Australia, Day Four: Sun 1/17
Slept well. I'm really amazed how well we've adjusted to the time difference I had a horrible experience in that area when I went to Japan in 2006, so this is a bit of a relief.
Mark took us on a different walk: yesterday's walk was on a paved sidewalk, very steep, going down to the marina. This time it was much more rustic, it was a stairway set into a hillside going down to the water. The steps are made of stones or levels of dirt bordered with vines. Mark counted the steps once, and it's 212. Or was it 312? He wasn't quite sure. It was an invigorating walk, for me a little worrisome on the way down (fear that I would fall or twist my ankle) and just plain good hard work going up. And so much beauty to behold, in both directions.
Paul and Annie and the boys came over, and we went to breakfast at the Incinerator, a restaurant down the street from where they live.
Richard and I walked down to the restaurant on our first day, it's right next to a park. Fabulous delicious breakfast: I'd had a bite back at Mark and Sue's, so I just had the toast that came with Annie's scrambled eggs. Incredible toast, with a berry jam that wasn't too sweet. Richard had a bowl of oatmeal called bircher, mixed with quinoa, mixed berries, and toasted nuts. So hearty and divine. The boys had pancakes, which came with honeycomb. I'd never seen or eaten honeycomb before, and while I like the taste and the experience, I wasn't wild for the dense crust of sugar it leaves on your teeth. Ah well, that's why God made coffee, right? I don't remember what Paul had, but he had the prettiest cup of coffee.
We drove over to the spot where Paul and Annie were married. I went with Annie and the boys and Richard went with Paul. Annie asked about what we had done the day before and was disappointed that I didn't buy the peach shirt. I assured her I would look at it again. Anders (the five year-old) was full of questions for his mother. How do firemen get their training? What is heaven like? What happens when you die? Note, he wanted to know the actual process of dying. He circled back to the logistics of becoming a fireman, and was pretty sold on the idea of having a day job during the week and being a volunteer fireman on the weekend. He decided he'd be an astronaut during the week and a fireman on the weekend. Sebbie (his three year-old brother) said he wants to be Elsa when he grows up, with long blonde hair (Elsa is the heroine of *Frozen*).
We arrived at the site of their wedding, and it's a breathtaking spot on the water. I've seen photos from the wedding, of course, but they don't do justice to the majesty of the setting. We took some pix: Sebbie was being a little camera shy.
We sat up the hill and talked and watched the boys roll down the hill. We watched a young kookaburra for quite a while, it was adorable, with a fuzzy head.
We drove over to Mark's mother's apartment - - Richard and I joined Mark and Sue and Helen for lunch, we went to a place called Bella Vista in Manly. We had a table outside and it was just divine. The food was just as divine: we started with some nice bruschetta and a bottle of white wine. I had tagliatelle in a pork and beef ragout (incredible), Richard had eggplant parmigiana with a little salad and polenta on the side, Sue had a handsome burger and fries, Helen had fried calamari, and Mark had mussels with spaghetti marinara. And we all shared an arugula salad with walnuts and sliced pears. So much food, and so delicious. I could easily have eaten only half of my tagliatelle, but you know how it is: it's such a drag to take home leftovers, and it's a sin to leave food on your plate.
Helen is a sweet lady, we had a nice talk with her at lunch. We took her back to the car after lunch and she had a little nap while the four of us took a walk. Mark and Sue and I felt very strongly that Richard should wear a hat, and he insisted that he did not want or need a hat. But Mark found an extra hat that he put on, so he gave his usual hat to Richard. It was a hat he got in Cuba - - Richard put it on at a somewhat rakish angle, and I said, "You have no idea how sexy you look in that hat." He said, with a scowl, "I know exactly how sexy I look in this hat."
Sydney is an amazingly beautiful city, with the ocean everywhere, a huge bright blue sky, clean air, and a can-do attitude. It's easy to see why Paul and Annie are so happy here, and this is a great city for a little boy (or two): it has all the advantages of a great international city but then also lots of outdoors to play in.
We took Helen home and then went home ourselves. I put in a load of laundry in the morning and Sue, dear thing, without me noticing, hung it up on the line. So it was dry when we got back. Richard took a nap and I got caught up in my blog. I went downstairs and Mark was watching cricket on TV. He started to explain the game to me but quickly realized it wasn't worth the effort! So we switched to youtube and he shared some favorite clips of his. He loves Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca, and they sound so good together! Here they are singing the flower duet from *Lakme*:
Richard and I took Mark and Sue out for dinner, to thank them for hosting us. Annie suggested a favorite restaurant of theirs, a Thai place called Longrain. Fantastic! I have to say that the service we've had everywhere has been outstanding. The servers are gracious and warm but never annoyingly familiar. Our server advised us on a bottle of wine and warned us that one of the white wines we were considering had a strong flavor of lychee nuts. And she broke out in giggles, it was adorable. We did NOT get that wine.
We started with betel leaf stuffed with smoked trout, peanut, green papaya, and mint. So fresh and flavorful, and a dreamy mix of textures. This is the kind of place where you order a few things and share. We decided to get three dishes, and our server brought them out in the ideal order: we started with the steamed fish (I don't remember what it was, but it was a delicate white fish) in a lemongrass broth, with tamarind, boy choy, and cherry tomatoes. Next a spiced yellow curry with pumpkin, cauliflower, and fennel. That was my favorite, the sauce was creamy and delicious beyond belief. And the third was the caramelized pork hock, topped off with chili vinegar. Everything served over jasmine rice, everything incredibly delicious.
We had a lovely time, they are such delightful people. We shared our "how we met" stories, those are always a delight. We're already looking forward to seeing more of them in New York this spring.
We got home, turned on the news, and I was instantly asleep. Richard encouraged me to go upstairs and go to bed. And you know I always do as I'm told.