Since I am a diehard Sydney fan ever since that first magical time ten years ago, I was willing to stay awake all night to make the early flight from the Gold Coast to here so as not to waste a single moment of our short stay at the Shangri La ( had stayed here earlier and loved its old world comforts. Am done with cutting edge, boutique hotels where bathrooms don't have doors and electronic panels challenge you at each step to press the right buttons just to get the room lights on). But guess what? That was not to be.We got to the airport nice and early, checked in like good ,little children on a school trip, went to grab a coffee in the departure lounge, only to be told by the Virgin Blue staff that the flight was cancelled. Yup. Just like that!! And to think this happens only in India! Hell no. It happens all over the world! Small comfort??And all this after my son had been asked to step aside and go throught the explosives sensor, and I had been asked to step aside and open all my bags for some extra screening!! Come on, guys. It's okay. We don't mind the scrutiny and go along with all this and more in the interests of safety. But I saw an elderly Indian couple going through the same procedure , which is supposed to be 'random'. Excuse me???
Cancelled flights happen. At least here in Australia, we were offered a free later flight by Virgin, to make up for the inconvenience and given a modest monetary compensation for a snack.But we only had three days in Sydney, now one day was almost gone!! No worries, mate. By the time we landed and checked in, it was close to 3 p.m. and what better time to hit Bondi Beach - yes, the same one. 'Baywatch' anyone?? I met the main guy who heads the Lifeguards on the beach patrol, and was told he is now a big star thanks to local tv stations regularly covering these hunks. He shrugged nonchalantly when I asked him about his star status, and we got him to invite us into the control room. Now, this was seriously impressive. It is manned by four or five very watchful men, monitoring the beach closely on closed circuit cameras and rushing to the help of anybody in distress, miles away. From there to the Trattoria close by ( lovely yellow building built around 1920 like most of the other buildings along the waterfront), for a prawn pizza , followed by a quick chakkar of the world famous Iceberg Bar, run by a mercurial Italian owner. This little outing sort of made up for lost time.
Well, Bondi Beach is all that it is cracked up to be. Then some.This time I noticed many more topless sun bathers, less pet dogs and generally a mellower buzz. The air was cool and clean, as we strolled along the strip before jumping into a cab ( very expensive ride!) back to the hotel. The Aussie dollar is very strong, which is not good news for us desis, since it doesn't take you too far. But it works brilliantly for Aussies on vacations in Obud and other similar destinations.
I was missing my bhaat too much, and had had enough of Baramundi, the local fish. When I ordered a lobster rissotto at Doyle's, I got strange looks from my son, which I ignored. Turns out it was a super choice, since Aditya ate half of it. A glass of well chilled Cloudy Bay did the rest. The elegant lines of the Opera House glimmering across the water, made up for the rough morning. Amit Dasgupta, our very erudite and astute Consul General in Sydney, and his daughter Diya, played attentive hosts. But more than that, it was the quality of their minds and converstaion that made the evening perfect. Sleep beckons.... till tomorrow and more Sydney....