I have often dismissed the outpouring of regret when a celebrity passes away. In those times I usually like to point out that while the celebrity lived (and died) pretty well, many unfortunates lived and died in horrible circumstance, unnoticed. No less can be said of one of my culinary icon’s, Chef Paul Prudhomme. Having said all of that, I would like to take my moment to eulogize a person that had no small amount of impact on my life (and to be sure, the lives of many). Continue reading
We eventually arrived at the “camp” on the George Parks Highway just north of the National Park entrance. This unincorporated strip of camper parks, hotels and services, between Cantwell and Healy is a massive seasonal undertaking to serve the crowds of tourists who visit through the summer. If my experience working in the Grand Tetons is any guide,the camp probably only starts moving in mid May, and closes down quickly in mid September.
My morning hikes were grand and full of wildlife, dozens of Kangaroos, and a big black (I later learned poisonous) snake I met sunning on my path. It was behind a small boulder on my trail, and as my walking stick (leading) hit the path, the snake jumped startled and I almost fell off the cliff backing up and shouting Jesus Christ! We scared the bejesus out of each other and the snake seemed more than happy to head up hill quickly putting distance between us.
I headed down about midday for the near 2-hour drive to the coast, and gosh what a mistake I made. I had the idea that the GOR was a kind of scenic drive, so I had hiked about 10K in the morning. Well the western half of the “Great Ocean Road is a kilometer or two inland from the fragile coast, so every scenic outlook required a 1 or 2 kilometer round trip hike to view. Certainly stunning coastline, but boy were my dog’s tired.
Near the end of this section I cam upon a very nice Rainforest Walk at Maits Rest. I was knackered, but it is a lovely stroll through a temperate rainforest just a few miles above the south coast.
I arrived a bit late to Apollo Bay, a lovely resort community, and stayed the night at the Eco Bay YHA, another Eco friendly YHA, and also very nice and clean. Seems these greens know how to manage their properties. Dinner tonight was a simple Bucatini Aglio e Olio with long beans. NO recipe necessary with this. Simmer onion and garlic (and fresh chili if you like) to taste in a load of olive oil. Add in the beans and cover to let steam in their own juice. Slash with a bit of lemon, salt and black pepper just at the end, and toss with freshly cooked pasta.
The second day of the GOR was a bit more sedate, as the coast turned from sandstone to granite. This portion is a delicious scenic drive bringing back memories of both Amalfi and Northern California. I started the day with the best breakfast I have had to date, Eggs Florentine done very right (loads of fresh spinach and a nice thick hunk of toasted bread) by the chef at La Bimba in Apollo Bay, and I ended in the evening with an astonishingly good meal in North Melbourne at Sosta Cucina, on 12 Errol Street. If the rest of my meals in this area are this good, I am going to be very happy indeed.
“Aye, aye! And I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up.” – Captain Ahab
I woke as early as is reasonable for a cultured man on holiday, with but one thing in mind: The seeking and finding of Doyle’s on Watson’s Bay, before lunch! After a quick breakfast of granola bars, milk and coffee…ahh coffee… I set off from Bondi Beach YHA (a very fine place to stay) and boarded the first available bus to the point.
As the bus lumbered to a halt at the Watson’s Bay terminus I leaped to my feet and grabbed for my bag in hasty anticipation of the lovely battered white fish, and deep fried potato chips that were surely nearby, in space if not in time. I was carrying my full bag; the 20pound big bag along wit the daypack, as I had to move down south to Cronulla after this quest was complete. In my enthusiasm for fish, I wrenched my thigh muscle while trying to hoist the bag onto my shoulders just as the bus stopped. Of course physics being what they are the bag chose to continue on a little after the bus decided to stop, and it took a small fraction of my thigh muscle permanently away with it…I’ll heal, in time. But it is no time to tarry now, licking our wounds. If my deep study and preparation are to bear any fruit I must get off the bus and fine this legendary Doyle’s.
The bus terminus is at the top of a rolling little park just above the city facing side of the point and I staggered down towards the sea now in desperate hope that Doyle’s would be there near the waters edge.
We approach through the park and its splendor of foliage, look there, at the edge of the wharf, can it be? It looks suspiciously like a chip shop, cant make out the name yet. Wanting to sprint, but now feeling the injury of my right thigh, I take a gentlemanly stroll down, down, towards what fate has in store.
YES! Alas, this may not be proof in the efficacy of prayer, nor proof of a divine creator who aids men in their quests, but certainly that sign, that delightful painted clapboard sign, is as beautiful a sign as any Joan of Ark may have seen. “Doyles Fishermans Wharf” in pearl white letters over a sky blue background, and just below, a promise as powerful as the rainbow was to Noah, another sign: “Order Here”!
I had arrived. I approached with a spring in the step (even though my leg had commenced to complain of its ill treatment), to the counter where the lovely seafaring maiden was waiting to take my order.
It was too early for lunch, just 11am, so I asked in a nervous squeak (being afraid that any misstep might cost my a chance at ordering later) is there a locker nearby where I can store my bag? The fishwife (I am sure she must have been) said in the most lovely, down-to-sea accent: “Aw New The’rse no lockah ‘round heeyah” (she could have been from any English speaking fishing village, the accent was not Boston, Cockney or Australian, but rather ecumenical in that regard. “But if ya loik I could ask the boss if we could look after yo bag foh ya.” “Oh yes please” I said and after a moment she came back and told me all would be well, in time here astute observation would be proven correct.
I headed back up the hill to the Sydney Harbour National Park and had a stunning one-hour (and given the thigh strain, difficult) hike. It is really quite beautiful there, and in my meandering I stumbled on one of Australia’s Naval Bases. The MP was polite in turning me away from the restricted area, and onto “the path all the joggers take.”
With the lovely village explored, the rocks by the sea thoroughly trodden, time consumed, and hunger piqued, I sidled back down to that lovely fishwife to deliver my order. “One Seafood Combination please, with fresh scallops, calamari, prawns, fish and chips…and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.”
Doyles has two shops, a table service on the beach (about 100 feet away) and the wharf casual chip shop. They both have the same food and stunning view of Sydney, so save your coin unless you are entertaining, and eat your fish-n-chips the way nature meant for you to – casual style.
The meal? Honestly the Noosa Heads Surf Rescue Club in Queensland still has my award for best of the best, I think it is the atmosphere more than anything. Doyles is very good, and the adventure of finding it made it even more enjoyable, but it is a bit touristy with buses and ferries full of tourists coming in.
After lunch I collected my bag and generously tipped the fishwife for her invaluable service. She seemed surprised, but hey, that is my entire life possessions for the coming month in there, well worth ten AUD for the service.
Once sated I quickly boarded the bus to the train and the train to Cronulla, Sydney’s most southern beach town. Cronulla is not much to speak of, run down and apparently the host of a race riot in 2005, also home of a very long and dune-infused beachhead, as well as a National Surfing Reserve, and apparently the former home of 7 women who perished in the Bali Terrorist Bombings. Other than that, it has little to offer. The YHA there was unremarkable in every way, and if I could live it over I would have stayed elsewhere. Though I will say if you do find yourself in the area, the Italian restaurant, Fratelli De Mare is excellent, and my breakfast today at Kaffenio was also very good.
This afternoon I made my way back into the city to Glebe, where I am spending my final night in Sydney. Glebe is a quite and comfortable little area with row upon row of antique houses, and a mile long street of cafes and art shops, very pleasant and kind of newage-ish, actually a good sedate finish to a rather anxious and exciting first week on the road. I started my tour of Glebe with a stroll past Sydneys other bridge, (who’s names escapes me and is probably as unremarkable as the bridge itself); to the very promising Sydney Fish Market. The Market was great fun, and while I skipped past the many fish-n-chip offerings (my appetite sated, at least temporarily) I dined on fresh-cracked oysters and a fresh seafood and avocado pizza. I was surprised to find that Sydneys fishing flee it owned by connected-looking Italians. Grandma Gigante would have been proud.
My visit to Sydney was a mixed bag, some lessons learned, some unease remaining, interesting adventure, and more than a dollop of “what am I doing?” Henry and I are both suffering separation anxiety, but we agree to soldier on for now. Tomorrow I jump a morning flight to the top of Australia, Darwin.