Sydney, Manly and surroundings

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For the best part of three days I hovered around Manly, only heading into Sydney central once.  That latter venture was under a bad hangover and feeling as rough as a goat’s knee.  I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol and hadn’t has a night out in many months!  A small boy’s night out, Craig, his brother Gavin and I…great to get out even with the following days consequences 😊.  Catching up on writing dominated many of my days.  Thinking about how much I’ve still to write I shudder…9 months’ worth (writing this from San Francisco).

Given that my activity after Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge was sporadic at best, this post will be a jumble.  Below is a mix of days, including my usual walking…lots of walking and a drive about with Craig and Alie as my guide.  For all the reasons I’ve mentioned forgive me for the lack of excitement and adventure in the post.  Without further ado, let me commence with my last instalment of Sydney, followed by my first trip to Christchurch, New Zealand.

My thoughts on Manly 

No wonder Manly has become a sought-after area over the past 15 years.  Regular ferries from Circular Quay (Sydney CBD) to Manly Wharf get you to and from in 30 minutes, a scenic route too!  For what you get, property prices are eye popping high!  This hasn’t deterred a wave of people moving to the area, keeping its charm and family orientation.  Early evenings have a community feel, with all ages enjoying the Wharf or Manly Beach.  From friends having beer, to families picnicking or just watching the sea and beautiful setting.  As my time in Sydney passed it reinforced exactly why so many of my friends and family have moved to Australia.

Manly has a distinctly different feel to Sydney CBD even with its close proximity.  Like a small beach town, it centres around the boulevard between Manly Wharf and Manly Beach.  For such a small place it has a large variety in restaurants, coffee shops, many offering organic produce only.  On the weekends there is a small market near the boulevard.  Selling home-wares and produce just to add to the “village” feel.  Manly is populated with 1930’s-1970’s houses and apartments and roads lined with large trees.  I can imagine the place would have been dreary some years back before the frequent ferry connection to Sydney’s CBD.  These days Manly’s old properties with their large rooms are highly sought commodities.  Given the village feel, access to many beautiful beaches, family centric, located to many nature walks and quick link to Sydney’s CBD…it’s no wonder Manly has become such an attractive spot.

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Cabbage Tree Bay by Manly Wharf. A real family orientated place – Sydney

Another thing that surprised me about Manly, it’s very cosmopolitan.  Craig and I walked along the promenade a few times, sat chatting by Manly Wharf, had a stroll with some of his friends on Many Beach.  Every time you’d hear accents for around the globe.  Contrary to my stereotyping of places that have a village feel, Manly has an eclectic population.  From British, Brazilian, South African, French, Italian, Spanish, Kiwi, Portuguese, German, USA and of course locals.  Listening as people passed by, you could be mistaken for being in London, New York or Paris.  Here, people from all around the world enjoy the easy-going nature of Manly positioned perfectly between city, nature and beaches.

Sydney

A perfect picnicking spot on North Head with Sydney in the distance

Sydney

Taken from North Head a solitary sailing boat with Hornby Lighthouse just visible behind and to the right – Sydney

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Sunset from North Head – Manly, Sydney

Q Station Sydney Harbour National Park

South East of Manly is Q Station Sydney Harbour National Park.  Along with great views of the city, especially at sunset, it has superb views of the hundreds of coves.  You can take a drive around or do one of the many purpose-built walks – for short to about 10km…and it’s safe.  Now a serene natural area, Q Station Sydney Harbour National Park (quite a mouth full of a name!) has an interesting and checkered and past.  What is now Quarantine Beach, is where some of the earliest contact and “constructive” interaction with Aboriginal clans occurred.

If suspected of carrying a contagious disease/s, ships arriving in Sydney were quarantined (with or without reason). Interestingly the word “quarantine” originates from the Italian words “quaranta giorni” meaning “forty days”.  This term of “forty days” started in Venice in the 14th century; ships sailing from plague affected destinations were ordered to anchor offshore for 40 days, only then were they allowed to disembark or offload.

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Part of the Q Station Sydney Harbour National Park. There are plenty of purpose build pathways putting you right in the thick of nature – Manly, North Head

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Still part of the Q Station Sydney Harbour National Park. Shelly Beach below and Manly beach in the distance – Manly, Sydney

Quarantine Head was the longest continuous quarantine station in Australia, for 154 years (1830 – 1984).  Seems this modus operandi has continued somewhat with their airport staff…anyone who’s been to Australia may be able to relate.  Anyway, I walked around the circumference passing Cannae Point, Quarantine Head, North Head, Blue Fish Point and Shelley Headland Upper Lookout. If I saw something interesting, I headed inland, returning to the path.

Without doubt you could spend many days exploring the area.  From indigenous rock carvings (now in perilous danger of being lost to the elements), a museum (North Fort Artillery Museum), the army barracks and old military defences dating back to 1870.  During the 1930’s and into WWII Sydney’s fortifications were drastically bolstered.  North Head was a strategic defence point hence the military barracks and dense scattering of gun and cannon points.  There are tours of military tunnels, I didn’t partake I was content with meandering about taking in the sites.  I, like most of the people I encountered during my walk, where there just for the fresh air, nature and scenery.

Manly

Along the pathway of the Q Station Sydney Harbour National Park near Shelly Headland Upper Lookout. I think the latter is the cliff up on the right. – Manly, Sydney

Manly

Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve right next to Manly Beach

Meeting up with an old work colleague

Knowing many people in a city/town is frustrating when you have limited time (you’re on holiday and they are working doesn’t help either).  That, along with visiting whilst others are working and busy with their day to day lives makes seeing people a challenge, sometimes impossible.  Nonetheless, I did manage to see a few people including an old colleague of mine from many years back when I worked in Kingston-upon-Thames.  Great to see Jesus Brillantes.  Though I was nursing a hangover and looking worse for wear, it was good catching up.  From his own recent challenges (brain tumour), he has recovered with an inspirational story, zest and insightful outlook on life – well done Jesus!

Sydney

My old work colleague Jesse with his cool dog Rafa. This is the morning after a big night out, I was feeling as rough as a goat’s knee. Great to see and old friend – Sydney

Sydney

St Mary’s Cathedral; founded in 1881, consecrated 1882, the naive was completed in 1928 and the spires in 2000 – Sydney

Sydney

Archibald Fountain / J. F. Archibald Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park – Sydney

Macquarie Lighthouse / South Head Upper Light

My tour guide (Craig, Alie and Cemeron – the latter getting excited by anything passing the car window 😊), took me for a ride of the peripheral neighbourhoods.  Like Manly, the areas are dotted with coves and creamy sandy beaches – more than I could count.  Without doubt, this whole area is for people who love the outdoors, no matter your fancy.  There’s a sense of communal order for the greater good; everything is clean and well maintained.  Not restrictive nor stifling.  More so a sense of appreciation for their surroundings and wishing to keep it that way.

Along our afternoon trip we passed the Macquarie Lighthouse.  This was the location of the very first lighthouse in Australia.  Along with that title is that of the longest serving lighthouse.  The first began operating on 30th November 1818.  With the current incarnation built in 1883, it still holds a commanding demeanour with a graceful illuminating elegance.

Sydney

Macquarie Lighthouse / South Head Upper Light – Sydney

Bondi Beach and Bondi Icebergs Pool

Ah yes, the famous Bondi Beach.  I don’t know what I was expecting, beaches have sea and sand; Bondi Beach has plenty of both hahaha!  Somehow the name to me is synonymous with surfing or the epicentre of Sydney surfer culture.  Bondi Beach is huge, and far from being a surfer only beach.  It might not be the epicentre of surfer culture; it could however be the epicentre of Sydney’s family beach.  We didn’t stay long, the water was on the chilly side too, so I didn’t go for a swim unfortunately.

Bondi Beach is cool, with the turquoise waters accentuated by the Bondi Icebergs Pools.  This place must be a blast during the summer months for everyone!  The water may have been a tad cold for me, it didn’t stop hundreds of others basking in the sun and swimming in the sea and pools.  Next time I’ll definitely take a dive in no matter the weather!  A random thought, even during the hotter days, Sydney wasn’t as humid as I thought it would be.  On the contrary, it wasn’t humid at all, definitely my preference.

Sydney

Bondi Beach and Bondi Icebergs Pool. What an idyllic location for a swimming pool, as picturesque as you can imagine – Sydney

Sydney

Bondi Beach, the water was a bit chilly for my liking but the water looks so inviting – Bondi Beach, Sydney

Manly Scenic Walkway

There are always free things to do no matter where you go.  I for one like to walk (not that I’ve said that hundreds of times 😊).  It slows things down, allowing me to see the world from a different perspective and often seeing things I would otherwise miss.  Manly Scenic Walkway is just such a place.  The full Manly Scenic Walkway is a 10km walk along the seaside (mostly) from Spit Bridge to Manly Wharf.  You don’t need to do the whole 10km, but if you do, I highly recommend taking water along, I didn’t pass any shops.  To say the route is scenic would be an injustice.  Along with the stunning views of Sydney in the distance, remote secluded beaches, coves and viewpoints there are many places of interest too.

Manly

Shell Cove at the start of Manly Scenic Walkway – Manly, Sydney

Manly

Manly Scenic Walkway – Manly, Sydney

Manly

Cave Shelter on the Manly Scenic Walkway – Manly, Sydney

Some of the key points of interest include an Indigenous Cave Shelter, Aboriginal Shell Midden, Grotto Point Lighthouse, Indigenous Stone Art, Dobroyd Head along with the countless beaches and bays.  Of the most interesting to me was the Indigenous Stone Art.  I tried my best to get photo’s that showed the engravings into the stone on the floor, except they came out terribly – can’t see or make out a thing!  They are out in the open, though cornered off to hinder people from walking on them.  Left out to the elements I can’t see them lasting much longer.  They need to be preserved, something needs to be done soon.  There are many engravings, however they are difficult to see with the naked eye.  Still, historical engravings/art should be preserved.

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Manly Scenic Walkway – Manly, Sydney

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Manly Scenic Walkway, just one of the many secluded little beaches along the way – Manly, Sydney

Manly

One of the dozens of lizards along the Manly Scenic Walkway. I don’t know what type of lizard it is, if you know let me know please – Manly, Sydney

My overall thoughts about Sydney

I’ve never had the urge to go to Australia.  Not out of any animosity, it has just never been an attraction to me.  I suppose I’m more drawn to archaeological sites that tickled my brain when I was young like Egypt, Machu Pichu (I’ll be writing about that soon), Petra etc. etc. Sydney without doubt reminded me very much of South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town).  I finally see and appreciate why so many South African’s have moved to Sydney and Australia as a whole.

After Sydney I headed off to Christchurch, New Zealand, to see my bother and sister-in-law.  Taking advantage of being in the far end of the globe, same hemisphere and quadrant I didn’t know when or if I would ever be in the “hood” again.  New Zealand is nowhere from anywhere, the chances are I’d be in the neighbourhood again were slim…of how life can surprise you!  As life does, it threw me a curve-ball, meaning I ended up back in New Zealand 9 month later!  Keeping that in mind I’m skipping New Zealand for now and jumping to the next destination, Peru!  Another of my dream destinations since I was a child, Machu Pichu to be precise.  So, I hope you enjoyed my brief stint in Sydney.  I guarantee Peru brought great ups and downs, adventure, shocks and excitement.

PS. I’ll be adding these pictures and those that didn’t make the blog onto my Batnomad Facebook page shortly – feel free to share if you like them

Manly

Taken along Dobroyd Head (I think) along the Manly Scenic Walkway – Manly, Sydney

London stop over for family reunion

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Why is it that we pay large sums of money to explore distant destinations and forget what we have right on our doorstep, London!  Not that I haven’t explored London and the UK quite thoroughly but even so there is so much to see and do that there is plenty I haven’t.  I was once told that familiarity can breed contempt, to me that’s always been a harsh saying and not one I quite agree with, but water it down a bit and then maybe it is applicable to many parts of life.  London is an amazing city and with so much on offer it can be daunting because you are spoilt for choice.  There is so much right on my doorstep that I forget I’m in one of the most sought-after tourist destinations there is.  No need to always be searching high and low sometimes you need look no further than the end of your nose.

London

Sunset London

I was in Toledo (Part 1 and Part 2) or Zaragoza I think, when my brother called me about an idea for my mother’s birthday on 1st September, that we fly her out to the UK as we would all be under the same roof, the first time in almost five years (Brent, Roxi, my mom and I).  Brent and Roxi are moving to New Zealand in the next few months and taking my mom’s age into consideration it would be doubtful she would fly from South Africa to New Zealand.  Great idea, we had to make some changes and bring the dates forward as my mother had already made plans to go to Hermanus for a few days over her birthday.  The result, she’d go to the UK earlier which happened to coincide with my birthday, everyone wins.  My mom has been to the UK about 5-6 times so this would be more of a visit than a “lets go see the tourist attractions”, even so there is amply to see and do without running about the entire day like a mad tourist.

London

Dalston Junction

Dalston Eastern Curve Garden – As much as some people may disagree, East London 15-20 years ago was not a destination on anyone’s list of places to go in London, now, it’s the place to be!   Nestled in the heart of Dalston (diagonally over the road from Dalston Junction Overground station), this little sanctuary will have you forget that you’re in the big smog.  An unsuspecting entrance, the only significant reason people may glance near the entrance is for the brightly coloured graffiti mural on the wall of the adjacent building – I’d like to think it’s representative of the people of Dalston.  Back to the curved garden, now on what used to be the old Eastern Curve railway line that used to link Dalston Junction Station to the goods yard and the Northern London Line…long before my time!  Now, a garden woodland filled with herbs and spices planted between shrubs, vegetables and trees that waft through the air as you brush by.  The mix match of chairs, tables and benches adds a natural charm to the garden welcoming to all ages.  It’s the first pub-garden that I’ve been to with a real sense of community and you could easily just sit there just watching the people sipping a craft beer or take your kids there to play in garden, something that many kids is London don’t get the opportunity to do.  Take a look http://dalstongarden.org/, even better, go there!

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Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

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Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

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Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

London

Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

 

London

The Hive – Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens – Hardly a place that needs an introduction, sadly to say I had never been, even more so that I used to work around the corner for many years.  I say I hadn’t been, that’s not totally true, I’ve been there twice before but that was in the evening over December to go ice skating; they have an outdoor ice rink during peak winter every year.  Took my mom there this time as she loves gardens and gardening, what better place to visit than the world-renowned Kew Gardens.  I was blown away by the place!  Right under the flight path of Heathrow runway however you don’t even notice because of the beautiful surroundings, and the place is huge!  You could see the whole place, not thoroughly though, in one day, to truly explore the whole of Kew Gardens you would need to visit it multiple times over months!  Every plant, tree, flower is labelled and on permanent exhibit are specimens from around the world in the most exquisitely manicured garden displays.  I love the outdoors but I’m no green finger and since my visit I’ve urged so many people to go there, even if it’s just for a pick nick, the setting would be hard-pressed to beat!

London

Kew Gardens

London

Kew Gardens

 

I wasn’t expecting such lovely scenery so stupidly I forgot my camera and used my phone instead, it takes good photos but not as well as my camera and I would have preferred to do Kew Gardens more justice.  www.kew.org

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Kew Gardens

London

Carnaby Street – London

London Town – As much as I try to avoid central London when shopping, too many tourists, yes, I know that’s hypocritical of me, I somehow almost always end up in Carnaby Street.  I’ve been going there since I arrived in London, with an interesting and colourful history, now a consumer hotspot and worlds away from its punk heydays.  Still a wonderful place to visit in a unique setting with hedonistic themed decorations hanging along the boulevard.  The Breakfast Club (London Bridge), there are quite a few of these around London (www.thebreakfastclubcafes.com); and American diner style café/restaurant for work or family in a relaxed retro environment.  They serve breakfast all day and I’d avoid peak times unless you are willing to wait in line, a long line, that’s how good their food is; may not be the healthiest of meal but bloody yummy!  London’s architecture has certainly changed over the past 15yrs.  Alongside the Victorian buildings now stand glass and mirror beacons reflecting the sun’s rays through what used to be the dark narrow spaghetti roads and alleyways.  These shining buildings affectionately known by their colloquial names The Gherkin, The Cheesegrater, Walkie-Talkie and in the mix, is The Shard, it’s actual name.

London

The Shard – London

London

The Shard – London

Hyde Park – Right in the heart of London is the huge Hyde Park.  Stunning in comparison to any park I’ve been too, Kew Gardens does top it, but Hyde Park if free.  My mother and I were on our way to a Grayson Perry exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery which is inside the park.  Taking an intentional detour to take in the sites of the park we passed by the Diane, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain.  Not that I’m a sentimental person for memorials but looking at the fountain and all the mothers and kids running around having fun it seemed a fitting memorial.

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Peter Pan Statue – Hyde Park

London

Hyde Park

London

Diane, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain – Hyde Park

Grayson Perry – I’m a fan, even more so after listening to The Reith lecturer he gave.  An intimate exhibition of ceramics, metal sculptures and tapestry he does have a unique style and inside.  His representation of everyday life and society is raw, astute and reflective of what is beautiful and disturbing about the world.

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Grayson Perry – Serpentine Galleries

London

Grayson Perry – Serpentine Galleries

London

Grayson Perry – Serpentine Galleries

 

My next destination hasn’t been confirmed yet, I hope to know very shortly.  Before London I was in Barcelona, if you’d like to take a look use the link below.

My next stop was part of a month in Egypt, first stop was Giza and before London was Barcelona, take a look if you like:

Giza Pyramids, finally seeing them!

Barcelona – wow, what a magnificent city!