Our stay in Sydney commenced when friend Peter Campbell met us at the apartment he had arranged for us. We knew this was located at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in Kirribilli from advance discussions with Peter.
What we did not fully understand was that this was to be a quaint apartment in an old building with a front yard opening onto the Sydney Harbour. Just around the point from the Harbour Bridge. Less than a block from the Kirribilli Ferry Landing, which gets you everywhere in Sydney. And with full access to club amenities…such as the bar! And WiFi! And more mundane conveniences such as a kitchen, laundry and terrace for brekkie-on-the-bay.
To say “spectacular” would be understating. Just AWESOME.
But wait, there’s more! Peter promised us a boat ride or several. He is a member of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, after all. And he has a pretty slick Racing Boat. Unfortunately, said sailing craft was damaged in a race (there is an actual hole in the side — If there can be a bad day on the water, that was a bad day on the water).
Not to worry; in addition, Peter owns with some others a classic (i.e. made from wood!) Halvorsen 40’ Motor Launch, the “Nabila,” and promised us a Dinner Cruise on the harbor (a 3-hour cruise?). Even extending the offer to a distant Harris cousin, who happened to arrive in Sydney the very day of the voyage! Since the sail boat would not float!!
Said cousin could not attend, since her flite from the States did not arrive more than 90 minutes or so before sailing. We suggested she could come straight to the boat, but even if Peter had friends in the Custom service to expedite the formalities, Linda did not want to be the one sleeping in the corner while the rest of us discussed the issues of the day.
I could tell it was going to be fun by Peter’s formal introduction of each of the other passengers:
- Graham: Who fell off the last cruise, but was rescued by someone more intoxicated. He said he had a picture, but it was on his phone in his pocket when he fell in!
- Ian, and Another Ian: Between them a retired stone mason (not really…sort of a joke about a former accountant who had a medical mishap working a stone path in his yard) and stone-cold sailor, racer and coach. (I am still not sure which had which credential, but suffice to say, Ians were formidable folk!)
For the name-challenged, it is GREAT when some of the new faces have the same names.
- Ken: a retired educator and drummer in a notable rock band
(who was to bring a groupie or 2, but strangely showed up alone)
- Dan and Liz: Retired self-described IT geek and non-complaining partner !
Speaking of the “issues of the day,” Peter said he makes a formal list or agenda of conversation points. Since these are all older, retired guys, the issues are: Prostate health, Declining Portfolio Values, Politics, Rugby, Cricket, etc. Liz, was a little worried. Peter said not to. By putting these on the formal agenda, we get them over with right away; then get on to the day’s fun.
Fun for the day included an opportunity to swim. We were told we could bring bathers, unless we wanted to go to “Cobblers Beach,” which I infer from context does not encourage bathers. Peter said that there is always the opportunity to swim on his cruises, but for some reason only the Americans ever do. Then he told a story about the HUGE Bull Shark he had seen jumping out of the water once. Near the boat.
We chose to have a beer and a sandwich and swim another time!
At one point, we cruised by a beach that Peter said was the aforementioned Cobblers…but strangely he refused to make a close approach. We discovered the limits of the zoom on our camera-phones.
The boat trip was, of course, fully catered. Baguettes were provided by Peter and nibbles by Ian (both of the Ian’s, actually). All the passengers kick in $10 at the end to cover these – if anyone remembers. We brought a couple bottles of AUSSIE WINE (no Kiwi Wine allowed…see below).
After the day was “over” we went back to Chez Campbell and sat on their terrace overlooking the bay. Had Pizza. Seemed like a gracious, “normal” evening like one might enjoy anywhere. Until the wild Cockatoo’s SCREAMED from nearby trees (these birds, often found in the USA as pets, are described as “crazy” by Aussies…they are noisy, rambunctious and have been known to eat the siding off a house in search of who knows what) and the airplane-sized bats flew by. This is not Kansas, Dorothy!
Peter also said possibly we could crew on someone else’s boat for the club’s Twilight Race on Friday. He has been telling everyone we are “experts” visiting from Chicago. Hopefully “everyone” knows that the definition of “expert” is “someone from out of town” and by “crew” he means Ballast.
Fortunately, the Nabila-cruise happened Friday and because we arrived back late – passing the twilight racers on the way in), the “crewing” experience will have to wait for another time.
I am not sure how we deserve such hospitality, but I AM sure Liz is most of the reason!
As for other things to do in Sydney (besides sit on our veranda or the bar and appreciate our view and good fortune), We have already covered or plan to cover most of them. The Zoo. Darling Harbour. The Australian Maritime Museum. Manly. Bondi. Blue Mountains. Restaurants near our apartment (if we chose not to eat at the club) included quaint sidewalk Thai, Japanese, Italian, various eclectic and/or novelle cuisine and, of course, Gelato. We plan to joined Peter and Ingrid for a drive North to Sydney’s “Palm Beach” and Liz requested and received an introduction to a hairdresser. We walked over the Harbour Bridge and back for this appointment (7 miles or so). We even walked by the hotel/B&B we stayed at when we were in Sydney several years ago.
Perhaps as a lifetime achievement award from the Gelato-Sellers Association, I was given a free beach Ball in recognition of service above and beyond.
We also had an unwitting, close call in the sports area – nearly causing an international hospitality incident in the process. Though at first we did not realize it was a sports issue!
This shows just how easy it is to diplomatically chew on one’s foot by saying something untoward and unintended. [Are you listening, DT?]
Our first nite in Sydney, Peter and Ingrid took us to dinner. Liz asked for a wine recommendation from our host, and said she particularly like the Pinot Gris she had been drinking in New Zealand.
“WE DON’T ORDER NZ Pinots,” said Peter (though there were several on the menu, prompting Liz’s question). EMPHATICALLY (Caps not an accident). Possibly maybe even a bit put-off! Not wanting to offend, but rather to understand, Liz said, “Oh, but I quite liked a few of them (per day).”
Peter ‘splained: “NO NZ WINES WITHOUT THE CUP.” Then smiled. (So not really offended…yet! Whew!)
But now we were really unclear. Was there a special drinking implement that was required? (My only context for this is that beer aficionados seem to feel a particular shape glass is required for each beer…which I think is crazy like Bat-shit Barry of Ceramic-and-mountain-railway-fame). Had we been unknowingly provided such a “Cup” by the Wilsons, our hosts in NZ? Were ALL of their cups such special cups? Did Liz especially like the Pinot Gris BECAUSE of the special cup she did not know she was using? Should we have put one in the suitcase (we could have “borrowed” a few of the Wilson’s – I doubt they would have noticed…)? We have limited space in our suitcases, not to mention the bus, so we don’t collect chachkis, but if a Pinot Cup is necessary, Liz would I am CERTAIN find the space.
We were feeling a bit of angst about this, truth be told.
Peter explained when pressed. The “Bledisloe Cup” is what is required to drink Kiwi Wine. Frankly, Still not clear.
Finally, the explanation: This is the trophy that goes to the winners of NZ-Aussie RUGBY (since the 1930s). Which has been a NZ Resident since – well as long as Peter can remember! And he is apparently a bit bitter about this. So, no Kiwi Wine without the BLEDISLOE CUP. Understanding now the issue, Liz found a nice Aussie Chardonnay with Peter’s help.
(I got the sense that Peter actually enjoys Kiwi wine very much, but he would not admit this under the current sporting circumstance).