Well, it’s happened again… that time of the year when the calendar flips over to reveal not just a new day, but a new number of years that I’ve been kicking around. This one was one of those birthdays – not the ones with a ‘0’ at the end, but one of the ones in the middle. The kind that gives rise to a mild sense of panic that the next one with a ‘0’ at the end is not all that far away, and isn’t one that I am relishing the thought of.
This seemed like the sort of milestone that should be commemorated by doing something a bit special, and when I asked myself where I would like to do that, the answer that I came up with was, in Sydney. So off we went!
How good is it to spend time in a place that you know well but have been away from for a while! There’s a curious mix of the familiar and things you don’t know about yet, which summed up Friday night perfectly. Old friends came and went over a few hours at the Winery in Surry Hills; a fantastic wine bar that demurely keeps itself slightly hidden from view, down a cobbled drive leading off Crown Street, and was new to me. The garden, terrace, inside bar plus upstairs Champagne Room equals a fabulous place for whatever type of drinking endeavor might be at hand. From there it was on to Golden Century so that I could sate my chronic hankering for their salt and pepper squid. By a stroke of amazing good fortune, we also had the salt and pepper prawns, which could possibly be even better than the squid.
The next morning, after regarding the blue sky through the hotel room window and enjoying a cup of tea in bed, I was getting dressed to go out for breakfast when, bending over to pull up my jeans, I tweaked a recent-ish torn disc in my back and collapsed to the floor on my hands and knees. I badly wanted to lie on my back and managed to maneuver myself around to a sitting position, with my jeans still bunched around my knees, but the spasms in my back meant that I couldn’t lower myself down. So I wriggled back around onto my hands and knees and waited for five minutes for Adam to come out of the bathroom and discover me crouching there like some sort of broken jack-in-the-box. I couldn’t believe it. Was this how I was going to spend my birthday – lying on the floor of our hotel room, gazing longingly at the blue skies out the window? Was this middle age greeting me with a Glasgow Kiss?? I willed it not to be so. As soon as the spasms had eased a bit, Adam lifted me up, pulled up my jeans, put on my boots and off we went, slowly, for breakfast.
He had decided that we would go to Yellow, a French-style cafe/boulangerie on Macleay Street that is part of the group that also includes the Bentley and Monopole. Fabulous! We ordered a glass of very nice Champagne at the bar while we waited (briefly) for a table, where I was gifted (by Adam) a stainless steel Grey Goose swizzle stick (I’m a fan of Grey Goose vodka, and collect swizzle sticks, so it was perfect) before being seated. My snazzy breakfast of baked eggs with chorizo and other delicious things found itself being washed down by the bubbles very nicely, and then I was ready to give my back another road test.
Soaking up the sunshine we strolled down to Woolloomooloo Wharf and through the botanical gardens en route to the opera house which was hosting the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. My very thoughtful friend Sonya had bought us tickets to the talk of our choice, Big Sugar, a panel discussion about the sugar industry and the insidious impact it is wreaking on our health. We had a bit of time to kill before the talk so decided to drop in to the bar at Bennelong restaurant for a refreshment. The bar guy seemed pleased to see us at first, until Adam said that we were there for a non-alcoholic drink (beyond me why he felt compelled to be that specific, but anyway…). The bar guy then spluttered something about not really serving tea or coffee except to diners at which point I interjected to say something about really feeling more like a mineral water and Adam chimed in with ‘maybe a non-alcoholic cocktail’… We were left to ponder a drinks list and although we were seated not more than three metres from the actual bar, and at 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon the place wasn’t exactly pumping, after five minutes with no return visit from the bar guy, we felt decidedly snubbed and left.
Well! The sun was out and the harbour was sparkling, so we availed ourselves of an outside seat at the bustling Opera Bar and sat back to soak it all up. Ahhh…LOVE Sydney! Next thing I know, a couple of seagulls appear out of nowhere, menacingly close, and as they skimmed overhead, one of them deposited the remnants of a previous meal onto my leg. ‘That’s such good luck’, shrieked the guy sitting opposite me. ‘Mmmmmm’, I smiled back as I tried to wipe the (decidedly sticky!) white and green mess from the leg of my jeans. The lady sitting next to me offered her antibacterial hand gel, but I declined and went with a napkin dunked in my sparkling mineral water…
And so after listening to some dangerous ideas, and later on catching up with a friend for a pre-dinner drink or two, we toddled off to dinner and that was that. Birthday done. Well, apart from a Bondi breakfast the next morning (how could I not!), and a meander through Woollahra and Paddington back to our Potts Point hotel before exiting stage left back to Melbourne. Done and done.