Another excellent weekend, though with something of a bittersweet ending.
Friday night was Verdi’s Requiem (jump to 9:20 for the most recognizable and stunning movement, Dies irae) at the Sydney Opera House with fahye, _leareth, and toujin1. I still love going down to the opera house at night just for how staggeringly scenic the setting is, with the iconic shape lit up and towering above you, and the equally iconic harbor bridge and cityscape wrapping around Circular Quay. To really add a kicker to the evening, as I got out of the cab and started walking towards the opera house steps, I found the steps were completely occupied with a crowd of people, some holding boxes of popcorn, and almost the moment I arrived, Swing Time with Fred Astaire began to play on the huge screen set up opposite the crowd. Apparently every night that weekend was a free musical movie on the opera house steps, and I had walked right up for the kickoff. I was barely able to tear myself away to meet everyone else downstairs at the bar.
The performance itself was remarkable, with three choir companies combined for an easily 300+ voice choir. A couple moments of the soprano soloist made the hair on my neck stand up. And for the evening finisher, we all headed to Pancakes on the Rocks, which I’ve been wanting to go to since I first found out about it. To my complete delight, it’s like a Denny’s installed in a building built in 1870. I naturally had pancakes and hashbrowns to celebrate.
Saturday I woke up and stepped out to breakfast to find the air was thick with smoke, apparently over the entire city, from backburning in the bushland to prepare for fire season. This not only cut my breakfast outside short, but helped encourage me to head up to Hunter Valley for the day to go to the Bimbadgen Blues, Roots, and Soul Festival at one of the wineries. Since it wasn’t even going to start until 3, I took the opportunity to take the scenic route, as I tend to do, and once I broke past the wall of smoke rising from the surrounding forest, I had a fantastic leisurely drive through countryside and even along a long winding gravel road through Yengo National Park.
The festival itself was a bit deflating at first after such a peaceful drive, as I arrived to a massive crowd of hopelessly trendy 20-something Sydneysiders who were, predictably, completely piss drunk. On realizing the 100+ person line was for the booze tent, I gave up on the idea of sampling the local wine, and just settled in for the music. Thankfully the scenery and the music did not disappoint, but the highlight turned out to be a surprise, a set of pure rock by Kram, drummer from Spiderbite, neither of whom I had ever heard of. It left an otherwise mellow day on a perfect high note as I drove back to Sydney.
Sunday was thankfully smoke-free, and being woken by phone calls at 8 and 9 helped me resolve to get out of bed in a timely fashion and get my kayak on the water. The weather was another perfect day, and I had lots of time, so I opted to go further than I had before and explore some new territory. I paced myself, but felt comfortable covering so much distance. As if to reward me for my commitment, as I paddled into the quiet Bantry Bay I passed one of the many boats moored along the harbor with groups aboard enjoying the weekend sun, I exchanged waves with the occupants and heard the magic words called out, “Hey mate, wanna beer?” Pulling alonside, we chatted about the area, exchanged pleasantries, and I pushed on into the secluded and still mangrove shallows at the back of the bay, a bottle of Toohey’s Dry tucked under my leg. Sliding between the trees, I pulled up my rudder and drifted for a while through the crystal-clear water, often no more than a foot deep, sun filtering through the leaves overhead. Bird calls, some raucous, some exotically melodic, occasionally broke the quiet background buzz of cicadas while I kept my paddle strokes as light as possible, reticent to break the stillness more than I had to. Polishing off my beer just as I broke free of the trees again, I warmed up my shoulders that had begun to stiffen and made a beeline back for Tunks Park, the wind thankfully at my back the whole way. All told I covered a remarkable 12.5k (nearly 8 miles), and somehow it doesn’t hurt to move today.
As the perfect cap to the weekend, I joined Sam, Jess, Adam, and their visiting fellow Canadian at South for the usual decadently delicious meal. The country fried steak and mashed sweet potatoes overwhelmed me. The lemon meringue pie nearly killed me. It was fabulous.
The bittersweet came from a conversation I had just before dinner, which I’m still mulling over. It was not an easy one, and kept me up thinking for a while. After thinking on it, more needs to be said, so I hope there will another chance to say it.