Postcard from Sydney – 3

January 7, 2018

Every one at Sydney has been telling us that we are blessed to experience this weather. They seem almost jealous. I believe that the last year around, it was quite hot at this time.

As soon as we moved into our son, Sid’s home, we got an Opal card for ourselves. The Opal card is a convenient preloaded smart card that can be used for the bus, train, light rail (tram) and the ferry.

Our itinerary was based on the daily weather forecast. Sid would quickly decide the day’s agenda in the morning based on the weather forecast. There were some trips like the imminent trip to Manly that we could enjoy only when the sky was clear.

It was a bright day – perfect for Manly. We walked for about 20 minutes through the elegant Annandale and Stanmore neighborhood to reach the beautiful Stanmore train station. All along, I was enjoying looking at the porch of the individual homes. Just looking at the state of the porch, I could surmise that some families were doing very well in their lives while others were not doing so well. Although the size of the porch was small, some had flower beds of exotic colors with small fountains gurgling clear water while some others had broken furniture and stained sofa sets on the porch – an eyesore!

The Stanmore train station is small and remarkably beautiful. It reminded me of what seemed like the Malgudi-Days-inspired Bangarapet station near Kolar Gold Fields, Karnataka. We used to alight at the small and clean Bangarapet railway station on the way to my sister’s home. Like Bangarapet station, Stanmore train station’s roof is held aloft by a neat row of decorative iron pillars.

In Sydney, the trains are punctual, unlike the buses, I am told. We alighted at the Circular Quay train station and got into the ferry for the 40-minute ride to Manly.

The ferry ride was spectacular. The sky was clear and bright with brilliant white puffed clouds. The water was different shades of blue and far away seemed bluish-green like turquoise. A cool breeze was blowing and we were on the upper deck in the front to catch the sights. There was a lot of activity around us. It was like a performance theater. Seagulls were hovering over us, screaming. There were several helicopters, seaplanes and regular flights crisscrossing over us. We needed to be fully alive to be able to enjoy this performance. On the water, we saw several varieties of crafts – speed boats, expensive looking yachts, small and big boats. We also spotted a massive P&O cruise ship, ‘Nothing Like The Earth’ – I was reminded of the Titanic. I quickly abandoned my imagination lest it met the same fate.

Manly is a beautiful tourist area. The Manly Corso is lined with bright shops selling all kinds of things tourists would happily buy. At Manly, we stopped for some Mexican fare – Burritos with sauteed vegetables and guacamole at Guzman Y Gomez Mexican Taquenia. At this restaurant, they seemed to have an efficient waste disposal technology – the leftovers at the tables were being picked up by excited seagulls and pigeons. They were so excited that sometimes they showed up at the table and hurried us up.

We came back to Sydney in the ferry and explored the iconic Opera House and rested our feet at the Opera Bar. I saw the entire planet represented there. We spotted some street performances on the way – a humorous Spanish acrobat who juggled large menacing knives and swords. I saw an old man playing the saxophone brilliantly. I was reminded of the days I used to listen to Kenny G in my car. The old man’s saxophone case was open for people to drop coins in. We reached home pretty tired and ordered in some Vietnamese fare – vegetable Pho, vegetable salad and fried rice.

Sid loves exploring a city on foot and he had prepared us for this part. We began our long Sydney walks – on some days, we clocked over 10 kms..

We began the next day with breakfast at the nearby Cafe Claire. It was cream cheese French toast, herb roasted mushroom with watercress and sour dough bread and pesto. We began exploring Annandale. Sid explained a little history behind the Sydney aqueducts. On the way, we saw the Anandale Toy Exchange site, where children’s toys can be exchanged – such a good idea, I thought!

We took the light rail (tram) and spent a lot of time at the beautiful Blackwattle Bay. We watched the dogs playing with families. I was struck by how obedient and well-behaved the dogs were. The time spent at Blackwattle Bay also helped Sid explain his career prospects to us. He seems to be doing extremely well.

We went to the Tramsheds (an old tram workshop that has been converted into a cafe of sorts) and tasted the famous Messina ice cream – I think it was salted caramel. Thereafter, we headed to World Square for lunch. We also tasted Churros with caramel dip and some Pearl Milk tea (bubble tea).

Later in the day, we went to Sid’s office, The Brain & Mind Centre, at the University of Sydney. He is part of the ‘Frontier’ team.

Although the office was closed for holidays, Sid had the access card and showed us his workstation. It is a room normally full of PhD students and Post Doctoral folks. I am not sure if it is just an Indian thing but both Jyothi and I felt very proud of his accomplishments. Our emotions may have been betrayed for he was feeling a little embarrassed.

We passed the futuristic building, Charles Perkins Centre, went through the Graffiti Tunnel at the University of Sydney and spent a lot of time at the beautifully manicured lawns of the Quadrangle. It was magical looking at the changing moods of the sky. We wound up the day with dinner at the all-vegetarian Badde Manors at Glebe Point Road followed by ice cream at the Little Red Wolf.

The next day’s highlight was the late evening visit to the Blues Point Reserve. Earlier in the day, we sauntered around the Barangaroo Reserve. This was also the day when both Jyothi and I had some local friends to meet. We fixed the rendezvous at the Carrington Street exit of the Wynyard Train Station and met our respective friends. We also met Jyothi’s friend, Divya, who wanted to meet all of us. We all had lunch at the Vapiano Pasta Restaurant. Shivakumar joined us at York Street and we went to Queen Victoria Building (QVB). We went to Victoria’s Basement to buy some knick-knacks and had coffee at Pie Face. We had a decent North Indian dinner at Surjit’s, just a few metres from Sid’s home. That night, Shivakumar took us to the Blues Point Reserve or McMahon’s Point. It was 9:30 PM. It was a spectacular view. We could see the iconic Opera House under the Harbour Bridge. As a stream of vehicles passed over the bridge, a well-lit train passed over the train track. Meanwhile, a brightly-lit ferry passed slowly across the harbour. All this was happening against a backdrop of illuminated high-rise buildings. I was rooted to the ground, transfixed. I wondered what good karma had brought us there.

The next day, continuing our Sydney walks, we hit the city, had breakfast at Lunenburger Breakfast. We had a veggie corner, a spinach and leek strudel and a marzipan. We headed to the Kinokuniya Book Store but before entering, we had to taste the famous and quickly disappearing strawberry and watermelon cake at the BlackStar Cafe. Ah! Delicious!

We proceeded to Darling Harbour. It was hot and we ordered some drinks at Cohi Bar overlooking the Harbour. We sat there for a really long time at a vantage point watching a variety of activities and movements at the harbour.

The next stop was heaven for my wife, Jyothi – the Lindt Cafe. She posed for some pictures with the chocolates. It was amply clear that I was no longer her chocolate hero. We ended the day with some Coco Berry pancake at Pancake On The Rocks.

Newtown is a hipster place. It reminded me of Goa – heritage buildings converted to cafes, small shops selling bric-a-brac, anything from old-fashioned spectacles to old cutlery to used shoes. I spotted a lot of interesting grafitti.

Given Sid’s comments on a lot of cafes and restaurants at Newtown, it was evident that he is quite a regular here. We spotted the Blackstar Cafe but were disappointed – the Strawberry Watermelon cake was sold out. We had lunch at Rice Paper, a Vietnamese restaurant and ended the meal with Messina’s ice cream.

On the last day before leaving for Auckland, we took it easy. Jyothi cooked amazing Rajma Chawal using makeshift vessels available with Sid. We ate in silence, focusing on the task at hand, from plastic bowls and it was just yum. I thought Sid almost became emotional – it was so good. The heavy lunch made us drowsy. We gave in.

In the evening, we took a long walk along the largely Italian suburb of Leichhardt. We went up to the Iron Cove Bay or Leichhardt Oval and returned home.

We came home, packed our bags for the New Zealand trip beginning the next day and went off to sleep.

The next morning, we flew to Auckland, New Zealand for the next phase of our vacation.

Coming up next: Postcard from Auckland & Queenstown – the warm welcome by our gracious hosts at Auckland, the Kiwi tourism ambassadors in the form of 13-year old Vishwas and 7-year old Taaresh, a quick gastronomic sojourn to India in the form of authentic filter coffee, vetthal kuzhambu, urulakkazhangu curry, dosai, milagai podi in the heart of Auckland and why Auckland is Awekland for us…and of course, the spectacular Queenstown and Milford Sound.

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  • Shanker Subramanian says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading PFS-3 just as I did the PFS-1 & PFS-2 posts.
    Now waiting to tour New Zealand! 😀😀😀

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