Thursday, November 8, 2012

Opera House, Manly, and The Rocks – Thurs., Nov. 8

No denying it. I am out of shape after taking it easy for five weeks! After all the walking we did yesterday, my feet and shins are protesting. Today was another long day.

[Note: We have not had free wi-fi for a number of days, so I will be posting quite a few blogs all at once.]

After breaky (breakfast) we took the Sydney free bus, #555, from our hotel to Circular Quay. We walked to Sydney Opera House to see it up close and personal. It was cool to see the Opera House from different perspectives. The detail on the roof is beautiful. See pics below.

Sydney Opera House
Opera House roof tiles.
From the Opera House, we walked back to Circular Quay and bought Manly Ferry $14 return (return=roundtrip) tickets. The ferry ride is ½-hour port to port from downtown Sydney to Manly. It was lovely being out on the water looking back at downtown, the Harbour Bridge, neighborhoods on the shore and, as we approached Manly, the cliffs at the North Head entrance to the harbor.
City Centre, Sydney, Australia.
Once in Manly, we walked across the street from the ferry terminal to The Corso, a three-block-long area with shops and eateries which is on the way to Freshwater Beach.

Freshwater Beach is a surfing reserve. Surfers were out catching the waves up and down the beach. It was lunch time so we strolled along South Steyne looking for a promising restaurant.

Freshwater Beach, Manly, Australia
We ended up on a side street at Café Brisa. Bob ordered a fish burger and I had the fish and chips lunch special. Just because I’m a curious kind of girl, I had to ask the waitress what Balmain Bugs were. It was listed on the menu. I had no clue, except I guessed it must be some kind of seafood.


When the waitress came over to take our order, I asked what Balmain Bugs are. She explained they’re small lobsters. So I’m wondering if they are really lobsters or if they’re what we call crayfish. I didn’t order them so I don’t know for sure. By the way, the fish and chips were excellent, Bob’s fish sandwich not so much (different kind of fish).

Time to walk off lunch on a hike to Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, Shelly Beach and Sydney Harbour National Park. Cabbage Tree Aquatic Bay Reserve has a paved path along the bay to Shelly Beach. At the beginning of the path is a sign that says, “Protect our Water Dragons.” Water dragons? What are those? The trail to Shelly Beach is known for artwork along the trail, some of it quite whimsical. I captured the art for you in the photos below, along with a photo of a water dragon...they seem to be quite prevalent in the area. [Note: due to limited internet access, I am only posting one photo of art along the trail.]
Type of penguin that nests on Bowen Island.
Water dragon.
Another sign shows to keep left on the path. [As an aside, I have noted in Hawaii and on trails in other places in the U.S. that oncoming hikers have tried to walk uphill on the same side we’re walking down. I’ve often wondered if those hikers were from countries where people drive on the left-side of the road. This sign pretty much answered that. Now, in addition to learning to drive on the left-side of the road we also must learn to walk on the left side of the trail! A totally different experience for Americans who have grown up driving on the right and walking on the right-hand side of a sidewalk or trail.]

From Shelly Beach we continued walking/hiking up and over a headland on the Blue Fish Track in Sydney Harbour National Park. It was hot and humid with no shade on the trail. We saw a gun pit (military battery). We thought we would continue on the trail over to Spring Cove, but with the heat and my aching feet, we turned down Blue Fish Drive and walked back into Manly. Along the road were signs warning us to slow down for endangered bandicoots. Unfortunately, we did not see any bandicoots today.

Back in Manly, we opted for treats before we boarded the ferry. I chose a chocolate cherry cake with the most wonderful cream filling and chocolate ganache decorations on top. Mmmmmm, melted in my mouth. Bob opted for two-scoop gelato in a waffle cone which he enjoyed in the heat of the day.

A nice, relaxing, non-walking, ½-hour ferry ride (with lightning storm) to Sydney was followed by more walking to Royal Botanic Garden. The Government House was closed for the day but I photographed it.

Government House.
Then the rain started: sprinkles at first, picking up strength, then insisting we must pay attention to Mother Nature. Out came the umbrella which I remembered to pack today. Also, out came a rainbow over the botanic garden. The rainstorm lasted ten minutes and then we were back to sunshine and clouds.

Rainbow over Royal Botanic Garden.
The botanic garden was more like an arboretum, with trees labeled with name, genus, history and uses. There were quite a few ficus trees of different varieties, all of them BIG. Gardens included an herb garden, rose garden, rare and threatened plants, succulents, fernery, begonias, camellias, tropical centre, rainforest walk, and oriental garden. Because we wanted to make it to The Rocks free walking tour at 6:00 p.m., we only saw part of the Royal Botanic Garden.

A quick walk over to Cadman’s Cottage put us into the walking tour of The Rocks 15 minutes before start time. Russ, one of the founders of I’m Free Walking Tours, was our guide. He took us through the Suez Canal (Suez is a play on the word sewer, which is what this alley was when The Rocks area was settled), on back walkways, alleys, cobblestone streets, a cliff walk and up Observation Hill. Throughout the 1.5 hour walk, Russ recounted stories of Sydney and The Rocks history starting with Captain Bligh and ending with the Scots trying to settle Observatory Hill. We recommend this free tour. The guides only ask that you give what you think it’s worth at the end of the tour. You could give nothing but these tours are so interesting you want to give something.

Our guide, Russ, leading tour of The Rocks.
Observatory Hill at sunset.
Dinner was next on the list, but the free bus stopped running at 9:00 p.m. on Thursday nights. I wanted to ride it back to our hotel (and rest my feet and legs), then find dinner in our area.

Once we returned to our hotel and changed clothes, we WALKED three blocks to find dinner. But it was worth it. We ended up at a vegan restaurant. Bob had a vegetarian pie with black beans and all kinds of other good stuff which he can’t remember today (Friday). I had vegetarian lasagna that was out-of-this-world good. It was gluten free with very soft lasagna noodles, mashed sweet potatoes, some kind of wilted greens and other mysterious ingredients that all together felt like velvet in my mouth.

By the time we returned to the room, I was ready to fall into bed. I sat down at the computer and kept falling asleep. I’ll tell you what, I am sleeping very well on this trip!

Tomorrow we are off to Bowral (65 mi. southwest of Sydney in the Southern Highlands) for our first timeshare week.


Travel Bug out.