The 2nd part of my Austrlian trip was centred around Sydney. This was my 4th visit there. I must admit that in 1996 I didn't really get Sydney. Adam and I stayed in Glebe and had a great time but I never really felt as though I got beneath the surface of the place. In 2003 I travelled back there to meet up with my brother Noel to celebrate his 40th birthday and we house sat on ther North Side. Noel has spent a lot of time in Australia and on this visit I really got to know and love Sydney. My third visit in 2006/07 was fantastic as myself, Noel, Lewis and Adam went to The Ashes, celebrated New Years Eve on Sydney Harbour and made the most of every single minute we were there.
So on December 30th I landed in Sydney where I was met by my cousin Alicia and her daughter Lexie. We went back to her house in Mosman on the north shore and I spent a very pleasant evening catching up with Alicia. They were travelling up to Queensland on New Years Eve and so it was a very brief getting together.
On New Years Eve morning I was to move to Glenhaven to stay for the rest of the trip with Andrew, Kellie and their two children Zac and Maddie. This friendship was formed from one of those bizarre moments in life 4 years earlier. We were sitting in the Sydney Cricket Ground in 2007 watching The Ashes and Lewis had his QPR shirt on. The 4 people in front were chatting to us and Andrew told Lewis he used to play for QPR. It turned out Lewis had seen Andrew score for QPR against Norwich. Well after that the rest of the day was just laughter all the way and we had such a fantastic day with them. I stayed in touch with Kellie on Facebook and when I said I was thinking of coming back down to Sydney to see The Ashes this time around she immediately asked me to stay with them . This is typical of the wonderful people of Australia and although our paths had crossed for just one day 4 years earlier they were kind and generous enough to invite me into their home. Andrew and Zac picked me up from Alicia's and we drove the 30 minutes or so to Glenhaven and then I was welcomed in by Kellie and Maddie.
Unfortunetly bareley had I put my bags down was Andrew very kindly driving me back into Sydney for New Years Eve. I was booked on a boat on the harbour to see the fireworks with the Bondys and Andrew and Kellie weren't coming on that. The evening didn't disappoint and it was a lovely summer's evening so it was perfect. The boat trip gave us amazing views of the harbour and the fireworks at midnight. Seeing the Sydney fireworks is something I have been lucky to do 3 times now and it's something you simply will treasure forever.
The challenge I had at the end of the evening was to get back to Glenhaven. It's not on a train line, there were no buses running and getting a cab to go out there from the city centre was impossible. Fortunately I had stayed sober and had already got a plan ready if getting a cab proved impossble. I ended up getting a train at 03:15am out of Sydney to Hornsby which was about half way and from there I got a taxi back to Glenhaven finally getting back shorly before 5 in the morning.
On New Years Day I set off for an over night trip to the Hunter Valley wine region with Andrew and Kellie. We had a late breakfast at Pie In The Sky which did the best pies ever and many an English football ground could learn a lesson or two here. We had to get a small car ferry across Berowra Creek which was just the most beautiful setting and we then joined the main freeway and headed for the Hunter Valley.
I have never been wine tasting before and we stopped off at two vineyards on out way to our hotel. At Tempus Two I learned the art of spitting out wine and also discovered I really don't like dessert wine. At Brokenwood the fun continued and I discovered Brokenwood Pinot Gris which disappointingly is not sold in the UK. At this point Kellie reckoned I had missed a chance with the young lady serving us, although I begged to differ especially when she was mentioning her partner. We shall never know!
We stayed at the Cypress Lakes Resort which was stunning. We had our own gorgeous apartment and the hotel is part of a golf complex. We sat outside and had a cold beer before heading to our rooms to get ready for the evening.
We then spent a lovely couple of hours with the Thinius family on a neighbouring complex. Sipping champagne, watching the kangaroos and having an impromptu tour of a few holes on the golf course on a buggy with a cold beer getting great pictures of kangaroos. We then went to MUSE restaurant for a fantastic evening meal and each course was accompanied by a different wine and it was just so nice and I couldn't have spent a better first full day with Andrew and Kellie. I think the behaviour slightly deterioated as the evening went on and we never did get to meet the chef.
The following morning we were all a little tender after the night before. Andrew took me out for a tour of the golf course at Cyress Lakes and we then met Kellie for breakfast.
We then headed back towards Sydney taking in fantastic views and stopped off for beer tasting at the Blue Tongue Brewery which was a challenge after the previous night and then on for one more wine tasting session at Petersons Champagne House where I had my first chilled red wine which was interesting. We then went back to Sydney and stopped off to meet Damien & Kellie. Damien was to play a big part over the next few days at the cricket. And once it was sipping champagne in the sunshine, a habit I could easily get used too.
And so we came to the cricket. On January 3rd the last test began at Sydney. We started early that day on the mini bus. I was somewhat taken a back at the 8:15 beer start in the morning, and managed to hold off until 8:40 or so. We got to the Captain Cook pub at 9:00 where I was reacquainted with Andrew's brother Greg who had been one of the 4 in front 4 years earlier.
The cricket was pretty amazing and Andrew successfully negoitade a few seat changes to enable us all to sit together. The beers were flowing all day and the unofficial rule was to get the maximum 4 beers everytime you went to the toilet.
England had a pretty good day on a rain affected day and had Australia at 134/4 at the end of the day. Having had a few more beers we went to the Golden Century Chinese restaurant which the guys had booked knowing it was one of the few places in the city that would let us in after the cricket. Damien took me and Bondy to look at the lobsters in the tank we were about to consume. The food was fantastic and we were in party mode with singing and standing on chairs and the Mitchell Johnson "bowls to the left" song was sung with great harmonies and arm movements. Unsurprisingly we were asked to leave about 4 times before they finally managed to get us out of the door and one of my best days in Australia ever came to an end.
January 4th was a day off and a quiet day watching the cricket on TV. A couple of beers and a nice take-away meant we were nicely set up for another day at the cricket on Jan 5th. Day 3 at the cricket was the McGrath Foundation day to raise money for cancer founded by Glenn McGrath and his late wife Jane. The theme of the day is pink and the crowd is encouraged to dress in pink. Damien's wife had sorted out tops for us, although I later invested in a Barmy Army pink shirt, and myself and Andrew had dyed our shorts the previous day.
The cricket was another good day for the English and by the close England were 488/7 leading by 208. The beers were flowing once again and during the lunch interval Andrew down by the pitch and myself and the Bondys along with Bondy's brother-in-law Giles up by a bar were both interviewed by Channel 9 and we made it into a clip about the Pink Day on national TV that evening. We hit the Barmy Army pub after the cricket and had a brilliant evening with the only down side being Kellie having a nasty fall on the stairs. We met many people in the pub including the lovely Inga from Germany, and the singing was in full flow all eveing with poor old Mitchell Johnson not only being the main subject of the doings but also having a T-Shirt sold with the lyrics printed on it. The final funny part of the night was our taxi breaking down so we left the poor driver to it and wandered the last few hundred yards to the house.
January 6th was a day of watching England on TV turning the screw at the cricket and then heading out to meet Andrew's folks for a roast dinner. And what a fantastic spread they did put on, Roast Beef with all the trimmings and even getting in some horseradish sauce. I was made to feel so welcome once again. And whilst we were eating a fabulous roast the fun at the cricket continued...
January 7th was my final full day in Australia. We went to the Blue Mountains for the day and listened to the end of the cricket on radio as we drove up. England won by an innings and 83 runs and took the series 3-1. It was an amazing experience to be there to witness the event. The Blue Mountains is a place I absolutely love and find it just awesome. The weather was a bit misty when we got there so we went to Lillianfels for high tea which was a lovely treat to start the day.
The weather then broke allowing us to see the 3 sisters and do all the scary viewing rides. The scenic railway, the cable car and skyway were all pretty daunting for someone like myself with a fear of heights, but well worth as the views are simply amazing. It was a lovely way to end the trip and my time in OZ.
On January 8th Andrew heading in to work and Kellie and the kids took me to the airport for my flight back to the UK. I took home memories that I will treasure for ever and made friendships that will truely be lifelong friendships. I could never thank everyone who made my trip so special, but especially Kerrie-Anne and Joey in Melbourne and Kellie and Andrew in Sydney and forgetting Andy and Julie Bond my friends from Reading of course.