Sunday, December 14, 2008

A change of scenery

For this last week Brian & I have been Sydneyites (Sydneyers? Randwickians?). We’ve been staying in the area of Randwick, house-sitting for a colleague while she’s in chilly Scotland for Christmas. Right now Randwick feels rather geographically close to heaven. It’s a 20 minute walk to Bondi Junction & an 8 minute train ride to work. I can leave the front door at 8 am & leisurely make it to work well before 9 am, including a stop for an insanely chocolatey hot chocolate at the Lindt café/store outside of the Martin Place Station. *sigh* I cannot sufficiently express how much I appreciate not having to do The Commute. Although to be completely honest, I have fallen way behind on my reading, but it seems a very miniscule sacrifice indeed.
The best part of this stay though for me has been that we are not only sitting a house ,we’ve got ourselves a dog too! Ohmigosh … how much do I miss the demands for food & affection, the slobbery tennis balls, muddy/ soaking wet running shoes & bad breath? … wow, so much actually!

Rosa is a 4 year old black lab. She went through the seeing eye dog training from a puppy, but unfortunately, she wasn’t academically inclined. She didn’t make the cut in the end, perhaps due to her complete devotion to her stomach & things she can put in it & ways she can get at things she can put in it, etc. She is a wonderful companion dog to my co-worker’s daughter though. She’s very gentle, obedient & loves belly rubs more than any other dog I’ve ever met.

Another cool thing about Randwick is that it’s even closer to beautiful beaches than where we are up on the Central Coast. Of course, there is no free parking & the beaches are all super-busy (Yes, I said free parking! We’ve never paid to go to a Central Coast beach. Can you imagine parking directly in front of a heavenly beach … for free?!? Well, we were shocked anyway, that does not happen in the Lower Mainland … or perhaps anywhere in North America now) Rosa’s favourite beach is Clovelly (rhymes with belly, nice symmetry). There’s an off-leash park there next to a tidal rock pool where she can fling herself into the ocean after her beloved tennis ball. It’s an 8 minute drive from the house.

A bit north of there is Bronte Beach (about a 10 minute drive). We parked there on Saturday & were going to do the walk from Bronte beach to Tamarama & then Bondi. Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach but there’s a nice high sidewalk that connects them all, with a great view from above. It actually turned out to be quite hot (low 30s), so we only made it to just past Tamarama when we ran across a bunch of dogs splashing around in more tidal pools at Mackenzie’s Bay. Lots of fun was had by all.

We walked back to Bronte & went to one of the many cute outdoor cafes across from the beach. We got a table outside, with Rosa tucked beside Brian’s chair & had a lovely ve getarian lunch. Well, Rosa was tucked under until the food came & then she rested her head beseechingly on Brian’s leg for the rest of the meal. I’m sure we’ll get the drool out of his shorts eventually.

Oh, totally as a side note, every beach we went to in Sydney this weekend had at least one topless woman tanning. These were young ladies as well, not the swarthy European women of advanced age, smoking & hacking their way across the beaches of Cancun. Brian quite enjoyed the scenery, if rather more circumspectly than the Aussie blokes (these dudes stare with quite a bit less subtlety than Canadian men … I don’t know how they aren’t all suffering from whiplash)
Anyway, I was kind of sad we never made it to Bondi that day. It was to be a bit of a scouting mission. I wanted to check out the famous Bondi Beach before attempting a surf there. Where to park? Where are the best waves? Will I be the worst surfer there? Etc. However, I was wide awake on this sunny Sunday morning & after taking Rosa for an hour long walk in Queen’s Park (also nice symmetry … oh, for those who don’t know we live across from a Queen’s Park at home in New Westminster), I decided to harass Brian into driving me to Bondi with my board. I figured at 8:30 am on a Sunday people would be either getting ready for church or sleeping off a hangover (which I myself had intimate knowledge of from my staff Christmas party on Friday night … but that’s a whole other blog entry). We zipped down (15 minute drive) & were able to find parking (not cheaply I might add) & made our way down to the beach. The waves were OK, not too big & quite steady, even though it was a bit windy. I just stood there & watched a group of about 20 surfers riding the waves. Oh dear, they look pretty good. They’re all over the sandbar where the waves are breaking. There are even more surfers over at the south end of the beach, but too close to the rocks for me. Back to the surfers in the middle, acck, I’m intimidated, oof … look at those 2 guys crash into each other fighting for a wave. I don’t think I’m ready for this. After some gentle prodding from Brian (& many of you may know how gentle Brian’s prodding can be when he decides you should do something …), I decided maybe I could work up my courage by walking the beach.
I walked from the south end with the still drinking groups of backpackers, the sparring kick boxers & the shirtless & shiny-chested young male soccer team jogging purposefully. Then to the north end, with perhaps 200 screaming nippers. I think I’ve mentioned before that Surf Lifesaving is a family activity & they start them young. The kids doing the training (racing on the beach, swimming & paddling, etc.) are called nippers. I guess Sunday was a swarm day.
By the time I got back to our towel somewhere in the middle of the beach, I took a deep breath, put on my wetsuit & picked up my board. OK, here we go. The water’s beautiful & almost more green than blue & quite warm. I jump on my board & start paddling to the edge of the crowd. There are flags set up where people are supposed to swim & there’s no surfboards allowed. I can squeeze in to the outside of the flags & still be on the edge of the group of surfers.
Oh, it’s lovely out here. I love being on the water. Here comes a wave … hah, I caught it … didn’t even try to stand, but fun nonetheless. Dude, I’m surfing at Bondi … I can tick that off my list! I caught a few more waves. Once during the surf one of the crowd meandered over my way … as I’m riding high (on my belly still) another board comes careening towards me. I start to say I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry etc. when I realize the dude is on his belly too & he’s coming right at me, with no control … he’s worse than me … HEY … get the hell out of MY way, I was here first … you should be the sorry one, punk … as I steer my board to the right, out of his way. Er … ahem, I can see how people can get aggressive out there.
Anyway, the swell started to go down a bit after about 40 minutes with long breaks between breaking waves & the wind picked up, so it was time to go in. Brian, brian, brian, wake up …I surfed at Bondi … woo hoo, OK well I didn’t stand, but when we come back in January, I definitely will … time for a huge breakfast!
After we ate & went home to change, we caught the train downtown & spent the afternoon at the Museum of Contemporary Art at the Rocks in Sydney … very cool. Then we had a nice dinner & trained it back home in time to pick up Rosa for an outdoor movie in Centennial Park. This is a huge park in the middle of Sydney, almost like Central Park in New York or Stanley Park in Vancouver. It’s a 2 minute drive from where we were staying, but took another 10 minutes to find the movie screen in the park. We laid out our blanket (Brian also rented this super comfy beanbag bed to lounge on) & spread out the picnic of peanut M&Ms, popcorn, chips & TimTams (with the health conscious bottle of water, of course) & laid back & watched Pineapple Express (funny movie, if you’re interested). I was pretty proud of myself for laying on a blanket in the dark with all the usual creepy crawlies on the ground & the bats overhead … I barely even noticed … perhaps I’m turning Aussie after all this time. Rosa only barked once during the gunfire portion of the movie, but copious amounts of belly rubbing settled her down. Then home & in bed for 11. Nice day overall … city living is pretty cool.
We’re heading back to Narara today *sigh* as someone else is paying to stay at the place over Christmas, but we’ll be going back to Sydney for 2 weeks in January. Look out Bondi … standing in ’09 … yeah …!

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