A new city
Canberra … 08/04 – 11/04
We haven’t got much time to rest, Sylvie is having a tooth extracted today. Ben goes with her in case she needs some moral support. Some of the liquid supposed to put her mouth to sleep slips in her throat. She feels like she wants to throw up, bad start… Then a few painless injections in the gums and we can start. The tooth is out in not time, before Sylvie has even realised actually. She is still spitting blood in the basin and the dentist says: ‘So, do you want to see it?’.
Two days later, we fly to Canberra where we visit Tim, a former flatmate from London. We are really happy to see him, three years already that he left London to come back to Canberra! We meet his partner, Amelia, and they take us to a hill where we have an improvised picnic (champagne and nibbles!) under the stars with a beautiful view over Canberra by night. We are lucky, it is Easter so Tim and Amelia are on holiday. The tour of Canberra is quite quick. It’s a small city which was built when Melbourne and Sydney were fighting over which would be the capital of Australia. At the end none of them got it and Canberra was built in the 20s. It’s a very modern city, wide avenues, perspectives, skyscrapers. It looks perfect which is also the downside. As with any new city, it lacks a bit of soul. Tim takes us to the National Portrait Gallery in the construction of which he played a part. It’s a beautiful and airy building and we learn a lot about famous Australian people. One of our best memories from Canberra are the kangaroos! We see our first ‘Skippy’, in the wild, close to the suburbs. They are so cute, especially when they have a baby in the pouch.
Tim and Amelia being the outdoorsy type, they take us on a day walk. We get to climb the highest mountain of Australia, Mount Kosciusko, which culminates at a staggering 2228 m. Ben, struggling to remember the name, nicknames it Mount Prosciutto (no, no, nothing to do with the fact he LOVES food!). We have a great day, picnic at the top and we go back via the lakes trail. In the evening, we have dinner at Tim’s parents. After all those years, we finally meet them! On the last evening, we see Stephanie, an Australian cyclist, who we had met in Bukhara, in Uzbekistan.
Amelia drops us off at the bus terminal where we get the bus for Sydney. After three hours on a straight road in the middle of the desert, pushed by strong winds, we finally get there. Ben is having an emergency crisis: he runs to the toilets, no, they are in renovation. He finds some outside on a building site, no, that’s the ladies! Quick, the men’s on the other side …
Luxury stay at the G&J hotel
Sydney 15/04 – 19/04
We walk to Stanley Street where Julie and Geoffroy (who we also call ‘J’ai froid’ or ‘I am cold’ in French!) live. We met them at the Iranian consulate in eastern Turkey. We only saw them for a day but we got on so well we said we would come and visit them in Sydney … and here we are! We get the king treatment: Veuve Cliquot champagne and a giant steak on BBQ … Ben is in paradise! Geoffroy also opens a few good bottles of Australian wine.
Our programme is just as busy as in Canberra. Julie takes us on the most popular walks. The first one is the path that goes from Coogee (say ‘Cutchi’) to Bondi. It’s a great three-hour walk along the coast, Australia just like we imagined it: sun, sandy beaches, waves breaking and loads of surfers. We stop to admire them. Let’s see what everyone is probably thinking:
Sylvie: wow, that’s not fair, how come these girls have such flat stomachs … I still can’t see any results after one year cycling!
Ben: surfer … that sounds so cool, I bet all the girls love it!
Julie: every time we have visitors, it’s the same. I have to take them on all those walks pheeeww :o)
We also walk around the city centre, the botanical garden and the popular area of the Rocks. And of course, we see the Sydney Opera! For the last walk, Geoff and Julie take us along the coast, from the bridge to Manly, north of Sydney, where we hop on a ferry to go back to Circular Quay. From the ferry, we get a spectacular view over the Opera and the bridge.
In the evenings, we share the cooking: pink trouts in foil in the oven, lamb ribs on BBQ, pasta salad with fresh spinach. One evening will definitely stay in our mind: Geoff and Julie take us to a very good French restaurant. Cheese soufflé, black pudding, tartar steak, braised duck … it is a real feast!
On Saturday night, we see Sabrina and Tom. We met Sabrina in the street, in London, when we were all struggling to find a wooden house on the Heritage Open Days. We have a great evening talking about travelling and life in Sydney. On our last day, Geoff and Julie take us to their favourite café, a French one, where we have omelette and white coffee. We then fly out to Melbourne where our ‘family’ is waiting for us.