Archive for the ‘sydney harbor’ Category

A Winter’s Surf

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

On Monday, since neither of us had classes, Yaella and I set out to make good on my goal to explore more of Sydney. Yaella had a discount card for a surf board rental place in Bondi Beach and wanted to get in one last surf before heading back to the states. I had never been to Bondi before, and even though I had no intention of surfing I agreed to sit on the beach with a book and snap pictures of her while she caught waves. It was a sunny winter day with the high temperature being about 65 degrees, but this is perfectly acceptable surf weather in Australia. The hardcore surfies known no appropriate surf season.

So Yaella and I made our way to Bondi via train and then a bus, rented a board and wetsuit and headed out onto the beach. It felt odd to be walking on the beach fully clothed, but I kicked off my shoes, spread out my towel and plopped down to watch Yaella. She paddled out into the 63 degree water, dove under and started chasing after waves. Meanwhile I was sitting on the beach, dry, wearing a sweatshirt and a jacket and shivering when the wind blew at me. Yaella is clearly stronger than I. While she was out in the water I was observing the odd winter beach behavior of the Bondi residents. Some people were on the beach bundled up like me either reading or listening to music, but there was also a daring group of individuals who were in only bathing suits and were playing in the surf. 63 degree water is not water I would want to go into without a wetsuit. Yaella even had a heating pack in her wetsuit and while she did adapt to the water temperature there was no denying that it was quite chilly. I also observed a woman in a very skimpy bikini jogging down the beach listening to her ipod, and jogging right past the people who were all bundled up in fleece jackets. Beaches in the winter are odd places.

Yaella trying to catch some waves

Still trying

Yaella had rented the board and wetsuit for three hours but after an hour of getting thrashed by the waves she had begun to get frustrated. Surf conditions were somewhat odd on this particular day given that the waves were breaking about 80 feet out from the shore, and then were breaking right on the shore, but in between was a giant dead zone where they just fizzled out. There were a bunch of other surfers out and nobody seemed to be able to take any waves in past the dead zone. As she was rounding out her first hour the sun which had been shining quite brightly moved behind a big clump of clouds and the temperature dropped a few degrees. This combined with the shoddy surf conditions led us to decide that our time might be better spent sipping something warm in a cafe. Yaella and I walked her board back to the rental shop where the owner was nice enough to give her a voucher for 2 hours of board and wetsuit rental since she hadn’t used all of her three hours.

wipeout!

Bondi Beach, in addition to being the biggest and most popular beach in Sydney is also the jewish area of town, so over the course of the semester Yaella has spent her weekends there attending synagogue services and sharing shabbat meals with various jewish families.  Wanting to get out of the wind to dry off for a bit she suggested we pop into this small cafe she knew of that had amazing fruit pies and tarts for a hot drink and something sweet to eat. I got an apple apricot crumble and she got a cherry crumble and we split a pot of Earl Grey Tea. The deserts were absolutely delicious and we lingered over our tea, soaking up its warmth, glad to be indoors for a while. By the time we were ready to leave it was close to 3pm and Andy had texted us asking if we wanted to check out the Vivid Sydney Festival in Sydney Harbor that evening with him. We agreed, but this meant that going all the way back to Glebe would be a waste of time. Instead we filled up the next three hours popping in and out of various shops and bookstores in Bondi beach before catching the bus over to Sydney Harbor to meet up with Andy.

The bus ride from the Bondi Junction bus station to Circular Quay is about a thirty five minute ride and Yaella and I were chatting and listening to music watching the city zip past us when the bus stopped and this elderly woman got on. She had dingy brown and gray hair that was swept back in a bun and she was wearing a long skirt and unfortunate looking clunky black tennis shoes and a sweater. She sat down across from us and about ten minutes after boarding leaned over and asked

“Are you guys from a Pantene Pro-V commercial? You both just have the most beautiful hair, and the one of you has the dark curly hair and the other has the blonde straight hair, you should totally just work for Pantene.”

We both laughed this comment off, but once she had started talking to us she didn’t appear to want to stop. She spoke to us for the rest of our ride and told us about how she was a neurosurgeon who had studied at John Hopkins and had worked with Doctors without Borders. She talked about how she had traveled to dozens of countries, but also had studied at Juliard and worked as a professional singer for a while, and now she was a music promoter and went on and on about this band she was currently working with and how perfect the members of the band would be for us. Somewhere in the middle of all this she turned to Yaella and said “Are you Jewish? Because I am getting that Kosher vibe from you” Yaella of course told her than she was, and then she turned to me and said “But you’re not jewish are you?” Gee, I wonder what gave me away? Could it have been my bright blonde hair? Maybe my blue eyes? Could it be that I look like the poster child for the Aryan race? I guess I just don’t give off that “kosher vibe.”

This woman seemed quite evident on getting us some music from this band she was promoting, and she asked for Yaella’s phone number, which she gave her. WHen I asked her about this she said “I am leaving Australia in two weeks, she can call me all she wants.” Yaella and I couldn’t decide what to make of this encounter. Either this woman is truly incredible or she is the most fantastic and pathological of liars. We looked up the band she is promoting and they do exist, so the jury is still out on all the other claims she made.

Once we arrived at Circular Quay we found Andy and made our way to the inner rim of the harbor to see the festival sights.Vivid Sydney is an artistic festival of sorts that happens every year in the Harbor. The website for the festival describes it thusly:

“Sydney will once again be transformed into a spectacular canvas of light, music and ideas when Vivid Sydney takes over the city after dark from 27 May -13 June 2011.

Vivid Sydney will colour the city with creativity and inspiration, featuring breathtaking immersive light projections on the iconic Sydney Opera House sails, performances from local and international musicians as part of Vivid LIVE and a free outdoor exhibition of interactive light sculptures.

In 2011 the festival will also include a range of artistic collaborations, public talks and debates from leading creative thinkers from Australia and around the world, celebrating Sydney as the creative hub of the Asia Pacific”

Some of the sights are just for viewing, but many of them are interactive.

Cool moving 3D lighting effects on the Customs House in Circular Quay

Melting polar bear ice sculpture

Playing the light harp

Andy and I sitting on a chair of light

car sculpture

Making a lit sculpture friend, Yaella disapproves

Light up! Everyone is doing it!

Giant light up jellyfish and the illuminated opera house in the background

One of the many designs and colors we saw on the opera house

More colors

I got this image online, there were so many designs I couldn't capture them all

More Customs House colors

Cool interactive light show on the side of the art museum. You stand at the base of it and throw your hands up at it, and light projects onto the wall when you move. It resets every minute or so.

We walked around the Harbor for a little over an hour before Yaella and I began to drag and decided it was time to head back to Glebe. Even though the surfing hadn’t been all that great we had a great day out, and although we were tired, we were throughly pleased with our day.

Vivid Sydney!

Breaking Bread with Feathered Friends

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

The first time I took Justin to the botanical gardens he was amazed to see the hundreds of cockatoos that inhabit the grounds. They can be seen all over Sydney, but there is a heavy concentration of them in the botanical gardens, and I suspect this is because people feed them there. So that first day we observed two girls feeding (read: getting mauled by) some cockatoos and while Justin tried it that day, not having anything better to offer than some seeds he picked up under a tree the birds didn’t take any particular interest in him. He made me promise we would return with bread. So one day after we had been doing some shopping and walking around downtown we headed to the botanical gardens once more, this time with bread in hand.

We walked around the park for a good 15 minutes before we could find a group of birds on the ground. When we eventually did find some they were already being fed by a couple sitting on a park bench. Justin attempted to lure them away and while it was slow at first, eventually word got out that there was food to be had.

Cockatoo feeding gets off to a slow start, but we have a taker

Justin makes some more friends

And they're up!

And then there were three

And the birds come marching in

Getting his head scratched

I am not quite the bird whisperer that Justin is

Getting the hang of it

At ease

NOT COOL

I don't know who is freaking out more here, me or the cockatoo I am trying to shake off of me.

I made peace

Once all the bread had been expended the birds tried to feed on the next obvious food source, Justin's shoe

I had far more fun watching Justin with the birds than I did having them on me. They have very sharp claws and I was very afraid of having one of the birds go all Mike Tyson on me and end up loosing a bit of my ear. Justin seemed not to have these fears and was giggly and geeking out the whole time. After we had used up all our bread we spent a little bit of time strolling along the waters edge and letting our minds wander out into the harbor. It was a beautiful autumn day as the sun shone warm on our faces and a cool breeze moved through the trees every few minutes.  It was a perfect way to end the day, and to think I would not have made it out there had Justin not been here. Having someone to share Sydney with has really given me a second wind and swept me right out of my routine. While I do love Sydney and Australia will always hold a special place in my heart and my memories, I think I will soon be ready to be stateside once more. After all, there’s no place like home right?

One of my favorite spots in Sydney