Easter is a big holiday over here in Australia. So big, it’s a 4-day weekend. The USA really needs to take a lesson from other countries about holidays and vacations, seriously. These other countries value time off and get lots of it! With 4 days off, we actually wrangled a couple of dinner invitations with local families - 2 very nice families whose husbands work with my husband – so we actually had dinner plans for Saturday and Sunday evening. I was excited because I was finally going to see something besides tall buildings and concrete! While living in the ‘big’ city of Sydney certainly has its advantages, I was curious and ok, a little lonely, to see suburbs, families, pets, TREES. Top that off with a home-cooked meal and let’s just say I was ready!
The towns/suburbs around Sydney (and Australia) have the most interesting and romantic names. Similar, of course, to England, they evoke images of warm, cozy houses, smelling of something wonderful cooking on the stove… lovely parlors for tea… how I fantasize, eh? Too many Victorian novels and episodes of Downton Abbey, I guess. How can you help it when you see names like Warrimoo, Faulconbridge, Parramatta, Merrylands, Yagoona, Punchbowl, Canterbury, Kingsgrove, Tydalmere, Pendle Hill, Toongabbie??? The list goes on and on! My curiosity was piqued! What would I see? What would the houses look like? Our Saturday evening dinner was in a suburb known as French’s Forest. What were we about to see? J
Of course, half the fun with us having no car is getting there. We walked to the train station, rode the train for about 20 minutes or so and took a taxi for another 20-30 minutes to meet our friends. For those of you whose imaginations are more in control than mine, we saw exactly what you thought we’d see. Neighborhoods. Lovely, but very normal-looking, neighborhoods. This particular house was on a cul-de-sac. Neighbors friendly with one another, kids running from house to house… we don’t often get that in our California everyone-commutes-so-we-don’t-know-anyone neighborhoods. Our first impression was MIDWEST – we could be back in Iowa or Texas! Brick houses, nice-sized yards, kids, dogs, cats… it was great! The one big difference we saw was that, while the houses are mostly brick, the roofs are tile. No shingles around here. It’s possible that it’s the fire code; I never got the chance to ask, so I don’t have the answer but in California, that’s why you see so many concrete tile or regular tile roofs. The newest exterior change out here is that they cover brick with concrete to make it look like stucco and paint it. We were quite at home! I was having such a good time I forgot to take pictures, but I have taken a few as we’ve traveled around, so here are just a few shots to give you an idea. These were taken from the train, so I apologize that they aren't the greatest pictures, but it does give you an idea..
Saturday’s family offered us BBQ or for those of you who want to say it, ok, steak on the barbie. It was just lovely sitting out on their patio by the pool, getting to know the family, their cat, and listening to the birds. Birds everywhere. Cockatoos, parrots, mynas, crows. A warm, lovely evening to be outside.
The meal was delicious! Steak, potatoes, salad, great wine, and for dessert, pavlova. I would call them meringue nests but here in Australia, they call them pavlova. The story is that they were named for the Russian ballet dancer, Anna Matveyevna Pavlova, because they were ‘as light as Pavlova’. They were delicious! We stuffed ourselves full and then headed back home via taxi and train.
On Sunday, we once again headed out for adventure. This time, we were going over to the city of Manly. You can read about it here:
For us, that meant walking to the train station (this is only about a block and a half), taking the train to the Circular Quay (pronounced ‘key’, and also the location of the famed Sydney Opera House), and then a ferry across the harbor to Manly, where our host picked us up in his car. Manly is about 11 miles north of Sydney; it only takes us about 10-15 minutes to get there by ferry. It’s a quaint, beach community. We would compare it to Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, or any of the beach cities we are familiar with in Southern California.
The houses here are a bit more eclectic with a modern feel. The neighborhood we were in was very lush, with lots of trees and beautiful patios. The houses again are stucco or concrete with tile roofs. Another great family with another great cat (playing with the cats made me very happy!).
BBQ again! This time, salmon and chicken were on the menu and again, it was delicious! It was so nice to be treated to fine wine, good food, and great company. One of the interesting techniques we noticed about bbq-ing in Australia- they don’t usually cook their food directly on the grill (nope, no grill marks here). They use a pan, much like a cookie sheet, and heat that on their grills, then toss their meat of choice onto the hot pan and let it sear and cook there. No grill marks but it still tastes delicious!
It was a good weekend. We made new friends, had great food, and got out of the city for a while. Both families made us feel very welcome in their homes, and it was nice to see something of suburbia for a change!