The central business area of Sydney, including the shops and restaurants are – as so many from Australia’s second city will insist – inferior to Melbourne’s. But the harbour, from the entry through Manly Heads to docking at Circular Quay is so stunning that it makes Sydney one of the greatest cities in the world and, arguably, the greatest single port stop for a cruise ship. This is not like docking at Brisbane, where we’ll be 45 minutes from the centre. We walk off the ship straight into the heart of the city. Essentially, the ship becomes part of the City.
There were 1800 passengers disembarking this morning, but those of us lucky enough to be staying, had our own gangway and avoided the long queues to leave the ship. I needed a haircut but was alarmed by the results of a Google search which suggested that traditional Barbers in Sydney had been replaced by a series of Men’s Hairdressers, which offered cuts which were variously, therapeutic, restorative or life enhancing and had staff which would be sure to “understand” my hair (and at about Aus$50). So we wandered down George St until we found a nondescript hairdressers who offered little in terms of therapy but gave me an all over number 2 and an eyebrow trim for $20.
That done we returned quickly to Circular Quay and boarded a ferry for Watson’s Bay. This tiny little place gets very little mention in the guidebooks and I discovered it almost by accident when visiting Sydney for work last year. It’s a beautiful little place with a number of pretty little beaches and, being within the harbour, with the gentlest of waves (we thought the picture on the left, of the rock outcrop, looked like the head of a creature).
We walked most of the way around the island to a lighthouse and past a nudist beach which was – as they always seem to be – peppered with men strolling up and down and enjoying a bit of conspicuous Willie Waving.
Doyle’s Fish Restaurant just near the ferry terminal is very well regarded here but was slightly more formal than we wanted. So, instead, we lunched at the bar next door which uses the same kitchen. We had Fish Pie and Fish and Chips (the latter was better than the former) and beer and wine in a place already – on this Friday afternoon – bustling with a lively and young weekend crowd. It was terrific. After we travelled back to Circular Quay on a very fast ferry, which threaded at some speed between the various yachts and ferries. At about $6 a ticket (about £4) a ferry ride is a fantastic way to enjoy the harbour.
We had a break back at the ship before setting out for an early evening walk and a beer in The Rocks before spending the last of a sunny evening on the balcony, taking our last view of the Bridge. I ended the night in the Theatre listening to Bernie Flint, whose main claim to fame was that, in 1973, he won Opportunity Knocks seven weeks running. He also claimed to have had a big UK hit in 1977, but I didn’t recognise it. I was trapped in a seat in the lower level, not far from the front. As soon as he started his show by murdering Simon and Garfunkel’s The Boxer, I knew attending had been a mistake. But I couldn’t leave inconspicuously and had to watch enviously as others nearer the exits (including all our table companions) did so. So I had to endure a succession of lame jokes about growing old and songs which got steadily more embarrassing, concluding with something called “We’re the Lucky Cruisers.”
At sea en route to Brisbane
This was the first sea day for sometime which was sunny and warm and we had sun beds on deck seven and at the back of the ship before nine. Other than walking a few more laps, going to the gym and having a swim we stayed there all day alternating between reading and watching the Wake. We had Pizza on the sun beds from Kings Court (which is always excellent). Later, we had drinks on our balcony and watched the loveliest sunset yet:
We had a very different experience in the Theatre. All of us from our table went to listen to three Australian Tenors – Tenori – who were very good indeed. They got a very warm response from a packed theatre. Another hour off the clock tonight as we move, very quickly, to just ten hours behind the UK. Why Brisbane, which is east of Sydney, should be behind Sydney time remains a mystery to me).