Balmain via Wangaratta

This blog picks up from when had just completed our short break exploring North West Tasmania. Some of the pictures are black and white as I was fiddling a bit with my camera settings, your screen isn’t broken. This fiddling is probably what broke the thing, more on that in the blog. It also contains several innuendos, you have been warned.

Bye Andy

After saying “Cheerio” to Andy, our faithful guard dog and companion, we took the Spirit of Tasmania from Devonport to Melbourne.

On the Spirit of Tasmania crossing the Bass Strait
Grey Nomad Cruise Lines

We had arranged to stay a few days in Melbourne and catch up with clients and had booked a lovely place in St Kilda for our stay. St Kilda has a few features worth travelling to see. I covered it a bit in this previous blog so won’t go over it too much in this one. Unlike the last time we did get to see a Penguin up close though.

St Kilda

Fairy Penguin Moulting

The reason this one was out during the day is explained on this plaque nearby. I know some people who should have something similar near their desks at work.

Grumpy Penguin Plaque

One of the days we took a walk along the Esplanade. It was windy and a bit cold.

St Kilda on a good day

I’d not been down this part of St. Kilda before. It is full of restaurants and bars and some interesting street art.

Street Art in St Kilda
Two Headed Rhino
Coffee Shop Art

A short distance up the path we happened upon a big skate park. We have seen many skate parks on our travels so far and all have had maybe 3 or perhaps 4 kids skating at any time, most were empty. This time the park was packed. I clicked a few snaps off and moved on.

A Skate Park with actual Skateboarders

Just past the Skate Park is this multi-story boat park. I haven’t seen one this big for a while.

Multi Story Boat Park

In the distance we could see skydivers falling from the sky into a small patch of green grass, we could see kite surfers arced wings trailing back and forth in the distance across the shores and then we saw this. A crazy person on a skate board with a kite strapped to his body zipping along the ground.

Kite Skate Boarding – Mad

Presently we spotted a small hummock called Point Ormond. We decided the top of this would be as far as we would go, so to the top we sprinted. Did I say sprint, I mean I strolled, puffing a bit.

Point Ormond
Suddenly it’s 1930 – with skyscrapers

On the way back past the Skate Park we discovered it was some sort of Skateboard championship. The MC was calling names and the participants were competing with the expressions of excitement and happiness on their faces.

World Skate Board Championships

We stopped and watched for a while. The kids were displaying some serious courage and talent. But, as it was almost Beer O’Clock, it was off the the Espy we strolled. I may have trotted a little bit. The Esplanade Hotel is a St Kilda Icon and Jenni was keen I experienced it.

The Espy Basement Bar

We had prawns for lunch then went exploring the building.

I also had a pint or two of the local brew. Turns out Pitchfork Betty’s is from far north Queensland. I now have another place to visit when we go there.

The Esplanade or “The Espy” as it is called, is the longest continuously running live music venue in Australia. It was built in 1878 and has been lovingly restored. All of the wonderful, weathered interiors have been brought out and it is a beautiful place. Here are some interior pics.

inside the Espy – Studio

The walls are covered with years of music memorabilia.

Historic performance pictures are everywhere

Espy Interior
Jenni goes exploring
Mya Tiger Restaurant

Even the cars parked outside were cool

Buick

After leaving the Espy on the way back to our digs we wandered past another St Kilda icon, the Prince of Wales Hotel. It looked like something interesting was going on so we stepped in. A girl stopped us at the door and asked if we were part of the Comedy Festival Pub Crawl. It sounded fun so we said yes and paid our money and took our seats.

A Comedy person warms up

The pub crawl took us through 4 venues and four comedy acts.

The first comedy act were two girls from New Zealand. They were funny from the get go. When they sat down the girl on the left looked at one of the guys in the front row and said, “Oh! This is high up, you could see up my skirt.” Then she adjusted herself, swivelled round to face him, parted her legs a little and said, “How about now!” The guy in the front row didn’t know where to look. Great start.

Wish I could remember their names

We went to two more bars and two more comedy acts. The first three were great. It also took us to bars we wouldn’t have gone to otherwise. This one had a great mural.

Then the host said we’d be going to an iconic St Kilda venue, “The Espy”. So it was back to the Espy we strolled for the last act. The last act, the headline act, wasn’t as good as the first three and died a little. Part of the risk of the job I assume.

Next day we left St Kilda. We had an pretty poor lunch at the cafe at the end of the pier. It’s a tourist spot and our experience with them is they almost always provide a lower quality than they should do. Here we saw a couple taking glamour pictures in the water. I guess we were still having a better day than her.

St Kilda’s Top Model

Next stop Wangaratta.

Wangaratta

Or, to name it accurately The Rural City of Wangaratta. A small discussion point in previous blogs about Dunblane was around the awarding a place name a City. The consensus, without verification, was a “City” was a place with an Airport and/or a Cathedral. Almost every village in Australia has an airport so this probably wasn’t the reason here. Wangaratta must have earned the title as it has a cathedral, a really nice one too.

Wangaratta Cathedral

However, before we visited the cathedral we visited the local brewery which had some interestingly named brews. Fancy Little Wang anyone? They had Little Wangs, Hazy Wangs, Bitter Wangs and Red Wangs. Disappointingly the Pale Ale wasn’t called Pale Wang, the Brown Ale wasn’t called Brown Wang, the Stout wasn’t called Black Wang.

If ever there was evidence that men don’t grow up they only grow old, tat last sentence was it.

The Malt Shed AKA Wangaratta Brewery

Here’s a man with a Happy Wang, sorry Hoppy Wang, the pale ale was very hoppy.

That evening Jenni and I had a lovely meal in Rinaldo’s restaurant by the water.

Rinaldo’s Wangaratta

As much as I was tempted to try some of the Anal Coolico on offer I thought I’d better have a drink first so ordered a Peroni instead.

Wangaratta hosts a massive Jazz Festival each year. On the way back to our motel after our meal we passed this display to commemorate the event.

The Wangaratta Jazz Sculpture

We were leaving the next morning and had left ourselves enough time to do a quick tour of the Wangaratta Cathedral.

Inside the Wangaratta Cathedra

In 1806 eight bells were cast for the church of St George’s Bolton in Lancashire. After 171 years of use the bells fell silent. In 1983 Father Paul Harvie of the Cathedral successfully raised enough money to buy the bells and get them shipped to Wangaratta. He also raised enough money to build this temporary tower to house them. The bells here are the oldest bells in Australia.

Bell Tower

They have bell ringing every week and in case you are interested the bells ring in the key of E and the biggest bell weighs 861 kgs, the smallest a trifling 285 kgs. After that quick explore of the cathedral we went to see our good friends Ordette and Paulie in Albury where we spent an exceptionally entertaining evening. Thanks again guys, it is always wonderful with you both.

Jenni and Ordette

Our next destination was Sydney and after our visit, always too short, in Albury we drove directly to Sydney. It’s tradition when driving from Albury to Sydney we stop for lunch in Jugiong at the Long Track Pantry. Well, it’s a tradition now. This was the first time we’d done it.

The Long Track Pantry Jugiong

The food is great and the cafe is really popular, for good reason.

RIP Olympus Camera

My travel camera, the Olympus OM-D EM10 Mkii died around this point. Luckily it died just as we got to Sydney. Olympus have their Australian repair centre about 20 minutes drive from where we were staying. I’ve dropped it off at the camera doctors and am still waiting on the estimate to repair. We will have left Sydney by the time it’s fixed so I’ll be without my constant companion for a while. Might be an opportunity to upgrade.

Sydney

Several hours drive later we arrived in Sydney. That night we went to one of our favourite restaurants, the Merton Hotel.

Merton Hotel Entertainment

They do great Guinness, the food is Asian and every dish is delicious. A trip to Sydney isn’t the same without a trip to the Merton.

Dinner with Framily at the Merton. Note the excellent Guinness.

We were in Sydney primarily for work. I snapped this quickly from the 47th floor of one of our customers offices after a meeting. “Crackin’ view Grommit” as Wallace would say.

Sydney from high up

Our accommodation for the next few days was a beautiful Airbnb in East Balmain. This area has quickly become one of our favourite parts of Sydney. There’s not much there but what there is is exquisite. For example this little cafe called Ciao Thyme serving homely, tasty meals from fresh produce and good coffee.

Ciao Thyme

Around East Balmain there’s a walking trail called the Tom Uren Trail after a local resident, politician and environmentalist. Jenni and I did that walk one day, here are some of the sights along the route.

Steel is a rock, spewed by the volcano of industry. Weathered here by the folly of human nature.
Paddle Boat Steamer
Along the path
Looking backwards towards the harbour
Anzac bridge in the distance
Hi Jenni
Now that’s just showing off
Barangaroo across the river
A Day on the River
Happy dance

The route took us down some tiny narrow little lanes lined with old wooden and stone built houses. This plaque in one of them tells a bit of the story of Balmain.

Plaque in Little Edward Street

Who’d have thought, an Italian Villa in the heart of Sydney

Noice view mate!

Buca delle lettere
Fixer Upper in Balmain East, probably worth a million
Waterview Wharf
One of Sydney’s iconic Ferries

The Tom Uren walk around East Balmain is about 2.5 kms and worth the time invested.

We had a lovely relaxing time in East Balmain and got plenty of work done. At the end of this sojourn we went for a night out in Rosebery with Carol and Greg.

First stop Archie Rose Micro Distillery where we had some Archie Rose gin.

Archie Rose
Greg looking all cool at the bar

Bondi Beach

Next stop Bondi Beach. As I had never been there and as a treat for me, Jenni booked us a lovely little Airbnb near the beach for a few days.

Bondi Beach, oh yes it says it in the picture already

On Sunday night Mark and Kathy joined us for dinner. We went to the Bondi Trattoria, or the Tratt as locals like to call it. It’s a Bondi tradition and has been going for over 30 years. For some reason 1987 doesn’t sound like that long ago to me.

The Tratt

On the walk back to the apartment we saw these intrepid youths practising suicide maneuvers on their BMX bikes. It was fascinating to watch.

BMX Night Practice

We took a couple of hours off work to do the Bondi to Bronte beach walk one day. When we arrived on Sunday we could see that the walk was very busy, 4 or 5 deep walking in both directions. We waited until Tuesday to explore, the weather was better and it was much less hectic.

Leaving Bondi

The path takes you along the cliffs and beaches and boasts some very good views. At the start of the path, Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, also part of the Bondi Surf Life Savers Club has the best views in the town. It also serves some of the best food in Bondi.

Outdoor Swimming Pool at Icebergs, Bondi Surf Life Saving Club

Nature and time are the artists of the planet. Over millennia weather and waves have eroded the soft sandstone cliffs all along the coast providing tourists, including us, with some excellent photo opportunities.

Popular place for a picture

Not all the beaches are sandy.

Path along the rocks

But enough of them are. In other places in the world this beach in Tamarama would be packed on a day like this.

Tamarama Beach

Nature was being particularly frivolous with the sandstone around Tamarama.

Tamarama Beach, Rocks look like frozen waves
Tamarama Beach

From Tamarama beach it’s a short stroll to Bronte beach. This is as far as we were going today due to it being a working day and we’re very busy at this time.

Bronte Beach
Outdoor pool at Bronte Beach
The Birthplace of Surf Life Saving 1903

Back in Bondi we were struck with the message on these bollards. #Take 3 for the sea is movement promoting the environmental health of the planet. Their web site is here if you want to know more.
www.take3.org

#Take 3 for the sea campaign

Their message is simple. Take 3 pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the beach, waterway or… anywhere and you have made a difference. Unfortunately, even in this beautiful part of the world, some people don’t care. Even the local Bondi RSL, which overlooks Bondi Beach and obviously benefits from the views, was still handing out plastic straws to it’s patrons. The person who used and dumped this plastic cup on a bench overlooking the beautiful coast obviously needs some enlightenment. . . with a pointy stick . . . in some sensitive body cavities.

Dirty, filthy, lazy, disrespectful feckers do this.

Lilyfield

Sydney Skyline at Sunrise

Short stop in Bondi over, we are back in Lilyfield looking after Carol and Greg’s place and Missy the cat while they are abroad for a wedding. Followers of the blog will have seen this sort of picture before as we have stayed with Carol and Greg previously. This is their cat Missy watching the door constantly waiting for them to return.

Missy

At another client meeting in the CBD, I took the Light Rail from Lilyfield to Pyrmont Bay then walked across Pyrmont Bridge to the client’s office. This is a nice commute, Sydney isn’t too bad at all.

Pyrmont Bridge and the colourful flags

It was dark by the time I was on my way back. It was only a few days until Anzac Day and as I walked past this statue in Sydney I was reminded of the sacrifices of the many that have allowed us to be free to do what we do.

Lest We Forget

One evening at Carol and Greg’s, the artists Nature and Time put on a show for us. The full moon rose just over the Sydney Skyline, from our vantage point it looked spectacular.

Moonrise over Sydney

But then, I’ve always enjoyed the Sydney Skyline. It is a very picturesque city in a very picturesque part of Australia which is, as I say often, a most beautiful part of the world.

Sydney at Sunset

That sounds like a closing sentence so I’ll end the blog there.

After we leave Sydney next week we go back to Tassie for a couple of weeks to progress the shack refurbishment. Then we’re doing a trip I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, a drive across the Nullabor to Western Australia where we will be driving around exploring for a few months. It also helps we have customers there to visit too. I’d be reasonably certain you’ll be able to read about bits of that some time in the future.

Till next time.

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