Monday, January 21, 2013

Australia Part 2: The City

Previously, Australia Part 1: The Farm

We left my sister's family's farm on December 29th, Eleanor's 35th birthday. We got into Maroubra (a diverse beach suburb to the south of Sydney) in the afternoon, picking up a wholly inadequate birthday cake at the local Greek bakery on the way. (This chocolate-vanilla layer cake was literally the only disappointing food we ate during our entire trip--too bad it cost a whopping $50!) The kids immediately ran outside to play with my sister's Australian niece and nephew, Sylvie and Finn.

Eleanor and her family live in a two flat above Simon's twin sister Kate and her family (her two children are about the same age as mine), which makes for very close, happy cousins. Kate offered to babysit that first night so that we could celebrate Eleanor's birthday in style.
At Icebergs for Eleanor's birthday
Simon took us all to a super swanky restaurant overlooking Bondi Beach, where we had delicious food, craft cocktails and two memorable views: the stunning beach and the happening Saturday night crowd looking to see and be seen.

Tom and Ada
The next day Kate took her family to the farm, so we moved downstairs into their unit, which came with their very affectionate cat Tom. Although there was enough room for us in Eleanor's apartment so long as two kids slept on the floor, it was more comfortable spreading out a bit.

The highlight of our visit was probably our trip to Sydney's northernmost beach, Palm Beach. Eleanor and Simon's friends invited us all up for the day, as they were finishing up a weeklong rental in a beautiful vacation home accessible via an inclinator (yes, that blew the kids' minds). It was chilly when we set off from Maroubra, but by the time we'd eaten a lovely lunch, the sun was up and it was hot enough to hit the beach. Our superb hosts (one of whom is the grandson of the Danish architect who designed the Sydney Opera House) dug out swimsuits and sunblock for everyone.
Yep, all borrowed swimsuits

Another memorable day was the Wednesday we dropped off Zoe, Ada and Eliza at a one-day gymnastics summer camp and headed to the inner west suburb of Newtown, a sort of hipster mecca with the arty grit of Wicker Park. Imagine a long street full of Thai restaurants, record shops, vintage clothing stores and gelato stands. Eleanor took her youngest to Wreck-It Ralph, freeing Josh and I up to stroll around and eat (Thai food and gelato, naturally).

We had two Klein-only days when we left my sister and her family in peace and took the bus into town to do touristy things. We visited the The Rocks Discovery museum, Hyde Park Barracks Museum and took pictures of the Sydney Opera House from the roof of the MCA. We also spent a staggering $150 on tickets to the zoo (including the cost of the ferry boat and sky tram ride there). Yes, it's a very nice zoo with astonishing views, but our entry fee was nearly 50% more than the cost of a year's membership to the Brookfield Zoo near our home. When they say Sydney's expensive, they're not kidding.
This is the view from the zoo
Although seeing the New Year's Eve fireworks a day before North America rang in the New Year was pretty thrilling, the grand finale, on the very last day, was a bar hopping excursion that Simon planned. We started at the Sydney Opera House, where we had VIP tickets to the opening night of a new Mexican pop-up bar that Simon's construction firm built. Eating tacos, and sipping margaritas in the shadow of the Sydney Opera House, with the Harbour Bridge in the background is surreal enough, but add in a mariachi band and faux Mexicans wearing ponchos and fake mustaches while they walked around on stilts? It was beyond weird, and that was before Eleanor and I spotted a group of plastic surgery enhanced women whose bottoms were literally spilling out of their sequined short-shorts.
Eleanor at El Loco at the House

From the Opera House, we headed to a handful of bars and restaurants that Simon built for a prominent developer. My favorite was an underground joint that channeled a 1930's American speakeasy.