September took me to childhood homes and fun places I remember so I look fwd to sharing these unique experiences with you all. Thanks to my friend Suzi Stewart who made all the travel arrangements plus undertook all the driving, everything went well and we encountered no disasters…just a missed flight in Brisbane which resulted in Qantas putting us up for free in a 5-star hotel with food and taxis – how sad! And thanks also to Marilyn and Jeff Bromley in Brisbane for their kind hospitality. Marilyn, Suzi and I met through the Aaron Pedersen (pictured below) Fcbk fan page and the bond was strengthened when Suzi and I planned our trek to the beloved actor’s film & tv locations in the outback, and quest to find the actor himself after his sudden & mysterious retirement… sadly our efforts were all for naught so the Big Man is safe in his secret happy place!!Time now to put the coffee on and get cracking with my tales of outback travels, yummy food (esp. meat pies), extraordinary experiences and great friendships. SO over the next few weeks, you’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me…..