Week 2 in Sydney....Xmas etc

Trip Start Nov 16, 2005
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Trip End Apr 11, 2006


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Saturday, December 31, 2005

It is now New Year's Eve and I am about to catch up with the past week here....

I had got to Christmas Eve when I finished my last entry. In the morning Jack and I took the ferry from Cronulla to Bundeena where we were going to do a walk around the headland but, it was 37 degrees and far too hot to go walking! That evening I went to Mass at 5 pm with Jean (Jack's ex-wife). It was the Children's Christmas Mass and was bursting at the seams with kids of all ages and sizes. There were lots of carols and seems to be a thriving area for young Mums and Dads. When Mass finished Jean invited me back to her house for a meal and we watched the Christmas Concert on TV - it came from Melbourne and was most enjoyable. I went back to Jack's about 11 pm and had an early night!

Sunday 25th Dec...
We went to Jean's for Christmas Day - all the family were there - we started off with champagne, oysters and prawns at lunch time - in the evening we had dinner and played a card game called Uno - it was good fun - I had never played this game before but I managed to get the hang of it! We also exchanged gifts and watched something festive on TV. We went back to Jack's house at 10 pm as my children were phoning me from the UK and I did not want to miss their calls. That was a sad part of the day for me and I went to bed in a reflective mood with a mixture of emotions as you can imagine. I managed to get through the day without too much sadness - it is another Christmas gone...

Boxing Day - I have now moved from Cronulla to inner Sydney, which is much nearer to the hub of activity! I had arranged to see the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race with Myfanwy and her family so I went into town early and met them at the station. We caught the ferry to Tarango Zoo where we combined watching the yachts leave the harbour with visiting the zoo. It is an interesting zoo with lots to see and do - again, it was a hot day and we were glad to get back home. That evening we went to an Italian restaurant in Annandale - they were short staffed in all departments and it was two hours between our first course and main!! The upshot was that they gave us dessert and coffee on the house at 10.30 pm! Simon and Alison were disappointed as they had been there before and had good service - you can't win them all!

27th to 29th Dec.. the Hunter Valley trip
Myfanwy and I left on Tuesday morning to drive to the Hunter Valley - a normal journey of about two and a half hours - it took five hours!! The traffic was horrendous due to people returning home from Christmas visiting or families going away on holidays! We eventually got there at 4.30 pm - the upside was that the hotel we had booked was first-class with great amenities including a swimming pool - we availed of this immediately - it was very welcoming after the long drive!! We had our first tasting at the Small Vineyards Wine Association - Keith Tullock's wine was the best we tried. That evening we had dinner in a Japanese restaurant - it was OK if you like Japanese food - I do not! Next morning we visited the Botanical Gardens which was laid out in different sections eg Japanese, Indian, formal, children, Rose garden and Chinese. The children's garden was really imaginative and was made up of nursery rhymes - it was most interesting. After that we went to lunch at The Mill Restaurant (owned by Tuscany Wine Estate). I had arranged to meet Lynda, a friend from Johannesburg, and her sister-in-law, for lunch there. It was an excellent choice with very good well-prepared and presented food. Their wines were not bad either! After lunch we went to Winery tour at Tyrells's vineyard - they are still family-owned and were started by the Tyrell family who emigrated from Abingdon in Berks in 1820! I am sure you needed to know that piece of useful info? The tour was a vehicle to sell their wines, which I did not particularly like, given my sophisticated palate! I am getting very fussy when it comes to wine, in my old age! Penfolds, Lindemans and Jacobs Creek are all owned by the big conglomerates - such as Southcorp plc. and Fosters. After that, we went to Brokenwood - another winery - and then back to the pool for a dip before dinner. We found a very pleasant restaurant called The Cellars (how original is that?) near our hotel - the food was good there also. We retired back to our hotel and discussed the pros and cons of Semillon and Shiraz and what climates are suitable for which grape variety, as you do!! Most interesting.

Thursday morning, we visited the Hunter Olive Centre, where Myfanwy did serious damage to her Visa Card - what with wine and olive oil purchases!! I invested in some Sauv. Blance, Cab. Sauv and Merlot at McWilliams Mount Pleasant Estate. I also had the best cheese and fresh fruit platter I have ever had, at their restaurant, Elizabeth's Cafe - it was superb. We also visited Drayton Family Wines (not to my taste) and bought some wine at Ivanhoe Wines and Tullock Wines. After lunch we set off for Sydney, given that it had taken us 5 hours to get to the Hunter Valley we thought we better get going if we wanted to get home on the same day! The drive back was far less arduous than out trip up there. When we got home Simon had cooked us a wonderful dinner - I wish I could take him home with me! (He is also quite dishy - forgive the pun!).

Friday 30th Dec... THE BIG WALK - on Alice's recommendation!
I got up early and set off for Circular Quay where I took the ferry to Manly to begin a 10 km walk to Spit Head - Alice, you were right, it is a wonderful walk with great lookout points and lots of photo opportunities. The walk took me two and three quarter hours and I was pretty weary but pleased with myself when I had finished it! I was quite out of condition especially since I have had my knee done but, by the time I was nearing the end I was beginning to feel much better and it got easier! Catherine would be proud of me! I took the bus back to Circular Quay and checked out my travel arrangements to Leura for Monday next. I also enquired about a train trip to Canberra as I would like to see this city - it being the Federal Capital of Aus. I got home to a wonderful cool shower and we all went to a great place to eat called "Elio" - everything there was top class - we brought our own wine from the Hunter Valley trip, to complement the meal. I had Balmain Bug as opposed to Moreton Bay Bug, which I had up in Port Douglas - they are the same kind of fish - just a different region. I can see i am never going to lose weight at this rate - what with the food and the wine - I am in trouble!!

Today - New year's Eve - this morning I went with Simon to Sydney Fish Market - what a place - this is where all the restaurants and hotels buy their fish, as well as the general public. It is like Billingsgate fish market in London. Simon bought oysters, prawns, smoked eel (yuk!)and barramundi fillets - he is making a picnic for this evening as we are all going to see the fireworks display at Sydney Harbour Bridge - how exciting! Myfanwy has gone for a massage, manicure and pedicure while I am getting on with my diary and now I am going to try to upload some pics to my entries - wish me luck!

Will catch up with you all on my return from the Blue Mountains......
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