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Family, chimps, lights & the Socceroos.

I can’t stop smiling. I woke up this morning and the first thing I saw was the look of elation on the face of the Socceroos goalkeeper as he sent the Aussie team into its fifth consecutive World Cup finals. I don’t know his name, however I will never forget his face. One of pure joy after saving the last kick in a tense penalty shoot out against Peru. Go you Aussie good thing, you’ve made my day.

Next up, I checked my phone and I’d received a video from my son who is currently holidaying on Vancouver Island. It was a video of a black bear in the wild pristine forests of Canada, fortunately there was an icy cold river separating them. It was the second bear he had spotted in less than a week. I wondered how fast they could swim? I couldn't ‘bear’ thinking about it. I kept smiling and wondering. It was best not to know.

Today is the first quiet day in what has been a wonderful few weeks. During that time I’ve played host to my cousin and his wife visiting from Canberra, followed by my sister who was returning from Ballina to Melbourne and became stranded in Sydney after her flight was cancelled due to ferocious winds, and then a few days later my sister returned with my much loved niece and nephew in tow. What a lot of fun I’ve had being a tourist in my own beautiful city.

My cousin and I enjoyed walks along the harbour to Cremorne Point before popping into the harbourside cafe, Celsius Coffee at Kirribilli for a warming chai and brunch. It was wonderful to sit inside the glass window with the sun beaming in as the water lapped against the ferry wharf below. The next day we headed to another favourite spot of mine and walked and talked our way around Centennial Park before heading off for a stroll around Barangaroo and the wharves at Walsh Bay. We were lucky enough to see Ephemeral Oceanic, a glistening display of large bubbles floating on the water, the Sydney Harbour Bridge a prominent backdrop, and a small part of the exhibition for Vivid Sydney.

Ephemeral Oceanic, Walsh Bay, Vivid Sydney

After a wonderful few days my cousins left and we headed out for a family catch up and farewell dinner for our son Michael who was heading overseas for seven weeks. We enjoyed the best pizzas in town at Pizza Madre in trendy inner city Marrickville, also the former neighbourhood of our newly elected Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. If you love pizza and have an adventurous palate you really should book a table pronto. The desserts aren’t bad either, especially the La Vina basque cheesecake.

Desserts at Pizza Madre, Marrickville

A few days later we were back at Barangaroo for lunch at BEA with a lovely couple that we’d met when my significant other and I moved into our first home in Newtown. We loved living in this tiny cul de sac of early century terrace houses with such an eclectic bunch of neighbours. We shared the street with other young professionals, an artist and an author who claimed to often share afternoon tea with a friendly ghost, squatters living in derelict housing commission semis, a couple of handsome builders from New Zealand and a gregarious character and bachelor called Joseph. At the time we were somewhat naive, however a little intrigued by the goings on at the house two doors up where he lived. He always had a big fancy car parked out the front of his terrace and every Friday night a lot of other fancy cars would arrive in the street. A bouncer would position himself at the front door and we were quite intrigued as to the goings on until one day we happened to walk past his house and the door was open. We peeked inside and saw a kidney shaped poker table set up in his lounge room.

Later on, we were lucky enough to be guests at the same table when he invited his future wife on her first dinner date, only to be joined by ourselves and two other neighbours, Sarah and Paul. Since then, Joseph and Rhonda have married and gone on to do great things. Joseph has become a very successful entrepreneur, Rhonda keeps him grounded, and whilst they both enjoy the high life, every now and then they find time in their busy schedules to catch up. We always enjoy hearing about the latest chapter in their somewhat privileged lives.

Following lunch we headed off with excitement to the Virgin terminal at the domestic airport to collect my sister and her children. It was going to be a fun few days. Whilst my sister would be attending a conference at Darling Harbour, I would be in charge of entertaining my niece and nephew. We had a lot to fit in in a few short days.

First up the next morning we headed off to Taronga Park Zoo. When you are young you find so many things exciting, the train trip into the city, crossing the Harbour Bridge with the fun park rides of Luna Park beckoning below, the hustle and bustle of working folk moving swiftly along the platforms as you change trains under the ground at Wynyard Station and head off on another train towards Circular Quay, bobbing up and down on your first ferry ride across the harbour with the Opera House sitting majestically on Bennelong Point in the background, and arriving at the wharf before taking the gondola to the top gate of Taronga Park. Already the kids were filled with excitement and we hadn't even set eyes on the animals. Meanwhile, it’s a wild and windy day and I’m freezing, but today is not about staying in my comfort zone.

Throughout the day we see cuddly koalas, meet seals from the West coast of Canada, watch gorillas lazing around in hammocks, rush past the deadliest snakes, admire the elegance of the giraffes and zebras feeding beyond the moat, hear the lion's roar and watch on as they devour large chunks of meat, lay alongside tigers as they laze about in the sun, think about the possibility of being crushed under the weight of an elephant, watch the birds take flight and skimming the air just above our heads, and observe a crocodile or two slyly manoeuvring about in the murky waters.

Nothing captivates my little zoo goers more than the cheekiness of the chimpanzees at play, however their antics are topped by the most unexpected event of the day. On the other side of the glass wall smeared with fingerprints from excited children was the cheekiest chimp of all. He turned his raw pink bottom towards the glass and proceeded to defecate in his hand only to turn and promptly deposit the freshly excreted squishy sausage of poop straight into his mouth. This became the most talked about highlight of the day and from that moment on I felt sure it would be the subject of show and tell when the children returned to school in the forthcoming days. What is it about poohs, wees, bums, penises and boobies that has youngsters so fascinated?

Soon after, we departed the zoo on an incredible high and had one last ride on the gondola down the hill to the ferry that would take us back to Circular Quay to embark upon our next adventure.

My nephew, Jaxx getting up close and personal with a tiger at Taronga Park Zoo, Sydney

After a refreshing ice cream, with sprinkles, and a subsequent sugar high, we skipped excitedly along the promenade towards the Sydney Opera House where the kids then proceeded to do stair sprints up and down whilst I sat in a crumpled and exhausted heap at the bottom. This occupied a little time whilst we waited for my significant other to arrive and the lights of Vivid to begin to beam into the night sky. Sitting alongside the warmth of the heater at the Opera Bar we enjoyed prosciutto pizza, calamari and steaming hot chips as we took in the view of the colourful lights and patterns being projected onto the sails of the Opera House and illuminating the wide expanse of the Harbour Bridge. Walking across the footpath alongside the Cahill Expressway we also observed the Ken Done inspired exhibition of lights displayed onto the front of Customs House, and the lights reflecting over the Museum of Contemporary Art and Circular Quay below. It had been an exhilarating day of great fun and subsequent exhaustion.

Fun times at Vivid on the steps of the Opera House

The next morning we had a slow start, the kids in the kitchen cooking scrambled eggs for breakfast before heading to Centennial Park to go bike riding around the circuit.

Lunch followed at The Grounds of Alexandria where a magical adventure through Alice’s Wonderland awaited two very excited children who dared to step through the keyhole. My own daughter had loved this story growing up and asked that we send her pictures of all her favourite characters. We were happy to oblige as we went on a photo shoot through the overcrowded gardens and captured some memories to send to her on her birthday.

One of her all time favourites, the Cheshire Cat shines

in the Grounds of Alexandria gardens.

With my sister and her children now back in Melbourne, I had a relaxing few days at home. Winter had well and truly arrived and I was more than happy to stay indoors, before heading out again on Friday evening for belated birthday celebrations with my daughter, her husband and my significant other. A good time and the most delicious meal was enjoyed by all at Cafe Paci in Newtown. The place exudes a very special ‘lightness of being', amidst seriously masterful cooking and respect for the best quality of everything. I did not have a favourite dish because everything I ate excited me and I can honestly say right now it’s the best place to eat in Sydney.

Carrots with njuda on rye at Cafe Paci, Newtown

The Queen’s birthday long weekend has passed with an unexpected visit to Tamworth to visit my aging father-in-law in hospital, whom I’m happy to say has now returned home. In a phone call to him this morning he reported it was a chilly minus four degrees, a very frosty start up on the tablelands.

The cool night air is starting to descend upon us, it’s time to grab the washing off the line and start thinking about dinner. I can only think about one thing and that’s soup. Will it be hearty homemade mushroom soup with garlic and thyme, or creamy chicken and cannellini beans? Maybe the latter.

Until next time may your days be both serendipitous and enjoyable.


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