January 1, 2007 == Welcome (flash) page

New Years Fireworks in Sydney

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New Year's Greetings to one and all!

In the last few days we got into high gear to prepare our annual letter. Now we've sent it off, or will in the next day or two, to all of our email correspondents. We still have a half-dozen people who haven't adopted modern technology. And a few who have changed their email addresses and not told us. For these we will use paper, envelopes, and snail mail; to that purpose we stocked up on a box of Christmas cards.

We hardly need to review here all of the places we visited in our last twelve months; if you are reading this then you have access to the link Index (upper-right) and can quickly get a pretty good idea.

We can say the past twelve months were the best of times and at times difficult times. Hardly had we come to a place, whether we stayed two days or two weeks, than it seemed we were off again, carried away by our whirlwind lives. The whole year has just evaporated, as usual. Before you know it we'll be pressed to write our 2007 letter. Until then, our very, very, very best wishes and hopes that our paths will soon cross.

Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race

Now, with this third posting from Australia, let us bring you up to date with how we passed our last three weeks of 2006 in Sydney. Normal life goes on. We're still cooking mostly at home, but at least once or twice a week picnicking away. We're still busy trying to get Aussie driver's licenses and it's still not certain we'll succeed.

On a bright, summer (December!) day we went out to see the send-off of the Sydney-Hobart yacht race. It started about 1931 as a very amateurish event among some friends who were sailing from Sydney to Hobart and decided to make it a race; it now garners great gobs of publicity. Maybe there is so much attention because in 1998 it turned into a very dangerous race. We all love to see a disaster and everybody must be secretly hoping that some big storm and big problem will come up. That wasn't why we went; we just wanted to see what was going on. We left to the day of the race finding out where we should go to see the start. We'd hoped to come across a map in the newspapers but didn't, so at the last moment searched the web and looked for a good spot. (Later we found in an old newspaper sitting around that we hadn't looked carefully enough — of all places — in the sports section.)

We picked Nielsen park, just opposite the start line, then bicycled out there, taking only an hour and getting there on time in spite of the need to stop and repair Gerry's brakes along the way. We shared the top of a rocky outcrop with about two dozen people. While we waited the boats below jockeyed for position and then, to the roar of a canon, were off. It's truly amazing to see how fast some of these sailboats can go. We watched from our perch until most of the boats were approaching the gap between North Head and South Head; the leaders by then were out into the Pacific.

Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House

Then we went to picnic in the nearby park, among a rather large crowd. Sydney siders really like their barbies (barbecues) and volleyball. Just down the slope from us was Nielsen beach; we discovered that a giant pool was in effect created by a very long shark net. Shark nets are something we're concerned about having heard of several shark attacks recently along Australia's coasts, although thankfully nowhere near Sydney. We expect to go back to Nielsen beach at least once before our time in Sydney is up.

Watson's Bay

A few miles beyond Nielson Park is Watson's Bay and beyond it South Head, the eastern end of Sydney harbor. It has been on our agenda for a long time and this weekend we got there, but by bus, rather than bicycle. (One can also get there via a ferry from Circular Quay; for us that would have meant going the wrong way just to enjoy the boat ride.)

We had come all the way out to Watson's Bay to nosh on some famous Aussie fish and chips, sip on a glass or two of chilled Aussie Semillon, and take a stroll along the South Head cliffs. We'd thought of going to one restaurant and locals had told us it was over priced; instead, they said, go to the Watson's Bay Hotel. When we arrived we found that the Watsons had become a branch of Doyles — we could either eat in the Doyle's pier, or Doyle's hotel, or Doyle's couryard; We chose the latter with a good view of the inner bay on to central Sydney.

After lunch we set off to walk the kilometer or so to South Head. We had more good Sydney weather and were treated with great views all the way up the harbor to the downtown and Harbor Bridge. The walk goes mostly through a park and along the way we were treated to views of the mostly-male nudist beach at Lady Cove, the light house on the top of South Head, and the jumble of rocks across the channel below North Head

The park is located on what was once military land. The army gave its training ground up. The Navy, as it seems Navies always do, still retains its hold on a good part of the place. When it is all park and a bit more is added then there will be a terrific cliff-line walk all the way south from South Head to Bondi Beach. And there is already a walk, which we made in our first weeks, further south to Coogee Beach.

New Year's Eve

And then suddenly, it was New Year's, which we welcomed alongside hundreds of other Elizabeth Bay residents in a park near our "unit" with a great view of the bridge. We had plenty of space rather than being jam-packed in with others as is so typical of New Year's Eve. The reason? There was a no-bottles no-booze rule, which kept many people out in the nearby street. No-booze suited us fine; when we went in, we were asked by security if we had any booze or bottles; apparently a mere verbal "No" was sufficient — we looked too old and decrepit for them to even want to search us as they were definitely doing with the younger crowd. After the fireworks extravaganza we strolled home and finished off our nice bottle of Semillon and ate a piece of fruit cake each and a slab of white cheese. Not exactly first-footing Darlo-style but close enough!

Out late at night for the fireworks, Gerry was dressed in a simple shirt, without a tee-shirt and Jan had a light jacket. That is hardly what we are used to; being bundled up in New Jersey or New York or even Berlin cold, perhaps with snow at our feet, is much more usual for us. We are still a long way from find the idea of "summer" in December a normal one.


As should be evident, and is certainly our usual way of doing things, we are slowly nudging our way to the outer edges of Sydney. We think next week we'll take our bikes over to Manly, which is a big tourist spot and beach on the north shore and ride down to North Head. Sometime after that, with our bike-legs about in shape we'll do a long ride in Royal National Park, which is 25 km south. We don't know yet how we'll fill the remaining month here but it seems like Sydney always has another event that interests us, so we should be pretty busy.

January 1, 2007