9,280 Miles: Here Come the Roosters! Sydney, Part V

Saturday morning came, and it was as crisp and clear and beautiful outside as we’d ever seen. (Seriously. There’s something about the air in Australia…we loved it beyond words.)

Russ made a fantastic–albeit random–decision a few days before and had gotten tickets for the Sydney Roosters game that afternoon. We know absolutely nothing about rugby, of course. But on a run through the park, Russ had noticed that the Roosters were going to play right at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which happened to be walking distance from our apartment.

When we woke up that morning to what felt like the most glorious morning in late October, we knew Russ had made a great call. It felt too great outside to even think about museums or indoor activities, so we headed back to Bondi.

I mean, can’t you just smell that clean, crisp beach air?

We walked down to the boardwalk and discovered that an outdoor ice skating rink had been set up.

Ice skating.

In July. (Very novel for Northern Hemispherers, that’s for sure.) Jack opted to go for a stroll while we waited for Tucker and Theo’s time slot.

sending my 15 year old out on the Bondi-to-Coogee path; he only went out to the point past Icebergs (far left)

Tucker loves all things X-game related (skateboarding, surfing, rock climbing…you know, all the dangerous sports), so he wanted to check out the Bondi Skatepark.

Aussie skaters are just as daredevil-y as American skaters, btw

Along the boardwalk/path right in front of Bondi Beach is the Bondi Beach Graffiti Wall. Our trip to Valparaiso, Chile, had educated us a bit on art of graffiti and had shown us how beautiful it can be when done correctly. The Waverley Council took a unique approach to combat wayward spray paint wielding defacers, and opted to require that artists obtain a permit prior to painting. Artists must apply for this permit which allows him/her to design and paint one particular section of the wall which will remain untouched by others for roughly 6 months (Aussies–being Aussies–are good and respectful rule followers). Lucky for us, July is the switching time; the area was covered with artists [legally] creating new murals over old ones.

Their methods were fascinating. This wasn’t a “grab a can of spray paint and have at it” thing; much like the street art in Valparaiso, these were incredibly well-thought-out, complicated murals painted by professionals. Watching them paint was hypnotizing.

Then it was ice skating time!

Watching the boys ice skate with waves crashing behind them on Bondi Beach was surreal.

We cobbled together a makeshift lunch from a few different restaurants (Bondi Trattoria; The Bucket List) and did a little souvenir shopping before heading back to the apartment.

Then it was back to the apartment to get ready for the Roosters!

there was a lot of fighting over who got to nest in this little nook beneath the stairs…
one of the bluest skies we’ve ever seen…

The Roosters were playing at the Sydney Cricket Ground because their regular stadium, the Sydney Football Stadium, is undergoing a massive refurbishment. As you can imagine, the Cricket Ground is pretty spectacular; we’d never been to one before but the fancy cricket areas and cricket club member areas reminded me a little of Augusta National. Check out the required dress code for members.

The only thing we knew going in to the event was that the hometown Roosters were going up against the Newcastle Knights.

We knew we were going to absolutely love this when we could hear the fans singing the Roosters’ fight song as we were walking in. This may be the most perfect fight song in the history of fight songs. (Trust me: you MUST click that link.) To further hit home just how incredible this little ditty is, I’m including the entirety of its lyrics below…

Easts know how to play the game; they play it hard and fair
Easts know how to win the game; they win more than their share
They’re great to see in action, these boys who show the way
Put the Roosters on the field, they’ll show you how to play!

Here come the Roosters, the best we’ve ever seen
The red, white and bluesters, the Eastern Suburbs team
“Easts to win” shout the cry that everybody knows
If you play this football game beware the Roosters crow

They’re great to see in action, these boys who show the way
Put the Roosters on the field, they’ll show you how to play
Here come the Roosters, the best we’ve ever seen
The red, white and bluesters, the Eastern Suburbs team!

Do you see that? That’s THREE STANZAS worth of unabashed, hardcore Rooster spirit, right there. The author of this jingle gets mad props from me; it takes lyrical dexterity to coin a new word to rhyme with “Roosters” and no nickname rolls off the tongue quite like “the Eastern Suburbs team.” Every single fan, young and old alike, belts this entire song out whenever something good happens on the field (…er, pitch), whenever something bad happens, and whenever else they jolly well feel like it. There are no words to describe the awesomeness of it. Here’s our reaction as we walked to our seats for the first time:

The fight song lit a fire under us; we needed to up our Rooster spirit…

…so we made a pit stop at the free face-painting booth.

The sun began to go down, which only added to the ambiance. (FYI: sunset in Sydney was at 5:07pm that day…southern hemisphere winter and all.)

The Roosters crushed the Knights 48-10. We had no idea what was going on, but there was constant action, so we just cheered when the crowd around us did. That Saturday we were the Roosters’ biggest fans ever.

We had a blast.

more fight song singing on the way out…

We were very sad to see the game end so quickly (rugby games are only 80 minutes long (with a 10 minute rest period in the middle). It was electrifying being around that many people in their element. We walked back to the apartment, riding the high of sweet, sweet victory, and displaying our unending support of our new favorite Eastern Suburbs team by singing the fight song (which we’d memorized after our nonstop exposure to it).

Once back at the apartment, Russ pulled up a recap about the game. Give it a read…it’s hilarious (and best read aloud with an Australian accent). While we knew next to nothing about rugby, we were hooked. We closed out one of the best Saturdays of the Big Trip tucked up in our cozy apartment, singing the Roosters song and watching old clips of them playing…which still didn’t help us figure out the rules or the terminology, but that didn’t put a damper on our moods one bit.

It was a perfect Saturday.

9,280 Miles: Bondi to Coogee (Sydney, Part II)

(This one’s going to be flooded with photos, so consider yourselves forewarned…)

Before we jet off on any trip, I spend way too many hours reading everything I can get my hands on about our destination, solely to steel my nerves. What typically begins as a Google search on must-sees in a city often winds up with a trip far, far down the deepest rabbit holes of the internet. These crazy diversions often yield interesting sidebars, and I wind up with a solid list of things that we absolutely cannot miss. The Bondi-to-Coogee Coastal Walk was one of those can’t-be-misseds.

After an interesting breakfast at our apartment (interesting due to its composition: cheese, crackers, dry cereal…), we hopped in a cab for the surprisingly quick ride out to Bondi Beach. It was Wednesday, the 17th of July…we think.

There’s no other way to put it: Bondi Beach is spectacularly beautiful. It’s huge and wide and rounded and–well–just like you’d imagine a place known all the world over to be. There’s something about the beach in winter, too, that makes it even more magical. We fell in love. Hard.

An incredible paved trail wraps around the steep cliffs that surround the inlets housing several beaches between Bondi and Coogee. Like everything else we encountered in Australia, this nearly 4 mile trail is impeccably maintained and absolutely beautiful.

Before we could get started on the trail, someone had to take a peek at the skatepark…

We wound up lingering around Bondi for close to an hour because we just couldn’t pull ourselves away. We saw something incredible in every direction we turned.

After taking more photos than you can shake a stick at, we finally set out on our walk. We headed south on the trail and before we even got our heart rates up a notch, we came up to the world famous Bondi Icebergs Club and its fascinating, cliff-hanging pool.

this is one tough dude, swimming in the middle of winter in an unheated, ocean-filled pool

Once past Icebergs, the next stop is Mackenzie’s Point. The rock walls making up the sides have some fascinating designs and patterns carved into them courtesy of being eternally pelted by ocean winds.

We managed to keep moving along, though we were absolutely amazed at every turn we made.

We shimmied around a rocky point and then took a ton of steps downwards toward Tamarama Beach and its Surf Life Saving Club–a club which I think I would not want to be a member of.

From Tamarama Beach, the coastal walk takes you around another point and down to the largest beach on the Bondi to Coogee walk: Bronte Beach.

these people are certifiably crazy; the waves were huge, there was a riptide warning, and the water was ice cold

From Bronte Beach, the path takes you up some steep stairs and on the edge of a road that’s lined with ridiculous houses overlooking the sea. Keep walking and you’ll go back down some more stairs (did I mention the path is chock full of steps leading up and down and up and down?) to a boardwalk that runs between the ocean and Waverley Cemetery. The cemetery opened in 1877 and is spectacular in a creepy, hanging-on-the-side of the world kind of way.

From the cemetery, we kept trekking and came upon the Clovelly Bowling Club. The Australians love them some lawn bowling; we stumbled upon several different lawn bowling clubs while we were there. This one was particularly appealing, and we seriously debated going in for a game, but in the end, hunger prevailed. (It’s also very difficult to say “Clovelly Crocodiles” five times fast. Give it a try…)

We wrapped around Shark Point, headed through Burrows Park, and wound around the skinny inlet of Clovelly Beach before tackling a very steep section of the trail that runs parallel to a road. Once we came over the top of the hill, Coogee Beach lay out before us.

Coogee is a quaint little suburb of Sydney dating back to the early 1800’s. We were starving, so we headed in to the Coogee Pavilion for lunch. Afterwards, Theo and I moseyed back to the incredibly cool game area inside the Pavilion while Jack, Tucker, and Russ headed over to the beach. (Tucker made the moderately unwise decision of getting in the water and then was wet and cold until we made it back to the apartment.)

The Coogee Pavilion was outstanding: it was lively and had tons of food options, and the game area in the back was a marvelous surprise filled with giant versions of tons of classic board games (think Scrabble and Backgammon) and not one single electronic or video game.

The Bondi to Coogee walk is a manageable distance, but there’s a lot of ups and downs going on, so at times it was slow going. It’s also a visual overload of beauty, and we didn’t want to miss a single thing. All this is to say we were dog-tired afterwards and headed back to the apartment for a much needed lie-down (we were still a little off due to jet-lag, too).

That night we took it easy once again. I wandered into the village of Paddington and found the cutest wine shop, Paddington Fine Wines, with the cutest sales clerk, Rosie. Russ wandered off in his own direction and found an incredible Italian restaurant we would end up visiting two more times before we left.

The fresh air definitely did us some good. We were finally adapting to Australian time (more or less) and were already dreading this portion of our big trip coming to an end. By the end of day 2, we were Australia fans for life.