We decided to get outta town this weekend, so we hit the road and headed down the Grand Pacific Drive for Wollongong by way of the Royal National Park. The park is only about a half hour south of us, and I have no doubt we'll be visiting more in the future, as it was such a fantastic escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. We checked in at the visitor's center to purchase our parking pass and grab a map, and I snapped a few shots of some wild cockatoos (or cockies as they call them here). I love that our native birds here include sulphur-crested cockatoos, rainbow lorikeets and king-parrots - it's a pretty cool sight to see a flock of these birds flying overhead or hanging out at the local park, since I'm only accustomed to seeing such colorful, exotic birds at zoos and animal sanctuaries back home. Here are a few shots of me making friends with some cheeky cockies...
After our visit with the birds, we headed on into the park to take the coastal track. Our goal was to find Curracurrong falls, but we got a later start than we'd expected and didn't make it that far this time. We did make it to Curracurrang, which was closer, and we figured the only difference was a vowel and a little extra water. It was beautiful and we had an amazing day to visit. A warning for moms (because, if you've ever looked at the comments on this blog, you'll note they're our main audience): some images in the next slideshow may not be suitable for you. Extreme caution was exerted at all times...calm down. ;)
The photos are nice, but Pickle thought a video was a better way to do the whole scene justice...
After some exploring, we headed back out to the Grand Pacific Drive. We drove across Sea Cliff Bridge, which stands off-shore, but runs parallel to the coastline. It boasts quite a view, and on any other day, I think we'd have been pretty impressed, but it was hard to top our view from Curracurrang. I loved the whole area though - the steep, lush green peaks and the pristine aqua water reminded me of Oahu!
We headed through some very quaint towns, including Wombarra, which we'll likely revisit when we have time. Our destination was Nan Tien Temple in Wollongong. The temple was founded in 1965. "Nan Tien" in Chinese, literally means "Paradise of the South" - the temple is the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere. We visited the pagoda, the gratitude bell and the main shrine. The pagoda contained a calligraphy room, a shrine, and a chant room. It's eight stories high and contains cremated ashes of devotees and their relatives. It can accommodate the remains of over 7,000 people. The main shrine contains five Buddha's of Confidence, Longevity, Wisdom, Inner Beauty and Peace. You are not permitted to take photographs in the pagoda or the main shrine, though I have a photo through the window of the pagoda looking into the vacant calligraphy room window and one looking into the main shrine from the outside, which I was able to take because no one was praying at the time. Each of the little lights surrounding the walls of the main shrine is in the top of an inset that contains a small Buddha. This is true in the calligraphy room (with the desks and black mats) as well. 10,000 smaller Buddha's fill the walls of the main shrine.
Our trip down the Grand Pacific Drive to Wollongong was a welcome peaceful escape on what turned out to be a beautiful Saturday. The following day, we visited the Laughing Goat Café for brekky and browsing. It's a brilliant little coffee shop that we happened upon in Kogarah, not 10 minutes from our apartment. The decor is a fantastic hodgepodge of bric-a-brac, which is particularly well-suited for the location, as it's situated inside an antique store. They have a special on now where you can have a free coffee for liking their Facebook page, so we liked and redeemed for a flat white for me and a mocha for Pickle (I will discuss the amazingness of Australian coffee sometime...it's a whole other world here...and it's magical!). We also went halfsies on a mixed berry and a Ferrero Rocher muffin. The guy at the counter asked if we wanted that with cream or ice cream, to which I immediately said "yes" but when he asked us which, we (in our typical indecisive fashion) hesitated (I think it was just one too many questions...I'm not sure why ice cream was not the immediately apparent answer). He decided on ice cream for us, and we were happy to comply...it was clearly the way to go! After our sugar-fueled Sunday brekky we spent at least an hour wandering through the antique store. This is definitely going to become a common stop for us. The folks at both the café and shop are wonderful, and the whole atmosphere is just laid-back, funky fun :)
It was nice to hit the pause button at the end of a busy week to get away for a day and relax a bit before another hectic week ahead. Hoping you all had a great weekend too!
'Just stopping by for a quick mid-week post to share some pics from our weekend...We checked out a few new markets last weekend - Glebe and Paddington, where we naturally sampled some yummy food (BBQ, dumplings, a giant salted caramel meringue, and equally large piece of carrot cake), and picked up a few fun finds. Pickle splurged on a very nice leather laptop bag, as his cheapie bag from IKEA lasted about a week. This one should last for years...plus, doesn't he look so good with it? ;) I bought a jillaroo hat (that's cowgirl here....they have jackaroos and jillaroos instead of cowboys and cowgirls) that was clearly a necessity, and we picked up a new little plant for the kitchen window sill. I wasn't going to name it (I realize I named Wilson, but he clearly has a personality and I'm not inclined to personify every object I bring into the apartment), BUT Pickle decided to name it Sucky (because it's a succulent), so, now it's got a name. To be honest, I'm a bit skeptical about its odds for survival...not sure Sucky will be with us for the long haul, so I'm not getting too attached. The second pic of him...errr...it...is after I added a little flair from our plumeria tree out back. Anyway, we've got another plant :P
we decided it'd be best for her to stay in the U.S. I'm infinitely grateful to my mom and dad for taking her in!
Anyway, this past weekend, we met up with one of Pickle's colleagues and his wife and did the Coogee to Bondi beach walk. Starting at Coogee Beach, the walk winds up the coastline, hitting Clovelly Beach, Bronte Beach, Tamarama Beach, and ends at Bondi Beach, approximately 5.5-6km in total. Along the way, you also see the Clovelly Lawn Bowls Club, the sprawling Waverly cemetery, and the Bondi Iceberg Club, which has a huge saltwater pool at the edge of the ocean. It's a beautiful walk and we had a great day for it. (Full disclosure: some of these photos are from my last trip to Sydney - we got caught up in conversation this weekend, and I didn't start snapping pics until the end...still looks the same though.)
We grabbed some dinner at a Japanese restaurant in Bondi Junction, where Pickle and I split unagi-ju (broiled eel over rice) and salmon sashimi donburi (raw salmon in a rice bowl), and set out to find a spot to watch the Mardi Gras parade. The crowd had already assembled (we've got to start going to these parades earlier...it seems our pre-parade dinner plans always get in the way of our view!) This one was even more packed than the Chinese New Year parade, and we stood shoulder-to-shoulder for about 2 hours (and when I say shoulder-to-shoulder, I mean when I put my camera up in the air to take pictures, and the crowd squeezed together, there wasn't room to bring it back down a couple of times, so I just left it up there like a periscope). The parade was a high-energy, flashing, gyrating, glittering rainbow of faaaaabulousness!
The Mardi Gras parade was the grand finale to Sydney's Month of Love. I'm not sure what the next festival will be, but I have no doubt Sydney's got something funtastic planned!