The spousal unit and I are not long back from a mini-break. I had intended to come back to work after Easter for a day, and then spend a couple of days home with him, but the meetings to be held on the Tuesday after Easter one-by-one disappeared as people realised that it was school holidays and a short week and therefore not a bad time to take leave.
So I joined them. And we booked three nights in Coogee, and organised for Child the Younger to come home and keep an eye on the chooks and the cat. Scout, who spent the entirety of my working from home period under my computer monitors, is currently going through some stuff–as are we all. We lost her litter-mate (or “twin,” as I typically called her) about a month ago. After 15 and a half years, it’s a big adjustment for all of us, but Scout who’d literally never been separated from her a day in her life is really unsettled.
So with Rob and Scout ensconced in the house, we set off. When we were sent the “final” details on entry the night before we left, there was a casual mention of sorry, there’s no parking. Now, we’ve stayed in Coogee before (when I was doing block study at UNSW in my last degree and, prior to that, when the kids were still kids and did NIDA holiday programs), so we knew that searching for street parking could potentially take up the entire time. So we decided to abandon the car in Wollongong and use public transport in Sydney.
I suppose that should have been my first clue.
The second alarming note in the email was the orienteering instructions that came within it and casually mentioned that the entrance to the apartment was via an alleyway between a dive shop and a gym.
After this auspicious start, we headed up the narrow dark alleyway that constantly sprayed and dripped water from possibly unsanitary places, to an intersection with another alleyway where we needed to turn left. This was also helpfully marked.
There was a lot of rubbish and empty boxes to navigate here, but at the end of this alleyway, we turned right into another one. More helpful landmarks were found.
Then we headed over the sewer pipe with a hole in the lid, the smell as good a signal as any that we were nearly there. Past the toilet with overflowing bin, discarded rubber glove and empty Sanokil bin, and up the very narrow, very steep and very uneven stairs to open the lock box and argue with the clearly very expensive “European vacuum door” which required my full body hurled at it to open, and which also came with complex instructions about how to use the keys to lock and unlock the door, which were different depending on whether you were inside or outside.
It was perhaps no surprise that the apartment was also a bit underwhelming. We imagined a couple of blokey blokes organising this as their rental home. There were some expensive/high-end items in the unit, but the finishes were not quite there. My personal favourites were the expensive floor-to-ceiling tiles in the bathroom, which had never had a post-grout clean, offset with a door stopper that was on back-to-front. The floor tiles also seemed expensive, but I washed them twice and the water turned black both times.
The decorating was quietly hilarious. Attention to detail was not really a thing.
Still, the location was, as it said on the box, just steps to local eateries. Technically, the property is on Coogee Bay road, although the labyrinthine alleyways were to be located via nearby Arden St.
The description failed to mention that it was also mere steps above the trendy eateries and therefore a doof-doof soundtrack was provided until 10.30 pm each night (midnight on Saturday). And for consistency, from 10am we could hear the loud bass and encouraging shouting from exercise classes in the gym.
Unfortunately, I’m the one who chose this location, which I may never live down.
Still, we had a good time. From Arden St we only had to cross the road to be at the beach. I followed my Heart Foundation program and went for a walk 2 mornings in a row, and was up and dressing the third when I heard rain bucketing down and thought better of it.
We had lovely meals where ever we went: be it at the Coogee Bay Hotel or the Tropicana for lunch, or evening meals at Jack Horner’s, the RSL and La Spiaggia. The latter came about because Tony announced he felt like mussels, and I googled best mussels in Coogee. La Spiaggia was one of the eateries below the apartment. Despite not having booked, they found us a seat outside and the waiter was polite and attentive. We noticed at least two tables of Italians eating there, which we took as a good sign, and we weren’t disappointed. Tony has been ranking mussels up and down the NSW coast for some years now, and apparently these were “right up there.” I had a grilled seafood plate and was impressed.
The meal ended a bit hurriedly when Tony realised it was almost kick-off time for his fave football team, but we did have time to stop at a bottle-o.
In addition to eating Italian food and remembering our visit to Italy a couple of years back, we took advantage of the timing to go to the Royal Hall of Industries and check out the “Monet and Friends” exhibition. In true Sydney fashion, when we hopped in the cab and I confidently told the driver our destination, he replied, “where’s that?” That makes 100% of Sydney cabbies who’ve asked me for directions despite the fact that I opted for a cab because I’m not from Sydney and didn’t really know where I was going.
(We did not have the same issues with the Uber driver on the way back).
Now I had not much clue as to who Monet was until we visited L’Orangerie in Paris, which was my favourite museum/art gallery (the Louvre was overwhelming; the Musee d’Orsay we spent so long lining up to enter that we didn’t have enough time inside!)
But we loved everything about the exhibition, and regretted not learning about his inspiring gardens in Giverney sooner. That’s become a bucket list item.
The first room of the exhibition was more or less a traditional art gallery set-up, with info and art and timelines on the walls. There was a large installation though that allows you to “walk through” a water lilies painting and stand on his Japanese bridge. A nice older lady offered to take a photo for us, and then we headed into the second room, which was the immersive experience.
It was really cool to see everyone from small children to the elderly engaging with the projections and the quotations and the whole experience was a bit breath-taking.
In the apartment I scribbled a bit, and planned a bit, and over the course of the three days we agreed on where our next holidays might be. We started to form some plans for an overseas adventure, but during the course of the evening our esteemed PM did a Clayton’s-halt of the Astra Zeneca vaccine that I was due to received a couple of days later, and it immediately became evident that this decision, while inarguably the correct one, was also going to significantly slow Australia’s roll. So our dreams have a layer of watching brief, right now.