It seems like a long time since we last wrote to update you about what has been going on over here. The summer holidays are over and Holly is back at work and we are both trying to save hard so we can keep travelling as we had planned through NZ and the US.
Other than working, the main thing we have done since we last wrote was to take a week off and drive down to Melbourne. Tom's cricket team had secured a game at Bradman Oval in Bowral, the birthplace of the great Australian cricketer Don Bradman. So, early one Saturday morning we set off in our very camp citron coloured hire car to meet the rest of the Paddington Tigers. I wont go into any great detail on the game, once again we were dismissed cheaply and lost by 5 wickets and the game summed up our season quite well! Don would have been looking down disapprovingly. As we had the ground for the rest of the afternoon, we arranged a 20 over game and reversing our order did little to improve our batting! Tom strode to the crease with 40 needed and 9 wickets already down. Fortunately we were playing 'last man standing' as 3 balls later the Tigers skipper was caught and Tom was left to get the remaining runs alone. In an innings Bradman would have been proud of (well maybe!), Tom scored the remaining runs and the trophy was shared between the teams! All that was left was to decamp to the pub where Tom learnt he had earned the nickname 'The Clap' (long story and doesn't involve any dodgy goings on before you ask!) and Holly was now called 'Fredo' for devouring a vast quantity of fredo frogs whilst "enthralled" in the cricket with the fellow WAGs - a good day!
We then drove down to Canberra, the capital of Australia. We had read a lot about Canberra and not very much of it was favourable.... Arriving on a Sunday afternoon, you would think we had stopped off at a ghost town. The Parliament was on summer recess and it's common for most workers to jet into the city on a Sunday night or Monday morning and home again Friday. The ideal of establishing Canberra nearly 100 yrs ago came from the need to choose a capital for the new nation and it was felt it was impossible to chose between Sydney and Melbourne, so they compromised and created a brand new city. Whatever style of city that was going to be created was always at a disadvantage being placed hundreds of kms from the coast in Australia given that all other major centres are on the coast. Somehow 350,000 people now live there, however i don't think i could tell you where!
Throughout our time in Oz, Bill Bryson's book on Australia has been a reference and his piece on Canberra 10 years earlier remains spot on and hilarious. He described Canberra as an "awfully boring place" and decided to pass the time one night writing new slogans for the city. To amuse us, we tried the same and whilst Bryson came up with Canberra - 'Gateway to Everything Else', Holly's version, 'Canberra - Why Bother' was far more simple and the winner.
But there were good things about the city we discovered the following day. Tom was feeling culturally bereft so he wanted to see an exhibition of Renaissance art that had been opened in Canberra and it didn't disappoint. Even the main collection of the National Gallery was pretty good with a fantastic Hockney Grand Canyon piece which went someway to make up for missing his exhibition at the RA.
However, to get to the gallery meant we had to cross the river and in the process witnessed one of the most pointless and annoying water features ever. The Captain Cook Memorial Jet is a water jet which projects a plume of water a couple of hundred feet in the air, however was built far too close to the bridge, especially with the prevailing breeze blowing, which means if you cross the bridge and it starts you end up regretting it immediately and coming out the other side completely drenched. If I was Cook, of all the things in Oz that had been named after me I would say this would have been the most uninspiring and most disappointing to have my name against!
After we had crossed the bridge we found a few random things as walked to the National Gallery. First we stumbled across the Walk of Fame which highlighted those Australians that had been awarded the Australian of Year prize. Dominated by sportsman who had achieved great things however 1985 must have been a quiet year for Australia as Good old Crocodile Dundee won the award. Those were obviously the times Paul Hogan was loved by his fellow countryman unlike now as they pursue him for his unpaid taxes!
After the National Gallery, as ex employees of The Houses of Parliament back in London, we wanted to see the Aussie version. Obviously, this was on the other side of the bridge so we had to get soaked again by good old Captain Cook's plume. Other than being far smaller than the British parliament, and with a lot less gold, we were shocked you could just walk up and after a short security check wander around at your leisure. What was most surprising was that you could take the lift up to the roof where there was a grass lawn, and you could sit and have your lunch whilst taking in the panorama of the city and see Captain Cook drenching people! Somehow I can't imagine the MP's in London allowing our equivalent, The Terrace, being used in such a way and have tourists enjoy their sarnies while taking in London!
Canberra does have some impressive features and the highlight was probably the Australian War Memorial which really did evoke how the Australian identity is so closely associated to the Anzac soldiers and grew out of the losses suffered at the Gallipoli Landings during the First World War. Included in the Memorial is one of the bullet ridden boats the soldiers sailed on to the beaches at Gallipoli and you couldn't fail to be impressed by the main exhibition hall which had a massive Lancaster Bomber in it. Each day at 5pm, the Last Post is sounded by a trumpeter in memory of those soldiers who had fallen in conflicts and was a powerful reminder to remember the sacrifice made more than just once a year on Remembrance Day.
The main reason for our trip was to head to Melbourne to see the Australian Open Tennis. We were really fortunate that the one day we had planned to be in the city and had tickets was the day that Nadal and Clijsters were playing on the Rod Laver Arena. Tom then stayed and watched Tomic play in front of his home crowd and then saw the infamous Bagdatis racket smashing incident in the evening session. It was a great day and fingers crossed the Australia Grand Prix next month will be just as good an event.
Trying to get out of Melbourne was far more problematic than entering the city. We headed east along the coast and met up with John and Emily (very briefly) after an incredibly slow drive at the beautiful Wilson's Promitory. We had stayed with John's family in Perth and they had been on their own much larger road trip from Perth to the Gold Coast and had stopped off with us in Sydney over new year.
Driving further up the east coast, we stopped off at Jervis Bay which claims to have the whitest sand in the world. I'm pretty sure about 20 other places also claim this but to us it was about 10 shades off white and in fact it merged very well into the grey cloud on the horizon. The weather undoubtedly spoiled what was a beautiful spot. Fortunately, on the final day we awoke to a gorgeous day and we headed back to Sydney from Wollongong via the Grand Pacific Drive which hugged the coastline and at one point swerved out over the sea via the Sea Cliff Bridge. This was a bit of an engineering masterpiece which was built due to the extreme cliff rock falls which led to previous road closures. In the afternoon, we stopped off at Royal National Park which is just south of Sydney and is the 2nd oldest National Park in the work after Yellowstone in the USA. Taking full advantage of the gorgeous weather, we found a beach in the Park which had a waterfall and spent the afternoon relaxing.
We can't believe we only have 6 weeks left in Sydney before we go back to being travellers again, first to Melbourne and then up the East Coast of Australia. We are busy planning our travels for this and NZ, where are looking forward to seeing 'The Baron' again and travelling around NZ together and seeing lots of old friends! The good old Qantas strikes have eventually caught up with us and following all the industrial action they have cancelled the route between Auckland and LA so we are trying to find out what's going to happen!
Anyway will write again soon