New South Wales Part V
One part of Sydney that has not changed is the natural generosity of its people, some of them our long-time friends.
We can't talk about friends without a conversation about our two newest friends: Jasper and Shadow. They are Jasper, the dog, and Shadow, the cat. Both reside with Nancy and Bruce.
Shadow, a black cat with white fur on her chest, was a stray that allowed our friends into her life in return for food, water and place to nap in the sun. When N&B were away, we fed Shadow, which usually entailed pulling a can of tuna or sardines out of the fridge combined with some dry cat mix. There was a musical choreography to this event.
Meow, meow, meow.
Yes, Shadow, I see you and hear you.
Kathy, I have your glass of wine.
Meow, Meow, Meow.
Shadow would then get in the way, just in case I didn't get the message.
Once she had eaten, she would silently glide to where I was seated and sit on my foot. I had never known such a friendly cat. Even Kathy, who is usually allergic to cats, would say "Hello, Kitty, Kitty."
Since Shadow is pretty old by cat standards, I assumed she was deaf. But, Kathy was convinced the cat responded to her name to tell us she was locked in the garage and would like to be released. Who knows?
Jasper definitely knew his name. And, Jasper, a schnauzer, knew when someone was going to take him for a walk. He would leap in the air and sprint to the front door. Maybe because Ron went on some of those walks, he started to recognize Ron's voice. Recognize, but not necessarily respond.
"Jasper, Jasper, come here."
"Jasper, Jasper, Jasper."
Bruce: "Jasper the pup, Jasper the pup."
Usually, the charcoal-colored curly-haired dog responded. And, on we marched.
On our next to the last night, Jasper sensed we were leaving – he knew the omen of suitcases coming out. He curled up outside our room as we went to bed. He was there again in the morning.
As we moved our bags to the front door staging area, both Jasper and Shadow appeared and sat down. The dog, I get. The cat: somehow we connected with her.
We looked down at them and gave Jasper a rub. Shadow allowed Ron to stroke her coat.
"Did we hear them say something like "we'll miss you"?
I know we'll miss them.
Of course we have more than four-legged friends in Sydney.
We had emailed our buddies in Sydney that we were in town for a month and would love to see them. The response was fabulous.
Our good friend, Janine Perrett, invited us to Cafe Sydney, perched on the top of the Custom House above the tourist scrum and dash for the ferries in Circular Quay. While we enjoyed the harbor views, Janine entertained us with Sydney news. We ate gnocchi with pumpkin cream, grilled flathead with mussels and Ora king salmon with potatoes, peas and curry spices.
Janine must have missed our New York accents because she invited us to lunch a second time at Catalina, which reigns over the beach at Rose Bay. To get to the restaurant, we grabbed the ferry from Mosman to Circular Quay, where we caught another ferry to Rose Bay - one of Sydney's Eastern suburbs. There is nothing quite like some time on the water. We wish New York did a better job with its ferries and waterways.
Catalina's stucco white building perched on stilts above the beach could just as easily have been on one of the Greek isles. Our table was just inside the patio giving us the illusion of eating outside but without having to deal with the sea breeze and pelicans.
Janine was in full journo-mode: an investigative journalism team from El Jazzera had caught the leaders of a Queensland political party asking the US National Rifle Association for money so it could attempt to overturn Australia's strict anti-automatic weapons laws. We were lucky that Janine stayed for her toothfish with mushroom dumplings and dashi consomme. Ron enjoyed the yellow fin tuna with wild rice and compressed watermelon, and Kathy had the sphagettini with mushrooms. Then, we hopped the ferries back to Mosman.
Our good friend Nicola Wakefield Evans invited us to dinner at China Doll, on the wharf at Woolmooloo with her four sons. Since we had not seen most of the lads for many years, it was great fun to catch-up. Nicola had actually been to New York while we were in Sydney and was heading back again in a week. Don't ask. We caught up with Nic's husband Kym (with youngest son, Riley) about two weeks later once he sailed their newly- purchased 36-foot sailboat from Melbourne to Sydney. It sounded like an exciting and daunting trip: gales on the Bass Strait and wind on the nose all the way up the coast.
When Kathy worked at Citibank in Sydney we became friends with John Needham and his wife, Jenny. Last year we were pleasantly surprised to get a call from Elise, their younger daughter who was on holiday in New York. We went to dinner and enjoyed her company. But, we hadn't seen Elise's older sister Clare since she was quite young.
John and Jen invited us to spend the night with the family in their cottage in Manly. Jen, who has a certain yoga-like calmness, cooked a fabulous dinner, which seven of us consumed at a long table built for a festive occasion.
Clare has grown up and is now a trader at Citi. She loves to play tennis, fantasizing that she would be invited to play in the US and be beaten by Serena Williams.
Elise is making discoveries in the science lab while working on her PhD. Any spare time she spends with her boyfriend who is studying to be doctor. We got a chance to meet James after Elise gave us a tour of Sydney's inner West – including the White Rabbit, a Chinese museum filled with art that would not be available on the mainland. Elise told Kathy she hoped she would return to Sydney for her wedding. Fine with us.
Back in Manly we felt like part of the family. In the morning, we went to a local bakery for savories and sweets before John left for work. Kathy and Ron changed into swimsuits and walked through Manly with Jen, checking out many houses Jen and John had bid on. Ron spent half an hour diving under the waves at Queenscliff beach (the north side of Manly). The little sojourn reminded us of all the times we hopped in the car and drove to the northern beaches for a few hours of beach fun.
We enjoyed Manly so much we returned later. John and Clare rode their bicycles down to the beach and we walked to Shelly Beach (south Manly). The water felt like the temperature we have in Oyster Bay in early July - brisk but not freezing. Then, Ron got a few more minutes diving under the waves at North Steyne beach.
As you could tell from our sailing adventure with the McCanns, we had a fabulous time with Kate, Matthew and their daughter Sarah. They were generous with their time and toys. We especially enjoyed a trip out to Castlecrag where they live.
Castlecrag is a beautiful little suburb on a peninsula sticking out into the harbor. On either side of Edinburgh Road, Sydneysiders have built beautiful homes.
The McCanns once owned one of those abodes. But when neighbors put their house up for sale, the McCanns realized a new owner could potentially build on land that would block their harbor view. They decided to sell their home, which looked like a Frank Lloyd Wright design - a low-slung house (almost all glass windows looking out at the cove below). They bought the house next door and are now designing their new digs. We're hoping to see the new house on the next trip. But, probably not in time for Elise's wedding....
Then there were our friends Nancy and Bruce, whose hospitality was over-the-top.
N&B literally gave us the keys to their house so we could come and go as we wanted. To help us traverse the city, they gave us fare cards that automatically deducted our fares from their bank accounts. Do you want to visit the zoo? Here are passes, good for a reduced rate.
Bruce, the oenophile, would dig through his wine collection looking for old bottles of wine.
"Here's a 1992 Elderton Command Shiraz we should drink at dinner tonight....I thought we should try this bottle of Pinot Noir with our salmon tonight...Do you remember when we visited this vineyard...this bottle of Greenock Creek is not too shabby."
Yes, anybody who shares his collection of old wines with you is your friend, your really, really good friend. A really, really good friend who shares his birthday celebration with you at a fabulous Sydney restaurant, NOMAD.
Yes, a night at NOMAD where we started the feast with: Cannellini Bean Hummus & sourdough, and housemade NOMAD Charcuterie. The shared plates included Burrata, caramelized onions, and zucchini flowers with Pecorino truffle honey; Grilled Eggplant, black garlic, pickled chile and Jersey yoghurt; Godiva Pipis with okra saffron butter; Wood roasted Rainbow Trout with agradolce eggplant; and BBQ Lamb Rump with sugar loaf cabbage and bagna cauda. Before we were finished we shared the Olive Oil Parfait and Turkish Coffee Tiramisu. To celebrate, we toasted with a sparkling Daosa Natural Reserve from Picadilly Valley, SA; a Pinot Noir from Place of Changing Winds "Between Two Mountains"; and an Aniquarian Barossa Shiraz. Quite a gastronomic adventure in Surry Hills, where NOMAD centers around the large open kitchen and bar situated in a turn of the century warehouse.
Nancy knew we were interested in pearls. (No jokes please about pearls before swine after NOMAD!) After we reported a less than satisfactory visit to one major pearl jeweler, Nancy suggested we meet with her supplier of beautiful pearls. This led us to David Benn, which led us to some gorgeous Australian pearls. We're sure some of you will see them on Kathy in the future.
Both Nancy and Bruce were more than perfect hostess and host. We got to see how they generously donate their time and lives to other people. Bruce has early breakfast meetings with members of their church. He works on the church's finances. And, in his teaching at University of Technology Sydney, he set a goal of helping his students get the highest marks on their exams.
We couldn't even keep track of all the different ways Nancy helps other people. Just a few items: in Mt. Wilson she helped establish a visitors' center, which included Nancy donating her time. She and Bruce are both involved with the Mt. Wilson fire brigade. She is actively mentoring young business-women. And, she actively supports members of her family in their time of need.
In short, they are not just good friends but they are also good people.
So, when anyone asks us what we enjoyed the most about Australia, we tell them "the people." Throughout our trip we made new friends and reconnected with old mates. They all helped to make our trip special. Thank you!
Kathy and Ron
New South Wales Part V