So there we were. Finally. After months of preparation and excited chit chat we were in Sydney. A wet and dismal Sydney for the most part. E had warned us it would be cold and damp but we laughed –she had forgotten what the weather was like at home, sure weren’t the temperatures in Sydney mid-winter as high as the temperatures at home in late Spring?
The house we had rented was problematic, it was tiny and we were packed one on top of the other without any recourse to a suitable outdoor space to escape. What is it about holiday en famille that is enough to drive one insane? Particularly for that first week as each individual struggles to come to terms with the proximity of other individuals. And everybody straining against the leash to do their own thing. I am invariably cantankerous for the first week of holidays until I find a routine. The boys squabbled continuously like discontented starlings so that did not help.
We did all the touristy things. I admit to a thrill when I touched the cool tile of the Sydney Opera House. The magnificence of the harbour area and Sydney Bridge only being outdone by the sheer vastness and barreness of the plains of land we had seen as we flew into the city . Nature’s stoic greatness exceeds man’s attempts to dominate the landscape, it always will. We went to hear E. sing in a jazz session that first week. I had almost forgotten what a wonderful voice she has. We could see how fond of her all the other musicians were and it gladdened our hearts.
We found Sydney expensive. Books in particular are an insane price. I spotted a friend’s novel- ‘The Other Boy’ by Yvonne Cassidy - in one large bookstore, I was horrified to see it priced at over Aud$30, that’s almost €20!
We spent our first full weekend in a beautiful house in the Blue Mountains, about an hour’s drive from Sydney. I had heard of the place from a lovely young woman I met in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annamakerrig last year and it lived up to her descriptions. We had a delicious late lunch in a tiny restaurant called the ‘Blue Mist Café’. Best of all the place was full of second-hand books for sale. I could quite happily have browsed there all day long. The following day we ‘did’ the National Park in Katoomba, this is a magnificent place and very sensitively managed. Seeing the dense rain forests and the strangeness of the terrain I could not help but wonder what it must have been like for the first European settlers who made their way there. It can only have been a very harsh life.
On our last morning in the area we partook of the most expensive breakfast in Austrlalia! A restaurant preserved in the art deco style of the hotel it was when it was originally built. The memorabilia and nostalgia industry is alive and kicking ass in Katoomba.
My mood started to improve, as it invariably does on the second week of holidays. We had all found our stride and ways of accommodating each other. Jemser and I went to see ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’ with William Hurt in the lead role, wonderful. Jemser, son#1 and E climbed Sydney Bridge in the pissin’ rain and came home elated. Later in the week E, son#2 and I went to see the musical ‘Wicked’ in a beautiful old theatre, great show – but I doubt the songs will live as long as those from ‘The Wizard of Oz’.
That week we also visited an old friend of Jemser’s who settled in Sydney over twenty yers ago and we sat on his deck admiring his pool and garden. The orange tree at the end of the garden had unfortunately been blasted by wind and frost and looked totally lopsided as only three branches remained clothed in leaves and budding fruit. I’m sure I’ll use the image as a symbol for something at some stage when I’m feeling profound and appearing pretentious!
Next up was our trip to the Great Barrier Reef…….worthy of a blog on it’s own. More anon.