Jane arrived Thursday lunchtime from Brisbane, and in a very short time we were headed off on a sparkling (and warm) afternoon coast walk between Coogee and Bondi. The three of us have been teaching colleagues and friends for over 25 years now and even if we haven't seen each other for a while we can always pick up wherever we left the conversation, no matter how long it is between visits.
We started slowly on Friday morning. Jane and I joined Tania at the Art Gallery of NSW (and the surprisingly long queues) to see the Frida Kahlo Diego Rivera exhibition and the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize exhibitions. It was very difficult to ignore the beautiful 7 sisters painting (by the Ken Family Collaborative) that won the Wynne prize this year.
It's hard to get away from the Sydney icons in this part of the city so after the gallery visit we took full advantage of the views of the Harbour Bridge, from the 4th floor Museum of Contemporary Art Cafe, over a leisurely lunch with Rob.
After lunch Tania was keen to show us the Salon des Refuses exhibition at the SH Ervin Gallery in the National Trust building attached to the old Sydney Observatory, which was new territory for Rob and me despite its proximity to Millers Point.
We enjoyed the exhibition which was much more quirky and thought provoking than the finalists' exhibitions at the AGNSW.
This picturesque part of Sydney is very popular for wedding groups........so we indulged in a bit of photobombing of this gorgeous old Rolls.
With the sun slowly setting we made our way to the Opera House bar for its spectacular setting and a glass or two of bubbles - along with hundreds of mainly young things celebrating the end of the working week.
As the lights dimmed and the sound level rose (and the cool breeze off the harbour started cutting through the layers) we decided to party on at the 36th floor Blu Bar at the Shangri-La Hotel - with its beautiful full length window views of the harbour icons below. We made one very generous Thai Me Up (gin based) cocktail and a few tasting platters last us a few happy hours at this stylish venue.
I was able to introduce Jane to my favourite crafts people at the Paddington Markets on Saturday morning (including Melaney from Ant Haus designs) before we set out north of the harbour to Balmoral Beach for lunch.
We found a good table at the Balmoral Beach Bathers Pavilion Cafe and settled in for another long lunch, made all the sweeter by the fact that the winds had turned cold today and it was actually much nicer to be sitting behind a sunny window than to be outside by the beach.
We were impressed by this group of hardy souls who braved the conditions for a serious swimming workout off Balmoral Beach.
This part of Sydney was new territory for Jane so we drove her a bit further north to exclusive Chinamans Beach, a 250 metre stretch of sand at the northern end of Mosman, not too far from the Spit Bridge.We oohed and aahed over the beachside mansions and marvelled at how few people were using the beach (apart from that hardy paddle boarder setting off from the rocky headland).
Tania, Allan and Aine hosted us for dinner at their house on Saturday night. Tania prepared beautiful food, Allan served wonderful wine and there was plenty of entertainment provided by, the 1979 Corvette.........
.......and discussions with Aine about music, school and flag symbols and a long session in Tania's studio looking at her current projects and the meaning of art - an altogether inspiring evening!
Luckily we could start late on Sunday morning: bus to Circular Quay, then ferry to Taronga Zoo Wharf.........
Talk about Sydney icons!
It's very understated at Athol Hall. The cafe has stayed very small and no one rushes you through your meal - there's good wine, pretty good food and this amazing setting overlooking the bush land and Sydney Harbour - idyllic!
..and the friendly kookaburras too of course......
We ended off our day and our long weekend together heading back to The Rocks, around to the spectacular Barangaroo Reserve.......
and a search for a suitable spot for our last few hours together Sunday evening (not too loud, great atmosphere and good food and beer on tap). The newly restored Palisade Hotel at Millers Point had the views and was "very cool" - but not quite our scene (too crowded for one thing)!
....but the trusty old Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel (Sydney's oldest continually licensed hotel) in the The Rocks precinct was just our "cup of tea".....a very laid back way to end a wonderful weekend together. We're making plans for our next get together already..... Melbourne icons maybe??