Bondi, Brissie & Byron Bay | 11-170917

Another week of sweeping landscapes and cityscapes, meeting and watching people glowing from health and happiness, fresh air, sunshine, wonderful coffee and nourishing natural foods, working from anywhere lovely with wifi (the stunning Sydney office, cafes in Bondi, the various homes), dreamy Airbnb flats and so much love and laughter between S and me… Australia! Waking up at 5:45am with the sunrise every morning, and heading straight out for a fresh walk in our neighbourhoods. Monday – Thursday in Sydney, where we are lodging right above the beach in Tamarama. One night in Brisbane, living in the leafy area of Newstead. Weekend in Byron Bay, staying in an eco farm cabin, with a view of orchards, bush and the ocean.

Monday. After a windy bicycle ride around Albert Park Lake, we pack our bags and head out for coffee and brekkie at cheerfully yellow-painted, all-together visually pleasing Good Egg. Early flight to Sydney. Work in the gate, on the plane and from our flat in Tamarama. Well, before work, we have to stretch our legs on the coastal walk right below our sweet, sweet abode… a pearl of a studio flat with a light and cheerful seaside feel to the decor, a pool and a stunning view of the crystal clear ocean… we jump out, laughing and smiling and hugging, down along the lane between the beautiful villas lighting up the green hills around us, breathing in the fresh air, loving the view, like coming home, walk over to Bondi, up Hall Street, and while S buys sandwiches and Allpress coffee from Cali Press, I go over to Bondi Bather and find myself a swimsuit – my last purchase here, in April, is covered in a pattern of photoshopped photographs of the pool at Icebergs, while my purchase today features a print of a wave beyond the same pool; pretty similar, but not quite; the styles are different too. The sales assistant and I recognise each other immediately. She gives me a laptop bag with my ($200!) acquisition, ‘because I’m a regular.’ So convenient – I really needed a bag for the new laptop I got the other day at work. It’s got the word ‘twoobs’ with nipples in the o’s written on it (last time, without having acquired my status of regular yet, I got an erotic novel written by one of the staff members), but apart from that it’s just black and practical. S and I meet on the street corner – he hands me a cup of my favourite coffee on earth, and then we head back – after a quick few laps in the icy cold pool at Icebergs (the first few seconds, I’m in shock, but then the temperature grows totally bearable, well, addictive, actually – it’s not cold; purely invigorating). Finally home, and working! Next to each other, on the sofa in our small studio. In the evening, we walk back over to Bondi for a fantastic heated vinyasa session at Power Living, after which we head over to a small speakeasy-style bar that S wanted to show me – he came here for mulled wine in June, when I was recovering from surgery in Singapore, and it really is a special place. Bold paintings on indigo blue walls, dimmed lighting, cosy ambiance between heavily loaded bookshelves and comfy leather furniture. We order today’s special, lamp meatballs in a hearty tomato sauce, and eat it with freshly baked organic bread and a glass of Malbec. Happy jazz playing. Back home for more work.

Tuesday. Coastal walk. Meditation on a big white rock poking out above the ocean, breeze, view, salty smell, people walking so purposefully past us, all in their yoga pants… we are the only ones dressed for office work. Brekkie at Bills. Coffee from Cali Press. Uber to work – our driver is a kundalini yoga teacher, who was originally a personal trainer at a gym, but got so tired of helping people to look good – now he wants to help them feel good too. In Bondi, he says, people are shallow and do yoga for the physical benefit only… we/he talks about the educational and healing aspects of kundalini the whole way…. At first, I just think to myself that I hope that it’s ok to want both, to look and feel good, as usually the two are connected… and …. I love how healthy, happy – and welcoming! – everyone in Bondi Looks. Haha, it’s so easy to judge people of being shallow – or too deep? Or to judge people who judge people. I really want a yoga top from Nimble in Hall Street – mainly because of the nice design and only secondarily because I could use one. I loved the yoga session we had on Monday night – for how it made me feel, both physically and mentally, and because the teacher and studio itself are wonderful. And because it’s lovely to do things with S. The best I can try is to be kind – to myself and people around me. Basic Hatha. Dynamic Vinyasa. Aligning Iyengar. Internally heating Ashtanga. (Un)Predictable Bikram. Sweaty Hot Yoga. Internal-Barrier-Breaking Kundalini. Connecting Yin. Relaxing Restorative. All those types of yoga, and there prescriptive emphasis ranging from purely physical to deeply spiritual. And then there’s looking at it from a different perspective – from that of a a human being moving and breathing, and if he or she is open to connections between physicality and the workings of their minds or the universe, whether it be to push themselves beyond preconceived limits or in any other way discovering new insights, the formalities are less important…. I think. There are many ways for people to find and nurture the connection between body, mind and soul, or any other great trinity, and there is so much for us to learn and enjoy if only we have the eyes to see it, the tongue to taste it and the hand to reach out and catch it. Everyone should have the chance to learn and grow at any stage – the world isn’t just divided into shallow or deep or any other opposites, I hope. We get to my office first, and I give S a small tour before he heads over to his office. The space is so magnificent – tasteful decor, spacious, sun-filled, with a park and skyline view from the terrace. I choose a comfy sofa in front of a panorama window as my work station. Walk down to Brickfields for lunch. Walk from the office in the golden hour light around 5pm, up the inclining streets of Surry Hills, soaking in the leafy beauty and visiting the Barre Body studio in this part of town for the first time. Such a powerful class – lovely teacher, lovely energy from the other girls in class, beautiful studio… ahh. It is great to walk through a door in a street you’ve never been in before and immediately feel welcome, in the right place, at home, engaged. Wander around the area after dark, up and down Crown Street. Grab a salad from one of the many health food stores. S picks me up in an Uber after a work dinner. We drive to Bondi Hardware for a drink, walk home, relax a bit, and then I have a work call at midnight.

Wednesday. Beautiful sunrise at 5:45 over our pool and the ocean, listen to Katie Melua, snuggle for a bit, ready to walk at 7am…. this coastal walk! Stop in the same spot as yesterday, by a special rock, sit down, meditate, breathe in the ocean breeze in the warm sunlight, walk across Icebergs, sun-drenched brekkie, green shakshuka, at Gusto Espresso Bar, after which S is off to work. I work from Bills in the morning, quiet, calm, full of people doing the same, as it is one of the only places, if not the only place in Bondi with wifi. Lunch time – check out the lovely gallery Aqua Bumps, buy a beautiful blue top in Nimble (a tradition now; I discovered the brand because S gave me a pair of their leggings for Christmas, and then I went into the beautiful store and bought another pair on my first trip to town in April), go for a quick dip at Icebergs, eat a smoothie bowl for lunch on the beach, which is full of relaxing people. Work from a bookstore all afternoon. Back to Power Living for a vinyasa class after work. Just as wonderful as Monday’s session. Walk in the dark over to North Bondi, loving the buzz of happy people going this way and that, checking out the pretty mix of Art Deco and glassy luxury apartments overlooking the beach. S is waiting for me at Rocker, maybe my favourite new bar and restaurant. He has a local craft beer and I an espresso martini from tap (!) in the beautiful bar section of the small space that elegantly balances a rustic feel with smooth minimalism. We share a range of delicious vegetarian dishes, and a fish, and the head chef comes over to talk to us for a while – we met him at the Hardware store last night, where he overheard us talking about his restaurant. Nice guy, who clearly is very passionate about his work.

Thursday. 6am walk the other way – along Tamarama Beach towards Bronte, where I went running every morning of our April trip (for the first time since my injury I feel a pang of deep longing to go running!), and from here we walk up through the residential streets, past massive luxury villas, and stumble upon Huxton’s, where we have an amazing breakfast in the sun-filled window. Next stop – the airport, where I buy the magazines, Frankie, Smith, Breathe and WellBeing. Love Aussie mags! In Brisbane, we jump on an Uber that drops S off at a government building for meetings and me in Newstead, where I check into our flat and head over to Evolve Cafe on the corner of our street to eat a smoothie bowl for lunch and work from there all afternoon. Late that evening, we meet for dinner with three of S’s business partners at a former brothel, Les Bubbles. It’s now a pretty decent, quite tastefully designed steak restaurant (with one item on the official menu and a secret menu for non-meat-eaters), and there is a hot tub in the downstairs bar. The people are lovely – very hearty and inclusive, and the conversation moves smoothly between work and pleasure; well, what they’re working on together is purely fun and enriching, actually, haha. After dinner – drinks and dancing to live music with the locals at The Bowery. My first impression of Brisbane summed up: very sensible, orderly and resourceful; not as charming as Melbourne or as glamorous as Sydney; but it definitely is welcoming and liveable 🙂

 

Friday. Wake at 5:30am as normal, get ready, go out for a sunny, fresh walk along the river – S has been here often before and is eager to show me the area. I love the combination of sturdy converted wool warehouses, quaint queenslanders, wild meadow flowers along the pavement, palm trees lining the streets, rowers on the water, joggers on the boardwalk and golden morning light framing it all. Tucked away in the leafy streets of New Farm, in an old charming Queenslander, we find Balfour Kitchen, where we enjoy a scrumpy round of crab omelette with chargrilled corn and bread, fresh fruit, freshly pressed watermelon juice and steaming coffee on the wrap-around porch. Go back to Evolve Cafe to work, side by side, until S is off for a business lunch. I wander around the sun-drenched area for a bit and end up buying a delicious vegan salad from Wilde Kitchen – which I consume on a bench by the river, before heading back to Evolve to work all afternoon.

 

Friday Night. hire car and drive out to Fingal Head for a stroll along the lake and on a deserted part of the wide white beach in the sunset… such amazing colours… S had wanted to take me here on our last trip, but as we were about to turn onto the road leading here from the highway, we saw that it was flooded and stayed where we were. Soon after passing that exit, though, we got stuck between two pools of water flooding the highway too. After our walk, we head over to the PB petrol station where we slept that night in April. We are both smiling as we recognise the place, walking into the kiosk like we’d walk into the grounds of our old high schools, looking at people like they don’t know what went down here. S is checking out displays on the shelves, fascinated, ‘these [pointing at a shining row of Maltesers] must be new, right?’ We walk over past the coffee machine and donut stall, looking at the bare tiles under the shining McDonald’s sign, the exact spot in which we slept, hours after having been brought to the place by a cheerful emergency rescuer in a fire truck. Surrounded by people who had places they’d rather be and / or had lost homes and pets, we experienced a moment of true unplanned adventure. Everyone was positive and kind. We talked, listened, laughed, sang and kept each other warm. Walked around the perimeter of our small island in meditative silence. Played Uno with new friends. Read awesome niche magazines. Ate carbs like never before or since. And have never been closer to a great flat white upon waking up in the morning. Arrived in Byron Bay around 24 hours later than planned, but that place is always there to return to and enjoy for however briefly. Such as tonight. We get to our cabin in the middle of the bush between the highway and the coast hours after sunset. As always, it’s exciting to think what the place will look like in daylight. Our hostess is so sweet – showing us around in the cosy well-kept cabin, she tells us lovingly about the 10 acre commune of which she owns 2.5. She lives next door and rents out two units, which she clearly gives as much love and attention as one would their own home. Our cabin is filled with artwork and flowers. We already feel at home. Drive into Byron for an aperol spritz and a jackfruit burger at Main Street Burger Bar, which is still as good and as vibey as it was when we last visited, and then walk over to Spar Express to buy a slice of raw vegan sugar free mango cheesecake to share (yep, I have also been dreaming about that one ever since April) when we get back to our cabin and cuddle up in the sofa with magazines and a big woollen blanket… ahh… I love the combination of hot days and chilly nights.

 

Saturday. Morning yoga on the porch, overlooking lush orchards, wild bush and the shining blue ocean. On both the main cabin and the small separate bathroom building, the wall facing all of these natural wonders is made of glass. I enjoy the most spectacular shower of my life. Make a cup of my favourite Pukka tea from the kitchen cabinet. Walk down through the orchard, along the paddocks, find our hostess saddling her two horses. She lets us pat them and introduces us to her remarkable relationship with the beautiful calm animals, who are so sensitive to her movements and head space. They are good teachers, reminding her to be present and confident. Drive into Byron for breakfast at the Farm. I just love that place – the natural food, the wholesome vibe, the wide range of people (well yummy hippies willing to pay a considerable amount of money for good quality goods, which were produced with the environment and community in mind) enjoying it, everyone from small kids to elderly having a party here at all times of the day, the rustic design, the manicured-ranging-to-wild nature. We walk up through the fields, the macadamia plantation, past the lake full of magpies, past the black pigs in their camping homes, watch a bunch of cute longhaired cattle, buy a banksia from the florist, our new favourite flower. Drive over to the Arts and Industry Estate and immediately become so fascinated by the creativity and energy of that little village. We have an appointment with the manager of Wild Nature, a line of organic aloe vera based skin care products that we love, at the factory, but he is running late, so we have time to check out a cool fashion store and an even cooler flower pot store, chatting for a while with the sweet owners. Back to Wild Nature – you can buy the products off the website, but they are not available in retail, as the company prefers to give their clients a personal consultation, either here at the factory or at various farmers markets. The manager gives us a hug as we hand him the banksia and tells us that he has a close relationship with over 1000 clients, many of which are adults who grew up with the products and want to continue the tradition. At the Byron Bay Market back in April, we actually bought our first creme as if it were off the shelf, as we were too busy enjoying the ambiance at the market to really listen to the sales pitch, and the product kind of spoke for itself – so pure, clean, rich and perfect for our skin types … but we appreciate the intention… and the long chat… and end up leaving the grounds with pretty much the whole product range. Drive down to the beach to lie in the sand and snooze, read magazines, take in the sweeping views of the white sand, the blue water, the black dots representing surfers, the green hills, the white lighthouse. Go for a swim, hopping, dancing, laughing, hugging in the forceful waves. Walk through town, browsing in the clothes, homeware and yoga gear stores and buying a bottle of pinot noir from Mornington Peninsula. Drive home and jump in the hot tub with a load of raspberry bubble bath, the bottle of wine and a salad made from kale and spinach from the garden, left at our door by our sweet hostess, and lemon juice and apples from The Farm. Bath and eat and drink and smile as the sun is setting just in front of us.

Sunday. Morning yoga on the porch. Drive into town for brekkie at Bay Leaf Cafe, where we also went last time, haha. It is sort of in the touristy, luxury Bohemia, end of town. Fresh, natural, healthy and tasty food, great coffee and tea, general kind and cheerful vibe… Meet a lady that hosted S the first time he was in town, a few years ago, and her dog. Chat for a bit. Finish our delicious drinks. Head off on a road trip in the hinterland – navigating through the winding hilly roads overlooking pure beauty. S wants to show me the charm and various types of hippie vibes of Bangalow, Federal and Brunswick Heads. Tiny villages with quaint architecture and awesome hipster cafes. At the last stop, we wander down on the beach to collect shells, stretch out our arms and legs and breathe in the fresh breeze as we gaze all the way across the bay over to the lighthouse. I buy a beautiful grey organic cotton dress from one of the hippie shops, and in the most beautiful of the local coffee shops, the manager recognises S from when he last popped in a year and a half ago. Turns out he’s got Danish family and has worked at Coffee Collective in Copenhagen for six months recently. I love the world. Driving back to Byron, we meet one of S’s business partners and his girlfriend for a lovely 4-hour long lunch at … The Farm. They live in Brisbane and are only down for the day, both of them in love with Byron as well. Who wouldn’t be. We tell them how lucky they are to live so close by, and we feel lucky too, haha. Next stop is the beach, where we watch the surf, surfers, sunset, walking along the edge of the warm, clear, clean water with bare feet and glowing faces. A sundowner drink at a cosy bar on the main road, local singer songwriters playing their acoustic guitars right in front of us. Dinner at… the burger bar. Grabbing… a slice of raw vegan matcha cheesecake for dessert. Before heading back home to eat it in the sofa, we stand for a while and listen to Garrett Kato, a Canadian singer-songwriter who, we think, also performed next to Spar when we were last here. He lives in Byron Bay with his partner and daughter, I learn on his website. We love the mellow, heart-filled sound of his tracks, buy his cd and play it in the car on the way home, and this is my favourite track: More than Love. Especially listening to it while driving through Byron and the bush with my love.

 

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