Back to Bondi: the Weekend in Review

May 1, 2007 at 3:21 am (Uncategorized)

I love it when your ideal itinerary turns into reality. There were several things I wanted out of our weekend in Bondi, and I got all of them in the end. It was a cracker, absolutely a case of wish fulfillment from start to finish.

First, we sat at the bar at the Royal and had a few drinks whilst the rugby was on. This pub was our local during our Glen St tenure, and it remains truly in a class of its own. It is the perfect local, and you would be surprised and possibly disturbed to know just how many times Llew and I have paused to lament the loss of it from our lives. There is nothing here that comes close to replacing it. Nothing fills the void where the Royal used to be. It is a great pub, sorely missed.

Our friend Liv turned up as planned, and the three of us kicked back a few more drinks whilst we waited for the restaurant to call us and tell us our table was ready. This was number two on the list: check out the new joint a block up Bondi Rd, the Flying Squirrel. I had noticed it the last time I was in Bondi, and my super sonic social radar went nuts. I’ve been impatient to try it ever since, and there we were about to tick another thing off the list.

The Flying Squirrel gets a big thumbs up. It’s moody, well done, and has great tapas. We had lamb cutlets, ribs, chorizo (yes, plenty of carne), sardines – they were delicious – and so on, plus plenty of red to wash it all down. I liked it in there a lot – dark wood, dim lights, good music and of course terrific company. Yes, I’ll be going back there, I’m sure.

Saturday morning I was feeling a little piqued around the gills. Llew was off at rowing so I went down to a cafe on the corner of Fletcher and Dudley to meet Sarah. There used to be a cafe there, true, but it wasn’t this one. Previously it had always felt sort of random and unfinished, like a tax dodge, but now it verily thumps with enthusiastic locals stampeding through the door at the rate of knots. It was too hectic for me at first, very LOUD, but Sarah was wisely positioned in a protected corner, and once I’d successfully negotiated my own way in there – no easy task – I got comfortable. Damn comfortable. I think we must have been there shooting the shit for about three hours in the end. Long enough to eat, drink three coffees, meet Sarah’s running mate Alice, have a long conversation with her, and eventually even catch up with Llew, too, who also had a meal and two coffees well past the time Alice had left. Sarah and I just sat on through it all, two little pigs in shit.

Then Llew, Sarah, and I went for a swim at Tamarama, the closest beach to our old place. Lovely, lovely, lovely. There is just nothing like it. Tama is a dangerous beach, though, truly, one of the worst for rips and rapidly changing surf conditions, so it’s not somewhere I’ve ever managed to catch a wave. No matter – I just splashed around and soaked up all the drama of the cliffs from Bondi through to what must be the north end of Maroubra, and marveled at length at just how different the coastline is between there and here. Even the perspective out to the horizon is entirely altered, and it was one of the first things I noticed when we moved.

After the swim Sarah had to get going, and we had to get on with the next stage of our perfect weekend back in the ‘hood. We showered and changed and wandered back up to the Royal, where we were soon joined by Dom and Lea. It was Dom’s birthday, and we felt very privileged to be joining them for dinner. After a couple of pre-dinner drinks, a trip to the bottle shop for wine, and an hilarious cab ride thanks to an ex-NYC cabbie, we landed at Blue Orange on Hall St for dinner. Now, Blue Orange was there during our vintage, but we’d only ever had lunch there, never dinner. It was where I was hoping, hoping, hoping we’d go for Dom’s birthday, but I had no way of knowing and no influence on the decision. When Llew said that’s where Dom and Lea had booked, I let out a little whoop. Everything was coming together so perfectly!

Blue Orange was great, the perfect blend of casual comfort and style, and all the food was terrific. In fact, the restaurant bears an uncanny resemblance to Jellyfish, our favourite cafe here and one which we basically treat as an annex to our home. They’re very similar joints in all the very best ways, so now we’re keen to get Dom and Lea over here so they can see our version for themselves. After that we had another drink at a funny little bar up Hall St, then we went back to Dom and Lea’s where we once again entered a time warp from which we did not emerge until nearly 5 am. This has happened to me every time I have crossed their threshold. I don’t know what they’re playing at, but it is honestly another dimension in there.

Sunday we were feeling understandably woeful after a lousy four and a half hours sleep. Another swim at Tama shook off the worst of it, then Llew and I wandered around the coast walk to Bondi. How many times have I walked that path? I couldn’t tell you. Thousands of times. Literally thousands of times. And I never tire of it. It’s still my favourite view in the whole of Sydney. Our phones were dead so we positioned ourselves at Alpha Bar in North Bondi in the hope of running into Liv or Dom and Lea for a coffee, but our luck didn’t carry us forward that far. After lunch and caffeine, we wandered around the Bondi markets, and then just cruised around seeing what’s changed and what has stayed the same.

Our last stop was Surry Hills and the Brett Whiteley studio. We were there until they kicked us out enjoying the 9 Shades of Brett Whiteley retrospective currently on display. There were several works I’d never seen before, and several too I’d never seen up close. I read again the quotes scrawled on his wall, laughed at the outrageous humour of some of his pieces (see the heroin clock upstairs), and wondered again at the sheer range of his talent. His sculpture is equal to his painting – both are painfully, fearsomely good. I was also left to wonder about something we will never know: Whiteley was dead at 53; what great heights were left in him? Don DeLillo is turning 71 this year and is probably at the height of his creative powers as a writer. What would Whiteley have been doing now had he lived? Where would his art have gone? Where would he have taken us?

After glutting ourselves once again on the studio, we meandered down to the Bourke St Bakery to buy coffee and treats along with what felt like a thousand other people. Then we cruised around Surry Hills until it got dark – I am so lucky to have found a man who loves these wanders as much as I do. It is extraordinarily lucky that it is one of his favourite things, just as it is one of mine.

Finally, after a full weekend of exceeded expectations, we were home. Very tired but oh so very happy.

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