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Ten minutes from home

14 Sep

While the job hunt starts and I have some time in the day, I am taking advantage of the opportunity to explore and get to know this area, known as the ‘Eastern Suburbs’.

Whether by car or on foot – walking or driving just ten minutes – brings us to wonderful beaches such as Bronte or Bondi, secluded bays or dramatic cliff top views.

During the last couple of weeks we have visited a few of these bays while out walking or to hit the beach while the weather seems determined to stay warm.

The other afternoon I walked from HMAS Watson where James is currently based along the coast through Vaucluse to Shark Bay.

En route, I passed Watsons Bay, Gibson Beach, Parsley Bay, Vaucluse Bay and finally through Nielsen Park to reach Shark Bay, an almost empty stretch of sand in a sheltered cove. James joined me after work and it was tempting to go for a swim but not even the hottest day can get me in yet… Maybe in a few weeks.

We keep having to pinch ourselves to know that we are really living here now and these places are just on our doorstep.

Rose Bay itself is beautiful with a sandy beach to one end, Bondi Beach is a little further away and the cliffs along Dover Heights and up to Vaucluse and Watsons Bay can be reached after a short (but steep) walk from one end of our road.

Our photos from these recent trips can be found here.

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The day James made a grown man cry

12 Sep Rose Bay, our new suburb.

From a London flat to an apartment in Sydney via various hotels, honeymoon resorts and temporary accommodation, we have done a fair amount of moving in the last few weeks. Today, however, should be the last of it – for a while at least – as we became proud residents of a unit in Rose Bay and finally have a place we can call home.

It is a huge relief to be out of the hotel room and not living out of a suitcase, which has been a common theme for the last month!

The defence service arranged for us to borrow a furniture pack, so we are now kitted out with a bed, sofas, a TV, fridge, washing machine and all the other bits and pieces we need and don’t yet have.

The colour scheme is pretty monochrome and beige so we’re looking forward to injecting some colour into the place – roll on the sea freight arriving. I never thought I’d say I’d be glad to see those rugs and pictures again after lugging them up three flights of stairs in London.

To celebrate we went and had a coffee at (one of) the local coffee shops round the corner. It was sat in the sun, outside the ‘Art of Coffee’, with us passing the phone between us to sort out the broadband installation, that I got chatting to Gianni.

Originally from Italy, he has lived here for over forty years and used to run a local gelateria in the area. His daughter is an opera singer and judging from the number of times he stopped to greet someone, there aren’t many people he doesn’t know in the neighbourhood. His chair at the coffee shop pretty much has his name on it.

Once off the phone, James started talking about Italy and after a few  words in Italian, the tears just started to pour (from Gianni that is) and whether this was some indication of what he thought of James’ Italian we’ll never know, but we like to think he just grew a bit nostalgic.

He kept hugging James and stroking his face and it all got quite emotional. As he continued to sob and pat James as if he was a long lost son we all grew a little bit teary. At this point, if we had been in England, there would probably have been some awkward, embarrassing moment where we would have pretended nothing had ever happened but here, nobody seemed to think it was odd.

When we left, he shook our hands, told us he was always sat outside there and started to cry again.

Gianni is just one of the people who struck up conversation with us today. First, there was Gary at ‘Oscar’s’ coffee shop, who now calls James ‘Captain’, there was Sue at the flower shop where we bought ourselves a housewarming plant (!), and then the man who owns one of the local grocery shops, who told us in no uncertain terms not to shop there again as he is ‘too expensive’.

Welcome to Rose Bay… I think we’ll soon feel at home!

Into the blue…

10 Sep The Three Sisters, The Blue Mountains

Two weeks in and our first trip out of the city.

Today we headed West and into the Blue Mountains – so called for the blue haze, caused by the oil in the Eucalyptus trees.

I had been told how beautiful the Blue Mountains were but I was still struck at the lushness and vastness of this area. It was here that not for the first time I began to grasp how huge this country is.

Our first stop was Wentworth Falls, named after William Charles Wentworth, the explorer who led the expedition to cross the mountains in 1813.

The bright Australian sunshine and brilliant blue sky were the perfect backdrop to the whole journey – although this was the first time we’d actually felt cold here so far!

Stopping in Katoomba to see the famous Three Sisters we then went in search of a coffee shop. That is when we came across the Paragon Cafe –  a step back in time the moment you cross the threshold and a wonderful spot for a very English afternoon tea amid the amazing Art Deco interior.

The drive back took us along winding roads with stunning views across the valleys and some good photo opportunities with the sunset silhouetting the Eucalyptus along the road.

The day drew to a close with a family meal in honour of one of James’ cousin’s 21st birthday. We weren’t sure what was in store as we parked up outside ‘Kravings’, an isolated restaurant on the road side, but we were soon led into the room where a table set for a dozen or more people was waiting and we knew this was going to be a very (distant) family affair! We had a really fun time meeting James’ relatives; his dad’s cousin Ibby, her daughter Leona (who had just given birth that morning and remarkably made it out) and granddaughter, Sierra, whose birthday we were celebrating. The food and company were fantastic and despite family connections growing more distant with each passing generation, we were welcomed as family and made to feel right at home.

The North Shore

4 Sep

A week of being here, we decided it was time to venture North – over the bridge and up to see what Manly had to offer.

It was striking how a town just a short drive away had a very different vibe: A cross between ‘surfer-cool’ with a hint of Blackpool thrown in for good measure.

The beach itself, a long stretch of golden sand with enough surfers to let us believe we were in Australia and the promenade fringed with high-rise apartments, hotels and a decent smattering of bars with names such as Sugar Lounge for an urban edge.

Behind the beach front, the Corso was where the tourist market thrived and where I first discovered how easily you can find gluten free/wheat free/ dairy free/ (taste free?) treats over here… Although we have not had a bad meal or even snack here yet.

We could see why Manly attracts the backpackers  with its lively yet laid back ambience and why the Northern beaches are as much a sought after location as the Eastern Suburbs.

However, heading back over the bridge, it really did feel as if we were heading ‘home’… Back to the place we’ve begun to get to know.

 

G’day. Streuth, we’re in Australia!

29 Aug Sydney Opera House

I suppose when you mention Australia to most people, they conjure up that iconic view of the harbour bridge behind a gleaming white Opera House and I was no exception.

Today, for the first time, I got to see that image for real and it was breathtaking.

For our first full day in our new home city, we decided we had to be tourists and see the token Sydney sites.

We could not have asked for a better welcome with the sun shining, the temperature reaching 25 degrees and a perfect flat white to start the morning.

We strolled through Hyde Park opposite our current hotel, headed through the Botanical Gardens via James’ future Naval base, Garden Island and as we rounded the point, the Opera House and harbour bridge came into view in all their glory.

Walking round the harbour edge, we were both struck at how clean it was and how even the air seemed fresher compared to the London grime.

A boat trip around the harbour satisfied our appetite for harbour views, the city skyline and a bit of local history… All explained by a man with possibly the worst Aussie accent imaginable.

Needless to say, we took plenty of photos!

Leaving limbo-land

28 Aug

We are finally on our way with one more flight to go.

I am not sure it has fully sunk and it still seems a little surreal that 72 hours a go we were leaving Heathrow, saying goodbye to our families (I think we all held it together quite well, but there were a few tears at take-off!)

The Singapore stopover has been a bit of a blur: A fast and easy transition from plane to chauffeur-driven Mercedes waiting to take us to the hotel and then a day and a half of trying but not succeeding in getting our heads around what we had just done and were about to do. It was  a welcome stop to ease the jet-lag but felt slightly as if we were just prolonging the inevitable; a two night limbo-land where we had neither quite arrived, nor were we at home anymore.

We were lucky to have ex-Navy friend Mark and his fiancee Claire to meet up with, a chance to catch up, hear a few words of advice from fellow ex-pats and take advantage of their knowledge of the good restaurants.

We are both grateful to escape the muggy, wet conditions of Singapore and get to our final destination – Sydney.

Time will tell if we will start to feel like ‘home’.

The adventure has just begun…

25 Aug Australian Admin, London

We’ve been living out of suitcases for the last few weeks with most of our belongings on a ship en route to Sydney but now those suitcases are finally with us on the way to the airport!
The weeks of paperwork, admin, a flat in chaos and simultaneously coordinating a move and a wedding are behind us.
Having said the “I dos’ and refreshed from an amazing honeymoon, we are ready for the next big step…

Inevitably we’ll be be greeted on the other side with more paperwork, admin, chaotic scenes and living out of a suitcase for a while but with Sydney as the backdrop and the Australian spring around the corner, we feel ready to tackle anything.

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