Hunter Valley – Lochinvar House

About 100KM outside Sydney and you’re in Wine Country – the Hunter Valley. There are over 120 wineries within about 10 square miles here, so there ought to be something worth drinking here – even for our most discerning of palates.

We’re spending a few nights in a glorious B&B in the heart of The Hunter, with Rebecca, Michael, Isabel and Alice. Lochinvar House is run by Phil and Heather who are great hosts and fantastic cooks.

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The house was built in 1841 in the traditional homestead style, and has a very Victorian feel inside. Perhaps it’s sympathetic to the style of the house, then, that it is very very cold.

But there’s going to be plenty to do here – the large gardens are full of fruit and alpacas. Max has spent most of the morning up a tree picking mulberries – even comandeering Phil’s ladder to help reach the juicier ones!

We also loaded the children into the cattle stall. Moooooo!

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Balmoral Beach

Sydney has beaches like London has roundabouts. They’re pretty much at the end of every street.

Of course I would rather spend the morning playing on a beach than on a roundabout, a beach usually offers better views, and whoever heard of making sandcastles on a roundabout ?

This morning we enjoyed Balmoral beach, before we set off for the Hunter Valley. As well as views and sandcastles, Balmoral gave us some great tree climbing.

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Taronga Zoo

Sydney should be proud of Taronga Zoo. The zoo is situated on a steep hillside overlooking the harbour, and the best way to get there is by ferry, of course. We were then introduced to the zoo by a ski-lift ride to the top of the hill where the tour down past the animals begins.

Max and Jem bumped into a koala and a kangaroo at the entrance. Since Jem has enjoyed cuddling koalas, we decided it was his turn to be the cuddlee.

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We have been a little disappointed to have not seen any zebras in the wild during our time in Australia, but at least we finally got to see some in the zoo. Jem was over the moon.

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Another good thing about Taronga ? Not even a hint of Steve Irwin.

Boats on the Harbour

One of the more popular, and probably the most practical, ways of getting around Sydney is to hop on one of the ferries that cross the harbour from dawn until dusk.

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It’s also a good way for us tourists to see the sights. The ferries are not as cheap or as smart as Brisbane’s SeaCats, but the view is much more memorable.

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Sydney by night

From the top floor of the Shangri-La hotel, neighbouring the Sydney Harbour Bridge, you can enjoy some cocktails, and a great view.

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Sydney Opera House

The Opera house has stood on Sydney Harbour for about forty years. This building must surely be one of the most photographed in the world, and for good reason.

The Opera House has such a satisfying form – six sails formed from ‘cuts’ on the surface of a sphere, and erected to give a feeling that the structure could quite happily set off into the pacific ocean any time it chose.

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IMG_0714.JPG The Danish architect Jorn Utzon was 35 when his design won the competition to build this new venue for Sydney. It was to be many years before the building was complete, not before the budget had been spent several times over. Public opinion was not always in favour of the building. We learned that Utzon left Australia before the project was completed,and would never return to see the completed building. An acrimonious relationship between architect and client led to his resignation in 1966. Utzon neither attended, nor was mentioned at all, at the opening ceremony held by the Queen in 1973.

From a distance it is the overall form, this sailboat of stone, that is inspiring. But when you get up close to the outer walls, and climb the 85 steps that lead to the main entrance, it’s the small details that bring out the beauty of the place. The sweep of concrete arches and the symmetry of the square and triangular tiles are two details that only reveal themselves close-up.

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It didn’t elicit for us the same emotional feeling that Australia’s natural wonders have done, but it is a beautiful building. Really beautiful.

A drink with Lloyd

IMG_0849.JPG Great to catch up with Lloyd and serve as emissary on behalf of the Gentleman’s Society (Cambridge Branch). We met at the Lord Nelson Hotel – the oldest hotel in Sydney – with a brewery on site.

We enjoyed a couple of pints of ’3 sheets’. Thanks, Lloyd.

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Uninvited Guests

This chap, and several of his mates, turned up for Max’s beach party.

Despite the Kookaburra’s best efforts, we didn’t share our cake.

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Max’s Seventh Birthday Party

The much anticipated day had arrived. It was Max’s second Seventh birthday party, and first ever birthday party on a beach.

Perhaps, like the arrival in Alice Springs or Cairns, this was a milestone event in the long calendar of our trip out here. As much as we were looking forward to it, it also marked a point near the end of our time away so we were never in too much of a hurry for it to arrive.

It was a real joy to share the afternoon with Maree Curry, as well as Sally, Katy, Ralph and Scott and of course Michael, Rebecca, Isabel and Alice. Not to be defeated by the weather we had treasure hunts, beach fun, and of course cake. Lots of it.

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We ate cake and hunted for treasure on Clive Park beach.

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And after the beach and cake party, we went back for a delicious roast dinner and some presents.

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Thanks for being seven, Max.

Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art

Thanks to Lloyd for the recommendation, and in particular thanks to Rebecca for offering to take the kids from us for a couple of hours – we enjoyed the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art (“MCA”) in the Rocks district of the city. When we finally got over the feeling of not having two kids to chase after, this was a great way of spending some unexpected free time.

The MCA offers four floors of contemporary art, and we particularly enjoyed the works by Louisa Bufardeci. Bufardeci takes her inspiration from statistics of all forms.

IMG_0362.JPG The installation ‘Team Joy’ (2004) is a so-called ‘immersive sculptural work’ taking the form of a corridor with sloping walls and a couple of hundred supporting struts. Each strut represents an international organisation of some kind, and the colours of the struts represent the consitutent members of the organisation.

We also liked ‘Ground Plan’ (2003) – a work that depicts the
countries of the world as rooms in a plan-style house. The size of
each room is proportional to the population of that country rather
than its geographical size. Interesting to see a map where Taiwan is
larger than Australia!

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There were also a few pieces devoted to taxis and taxi drivers by Christine Eid. The artist’s father and uncles had come to Australia from the Lebanon and had worked as taxi drivers. The pieces reflect on life as an immigrant working in Australia over the last thirty years or so.

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