You know that a vacation has been memorable when you realize that time has flown by like a jet and you are dreading packing up all the bits and pieces in preparation to head back home to reality.

This has been very much that kind of vacation for me – even without John I am afraid to admit. I’ve spoken with him once or twice each day, but I have hated going into too much detail or talking at length about my experiences as I feel like it would put a little salt on the wound. But it has been wonderful and I hope that my blog has reflected a true love of Australia and a desire to see oh so much more of it in the near future.

On our last day we spent it at the famous Bondi Beach and also at Centennial Park. Traveling around Sydney can be a little crazy, and Jenny has relied on “Giselle” (her TomTom device) to get us around the city and points beyond. It has helped us out in more than one occasion or we would still be driving around Sydney!

So Bondi Beach first – known the world over, it is a hotspot for the beautiful people, surfers and surfer wannabe’s. The day was the best yet and we ventured out in short sleeve shirts – a first for Mum and I! The sun shone all day long so it was fitting that it be our last! Bondi Beach is very much a typical beach, but as with Mollymook, the sand is fantastic, clean and fine underfoot. The area is also like a big rounded basin but the waves crash in and provide excellent surfing (for the surfers out there)! The water is crystal clear and you can see the shelf drop from bright teal/blue water as in the Caribbean to the dark blue where the sharks lurk in the depths beyond the nets put in place to protect those in the water. Still, never going out there…no way! 😉

And just our luck there is a RSL club there right at “Iceberg’s”. Iceberg’s is a famous restaurant/club /swimming club. The name comes from the swimming club that requires that in order to be eligible to join, you need to swim every Sunday for 2 years to qualify – no matter what the weather…icebergs and all. The swim team is also very competitive during the lifesaving competition that they have every year and plaques, medals and trophies are all around. Also, the pool is famous as it is filled by the seawater that is adjacent and crashes up against the side of the pool when hi-tide is in. We were there in the middle of the day, so no crashing about, but the concept is very cool. All the swimmers wear wetsuits to swim in as the water is the temperature of well, the ocean. [pictures to come – and I got some great ones!]

So after our visit to Iceberg’s RSL, we jumped back in the car and headed over to Centennial Park for a walk around until we met up with Ian for dinner. Centennial Park reminds me of Central Park with a lot less people and less skyscrapers surrounding it. But there are walkers, runners, horseback riders and many playing in the fields. The day continued to be beautiful and we had a good walk around looking at all of the plant life that only grows down here and seeing the larges cockatoos that I’ve every seen (except in a cage or zoo) flying around all above us. There were black swans in The Swan Pond and tropical birds and plant life all around. Interestingly there were no squirrels or chipmunks, or any types of birds that we have at home. I don’t think that small animals like the squirrel or chipmunk would survive here… too many larger predators about.

To cap off the evening… and the trip as a whole… we were back at The Lord Dudley for our last dinner where our adventure began two weeks ago. The Lord Dudley in Woollahra is the English pub that served the Beef and Guinness Pie that Mum has talked about the ENTIRE trip. So it was only fitting that we go back there for our last meal and see if it was just as good as the first one. It was.

I attest to the fact that they’ve had the best meat pies that I’ve ever had. Mum is determined to go home and try and duplicate the recipe. Good luck to her – they wouldn’t give her any hints, only that it had red wine and the waitress felt like she had told us too much by that point. Pies are taken very seriously here and if they enter these in competition, I am sure that they win regularly.

So back to the house in Mosman to pack.

It was a lovely, lovely cap to the holiday and I dreaded leaving for the airport this morning. I was trying to figure out if/how I could call in sick for a week without anyone really noticing… well that would never happen!

Sydney, Mollymook and The Blue Mountains were the three places that we visited on our journey to Australia. We’ve only scratched the surface and I hope to come back soon and perhaps visit Queensland… another jewel of Australia.  With no idea what to expect on this journey, the trip far exceed my expectations.

New South Wales is incredibly beautiful and scenic and it is the very best of what we travel distances to visit in the Northern Hemisphere. Think Laguna Beach/Southern California, Vancouver, Seattle and England all rolled into one… without the crowds, easy and favorable currency and friendly, friendly people. AWESOME!!!!! And I’d say that it remains this way simply because of its remoteness to the rest of the world. This country has the best of it all and remains unspoiled because of the cost, desire or the distance to travel that keeps so many away.

Australia is a hidden jewel right there in front of you… this trip will remain with me for many years to come…

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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!

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.