Thursday, 12 March 2009

Feeling Manly?

Take a ferry from Sydney's Circular Quay, out past the opera House and away from the bridge and twenty minutes later you arrive at Manly. In the 1920's this became a popular seaside resort and many of the buildings still retain the feeling of that era.

We took the advice of our B&B owner, Penny, and on leaving the ferry, turned right and headed around the bay to Shelly Beach. This was a very pleasant spot and Jus took to the crystal clear water to look at fish while I crouched next to a rock in the shade (like some large, pale hermit crab) for fear of getting sunburnt. We walked back round the promenade to the main beach and watched the surfers doing their thing. I did start to feel a yearning to slip on a wetsuit, grab a plank, and get out there and join them (how hard could it be?) but the mention of food quickly overpowered the surf-dude in my head.

After a long search (we didn't want to eat out on the main road, which was where most of the restaurants seemed to be), we stumbled across the Harbour Hotel. Here we sat on the deck, looked out over the water, tucked in to huge plates of fish and chips and I was able to sample the various ales on offer. Victoria Bitter (which tasted very much like lager - not unpleasant, but still, definitely lager), Coopers Pale (lager again), and some other one whose name escapes me but which sounded interesting (also lager). Not that I didn't like the beers in Oz - a bar in Darling Harbour had a great range of local brews none of which were "just lager", but I guess it's fair enough that if the temperatures are in the 30s most people want something cold and fizzy.

Conspicuous by their absence were Fosters and Castlemaine XXXX. I'd been led to believe (by years of amusing adverts depicting the lives of typical antipodeans) that after a hard day wrestling crocodiles, sledging 'Pommie' batsmen or attending the opera, the Aussies liked nothing more than a nice pint of the 'Amber Nectar' or the one in the yellow can with the warning crosses on the side. Nothing could be further from the truth it would seem - Fosters, in particular, appears to be nothing short of an elaborate hoax, designed to persuade young lads in Bradford that it's OK to wear swimming shorts and flip-flops in the pub. It certainly doesn't seem like you'd persuade Australians to drink it!

As seaside resorts go we liked Manly (it reminded me a little of Abersoch but maybe the heat had got to me). We could imagine working in the Central Business District, knocking off work. jumping on to a ferry and half an hour later riding the waves. Perhaps no one actually does this as they're working every hour god sends to pay their rent, but it's a nice idea.

Before we set off back to Sydney, Justine (with my earlier, surf-hunk delusions in mind) tried to persuade me to buy an item which had caught her eye in a nearby shop. A pair of blue, figure-hugging, Speedo-type swimming trunks with the word "Manly" boldy splashed across the 'bottom'. I took a moment to imagine how I might look wearing this particular item of beachwear (and also the comments which a photo posted here might trigger), then politely declined and we boarded the ferry.

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