67. Another Day of Sun

So here I am in Airlie Beach. As I’ve been too lazy to post for a while, here’s a whistle-stop tour of the rest of our stay in Sydney.

A good thing to do in a new city is to ride the hop-on, hop-off bus. You see the sights, get a feeling for the geography, know how to find the places that sound interesting and end up where you started so you can’t get lost. Unless, of course, the bus is so full that you might as well be on a rush-hour London tube. In which case you cannot hear the commentary and you can’t see the buildings around you. We had planned to get off at the Powerhouse Museum purely because it was the first stop that had a cafe and we had skipped breakfast. We are so glad we did, after sustenance we went into the museum (which is being closed and / or moved to a less convenient location). It was free and full of good design icons, including the first train in Australia (Train Number One).

There was an exhibition of fashion by Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson. I feel embarrassed to confess I’d not heard of them as they had such an influence in the 1970’s and I have a number of knitting patterns that were obviously inspired by them. They had been based in the UK for a while and as well as knitted garments had the most awe-inspiring dresses. We actually went around twice, partly because my camera had decided not to take photos but also because we could. If you are in Sydney before March 22nd (when the exhibition ends) then go.

Back on the bus, we eventually managed to get a seat and plug in our earphones. Despite this being January 2020 and thus after Christmas, the sound track, when we were not being told about stuff (mostly how new luxury apartments were being built in previously run-down areas), was CHRISTMAS MUSIC! AAARGH!

Moving on. We had some great meals, Intermezzo in the GPO building, Cafe Sydney in the Customs House (still in use) and Gowings restaurant in the old Gowings Department store (a lovely old Art Deco place) to name a few. It seems that most of the restaurants are in buildings that previously had another function. Not just the restaurants either: the Conservatoire of Music was originally built as stables. I know this from reading Mrs. M by Luke Slattery, a novel based (loosely) on the life of Elizabeth MacQuarie, the wife of Lachlan MacQuarie, the last Governor of New South Wales. There’s a stone “seat” in the Royal Botanic Garden that she sat on to look at the view. Val is recreating the scene below. A good read if you’re looking for a new book to while away a few hours. It was recommended by Fiona, who will be sailing on Punta del Este.

We met Fiona at the Art Gallery of NSW and saw a small exhibition of paintings by Ben Quilty, a local artist who had been to Afghanistan as a war artist. His art was incredibly powerful, not just the war veterans he painted after they had returned but also his Rorschach paintings depicting local atrocities. Although the inspiration for these was of disturbing episodes in Australia’s past, the artwork itself was stunning.

Ben Quilty

Having been to the Opera on New Year’s Eve, we decided to have a tour of the Opera House. Very interesting even though we did not do the back stage tour. Our guide Peter turned out to have been one of the architects involved in the building when he had just qualified. You can’t get much closer than that, on a par maybe with being shown around Robben Island in Cape Town by one of the former political prisoners. We then walked around The Rocks, which had been an area of ill-repute in the past and saw the Ovation of The Seas, the largest cruise ship that visits Sydney. it can take around 5,000 passengers and looks at first glimpse like a block of flats.

We donated some funds to the NSW Firefighters, all volunteers and working in almost impossible conditions, and felt lucky that we had not suffered any ill effects whilst in Sydney. We are blown away by the number of shops in the CBD, there’s a veritable underground city of them. You go down one escalator, wander around, come up another and have no clue how you ended up where you are. The bookshop where I bought Mrs. M fills a whole floor of one part. On our last night we ventured out of the city to have dinner at Coogee.

Sydney artwork

The next day we said our farewell to the city and flew up to Proserpine for transfer to Airlie Beach. On arrival there was a smattering of raindrops but nothing since. It is such a relaxing place we’ve done very little: walked to the marina to work out where the fleet will come in, done our laundry and bought a few snacks for when John and George arrive, met a few other Clipper people and mooched around generally.

The Opposition: Punta del Este supporters and Fiona

It’s now Friday in Australia, my birthday, and NEITHER of my boats are here, due in Saturday or Sunday. We won’t know the Ocean Sprint results until prize giving (Sunday) so I don’t think I’ve any sailing news. The various boats have gone into Stealth, wallowed in wind holes, turned around and confused us all with their movements.

23a. It’s A Small Small World (4)

There’s been a long interval this month, we’ve been away to Italy, France and Burgh Island. You’ve probably heard of the first two destinations but maybe not the third. It’s only an island at high tide, off the Devon Coast.

We went to Pisa, Florence and then Rome for a few days because we’d not been there together, France to pick up some Champagne for the Big Birthday parties (more at an appropriate time) and Burgh Island for a couple of days with some pals.

The last day in Rome, I started to read Dana’s “Two Years Before The Mast”. At the end of the introduction it mentioned that he had died in Rome and was buried there. Anyone who has been on holiday with me will know I am a taphophile (today’s word for those of you who’d never come across it), that is, I love visiting graveyards. Unfortunately we were on our way to the airport so did not manage to visit Richard Dana’s resting place. We did get to the Colosseum though. It is the most exhausting city I think I have been to, you walk all over, pausing only for an espresso or glass of wine (or two).

Old ruins

The other coincidence in the book is the mention of the Sandwich Isles. I’d never heard of these but on researching it, they were what are now known as Hawaii. These islands were “discovered” by Captain Cook in 1778 and named after the Earl of Sandwich. I’ve never been there but we are in the process of organising our house-sitters who will look after the house and home crew whilst we are away: one of them is from Hawaii!

This post was meant to stop there and not meant to be about Burgh Island but we so fell in love with it I need to tell you. Here it is at low tide, easily accessible on foot. If you’re staying there they’ll use a 4×4 to take you and all your luggage across.

Burgh Island looking towards Devon

And at high tide it’s a totally different place, with a unique way of arriving, the Sea Tractor.

Cut off!
Sea tractor to Burgh Island

The main interest is not in the position, although that is amazing, but in the hotel itself.

Burgh Island Hotel

It was built in 1929 and has managed to stay in that era. It was extended in the 1930’s and the Captain’s Cabin from HMS Ganges (a warship from 1821) was added. You can see it in the foreground in the photo above and in the next photo. During World War II the hotel was used for RAF personnel who needed to recover from their injuries. It was converted into flats for a time then restored to its current state.

On top of Captain’s Cabin looking out to Mermaid Pool

You are expected to dress up for dinner just as if you had gone back in time. There are no televisions and all the furniture is Art Deco inspired. The bar is an example of the whole place:


Agatha Christie wrote some of her books there and anyone who was anyone visited (including, of course, us!). Noel Coward reportedly came for a few days and stayed much longer. I can understand that, it’s such a restful place.

Where Agatha Christie wrote “And Then There Were None” and “Evil Under The Sun”

Next time, I think some technical talk to get you thinking about Clipper again!