Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The Grand Slam Plan: Part 2 - "Closer each Day, Home and Away"

Waking up on Thursday morning and it's not sunny! That's not in the plan. But it's warm with a light on-off drizzle so we head out early for a swim at the beach just down the road. I'm a habitually early riser so actually staying with folks for whom a 6.00 or 6.30 start is the norm is perfect for me. The big beaches, Bondi or Manly, are very busy by 7.00am and there are a few swimmers, walkers and yoga fans already on this little beach. We had swum here yesterday and the temperature of the water can be described best as 'Oooh... Now that's ok'. Once you're in, it's pleasant.

The homes built around the beaches are stunning and each bay, beach, inlet and harbour has its own eclectic selection of houses with stunning views across the water. The artist Ken Done lives here overlooking this beach. When we came here 30 years ago, we loved his paintings and bought a poster which hung on our bathroom wall for many years. Coincidence!

Today's plan is to drive out of the city to Palm Beach, one of the northern beaches and known to the residents of our home in Yorkshire as Summer Bay in Home and Away. Indeed the surf club and shop are logo'd up accordingly with Alf Stewart's name, ready for filming. Above the beach is the lighthouse and we make the steep climb to the top of the hill to take in the great view. Then it's an even steeper climb down by the shorter but more perilous route for a well-earned steak sandwich.

This is a fit, outdoor life and our host, having only cycled to pick up the car from the ferry this morning wants to swim lengths in one of the pools adjacent to the various beaches so I plunge in too and swim further than I've swum in a long time. It eases my conscience for the dinner ahead. Tonight's dinner is at the Bathers Pavilion and it's more fabulously fresh fish - huge mussels for me and barunda for the others.

Our final morning starts with a drive to Manly to see  the Big Swim - a sort of aquatic version of the Park Run. But there are 'bluebottle' signs on the beach - not insect bluebottles but small, very stingy blue jellyfish - so there's no swim but we have a bracing walk along the beach. It's buzzing with activity - runners, walkers, volleyball, yoga - and it's still only 7.00am. I could get used to this!

Then all too soon, it's time to say goodbye to Sydney and make our way to the airport for our flight to Adelaide. The traffic in the city is heavy and we make it with little time to spare and too much luggage. The ground hostess lets us off the hook for being overweight but there will be purge of some of the crap that the man who does not travel light will have to jettison before we fly to Melbourne in a few days' time.

Massive thanks to our top hosts and tour guides. Good times with old friends! Visit us in the UK sometime soon!


Driving into the city, the contrast between the bustling, busy roads of Sydney and the leafy avenues of Adelaide is stark. It's Friday teatime and it feels like a Sunday afternoon stroll. We've gone in a short flight from massive high rise to a city where few buildings top the height of the trees that line the streets and adorn the acres of parkland. The city is built on a grid making map-reading a bit of a breeze.

The Majestic Roof Garden Hotel on Frome was recommended by Mr and Mrs O'Polo and it's a good choice being centrally located. Having had a somewhat sedentary afternoon, I needed to run so deciding to pass on the Park Run in the morning, I head out on to the streets to do the Park Run route (plus a bit) in the relative cool of the evening whilst the boss does a big conference call with base camp in the UK. There is something magic about running on unfamiliar streets, especially when it's flat (hurray!) and the city has a grid system - count across, count down and you won't get lost. Through the Park and down to the Adelaide Oval over bridges and along water-lined paths, this is a charming city and for once, I feel like I can run and run - good times!

Having been unable to remember where we had booked for dinner but knowing it was around the corner from the hotel, we've now booked into Andre's Cucina where we have the tasting menu. Wow! This town is rightly called a gourmet paradise if this place is anything to go by. Would I ever order swordfish carpaccio in the UK? Probably not, but that and the lamb shank with gnocchi was a taste sensation.

The next morning, somebody is very excited... The Penfolds Winery VIP tour is booked and the one who is always late gets us there 45 minutes early! There are six of us on the tour led by Joe who grew up in London. His tour is detailed and fascinating from the wines' early beginnings where their use was prescribed as medicinal to producing half of the wine of Australia. Then we have the tasting and, surprise, surprise, my favourite is a 2012 Shiraz that retails at over £70 a bottle - always knew I was a woman of taste!

Having properly indulged the wine buff, we can then go to Cleland Wildlife Conservation Park to cuddle a koala and feed a kangaroo. Cleland lets you walk amongst the animals, pet koalas, have bandicoots and wallabies run around your feet and hand feed kangaroos at close quarters rather than through a fence. Then time to go back to Adelaide for a tapas supper where the waitress was super helpful about which vineyards were worth visiting. Seems everyone here is a wine buff...

We've packed a lot into today... Time for bed. 

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