A note on weather: Los Angeles and the general west coast of the USA is overcast with mist/fog in the AM and then it generally burns off in the late morning and you end up having a lovely day. Maybe it is because of the Southern Hemisphere, or what I don’t know, but what I find particularly interesting (and disturbing) about this part of the world is how unpredictable the weather can be.

Sunday morning Ian woke up early and went out for a long walk. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. When he returned about 8:30 am, it was starting to get overcast – and by early afternoon it was raining again. And it rained for the rest of the day. Geez…we ended up making our own fun by being relegated to playing Domino’s for a while and Jenny turned out to be the champion to Ian’s dismay.

Without much to do for the afternoon we decided to take a run over to the RSL – or the Returned & Services League. The RSL’s are also commonly known as Ex-Servo’s Club — are found all over the country. As the name implies, these are clubs specific for returning service members to come and have a place to meet, have a meal and relax. One could say they could be tied to the rotary clubs in the USA, but they are nothing like them whatsoever.

The RSL’s are pretty much the equivalent to the Mollymook Golf Club that I described in my first Mollymook post. And, quite strangely, you don’t need to be a member, retired or otherwise, of the armed forces to come in. They welcome “visitors” that live more than 5K away, or you can join at your local RSL as Ian and Jenny have done so by paying $5/year membership!

And they are beautiful. One requirement to operate is that they cannot make a profit, so the food and drink is very reasonable and they take all of the profits and pour them back into the facility. Some RSL’s are pretty boring, standard buildings from the outside, but inside they are palaces (so Ian and Jen have told me). We had a late lunch/early dinner in the RSL in Abudulla and not only was the building modern and clean, the food was very good. I had a pork roast dinner, Mum and Ian had another pie – this one steak and kidney, and Jenny had Beef Stroganoff which was also very good. They have raffles for cars (yes, brand new cars in the lobby) and slot machines to pass the time away – this is where they really make their money. For fun, Jenny bought raffle tickets for one a while ago and she won a meat box – literally all types of raw meat presented in a box that would be worth more than $50 for a $1 ticket.

So if you ever find yourself in Australia, be sure to visit a RSL!

And speaking of money, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the currency that they use in Australia. it is a combination of US dollars and British Pounds by it’s look. The money is all brightly colored – think Monopoly money – but you cannot get a $1 note, they only come in $1 and $2 gold coins. The smaller gold coin is $2 and the larger is $1. Mum, being very familiar with the British Pound, kept calling the coins “pounds” although they were dollars. And at a $1.15 USD exchange to the $1.00 AUS dollar, the currency is very favorable compared with most of the rest of the world!

Another reason to come back soon!

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Saturday found us on the beach in the morning… what a fantastic beach! The weather was clear and the wind was much calmer than on Friday. Mum and I headed down to the beach and walked all along the inlet to the beachside town. It took us a good 45 minutes for the walk, but we stopped occasionally to take in the view of the waves crashing against the shore while dodging the jellyfish that they call “bottlenecks” here.  Squeak, squeak, squeak we made our way along as the wind blew in our face all the way. It was a good, good walk and we both needed the exercise after sitting in the car for most of Friday.

We made our way to the break wall and had a sit on the bench while watching the kids surfing in the water. Everyone surfs here… either standing up or on a boogey board… with all of the known sharks in the area, it is the last thing I would do. The locals, well they just take it in stride and go with the flow. Their favorite saying here is “fare dinkum” – which means “that’s fair”… or something like that…. Which also goes to their general thoughts on “that’s life”, “that’s how it goes”, “c’est la vie”… as the shark comes and takes a limb. Seriously….this will also be evident when we visit Pebbley Beach in the afternoon.

Ian and Jenny met up with us and we had a coffee at the local café before heading back to the house. From there we piled in and took a quick trip over to Bateman’s Bay for lunch. It was a quick trip compared to the drive down from Sydney, the weather was pretty decent (still a bit chilly) and we had lunch at a local café. Lunch was good… Mum and I split a quiche and each had pumpkin soup. I enjoyed another good cup of coffee (ranking #3 on my list of coffee so far) and just hung out and chatted.

Afterwards we had a mooch for all of 5 minutes (yes, the fishing town is that small) before piling back into the CX7 and headed to Pebbley Beach. Before we left Sydney, Ian read my guide book on Australia and came across Pebbley Beach which is supposed to have a “large community of kangaroos” that you can practically go up to and touch (although not advisable). So we were game… we would have our sighting!

We took a very back woods kind of drive to get to the beach and passed the largest termite mounds I’ve ever seen… okay, well, I’ve never seen a termite mound before. We stopped after seeing several by the roadside and Jenny got OUT OF THE CAR and walked RIGHT OVER TO ONE and kicked it!!!!! Crazy girl….but I got her picture! And then Ian prodded me out and I carefully walked over to it… oh geez… just take the picture so I can run and get back in the car! Classic vacation fodder for the rest of the holiday let me tell you.

So finally down at Kangaroo Beach and guess what…not a kangaroo in site..just lots of kangaroo poop. Another visitor told us that someone had drowned earlier in the day and the rescue/recover teams were in the water and above in the helicopter searching for the body. Consequently the kangaroos had left the area and were in the hills as they were scared away by the helicopter. Oh well… there goes my kangaroo sighting… but the whole thing came quickly into perspective for the drowning victim (of course).

Back in the car and back to Mollymook for the rest of the afternoon. We had dinner reservations at Rick Stein’s new restaurant at Bannister’s that Jenny had booked ages ago, so we wanted to get back and have a break before dinner. Rick Stein for all of those not in the know (and before this trip I also was one who didn’t have a clue) is a “celebrity chef” in the world of celebrity chefs in England and Australia (mostly from his BBC cooking show). He is not known in the USA as we all know the market is pretty well crowded with our own battalion of local celebrity chefs cooking in every major city.

Bannister’s is a seaside motel in Mollymook that underwent massive renovation a couple of years ago and it is considered the place to go if you are in from Sydney or points in and beyond. The rooms are very modern and the hotel is pretty cool – think 1950s/early 60s modern – something out of the movie Ocean’s Twelve that Brad Pitt’s character owns and is badly mismanaging. Well, this is lovely and modern with an infinity pool that overlooks the ocean crashing up on the shore. It is also incredibly expensive and we realized after our mooch around Bannister’s that we had made a very good choice on our alternate accommodation in the end – mostly value for price or even price, price, price. Bannister’s suffers from being the pretty girl at the party… after you talk with her after a few minutes, you realize that she is all flash and very little substance.  That also holds true to the hotel and the restaurant, I am afraid.

Don’t get me wrong, Rick Stein’s restaurant is very good – especially if you are a fish person. I am a fish person, and had a very good mussels appetizer which I will long remember, but the “sirloin” as they call it here was well, a disaster to be honest. I know that everyone comes for the fish and seafood, but there will be an odd person besides myself that may be interested in an alternative. And with all the pomp and circumstance that the restaurant has enjoyed with their grand opening in recent weeks (Costal Living magazine was on the premises shooting editorial pictures for the soon to be published article and yours truly is probably in one), the result was less than stellar.

I won’t go into too many details as I’ve been long-winded enough on this subject, but as much as the manager tried to make it right, it only made it worse. To his credit, he didn’t charge me for the entrée and also gave me a lovely cheese plate complimentary. And I don’t think that I was being a “difficult American”, just someone who is a big foodie, as many other patrons will be here, and they really need to get it right. Or consequently, the restaurant may become a big disappointment for some or many that may relegate Rick Stein at Bannister’s to an overpriced, so-so, holiday mini-break.

Destination Mollymook… Ian, Jen, Mum and I set out on Friday morning after packing the loaned Mazda XC7 to the gills with clothing and goods (ie food, beer and wine) for four. The weather was pretty good and getting better each and every day so we were happy that we seemed to be over the worst of the weather and wind (we hope) and were looking forward to 4 days out of the city.

The drive on the Princes Highway (1) out of Sydney was like watching paint dry… oh so long and boring. But once we got on the two lane highway we were on our way courtesy of “Giselle” (our Tom Tom nav device). We stopped for lunch in Berry on the way down the coast to our rental house. Lunch was quite good, in the old post office that had been converted to a restaurant and inn. Afterwards we mooched around for a bit before continuing on our way down the coast. I would say that this part of NSW (New South Wales) is very much like England… lots of rolling hills with cattle on large plots of land. Interestingly the area doesn’t get below freezing, so there is no true Winter for the trees to lose their leaves… they sporatically drop to the ground and and renew so the area doesn’t get that burst of color that we normally see at Spring when everything is so fresh and clean like everyone wakeing up all at once. Don’t get me wrong, this sure beats the 50 degree weather everyone is currently enjoying at home!

So onward and finally at our destination 3+ hours later we arrived in Mollymook. We rented the lower part of a two family house just steps from the beach with a magnificent view of the ocean and the beachside community. The sand is so clean, as is the beach itself, that the sand sqweeks under foot. Really it does. Interestingly there are not of shells that have washed up on the beach and a local shop sells shells for $2 each… for those die-hards that have to have a shell from Mollymook!

The house is really lovely, modern and clean. It is probably the nicest rental house that I’ve been in… equipped with everything, bedding (called Manchester here – will talk more on this later) is top quality, board games and there is a fantastic plasma TV with a good selection of the latest movies. And did I mention the hot tub???? So we were literally set for as long as necessary!

Okay, so you are probably wondering what “Manchester” is all about…. Well, I got the “official” explanation from Faye and Phil, the home’s owners that live upstairs. In Australia, the residents call all bedding, linen, towels, etc. as “Manchester” as it originated all those years ago in the town of Manchester in the Lancashire region of England. Okay, so a little crazy, but it works for them and now I have my answer. So next time you are at Bed, Bath and Beyond, be sure to ask for your Manchester and you never know what will happen next!

So settled in, we headed out to grab some fish and chips for dinner. Always on the prowl for the best fish and chips we headed to Ulladulla for a meal. This is a sleepy area (okay the whole area), so instead of a nice restaurant to have a meal, we were relegated to fish and chips take away as everything, and I mean pretty much everything shuts down after 5:30pm. This is consistent across the region (including parts of Sydney) as eventhough they’ve just gone through Daylight Savings Time, it gets dark here pretty early, so they begin their day pretty early as well. Fish choices were, well, one… Basa… a locally caught white fish that is (can I say) incredibly expensive at $7.50 per filet (without chips ie “fries”). So disappointing on what we got for the money, the fish was okay, but the chips were good!

After dinner we ventured out to the local golf club for a drink. Except for the very exclusive clubs, almost all Australian golf clubs allow out-of-towners to pop into the bar or play a round without a membership. When we walked in we just needed to show ID (and can I say I was the only one with it!) and we signed in as temporary members. The golf club had a restaurant, several bars, seating areas inside and out, a children’s area, casino (slot machines) and live music. Earlier I spoke about how sleepy the town is… well, this is where everyone was! There were about 200 people in the restaurant alone!  So we just spent the rest of the evening hanging out and watching the golf on the big screens and having a chat… I was just happy to be out of the rain.

This is the last day in Sydney for us before we escape to Mollymook on our Friday, a beach town about 3 hours south of Sydney. We’ve rented a beach house right outside of Mollymook for a long weekend (Friday thru Monday). So before I head off and you won’t hear from me for a few days, here’s what happened today. It was supposed to be a bit leisurely and uneventful, but oh it didn’t turn out quite like that!

Mum, Jen and I headed out via local bus and then ferry from the Mosman Harbor to Circular Quay (the Sydney Ferry terminal). All went well, except we missed the bus by about a minute, so we stood in the brisk (and I mean brisk) wind in downtown Mosman for the next one for about 20 minutes. Uneventful thereafter, it wasn’t until the captain on the ferry came on the loudspeaker as we approached the Sydney Ferry Terminal announcing their apologies for the last ferry being out of service. All the way to the city center (about 15 minutes on the ferry), it was windy and the water was very choppy. So in the end it didn’t matter that we didn’t make that initial bus to the harbor as we would have waited it out for the one that we eventually ended up on.

Onward and literally upward we took a cab to the Sydney Tower. After we arrived we decided to wait a while further and have lunch in the restaurant at the top of the tower as it was overall a better choice financially than just going to the observation deck. We mooched around John Lewis, similar to Nordstrom’s adjacent to the Sydney Tower until our time to ascend the Tower for lunch and the view.

The view is well, spectacular. I managed to post a few photos to my Facebook account via my iPhone, so have a look when you get a chance. Fortunately the day cleared up and we really enjoyed the views from the top. The buffet lunch was quite good and had all sorts of international options. We had a really lovely time at the top……

….until the observation deck stopped moving. The observation deck seating area is on a platform that rotates very slowly — about one full rotation around the city per hour. So about 1-1/2 rotations into the adventure, the platform stopped moving. And then the manager came around and told us to take our time as the elevators have stopped due to the wind. Apparently this is pretty unusual and doesn’t happen very often at all. So… I didn’t want to be a little worried… but I was… as we didn’t want to get stuck at the top of the tower (all 76 floors of it). So… we had to be patient and wait it out. Which we did for another hour or so. Finally the manager said we could use the elevators and recommend that we high tail it to them as there was concern that the elevator would shut down again for safety. So… obviously… we quickly made our departure.

Once back on terra firma we located a taxi quickly and planned to take it to the harbor to get the ferry, but due to the swells and the wind, all of the ferries were not operating. Oh joy…. so after a quick conversation we just too the taxi back to Mosman and we were literally at Ian and Jen’s within 15 minutes. I was a good, $30 (AUS) choice — about $26 USA instead of getting home hours later with the crush of people on the bus. Good, good choice.

So the day turned out very well, but if you ever find yourself in Sydney, I’d recommend that you do not consider the Sydney Tower when it is windy!!!!!