Well this isn’t a travel blog exactly, more like a summary of outings carried out during the month of April 2015.
We had overseas visitors stay with us – my wife, Sandra’s cousin, Jennifer and her husband, Barry from London who came to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary and Sandra’s 65th birthday. So I’m starting this round-up of events from Wednesday 15th April – the birthday.
The four of us together with our son, Brad were to celebrate the momentous occasion at ARIA restaurant in Circular Quay and to take us there we booked a minibus through a local firm J & P Coaches. The driver picked us up on time and was waiting at a pre-arranged spot to drive us back to Berowra.
What can one say: ARIA was nothing short than beautiful. The food was superb and the wine list was longer than my latest novella.
We selected the three course menu option and every dish was a masterpiece.
And the piece de la resistance for the birthday girl:
The location was the best, with views of Sydney Harbour and Opera House, what more could one ask for?
The celebrations continued on our return home. Sandra was given a doggy bag with petit fours which we enjoyed with more champagne.
On Saturday 18th April Sandra spent most of the day cooking a turkey which had been defrosting for several days beforehand. She had been given it a few days before Christmas last year when she bought a new fridge-freezer from Bing Lee Electrical Store in Hornsby. The bird was far too big for the two of us, so it seemed a good idea to cook it whilst Jennifer and Barry were with us, but we also invited another couple of friends to make sure there wouldn’t be any left-overs.
Leaving Sandra in the kitchen, I took Jennifer and Barry to discover the beauty of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and marina located at Bobbin Head. Although overcast it was at least dry and it was nice to visit once again. Sandra and I escape to this part of the world from time to time when we want to relax. There is a nice café at the marina, and during this visit we were serenaded by a young couple who sang and played guitar whilst we enjoyed a coffee and sandwich.
Returning home a few hours later we found Sandra had decked out the dining table for dinner later that evening. The bird was cooked to perfection and we left it to Barry to carve.
It was a good evening and we slept in the following day. Not much was planned except a trip to the Koala Sanctuary at West Pennant Hills. We shouldn’t have bothered… it was a true disappointment.
Sandra and I had taken Brad there once upon a time when we had first arrived in Australia in 1988. Although my recollection of that visit is a bit dimmed, from the photographs we took at the time the park had been more visitor-friendly. No more.
Parking was a nightmare. They have a concrete driveway which leads to dirt off-road spaces; but to get to them there is no ramp and the car would need to drop some four to six inches from the roadway to the dirt. You would need an off-road 4×4 to negotiate such a drop. There was no way I was going to subject my vehicle to such abuse. However as Jennifer is a disabled pass holder we were able to park in a disabled bay which is on the concrete.
The entrance admission fee was $27 per adult and $15 for children. We found the park in desperate need of attention. There were open drains with stagnant water attracting a host of unsavoury insects. The exhibits were probably the same ones as we had seen back in 1988. Mostly though I personally felt sorry for the animals, in particular the red-necked wallabies whose enclosure seemed like a wasteland with hardly any cover apart from one or two large trees. My understanding of wallabies is they like rocks to climb on and use to shelter. When we were at the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park the previous day, the kangaroos had bush and shrubs to call home, these poor creatures had nothing but a metal fence and dirt:
They weren’t alone in looking miserable. Two small penguins seemed a bit mangy as they stood near their tiny paddling pool:
And there was one dingo in a large enclosure [perhaps the others were hiding]; he was lying by the fence soaking up the afternoon sun – he certainly didn’t look as energetic as the photo of the dingoes shown on their website.
The koalas were sweet – but all koalas are sweet, and very sleepy, but at least the visit was worthwhile for Jen and Sandra who waited patiently for their turn for a photo with one:
We left the park after experiencing a feeble cup of luke-warm instant coffee purchased at the kiosk which was charged at the same price you would expect to buy a decent latte at proper café. It was a disappointing experience and Sandra and I felt quite embarrassed at having taken overseas visitors to such an inferior venue.
We drove home the long way round via Dural and calling into the country club located on the Old Northern Road for a well-deserved beautiful lunch. http://www.duralcountryclub.com.au/ . Afterwards we stopped at Swane’s Nursery http://www.swanes.com.au/catalog22/ before heading to Berowra Waters to catch the ferry and then onto Berowra.
On Friday 24th April we set off early by public transport to Circular Quay to catch the ferry to Manly, which in my opinion is the best part of the journey.
The one thing about living in Sydney is to be able to, at minimum expense, sail the harbour and take in the views of the City from the Manly ferry. The trip might be short [30 minutes], but the vistas of the city, with its iconic landmarks of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from the water are unique. Then to be able to see the spectacular views of the lower north shore, Royal Australian Naval dockyards, eastern suburbs and approaches to Manly, take your breath away. The photos below are just a small sample – I took far too many to share on this blog. I suggest if and when you are in Sydney, make sure you catch the ferry to Manly and see all these beautiful sights first-hand.
The following day was Anzac Day. It was also Jennifer and Barry’s 45th Wedding Anniversary. We made an early start and headed west to the Blue Mountains. From Berowra the trip is quite quick, taking about one and a half hours. You take the M1 south, then along the Cumberland Highway [A28]. From there you pick up the M2, then the M7 and M4 until you finally get onto the Great Western Highway [A32]. It was a pleasant drive. The weather had started off okay, though quite cool at least it was dry and the sun poked its head out now and again.
We arrived at Echo Point late morning and the Three Sisters were as majestic as ever; so was the entire vista. Although only an hour from the City you can’t help but marvel at the expanse of wilderness on our doorstep. It is quite something!
The only downside at this wonderful landmark is that there is no café and even if there was with all the parking restrictions it doesn’t give visitors too much time to enjoy this beautiful vista. There are only parking meters available but at $3.80 for the first hour and then $4.40 per hour after that it can prove to be quite an expensive day out.
Of course when you come here you don’t just settle for Echo Point. You must visit Scenic World which is located across the valley. Follow the road signs; it’s only about ten minutes away by car.
There is plenty of parking available although I’m afraid I’m not too sure of the fees [if any] as we used Jennifer’s disabled parking ticket which gave us a spot right by the entrance. The fees to get onto the cable cars/railway were $35 for an adult ticket, $32 for a concession, and $18 for children. A Family pass [2 adults & 2 children] is $88. Scenic World is open every day from 9am – 5pm.
Sandra and I aren’t too brave to get on to the cable cars so we travelled on the railway… not your usual sort of railway; it’s more like a covered coal truck with seats which descends 310m down the side of the mountain at an angle of 52 degrees. To give you a sense of adventure the theme tune to Indiana Jones blares out from speakers.
Once down there are various walks which you can take. All are well signed so there is little chance of getting lost. It has been a few years since visiting Scenic World, this time we were treated to an exhibition of sculptures from International and Australian artists. What they represented left a lot to the imagination. The weirdest in my opinion, and perhaps the most eerie, was a child’s cot where a tree grew right through its centre; but what made it eerie was the sound of a nursery rhyme that emanated from it which could be heard dimly everywhere you went… spooky:
Unfortunately we hadn’t been there long when a massive storm system moved in soaking us through. We made a hasty retreat to the railway to take us back to civilisation:
Feeling utterly dejected we got back into the car and headed back into Katoomba and called into the luxurious Carrington Hotel for some well-deserved lunch. The hotel was built in the late 19th century and its grand opulence has been lovingly retained to this day. We found a table at their bar area and whilst enjoying a wonderful lunch and beverages [I suffered with soft drinks being the designated driver] soaked up the wonderful ambiance of such a historic establishment.
It was time to leave, but as the rain had stopped we took the time to stroll along the high street and pop into several of the many antique shops. Finally we returned to the car and drove back home. Always ahead of us the storm system lit up the sky. Numerous bolts of forked lightning dissected the sky providing us with a natural light show which was both spectacular and very frightening. We were amazed as part of the M7 outside Penrith the normally darkness of the roadside was white in our headlights revealing a heavy dusting of snow and ice. Winter is finally here.
Sunday 26th April was to be a quiet one. The only thing planned was to have some lunch with friends at the Club on the Hawkesbury at Mooney Mooney. Located only ten minutes away from Berowra driving north on the M1 the Club on the Hawkesbury boasts some beautiful views of the river and the sandstone cliffs which are predominate in this area.
The table was booked for midday and our friends were already there when we arrived. We sat at our table out on the terrace and amidst wonderful conversation, excellent food and ample quantities of wines, both sparkling and still [once again however I found I had to restrict my consumption to poor man’s champagne – lemonade], the hours melted away until we were politely asked to vacate the table at 5.30pm.
The next morning Jennifer and Barry, suitcase in hand, were off to Adelaide and Perth for the next leg of their holiday, so I drove them to the airport. They would be back in Sydney on 12th May where they would stay with us a couple of days before flying out once more, this time to Cairns. As I write this, they are slowly heading back to Sydney on a coach tour which follows the coast road arriving in Darling Harbour on Friday 29th May. They will be with us for a long weekend before departing Australia on 3rd June.
We are sure they will have had a wonderful holiday, but possibly glad to be back home for a rest :o)
RLB – Tomewriter