We were stacked for about half an hour as the airport was so busy, but eventually touched down and after a minor delay for the authorities to check on a sick person we got off the plane, through immigration and customs and grabbed a taxi. The taxi driver had a lot to say, he was a bit weird but helpful enough and got us to the apartment in good time. Settled in, then off to the supermarket for a few supplies, supper, bed.
The apartment was very comfortable, I went for a swim in a very nice pool on the 12th floor (we were on the 18th, the top floor being the 39th!), breakfast, and we finally emerged mid-morning into the Sydney sunshine. We caught the 555 bus, a free shuttle that runs the length of the CBD, to Circular Quay, right by the cruise dock, the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
We sot of followed a circuit around the dock area where many 18th century buildings had been preserved/renovated, a fascinating warren of narrow streets, many with historical notes and stories posted on them. There was a huge cruise ship at the dock that completely obliterated any view from the dockside, hideous! We walked onto the Harbour Bridge and while I went up the Pylon, Ruth walked further out onto the bridge. The Pylon, built purely for decoration, displayed the history of the bridge and offered great views across the harbour.
Walking back into the historic dock area we came upon The Australian Hotel, another preserved building, which whilst still offering rooms was principally a bar with great atmosphere, it was fun so we stopped for lunch and had fantastic pizzas, the fillings were very generous and absolutely delicious. Mine was filled with seafood, including large shrimps, scallops and smoked salmon, Ruth's was the vegetarian option and equally delicious; we shared, of course!
We walked a little further around the historic dock area before heading back to the apartment for a rest and to get ready to meet up with Rowan, the daughter of an old friend of Ruth. Sydney traffic was horrendous so we were delayed but only by a few minutes and it was good to meet up with Rowan. She had invited us to a cocktail bar on the 47th floor of her office building. The bar slowly revolved around the building so we had a continuous change of view. Rowan had another engagement afterwards but we decided to stay and have dinner as the menu looked very tempting. The food proved to be excellent though the service was dire, nonetheless we had a great meal and a lovely evening.
The next morning was grey, I went for another swim and then we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. Laundry duties over, we caught the 555 bus back to Circular Quay and took the ferry out to Manly. Lunch at a great restaurant recommended by Rowan, really good fish - barramundi, and very buzzy, if noisy atmosphere. A short wander along Manly Beach where a surf/skateboard competition was being held and we returned to the ferry for the trip back to Sydney.
A stroll down George Street, past some splendid early 19th century buildings all mixed in with very modern constructions and hideous sixties and seventies buildings, and watching all the people rush home on a Friday afternoon and all the while very heavy traffic. The Queen Victoria Building and The Strand Arcade stood out from the dross, both built in the late 1800s and still looked superb.
Back to the apartment where we packed, well mostly, then went out into Thai Town for dinner. We had been recommended to eat at Chat Thai, no reservations allowed, just write your name on a list, take a number and wait. Well we only had to wait half an hour, as many above us on the list had gone elsewhere. It was a small restaurant and had great atmosphere, tables were close together, but excellent food and service. It reminded us very much of eating out in a Thailand all that time ago! We even practised our limited Thai!
Next morning, all packed and ready, found another very talkative taxi driver, of Lebanese origin, who continually complained about the Australian Government, what they could or should do or what they did wrong - of course, after 30 years he's still here!
Well, sad to say another two and a half hour session with Maui to collect our camper. Very nice young man who had promised us everything would be ready as he had personally checked the vehicle, but it had to go back in the workshop as things weren't right when we checked! Maui are just hopeless, their advertising promises luxurious apartment style living in their camper-vans; the reality is somewhat different.
We left to go and see Bondi Beach, where we grabbed some lunch before wandering down to the beach itself. A beautiful, curved bay, with lovely golden soft sands, but unfortunately for us the sun was struggling to pierce the clouds; it was hot and humid but we did get our feet wet in the famous surf and watched the surfers in action. The town is definitely a surfers/backpackers hang out and suffers a bit from it.
On now to Richmond where we planned to spend the night. Traffic was horrendous and it took ages to get clear of Sydney and we seemed to drive through some pretty run down areas on the way. Eventually we reached Richmond and found the site. It was in the grounds of the Richmond Club, a very fancy community club, with bars and restaurants and a big gaming room (full of one-armed bandits). We had to join the club to use their campsite. This was not a problem, give name and address, pay $5, have photo taken and we (well I was) were in. Drove to our site and set up.
As we were now members we decided to eat there, on the way across the huge car park we heard our first kookaburra! As the member I had to sign Ruth in, very amusing, the security guard was firm but polite and anyway it was all done in good humour. Well it was Saturday night and we got ourselves a close look at how small town Australia enjoys itself. The food was ok, I had the stone grill prawns; they bring a very hot rock on a special plate and raw tiger prawns and the idea is to cook and eat the meal as you go - and it works! We stayed for a drink in the bar afterwards and enjoyed a really good band, playing covers from several decades, very well.