Monday, 3 January 2011


I’m finally having chance to catch up.

I had quite a few plans for Sydney, a couple of people to catch up with, several coastal walks out of the book I bought last time, a few places to go etc.

The change of hotel didn’t really disturb this, slightly further from Oxford Street, but still very well positioned and very good for public transport etc. The only problem was that it was smack in the middle of the seasonal frenzy of shopping.

The temporary problem was that the T’intertubes in the were not working. A quickly diagnosed this as a dead modem and the wireless service was virtually non-existent (no Scruff for me L ) and contacted the service provider. This kept me in the room for a couple of hours whilst a series of people tried to diagnose the fault that I’d told them. This and the transfer had wasted quite a bit of time, so after they decided they were sending an engineer the next morning and I could I be there.

After a shower, I looked at the time and decided to have a bar meal. d at the time and decided to have a bar meal. decided they were sending an engineer the next morning and  I had noticed quite a few people eating there on my trips to and from reception. I quickly found out why, the food was really good. I had a Crown Lager and the house burger, which is a wagyu burger in a generous bun with very nice fries and aioli. Despite on having noshed at the Qantas Pub and a bit of the Dogfood Salad, I couldn’t finish it, I left a bit of bun and a few fries. Delicious.

The next day dawned and I quickly showered, made my way to breakfast where I indulged in Vegemite Toast, Fruit and some Sossidges with Roesti and Mushrooms (of course they have Roesti, it’s the Swissotel), you can even get a 2 day old Neues Zuercher Zeitung. Anyway, the man came to fix the Internet, he fiddled and played and pronounced it hopeless. He then left and the hotel maintainence guy told me how to bypass the modem – suddenly it worked, all you needed was a crossover cable – which I happen to carry.

Anyway, I then wasted rather too much of a nice morning, doing my email, sorting out a few other things etc. I then looked at the time, went eek, went down and bought a weeks worth of MyMulti1 and found myself on the Manly Ferry. Normally, I’d do one of the fine walks that start at Manly, but as it was already 1:30, I just decided to have lunch at the Manly Wharf Hotel, where you can enjoy lovely views and a very fine steak sandwich over a pint of some amber nectar or other. I then did a little shopping, returned to the City and did a little clothes shopping amongst the angry buzzing hordes of frenzied  festive shoppers.  Myers ( a large department store next to the hotel) was staying open all night on the 23rd. Ye Gods – luckily my room faces away from the streets and whilst the view is unattractive, it’s quiet. As it got quieter, I decided to explore the streets around and I found the Vietnamese place which was the source of much carry out back into the hotel, I then ambled slowly down towards Darling Harbour, regaining my bearings in search of a simple small evening meal. Grilled Fish and Greek Salad was my choice and then I returned back to the hotel for a evening quietly smoking and getting to grips with my new book.

Christmas Eve dawned bright and sparkly, clear, sunny and still cool. Before you could say, up, up and away, I was swiftly to breakfast, giving it a quick slip, slap, slop and heading down to Circular Quay. A ferry to Cremorne Point followed and then the invigorating walk from Cremorne Point to Taronga Zoo (it was still only 7:45 in the morning), the up and down and Mosman was quite difficult, proof that I’m not as fit as I was two years ago. There are some excellent views of the harbour from here, some extremely attractive (and expensive houses) and a decent long black and chance to pick up extra water at Mosman Wharf.  Walking swiftly up to Little Sirius Point which is one of my favourite places in the harbour.

As by this time, the zoo was just opening,  I decided to go in to look at the Australian exhibits, whilst very expensive, was very enjoyable. The koalas were, as usual, asleep and most of the platypii were not to be seen, however, swimming in the one tank was a young platypus. Utterly, completely gorgeous and so at home ducking and diving and swimming in the water.  I also managed to see the Tasmanian Devils, which of course are in dire trouble these days, they ain’t so cute, but are husky critters and of course, Echnidnas, which I’d always wanted to see and had imagined were quite small. Err, no, quite robust beasties the size of a small dog. One section allows you to wander amongst the animals – a couple of emus, some wallabies, a couple of roos and a very inquisitive stork type. Depite the signs saying don’t touch, one of the wallabies would come sidling up looking for an ear scratch and the stork got very close – not scared at all.

I stopped off at the food village for a quick snack (it’s like 11:30am) and to get some more water, I try to eat my Glasgow Salad without interference from the dump chooks (ibis), but they are quite insistant on me sharing. Having done that, I wander off down the coastal pathway further, going through some lovely bush with lots of various lizards basking in the sunlight into the National Park to a grassy headland where I rest for a while and look at the HMS Sydney memorial.  I then press on down to Chowder Bay, where I stop for a while, firstly for a short paddle and then, on realizing it’s 2pm, for a sandwich and coffee in a cafe. Having looked at a map, I then cheat a little, I take the bus from Chowder Bay three stops to the centre of Middle Head Road where I then walk down to Balmoral Beach. The climb looked (and was described as) steep. On reaching Balmoral Beach, it was time for a nice cold drink and ice-cream and then back to Sydney on the direct bus.

I must admit, by the time I returned, I was completely flaked out, I had a shower and then a bit of a lie down and woke up to find it was 7:30. So I got ready and walked out into the thinning crowds of last minute shoppers to find firstly, something to eat in the shape of a wood-fired pepperoni  pizza – very good and then a couple of drinks at the Oxford Hotel where there was a meeting of the Harbour City Bears. That was pretty, quiet, but a couple of beers were welcome, but I swiftly left to place myself in the arms of Morpheus.

Christmas Day dawned bright and early and was probably the best weathered day of the trip. Sydney was perfectly peaceful at 8:30 am as I made my way down to Wynyard to get the bus to Spit Bridge, no sign of the frenzy of consumers. The target for the day was Manly Wharf and I took a nice steady pace, enjoying the sun and  a nice steady pace to Clontarf Beach which was filling up with people getting ready for a nice day on the beach and a Christmas Barbie. As the tide was high, Clontarf required a bit of a paddle, which was quite refreshing, the sea was lovely and warm.  The next section is officially marked as hard, but the book claims it isn’t, the book lies, the section to Castle Rock is one of the roughest I’ve done and I was starting to tire at the end of it. Lovely views though and some lovely bush/coast bowers. The next section is marked as hard, but by not going to Reef Beach or Washaway, you can cut some miles off and new paths have been laid which make it easier, there’s still some fun with uneven steps at one point.  

You then get to Forty Baskets, which is a pretty little beach with a bit more paddling involved at high tide, I stopped for water here and filled up from the bubblers and used the toilet. By this time I’d been on the go for about 3 hours, so I had a bit of a break. The path becomes very easy after that as you start to head towards the North Harbour Reserve and then becomes a very gentle walkway through the attractive suburbs of Manly  to Manly Wharf which I reached about 1:20pm – I found the last bit very distracting due to the large number of fit young men with hairy chests in well-filled budgie smugglers. On reaching Manly, I looked at the various lunch options carefully, before deciding on Fish and Chips from a small cafe within wi-fi poaching distance of MacDonalds. I also knocked back 1 litre of cold iced tea at this point, the fish and chips were delicious. I then wandered along the Corso, picking up some macadamia gelato on the way before deciding I was too tired for a walk up to Shelley Beach and getting the ferry back to Circular Quay. At this point I really needed a shower and a nice lie down, which is what I did. My evening meal was a Club Sandwich in the hotel bar, again, good quality.

Boxing Day dawned rather rainy, in fact it was honking it down, the original plan had been to meet a friend for a Dim Sim brunch, then to do one of the smaller city based walks. However, the previous two days had taken a bit of a toll on my feet.  We took a raincheck because of the sheer amount of rain in the area, but eventually met up a bit later for coffee and lunch and a glance around the Boxing Day sales.  The queues were horrific and quite interesting in their composition, many of the classy shops had security confining entry to stop the shop being swamped. After that I wandered up Oxford Street to a social gathering for bears, but it was fairly quiet, however I had a nice chat with a few of the guys there. By that time, I felt like some food and on the way back to the hotel called at a branch of Grill’d and had a great burger with herby fries.

The 27th showed no sign of the retail madness abating, so I decided to firstly do my washing (Swissotel has a guest laundry for a reasonable charge) and then to be cultural, firstly off the the Emperors exhibition which was excellent, then a nice Greek salad and juice and then onto the Annie Leibowitz exhibition which was a bit crowded but also very good.  After resting my foot for a while and chatting to some people on line, I went out in search of food. For some reason, nothing really appealed and I ended up with a Bondi Burger from Oporto, which whilst perfectly edible,  I only really pecked at.

The 28th was my last full day in Sydney and I started it off by going to the hotel spa and getting my feet sorted out. After I did that I went to meet a couple of guys for coffee and ended up spending most of the day with them, a French/Aussie couple and we got along very well. After a short rest back at the hotel, I remembered I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and I went down to Chinatown to the food court and devoured a plate of wet Hokkien Mee and had a wander around before heading up to Oxford Street for the beer of the day. I ran into one of the barstaff from the hotel and we chatted for a while before I headed back to pack.

I was quite knackered on the 29th after a busy day the previous day. I did the final packing on what looked like a glorious day and headed for SYD Domestic for my flght to Brisbane.

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