Sydney, Australia – Manly, Men & Fur Babies

Farewell Aotearoa, hello Aussie-land!

As is becoming the habit on my sojourns to the motherland, I make a point of stopping off in “Straya” to annoy my NZ, Aussie and Swedish friends & family who dwell there. First stop Mike, Gustav and the fur babies. Now to enlighten you as to who these individuals are: Gustav is my friend who I met and got to know in Sweden, who met an Aussie (Mike) on a farm in France owned by kiwi Brent. Now Mike is a doting father of Malamutes who has travelled the world with his furry friends Bondi & Munson both who have passed on to that great grassy park in the sky. Munson on his world travels made it all the way to Sweden for my 50th birthday. On this visit I would get to meet the next generation Malamute – Rollo. What I did not know at the time, was this would be the first and only visit with him for he would pass away not long after my visit barely 3 years old of a pneumothorax. Since my visit, his nephew Raff has joined the family and I look forward to making his acquaintance on my next visit. While Mike is a canine herder, Gustav is a cat cuddler and he has the coolest cat, Logan. He attached himself quickly to me, and as a cat lover myself, we became “beasties”. It might also have been the fact I was the only one at the house during the day while the others were at work.

Mike’s adventures with his lovely Malamutes can be found on his blog – El loco el lobo.

Having visited Sydney so many times, the points of interest I wish to visit get fewer and fewer and the time with family and friends more important, so there are the usual rounds of coffees, weekend brunches and dinners. The Marrickville area has quite a few of its own coffee roasters plying their trade in hipster coffee houses. Why brew your own when you have the best next door – Coffee Alchemy, Double Tap, Fat Poppy, Double Roasters. One thing I always enjoy is wandering the areas in and around the Enmore/Marrickville/Newtown areas and the beautiful colonial industrial buildings & workers terraced housing. Once forgotten and left to decay, that are now being rejuvenate and coming back to life.

One of the exploratory trips I made was to test the Sydney transport system and take myself from Enmore to Manly, a distance 20 km. A bus, a train & a ferry, and 70 minutes later I was there and all for 8 dollars. The trip alone was worth it. A bus trip on a sunny day through Enmore’s & Erskineville’s stunning Victorian architecture before arriving outside the Imperial Hotel to catch a train from Erskineville station. Now why should I mention this particular hotel? Well, this Art Deco Hotel from the 1940s has had a chequered history. From its immigrant patrons of yesteryear to the dark grungy debauched & brutal drag scene of the 1980s, and then being lifted from a rough nicotine soak seedy dive to a modern vibrant gem in the LBGT life of Sydney. All because of a film, “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”, loosely based on some of the hotel’s more colourful drag artistes such as Mitzi MacIntosh and Cindy Pastel. One of my all time favourite Aussie films. The opening & closing scenes and the bus departure for the desert are all filmed here, and I accidentally stumbled on it when alighting from a bus for a departing train. I was able to check one off the gay to-do-list sights in Sydney. The city was cloaked in the Pride flag colours as I had arrived in Sydney during Mardi Gras season. While not participating in it as actively as Gustav, it was with pride that I wandered the city awash in a mass of colour celebrating our right to freedom.

From Erskineville station it was a train ride to Circular Quay where I exchanged my mode of transport from a train to a ferry for the 25 min trip across the harbour to Manly. As you leave Circular Key you are treated to magnificent views of the city, the Rocks, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Talking of the Opera House (which I have visited and where I have seen performances many times), it has many associations with the area I currently live in (Skåne, Sweden). Jørn Utzon the Opera house’s architect lived just a 100 km from Malmö in Hellebaek, Denmark and has designed many buildings & houses around the Öresund area. His son Kim who worked closely with his father designed a building for Malmö University as an addition to the Tornhuset where it combines elements in the spirit of the opera house. There is an additional association to this area of Sweden through the approximately 1,000,000 ceramic white & cream tiles on the roof of the opera house. They were all produced here by the Swedish company Höganäs Keramik AB, 65 km up the coast from Malmö and across the water from Utzon’s home.

Leaving the central city behind and heading towards the Sydney Heads, one was treated to spectacular harbour views of coves and beaches surrounded by houses with million dollar views. The heads are a series of sandstone headlands that form the 2 km wide entrance to Sydney Harbour and were used as a series of defensive fortifications to protect the city. North Head and Quarantine Head are to the north; South Head and Dunbar Head to the south; and Middle Head, Georges Head, and Chowder Head to the west and within the harbour. The Heads are contained within the Sydney Harbour National Park. Some features located on the heads are heritage-listed sites such as the Hornby Lighthouse, Macquarie Lighthouse (Australia’s first lighthouse) and the former Quarantine Station for immigrants located on North Head which was in use from the early 1800s until 1984 when it was closed.

Manly is located on the neck of a the spit leading to North Head. Manly was named by Captain Arthur Phillip after meeting the indigenous people living there and stating that “their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place”. From Manly wharf you can traverse the spit along the the shopping precinct “The Corse” and 5 minutes later you are on the beach among the Manly men 🙂 with its yellow sand and the blue Pacific Ocean. The area is a popular tourist destination so the beach is well populated. To be honest I preferred the beach back on the harbour side of the spit in Manly Cove. Quiet, relaxed and less hysterical and just as picturesque.

On the return leg from Manly to down town Sydney we were entertained by Americas Cup AC-50 boats darting at high speed around the harbour and the ferry. Of course of interest to me as NZ has dominated the America’s Cup for the last 10 years with the actually trophy “The Auld Mug” housed at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland. The speed of these boats is amazing. At times reaching up to 70 km/h. Our arrival into Circular Quay was hampered somewhat by Police boats milling around below Admiralty House on Kirribilli Point opposite the Opera House. The magnificent 18th century imposing Admiralty House is the Sydney residence of the Australian Governor-General (G-G) and located alongside it is the beautiful Kirribilli house, the Sydney residence of the Australian Prime Minister. Now why all the fuss about Police boats circulating in this area. Well it could only be a NZer causing all the fuss. The New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was visiting and was actually holding a press conference together with the G-G and Aussie PM at Admiralty House, just by the flagpole on the point. Her voice reaching us on the ferry as we passed by. After finally being able to disembark the Manly ferry among the chaos, I continued my wander through the heart of the Sydney CBD decorated in Pride colours, past the Queen Victoria Building, Town Hall Square towards Darling Harbour, Tumbalong Park and the Haymarket. Again taking the chance to take in the beautiful Victorian architecture interwoven with modern surprises such as The Exchange on Darling Square. A Japanese designed building covered in 20 km of timber ribbons giving the impression of a bird’s nest. The day concluded with a spin around the famous 150 year old Paddy’s Markets before the bus home to put the feet up.

On my last evening I got to experience a spectacular event in Mike & Gustav’s garden. A nocturnal display of the succulent – Queen of the Night – flowering (also known as the Moonflower – Selenicereus). It is one of the most mysterious flowers in nature. The flower blooms once a year in the dark and usually lasts only one night before wilting. Two weeks later, the fruit appears, known to us as Dragon fruit. The succulent had draped itself along the back fence of the garden giving a spectacular display. And in the shadow of the succulent was the beautiful and fragrant Frangipani aka temple flower. I love the spectacular colour and variety of tropical plants. What a spectacular way to end my visit to Sydney. Next stop Brisbane.

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1 Response to Sydney, Australia – Manly, Men & Fur Babies

  1. grasspunk says:

    First time I’ve been known as “kiwi Brent” but it’s cool.

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