Cremorning glory Spirited away

Very few of the things on this trip have been planned further in advance than 24 hours or so. Really, parkrun and the brewery crawl were the only things on the list prior to the UK. Hence Tuesday night was when Wednesday's plans were fomented, but even then it was only a vague "go here" type thing. How would I get there?

Opal. Fruits.

Well, I was up early again to spend a bit of uncling time prior to vacation care - today, the girls were off to the theatre - so my options were wide open. Despite being in possession of a travel card, I told Sal I'd considered walking and she thought it was a good idea, giving me a rough idea of how to get from home all the way to the Harbour Bridge without spending much time on the main roads. Let's do this then.

I'm up here, but need to be down there, on the right.

Almost got lost straight away. I know there are steps down to the Spit somewhere, and the back streets behind Seaforth feel right, but pavements disappear very quickly and it looks like I have to walk through someone's garden almost. But I press on, and no-one stops me, and hey - there's the staircase. These are even steeper and made of more metal than I remember. I'm not a big fan.

Across the Spit Bridge, circle around under it to cross the road away from the Mosman parkrun venue, past the cafe and expensive boat sales place and then back up hill, winding around Parrawi road rather than staying on the main drag.

I don't think I've ever been up here before. Obviously, it looks spectacular. I'm not consulting a map and don't really know how long to stay on this road. The pavement disappears and reappears and there's a "hey, go up here for <such and such>" sign I ignore. Eventually, and after a lot of ascent, I think perhaps I should divert from this road so choose to climb the Quarry Steps. This proves to be a mistake, as I end up rejoining the main road - Spit Road/Military Road, which Parrawi itself rejoins a few hundred yards later. Ah well, never mind. The stairs are good for my calves, right?

I stay on this road for a while, mostly because I want to buy a Diet Coke and wouldn't mind some sweet snack either. So I pop into a newsagent, which is the least well stocked for drinks and snacks of any I've ever been in, devoting most of the space to stationery and magazines instead.

The main road is not without its charm, mostly in the form of the excellent Orpheum picture house with fantastic art deco font goodness. It's so damn sunny the only place I can stand to get half decent lighting is within the frontage of an intrusive medical practice.

I go back to the previous junction to guess my way through back streets again, thinking I pretty much need to just zig zag through to my right and eventually I'll get to the harbour bridge. Immediately, though, I'm confronted with a somewhat weird "town centre".

The roads are not quite as well to do as those on the insular peninsular, but it's still a very bloody lovely part of Sydney to waltz around. I've got me headphones on, listening to Stone Cold Steve Austin interview Bayley, and refusing to consult maps. At one junction I have a clear view of the bridge, at exactly the angle it should be if I'm heading the right way. This is easy.

Winter in the city and the air is still.

Some of the downhill turns seem suspicious though, because I need to stay fairly high up, I think. But there's some tantalising stairs and a sign over the way, requiring investigation.

A reserve? Go on then, this looks fun. It starts with a lot of steps downwards, soon flattening off slightly to merely downhill paths. I guess I'm heading to the coastline, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Tell you what as well, the place smells absolutely incredible. Probably because of all the large eucalyptus trees 'n that. This is proper bushland in the city.

It's mostly deserted, apart from the family shouting after their disobedient dog that's off the leash in this no-off-leash-dogs reserve. Heavy sigh.

There's stairs and corridors in all kinds of directions, but I'm going to go as straight as I can.

What with all the descending, there's soon some water in view.

Doesn't take long for me to actually reach water level. If I'm heading to the bridge, this is bad, but look just there on the right: that's a public ferry stop!

Sure enough, entirely by accident I have reached Cremorne ferry stop. I don't tap my card in because there's 17 minutes until the next service and anyway it's too early for me to give up just yet. It's not a horrid place to wait for public transport though.

Ascending from here, the vegetation thins out a lot and it becomes a lot more "nice park". Also there are now signs, which I quickly snap but don't read, then or later. Perhaps I will once I've posted this.

I'm regularly being overtaken, then overtaking, the same few people. They walk slower than me but I keep stopping to take photos. I think they're getting annoyed by this but don't really care. As the path goes between trees and houses, there's a sign to a special garden, which involves rocky steps and overgrown fauna. Seems interesting.

The steps start off pretty ordinary, with the greenery only slightly getting in the way. But very shortly the steps become just rocks, and the plants completely dominate. Some of it is a bit treacherous, slippery, steep, and I have to hold onto a tree or clamber a bit to maintain my footing.

I get back down to sea level and feel a bit, hmm, is getting back up going to be so easy? My ankle has nearly turned over a couple of times and I'm amused by the potential idiocy of spraining it and getting stuck.

The final path out really does seem impenetrable, but there's an alternate and whew, I'm back from my intrepid side trip and back onto the path.

As far as I know I'm now walking to Cremorne Point ferry stop, so I'm confused as to how I'm ascending again. A few more people start to appear within the reserve and then, oh! Water, the CBD, and that bridge thing again.

It's down beneath me, but beforehand there's time to walk up to the point itself. There's more dogs not on leashes, a playground, and a decent place to sit and contemplate. Oh, and some Irish obelisk.

At the ferry stop there's an 8 minute wait until the next boat to Circular Quay. I tap in, and stop my watching recording my walk. It's been about 9km, it hasn't been flat, and I'm pretty drenched in sweat under my coat.

Onboard the Friendship I get a prime seat near the front to the side, and video the entire journey using Hyperlapse to create a time lapse video, transforming the 6 minute ride into 90 deeply unimpressive seconds I subsequently delete without anyone else ever seeing them. Good eh?

Once on the ground on the other side, I consult a map to figure out a walking route to my actual destination and discover it's 4 miles away. What! Screw that. I'm gonna have a burrito instead then get a train. The food goes down well, but the "hot" sauce is easily the weakest hot sauce I've ever had. Instagram seems to know, and abuses me.

Back into the station and to my surprise the machine tells me I'm still on a transfer, not new journey. Up on the platform and the view, with no windows, is boringly tremendous.

It's a good job I'm getting tired of all the awesome, because the train ride is monotonous and I rise from subterranea at Green Square. Never been to this part of town before, I figure that with my colour-blindness it'll be basically the same as Red Square, right? Well, no, not quite.

Right outside the station is an art.

Otherwise... nothing. I don't mean desolation, I mean nothing of interest. On my left is a huge road junction, across the street is a HUGE building site though without any actual buildings being built (yet). I'm directed by Google to head up Botany Road to my right, a walk which takes me past a variety of trade showrooms and timber yards and the like. There's some kind of cattery, I think, and a man wearing a PRAYING MANTIS MARTIAL ARTS jacket in front of me.

At a junction I have to change direction, next to a chicken shop which seems to sell fried chicken by the kilo, and the Rosebery Hotel. I've learnt on this trip that any pub called the <district> Hotel is the worst place to drink and this one, from the outside, isn't making me rethink that opinion.

Along until Dunning Avenue and then right. I think this is where I need to be, but things do not look auspicious. It's just a large industrial area, full of more showrooms and yards and factories and warehouses and only the very occasional coffee shop or whatever, in position for the captive market of everyone who works around here. There's buildings advertising office space by the square foot, and not many people about.

I stop to consult a map, again. Have I gone the right way? Yes, yes I have in fact I'm apparently less than 300ft from where I need to be. It doesn't seem obvious until, at the next yard entrance I see a restaurant and then, oh, check out that sign. It's the Archie Rose distillery!

This is my destination for the day. I'd consulted at length their phenomenally hipster menu online so I knew exactly what I was after. The place was basically empty: 2 women on one table, about to leave, and some folk doing distillery business at another. I perch at the bar and order a Boilermaker.

No idea what the name means, but a Boilermaker is where they match spirits with beer. You can see why it attracts. As it's being served, the barman and I have a chat and he explains they're making 9 spirits here, selling 7 right now: 4 gins, a whisky, a vodka, and a white rye spirit. He asks what brings me there, I tell him the spiel - I'm on holiday visiting family, but today the adults are all at work and the kids are vacation care so I thought I should go drinking alone. Go me!

Oh boy, they have a lot of spirts here. Bottom shelf mostly gin, middle shelf mostly whisky, top shelf their own stuff.

Here's my boilermaker ingredients: a 54.8% whisky paired with a 10% imperial stout. Unsurprisingly, this was extravagantly nice.

The back of the seating area is full of actual barrels ready to be shipped.

I take my time, what with having barely eaten, expended a lot of calories, and the strength of the drinks (not to mention the price). Me and the barman chat every so often, and I scan all the bottles for things I recognise. It seems weird to spot Lamb's Rum amongst all the good stuff. Likewise Campari.

Some ingredients of the cocktails on the menu look interesting. I've made a note to buy some smoked lemonade to take back to Seaforth, and also look up what "bartenders' rinse" is. But of more importance is to decide what's next: a flight of Australian gins, or an Archie Rose flight? Considering where I am I opt for the latter, but also I need food. There are sharing platters on the menu, nothing for solo drinking champions, so I ask the new barman just how much food there is on the meat and cheese platter. Will I be able to finish it by myself? I believe in you, he says. C'mon then, meat and cheese me up.

Holy shit. That is a lot of food. I've got loads of bread, two weak chillis, some brie, some cheddar, some pesto and olives and hummus and a ton of prosciutto, salami, and ... cold roast beef? Weird, but I'll give it a go. It's nice, not amazing - I'm not much of a beef fan - but it definitely fills a hole. I eat a load before starting on the spirits, then tuck into the vodka then the gin, and finish the food before the last two drinks.

This counts as victory.

The drinks, in order, are vodka, gin, distillers' strength gin, and white rye spirit. Drinking the last involves using a dropper to apply just the right amount of water to unleash the taste. Seriously? OK look, if that's how you're telling me to do it then I'll play ball, but this kinda shit needs to be stopped. Just give me a glass of water next time, y'hear?

I enquire about the lemonade. While they do sell it as a mixer, they don't have bottles they can sell. However, they do have a business card for the place which makes and sells it in the city. And then, on the verge of leaving, I'm convinced to have a beer because, not written in the menu, they also have a rotating selection of craft beers. I get a wattleseed lager from the Mismatch brewery, which is not the greatest beer I've ever had but I'm the first ever check-in for it on untappd which pleases me greatly. It was already on the app, but zero check-ins. Added by the brewery?

Anyway. Hmm. Bit drunk by now. Not hugely, but a bit. I pay my tab, adding a bottle of their gin at the last moment. After a brief tussle with locks on the loo door I'm ready to retrace my steps to Circular Quay, only briefly waylaid by a roaming Ibis.

Down to the platform, wait for the train, get off at Circular Quay. I'd debated with Helen what route to take back and she voted bus, but it was only 15 minutes until the Manly Ferry so what the hell, I'll get a boat.

Turns out the sun is setting over Sydney and things are quite pretty, again. Even the brutality of Circular Quay station as the boat pulls away.

I spend the whole journey sat facing backwards, only getting kicked by the uncontrollable child to my left a few times. The views are just ridiculous and nigh-on everyone is taking loads of photos. I've got tens of the fuckers, almost all identical, but really this one kinda says it all.

Half hour later and I'm off the ferry and up to the bus stop. Citymapper continues to be much worse in Sydney than it is in London, this time telling me it'll take me 47 minutes to get home. Not a bad number in isolation, but this 47 is made up of a 1 minute walk, 0 minute wait, 9 minute ride, 8 minute walk. Um.

In reality it's a 0 minute walk, 0 minute wait - I look up and the bus comes round - and etc. Soon enough I'm back home, only about half hour late than I should have been. Harry is not exuberantly annoyed by my tardiness, which is weird. She's quiet. Turns out she's got a temperature. Oh dear. Alex and I play the catching game with a much bigger toy than before and, obviously, I lose again.

There's a night cap of the gin I bought. It's very smooth and lovely and kinda liquoricey. On the TV is a guy painting a portrait of a celebrity while interviewing him about all the horrible health issues his parents and sister have had in his life. I'm inappropriately pedantic when he complains that cancer is unfair because it doesn't discriminate. And then I'm appropriately tired and ready for bed.

Thursday is my last full day in Sydney on this trip. Perhaps I should spend the whole time practicing catching, so I can finally win a game?

Created By
Darren Foreman
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